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America made it very clear this weekend that if they had to pick between animated, furry, woodland creatures kicking the snot out of hunters and Kevin Costner playing a tough-love father figure to Ashton Kutcher while jumping out of Coast Guard helicopters, they'll take the furries.
Open Season, which features a star studded cast providing voices to all those fuzzy CG forest dwellers, took number one this weekend with an impressive-for-September $23 million. That makes it only one of two movies to open above $20 million this month (the other being Jackass: Number Two). The Guardian came in second with $17.7 million. While that may not be a number the studio can get excited about, it's sort of great news for Costner. It's the largest opening weekend any one of his films has enjoyed since Waterworld opened at $21.1 million back in 1995.
Billy Bob Thornton and Jon Heder couldn't muster enough excitement to top the morons of Jackass. The deadbrained stunt boys from Number Two dropped to number three while Thornton and Heder's School for Scoundrels opened in fourth place with a miserable $9.1 million.
It was a big weekend for small release films. IDP released the family-friendly faith-based football flick Facing The Giants. In 441 theaters and in twelfth place overall for the weekend, it did better per theater than all but three of the top ten. Its $3,149 per screen was nothing compared to the big time small releases.
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints opened in eight theaters with $12,012. Forest Whitaker's Idi Amin biopic The Last King of Scotland, on four screens, pulled an even more impressive $35,750 per screen. But even The King couldn't top Helen Mirren's turn as Elizabeth II in The Queen, which drew in $41,000 per theater on 3 screens.
Next week Martin Scorsese releases what he claims will be one of his last mainstream feature film projects, crime drama The Departed. Jessica Simpson and Dane Cook start up their on-screen romance in the comedy Employee of the Month while New Line gets the Halloween grist mill grinding with its gratuitous prequel Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. Scorsese hasn't had a number one movie since Cape Fear 15 years ago. This may be his last chance for another. Can he win out against Jessica Simpson? Don't bet on it.