''The Simpsons Movie'' easily claims this weekend's box office crown
Credit: Matt Groening

Mmm … money. On one of the busiest weekends of the summer — featuring four wide openers and a top 10 jam-packed with strong holdovers — The Simpsons Movie truly made a mint.

The animated TV-comedy adaptation opened at No. 1 with a $71.9 million gross, breaking all sorts of box office records along the way. It scored the best opening ever for a non-CG animated movie (passing The Lion King‘s $40.9 mil); the best opening ever for an animated movie rated PG-13 or higher (passing Beavis and Butt-head Do America‘s $20.1 mil); and the best opening ever for a movie derived from a TV series (passing Mission: Impossible 2‘s $70.8 mil). All told, The Simpsons Movie came away with the third-biggest opening ever for an animated movie of any kind, behind only Shrek the Third‘s $121.6 mil and Shrek 2‘s $108 mil.

But the major achievements of Springfield’s first family didn’t end there; the film also far exceeded industry expectations. And I mean far: I, for one, predicted that Bart & Co. would bank $49 mil, and I was pretty much in line with what other pundits were thinking. (D’oh, indeed!) The Simpsons Movie clearly benefited from a perfect storm of good fortune that we prognosticators profoundly misunderestimated — glowing reviews, little fresh family-film competition, nearly two decades of built-up anticipation, a CinemaScore review of A- from audiences, the fact that more than just the franchise’s core fan base bought tickets, and what I’m going to start calling Summer-Blockbuster-of-the-Week Syndrome. Simply put, it was the one flick that everyone just had to see this weekend. Certainly, the movie has already gone a long way toward recouping its $65 mil production budget, and it stands to hold on well through the relatively blockbuster-light August that’s about to begin.

Anyway, as we so often see, the big bucks brought in by one movie boosted most of the rest of the lot: No holdover in the top 10 dropped more than 48 percent. Thus, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (No. 2 with $19.1 mil), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (No. 3 with $17.1 mil), and Hairspray (No. 4 with $15.6 mil) all stayed strong, running neck-and-neck-and-neck as they have been since opening a week ago. And Transformers (No. 6 with $11.5 mil), Ratatouille (No. 7 with $7.2 mil), and Live Free or Die Hard (No. 8 with $5.4 mil) all extended their impressive multi-week performances.

Rather, it was the other new openers that struggled to gain a foothold. The culinary rom-com No Reservations (No. 5) earned a merely decent $11.8 mil, though the fact that it drew a crowd that was nearly two-thirds female and three-quarters over the age of 25 means that it could sprout some legs in the weeks to come. Lindsay Lohan’s horror flick I Know Who Killed Me (winner of that oh-so-rare F CinemaScore review) bombed way down at No. 9 with $3.4 mil; poor Linds just can’t get arrested at the box office anymore. And Who’s Your Caddy? rounded out the top 10 with a negligible $2.9 mil take.

Still, thanks to The Simpsons Movie‘s huge success, this weekend’s total box office was up a humongous 40 percent over a year ago (when Miami Vice led the way with a piddling $25.7 mil bow). So, hey, everybody: Duff Beer all around!