Sony Pictures Animation (SPA) and Affirm Films (a faith-based film label owned by Sony) opened their birth-of-Jesus cartoon The Star this weekend with an estimated $10 million, good for sixth place. It’s among the oddest titles that SPA has ever put its name on, and it’s also the worst opening ever for a SPA film.

The film was launched in less theaters than any previous Sony animated film, but it was still a fairly wide release on 2,837 screens. For example, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) debuted on 3,119 screens – just 282 screens more – with over $30 million. Cloudy had a per-screen average of $9,716, while The Star took just $3,525 per screen.

Looking more closely at the per-screen average, The Star barely beat out the SPA release of the Aardman film The Pirates! Band of Misfits, but was still outperformed by all other Sony animation titles.

The launch is, in fact, very similar to the recent My Little Pony: The Movie, which opened with $8.9M from 2,528 locations, for a $3,515 per-theater average. But whereas MLP has petered out around $22M – a weak animation box office multiplier of around 2.5x – The Star should get a boost from the ongoing holiday season and potentially surpass $30M.

The upside here is that the Timothy Reckart-directed film should end up being a minor success for Sony, especially once it hits streaming services and home video. That’s because the film was made on a fraction of the budget for a typical Sony Pictures Animation film – around $20 million according to Box Office Mojo.

Pre-production for The Star was handled at Sony Pictures Animation in Culver City, California, followed by production at Cinesite Studios in Montreal, Canada. Cinesite, traditionally a vfx shop, has made an aggressive entry into feature animation. They’ve also animated the upcoming Gnome Alone, while its Vancouver division (the former Nitrogen Studios) is making a cg version of The Addams Family.

Here’s a more impressive box office story: Good Deed Entertainment continues to reap solid numbers from Loving Vincent, the Oscar-contending oil-painted film that is a co-production from the U.K. and Poland. In its 9th weekend, the film about the mystery surrounding the death of Vincent van Gogh grossed $393,247 from 212 theaters, lifting its overall total to $4.6M. (The film is currently at its peak theater count.)

Loving Vincent will hit $5M in the next week or so, and when it does it will become only the fourth animated feature rated PG-13 or R in the last five years to earn $5 million-plus in U.S. theaters. The other three films are Sausage Party, Un Gallo con Muchos Huevos, and The Wind Rises.

Cartoon Saloon and GKIDS’ much-buzzed-about The Breadwinner opened in 3 theaters in LA and NYC with $19,530, a $6,510 per-theater average. It’s too early to make guesses about how the film will perform in the U.S., but for comparison, Loving Vincent in its second weekend played in four theaters with a significantly-higher per-theater of $13,869.

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