'Ice Age' generates enough heat for No. 1

5:01 PM, Jul 15, 2012   |    comments
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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

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