Sunday, December 21, 2008


Box office geeks everywhere were very curious to see how this weekend would play out. It isn’t often that two giant stars open movies the same weekend. Only one can debut on top and no one wants to take the runner-up spot. In the end though, it would appear that Mother Nature was the big winner this weekend. With most of the eastern portion of North America covered in snow, the big showdown between Jim Carrey and Will Smith got lost in the blizzard. In fact, the only casualty the weather can’t be blamed for is the steep 66% drop of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. That’s merely a reflection of how bad it is.

Carrey’s YES MAN actually came out on top, but just barely. Smith’s SEVEN POUNDS actually took in a higher per screen average, signaling that there was a higher demand for his film. Still, YES MAN had a higher theatre count and solid average, allowing it to pull ahead with $18 million over the $16 million take for SEVEN POUNDS. I never thought there was any reason to believe Smith would come out on top. I realize he is the world’s biggest box office draw but SEVEN POUNDS is a downer and it is Christmas after all. Sure, THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS was a downer that came out around the same time too but that one was actually good. SEVEN POUNDS meanwhile, is actually making some critic’s year end worst lists. So finally, yes it is to YES MAN.

Squeaking into third place is the little mouse that isn’t afraid of anything (except Smith and Carrey as it turns out), THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX. Audiences practically ignored this family film but business could pick up in the weeks ahead with the holidays just around the corner. Still, it is off to a very slow start and has no critical praise to encourage parents to bother.

Every major awards contender vying for art house supremacy continued to impress on the smaller stages of America. DOUBT and GRAN TURINO each built on last week’s totals as they expanded but there are two other titles that need singling out this week. The first is the latest by Darren Aronofsky, THE WRESTLER. The film itself isn’t getting much awards recognition but performances by Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei are being talked up around the country – or at least they are in and around the four cinemas where the film opened this weekend. THE WRESTLER wrestled up nearly $300K on four screens for an average of over $52K per screen. And for the first time since its release six weeks ago, the unexpected front runner in the Best Picture Oscar race, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, has finally made it to the Top 10. In its widest expansion to date, Fox Searchlight added 420 screens and saw its returns improve nearly 45%. The inevitably impressive word of mouth that will be generated from these showings will certainly only catapult Danny Boyle’s film to even more unexpected heights in the weeks to come. I smell a crossover!

Or is that just my turkey in the over? Hmmm …

NEXT WEEK: What isn’t coming out next week? Aside from wide expansions for DOUBT, GRAN TURINO and FROST/NIXON, and the soft release of the Kate & Leo reunion, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, Hollywood will unleash five mammoth releases on the Christmas public. For the families, there is the Adam Sandler comedy, BEDTIME STORIES. For the couples, you’ve got Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston in MARLEY & ME. For the comic book crowd, Frank Miller makes his formal directorial debut with THE SPIRIT. For the award geeks, David Fincher’s buzz heavy, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON finally hits. And for, actually, I’m not sure who this one is for, but Tom Cruise also returns with VALKYRIE. People like seeing WWII movies with bad acting and eye patches on Christmas, right?

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