Ladies Up, WB Down as 'American Girl' Gets Ready to Storm Box Office

The universe is piling on Warner Bros. today, with the studio bracing itself for its second straight summer misfire while the output from its recently euthanized offshoots New Line and Picturehouse achieved phenomenal successes in consecutive weeks. But NL's opening windfall for Sex and the City and Picturehouse's $27K-per-screen average last weekend for Mongol — the biggest art-house launch of the year to date — might not have anything on the 'House's toy-based, girly-girl follow-up, reports The NY Times:

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl has no sex and not much of a city.

But this G-rated movie adventure is shaping up as Hollywood's next serious bid for female viewers, some of whom showed their power by pushing the R-rated comedy Sex and the City to surprisingly strong first-weekend ticket sales of more than $57 million two weeks ago. ...

[American Girl]'s mail-order catalog, a primary engine for sales, has a blurb promoting the movie on its May cover. Cities with American Girl retail outlets — New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and suburban Atlanta — will get to see the movie early, beginning on June 20. That first round is being helped along on the Web with Kit's movie blog and, at the Grove shopping mall in Los Angeles, with the giveaway of "Kit's Home on Abbott Place," an elaborate playhouse built by Pardee Homes as part of a benefit for the homeless.

The homeless angle! Why didn't Speed Racer think of that? That's hardly it, though; there's the in-store, mother-daughter dining parties and the dynamic approach to the film's G rating, featuring young Kit's (Abigail Breslin) Depression-era spunkiness and "doubts" about her father, played by Chris O'Donnell, upon learning he once voluntarily portrayed Robin in a Joel Schumacher film. WB brass, meanwhile, at least one high-ranking member of which has gone on record suggesting marketing is secondary to the movies it supports, are insisting today that the experimental "poster defacement" phase of its Get Smart campaign is coming along exactly as planned. We can only wonder how Picturehouse would have done it.