Ice Age is cooling as a franchise, but it still has enough to nip the competition.
Ice Age: Continental Drift proved a little weaker than analysts expected, though it mustered plenty to win the box office this weekend. The fourth installment of the animated franchise mustered $46 million, according to studio estimates from box-office tracking firm Hollywood.com.
Though analysts had expected the film to take in at least $50 million, the debut marked the third time in four films that an installment opened at No. 1. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs opened over the 2009 July 4 weekend to $41.7 million, a hair behind at Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which opened to $42.3 million.
"After the Pixar empire and the Shrek franchise, the Ice Age movies have been reliable performers," says Tim Briody of Boxofficeprophets.com, "even as we've moved into a time when (computer-generated animated movies) no longer feel as special."
Critics found little remarkable. According to the survey site Rottentomatoes.com, 40% of the nation's reviewers gave the movie a thumbs up. But 65% of moviegoers said they liked it, the site says.
Gitesh Pandya of Boxofficeguru.com says that despite the so-so opening, kids coming back for repeat viewings could make it a hit.
"The Ice Age brand remains popular," he says. "And summer is a great play period for these types of movies."
Pandya says the key will be preteens replacing the older kids who moved on to other movies. With the franchise a home video staple, "a sizable audience is sure to turn out."
Audiences are dwindling for The Amazing Spider-Man. The reboot of the Sam Raimi franchise was second this week with $35 million. The movie has earned $200.9 million since its release July 3.
Briody says the film has faded faster than experts predicted.
"This is not calling it a flop by any means," Briody says. But he says the dropoff has been a "disappointment."
The raunchy comedy Ted was third with $22.1 million, followed by Pixar's cartoon Brave with $10.7 million.
The male-stripper film Magic Mike rounded out the top five with $9 million.
Final figures are due Monday.
Ticket sales are up 7% through the same period last year, and attendance is up 9%, Hollywood.com says.
By Scott Bowles, USA TODAY