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Charlie brings in a sweet opening weekend for WB

Story by: Jack Foley

WILLY Wonka ensured that American cinemas enjoyed another sweet weekend at the box office, as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory debuted with an estimated $55.4 million.

Tim Burton's update of the classic Roald Dahl tale stars Johnny Depp and Freddie Highmore and was widely predicted to follow the success of Fantastic Four by opening strongly.

Good reviews helped, of course, as the film was mostly well-received - it opens in the UK in a fortnight's time.

Also helping the upturn in box office fortunes was the comedy, Wedding Crashers, which 'crashed' the number two spot with a healthy opening take of roughly $32.2 million, according to studio estimates Sunday (July 17, 2005).

And Fantastic Four still took a creditable $22.7 million, lifting its 10-day total to $100.1 million, and slipping only to third place despite lukewarm reviews.

The July 15-17 weekend marked the second consecutive week that Hollywood revenues rose after the slump that has lasted since February.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory's strong opening also marked the highest ever debut for a Johnny Depp movie - surpassing even the $46.6 million that Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl took in 2003.

But the performance came as no surprise to Warner Bros execs, including Dan Fellman, who put it down to the star's obvious box office charisma and wonderful chemistry with director, Burton (the film marks their fourth collaboration).

"It's a great chemistry they create, Tim with his imagination, Johnny and a great cast," explained Mr Fellman.

Also patting themselves on the back were New Line, who believe the strong opening weekend for Wedding Crashers vindicated their decision to go for a higher rating.

Russell Schwartz, the studio's head of marketing, told the Hollywood Reporter: "There's been such a move toward more sanitized movies, so I think the R rating actually helped.

"And it's not a hard R. I think it of more as a soft R. It's a movie that wears the R on its sleeve very proudly."

The movie also opened in UK cinemas on Thursday to similarly strong figures and word of mouth from comedy audiences.

Related stories: Charlie & The Chocolate Factory review

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory special feature

Johnny Depp: Read the full interview

Tim Burton: Read the full interview

Wedding Crashers review

Fantastic Four halts US Box Office slump

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