'Borat': He's obnoxious, he's offensive and he made $26.4M
Borat beat Santa. "Borat," the crude movie offshoot of British funnyman Sacha Baron Cohen's politically incorrect "Da Ali G Show," stunned Hollywood by earning $26.4 million this weekend - leaving Tim Allen's family-friendly "The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause" second at $20 million.
The last "Santa Clause" earned $29 million on its first weekend in 2004. The third installment in the holiday series was expected to battle the animated comedy "Flushed Away" for No. 1 this weekend.
But it was ambushed by "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," which seems likely to lift Cohen from cult to mainstream stature.
Propelled by Internet buzz and adoring reviews, "Borat" was seemingly unimpeded by the fact that its material could offend the population of Kazakhstan - and just about everyone else. Borat Sagdiyev, a Kazakh journalist dispatched to the U.S. to report on American life, ends up in a string of "Jackass"-style skits, including a messy and graphic nude wrestling match with another man in a motel room.
Borat also repeatedly makes offensive or inappropriate comments, such as asking a car salesman for a recommendation on the best car to run down a Jew. While his character spews ignorant anti-Semitic remarks, the Cambridge-educated Cohen is an observant Jew.
The success of "Borat" was more remarkable because it was playing in just 837 theaters, compared to 3,458 for "Santa Clause" and 3,707 for "Flushed Away," which finished a close third for the weekend with $19.1 million.
Elsewhere, the Martin Scorsese crime drama "The Departed" earned $8 million to pass the $100 million mark.