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'Incredibles' boasts incredible staying power at box office

| Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2004

"The Incredibles" is, well, incredible.

The animated feature, which opened at a blockbuster level in its first week, sustained itself extremely well against formidable new competition.

It's off just 28 percent nationally and a mere 11 percent here in its second week.

Not only does it retain first place on both charts, but it does so by a wide margin. Second week returns are ahead of the most optimistic forecasts.

That's all the more surprising because it's now competing with "The Polar Express," a more realistically realized cartoon feature with Tom Hanks playing the voices of several characters and the image of at least one -- the train conductor.

Both are expected to hold well straight through the holidays, but the initial turnout for "The Polar Express" has to be counted at least a little disappointing because it cost $165 million to produce, not including marketing, and is based on a beloved children's book.

The prevailing theory within the industry is that the humongous returns for many cartoon features today ("Finding Nemo," "Shark Tale," two "Shrek" movies) are predicated at least in part on comedy and the sort of pop-culture references that appeal to teens and early 20s audiences -- the date crowd.

The G-rated "Polar Express" is a more traditional family film, played straight rather than joked up. It seems not to have crossed over to older youths and young adults -- at least not yet.

It is No. 2 on both charts but doing a little less than half as much business as "The Incredibles."

"After the Sunset," with Pierce Brosnan and Salma Hayek, ranks third in its debut. It's likely to be nudged aside quickly by other year-end releases.

"Saw" is fourth locally, down 40 percent. The picture cost barely $1 million to make and is cleaning up in the horror market.

Another gold mine is "The Grudge," which already has taken in 10 times its $10 million budget.

"Shall We Dance?" is proving to have legs, especially here. Down only 18 percent in its fifth week, it's waltzing into sixth place.

No. 7 locally is "Ray," off 40 percent.

"Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" takes eighth spot in its limited debut on just four screens. Its run will expand Friday.

"The Seed of Chucky" is soft in its debut here, grabbing ninth.

"Alfie" lands in 10th spot, a picture badly synchronized with the interests of today's audience. The Jude Law starrer is off 55 percent nationally and 56 percent locally.

One of the producers was quoted as blaming "Alfie's" poor returns on the outcome of the presidential election, which supposedly left moviegoers too devastated to concentrate. Tell that to the producers of "The Incredibles."

Friday's openings will be "Finding Neverland," "Sideways," "Enduring Love," "National Treasure" and "The Spongebob Squarepants Movie," plus a Three Stooges Festival at the Oaks.

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