June 29 (Bloomberg) -- "Wall-E," the animated film about a robot who is left behind after humans flee Earth, was the top film at U.S. and Canadian theaters, taking in $62.5 million for Walt Disney Co.'s Pixar studio. The debut was the second-best for a Pixar film.
The weekend's other new release, the Angelina Jolie action film "Wanted,'' was second with sales of $51.1 million, Media By Numbers LLC said in an e-mailed statement today.
Disney, which bought Pixar in 2006, needs a hit to climb from last place among the largest studios in 2008 U.S. sales. "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian'' missed Box Office Mojo LLC's $86.9 million estimate last month, taking in $55 million in its opening weekend. Through June 22, Disney's domestic ticket sales dropped 36 percent to $457.4 million, according to the film tracker.
"Pixar has produced nine computer-animated features and all nine have opened at No. 1,'' said Brandon Gray, president of Burbank, California-based Box Office Mojo. ``Pixar is arguably one of the strongest brands in the movie business.''
Wall-E, short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class, is left to clear garbage left by humans who have abandoned the planet to live in space ships. He falls in love with another robot, Eve, the Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator sent to Earth to look for signs of life.
The film was projected to take in $69 million to $73 million, the estimate of the Hollywood Stock Exchange, which forecasts box-office performance. The best-ever opening for Pixar was the $70.5 million debut of "The Incredibles'' in 2004.
In "Wanted,'' Jolie plays a professional killer who recruits an unmotivated slacker, played by James McAvoy, into her society of assassins. Morgan Freeman co-stars as the group's mysterious leader.
Time Warner Inc.'s "Get Smart'' dropped from first to third with sales of $20 million. Based on the 1960s television show, the movie follows the misadventures of secret agent Maxwell Smart, played by Steve Carell, and his brighter colleague Agent 99, played by Anne Hathaway.
``Kung Fu Panda,'' the animated comedy with the voice of Jack Black, fell from second to fourth with sales of $11.7 million. The film, produced by DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. and distributed by Paramount, has taken in $179.3 million in four weeks.
Marvel Entertainment Inc.'s "The Incredible Hulk,'' starring Edward Norton, fell to fifth place from third with $9.2 million for General Electric Co.'s Universal Pictures.
Rounding out the top 10 in sixth through 10th place, respectively, were: ``The Love Guru,'' from Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures with $5.4 million; ``Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,'' also from Paramount at $5 million; ``The Happening,'' from News Corp.'s Fox studio at $3.9 million; Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros' ``Sex and the City: The Movie,'' at $3.8 million; and ``You Don't Mess with the Zohan,'' from Sony USA Inc.'s Columbia Pictures, which garnered $3.2 million.
Close to Home
The strong showing by "Wall-E'' and "Wanted'' helped lift the box office for a fifth consecutive week, improving chances that studios will exceed last year's summertime record of $4.18 billion. Sales have increased 5.5 percent since the start of the season in May compared with the year-earlier period.
"Hollywood is on a roll right now,'' said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers in Encino, Califorinia. Rising gas prices are likely to be boosting attendance as people seek out entertainment that's close to home, he said.
The threat of an economic recession is likely to support ticket sales as well.
``When times are tough, people require laughter, inspiration, catharsis,'' said Gray. ``That's what the movies are for.''
Receipts for the top 12 movies rose 22 percent to $179.2 million from the year-earlier period, Media By Numbers said. For the year, box-office sales are up less than 1 percent to $4.5 billion. Attendance is down 2.13 percent from a year earlier.
Movie Rev. Theaters Wks Avg./ Pct. Total (mln) Theater Chg. (mln)
1. Wall-E $62.5 3,992 1 $15,656 -- $62.5
2. Wanted 51.1 3,175 1 16,100 -- 51.1
3. Get Smart 20.0 3,915 2 5,109 -48 77.3
4. Kung Fu Panda 11.7 3,670 4 3,201 -46 179.3
5. Hulk 9.2 3,349 3 2,755 -58 115.5
6. Love Guru 5.4 3,012 2 1,806 -61 25.3
7. Crystal Skull 5.0 2,556 6 1,968 -41 299.9
8. The Happening 3.9 2,483 3 1,551 -63 59.0
9. Sex and the City 3.8 1,775 5 2,148 -42 140.1
10. Zohan 3.2 2,147 4 1,490 -57 91.2