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'Polar' flick exceeds makers' expectations



Published: Tue, January 11, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



'Polar Express' surprised the industry.

By R. KINSEY LOWE

LOS ANGELES TIMES

HOLLYWOOD -- As "The Polar Express" cruised into the top 10 movies of the year at the box office, executives at rival studios marveled at the computer-animated film's stamina and the way Warner Bros. handled the film.

"When this movie came out, with the opening weekend, the reviews, everybody thought it would just disappear," said Jeff Blake, vice chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment and president of worldwide marketing and distribution for Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group.

Bruce Snyder, president of distribution for 20th Century Fox, said, "This movie did not in any way look like it was going to hit $100 million, and it just keeps going. Tom Hanks, Bob Zemeckis, all those elements, and they worked. People liked it."

Within the industry, the odds against "Polar Express" succeeding seemed so long that one executive at a rival studio, who did not want to be identified, made a bet the movie would not get past $80 million. As of Sunday, the film had grossed an estimated $155.2 million, and Warner Bros. expects it to reach $170 million, possibly more.

"By the end of this week, it could hit 160," Dan Fellman, president of distribution for Warner Bros., said.

The numbers

As of last Thursday, "Polar Express" crossed the $26 million mark in Imax theaters, Fellman said. He predicted Imax theaters "may bring another $5 [million], maybe $8 million, that gets you to $170 million." Fellman said he hopes "Polar Express" will bring in $180 million for its final domestic total.




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