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Audiences adopt ‘Chihuahua’ with $29M weekend

October 5th, 2008 Posted in Travel and Leisure

By DAVID GERMAIN

“Beverly Hills Chihuahua” was barking up the right tree with movie-goers, who put the Disney comedy at No. 1 for the weekend with a $29 million debut, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Featuring a talking Chihuahua with Drew Barrymore’s voice, the family flick about a pampered pooch lost in Mexico led a surge of new movies that boosted Hollywood business, which generally has slumped the last two months.

The top-12 movies hauled in $95.4 million, up 42 percent from the same weekend a year ago, when “The Game Plan” was No. 1 with $16.6 million.

“We had a huge weekend,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers. “That’s really due to the little Chihuahua. The little dog made a big difference.”

The previous weekend’s No. 1 movie, the DreamWorks-Paramount thriller “Eagle Eye,” slipped to second-place with $17.7 million, raising its total to $54.6 million.

The PG-rated “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” took advantage of a long drought for movies aimed at families, who found the idea of a chatty Chihuahua irresistible.

“They’re so cute, and they seem to have great facial expressions, so that adds to all the fun of the whole thing,” said Chuck Viane, Disney’s head of distribution.

Hollywood’s other new wide releases had fair to poor premieres.

Sony’s “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” starring Michael Cera and Kat Dennings as teens who fall for each other on a wild New York City night, had a sturdy No. 3 debut of $12 million.

The Warner Bros. Western “Appaloosa,” which had played two weeks in a handful of theaters, expanded solidly to come in at No. 5 with $5 million. “Appaloosa” was directed by Ed Harris, who stars with Viggo Mortensen and Renee Zellweger.

Vivendi Entertainment’s “An American Carol,” a satire of Hollywood’s liberal politics from director David Zucker (”Airplane!”), debuted at No. 9 with $3.8 million. The movie stars Kevin Farley as a Michael Moore-type filmmaker aiming to abolish the Fourth of July holiday.

Universal’s “Flash of Genius,” starring Greg Kinnear as the engineer who invented intermittent windshield wipers then spent decades suing automakers over the innovation, opened weakly with $2.3 million, finishing at No. 11.

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