Sunday, December 28, 2008

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE: Who Says Dogs Don't Make For Great Gifts?

Traditionally, I usually follow my Christmas morning with family with a movie. My Christmas movie this year was THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON but, while this was certainly also the choice of many others, it was not the choice of the majority. I looked up at the listings to see what was playing while I waited in line and this is when I saw it. All eight showings of MARLEY & ME were flashing to signify that the shows were nearly sold out. Clearly, Christmas is a time to be spent with loved ones and their dogs.

Both MARLEY & ME and THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON set records this Christmas. The latter’s one-day tally of $12 million would become the second biggest Christmas day opening of all time. That said, the one with the dog made $14.7 million that same day and you know what that means. It means that people like Jennifer Aniston better than they like Brad Pitt. No, that’s dumb. It doesn’t mean that at all. What it likely means is that people like fun, simple fare with dogs on Christmas day more so that long, epic romances. MARLEY & ME went on to win the weekend, surpassing all expectations with a $51 million total gross over the four days. THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON also performed very strongly and could have placed even higher if it weren’t for its 2 ½ hour running time.

One film came in between Brad & Jen and that would be the Adam Sandler family comedy, BEDTIME STORIES. Originally, this film was expected to take the weekend as it had the strongest family appeal. MARLEY & ME came running from behind like a dog after a moving car to reach past its built-in couple audience to snag a good chunk of the families as well. As a result, BEDTIME STORIES had to settle for second place and only the third biggest Christmas day opening ever. Opening in fourth, was a solid placement for the To Cruise vehicle, VALKYRIE. The Bryan Singer WWII thriller performed consistently throughout the four days of its release and ever averaged higher than BEDTIME STORIES.

The Top 10 saw two other debuts and both would be considered disappointing. The fifth wide release of the weekend was not even a consideration apparently. Frank Miller’s first formal directorial effort, THE SPIRIT, opened in ninth place, with a pathetic average of just over $2500 bucks. It could pick up next weekend when teenagers will returning to the multiplexes on their own after their parents held them hostage this past weekend. And DOUBT went wide this holiday frame and though its weekend take shot up over 700%, its average plummeted to a decent but not amazing $4500. Still, awards season is only just beginning so I don’t doubt it will continue to perform as long as the accolades continue to come in.

Platform releases love the month of December. In the weeks ahead, adults will finally find some time on their hands and will flock to see a great number of the Oscar contenders as they continue to widen their screen count. This weekend, the last major Best Picture contender, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, starring the reunited Kate Winslet and Leonard DiCaprio, opened on just three screens in all of North America but pulled in one of the biggest averages of the year with $64K per screen. The picture goes wide January 9. Averaging lower but still solidly were the Oscar contenders, LAST CHANCE HARVEY and WALTZ WITH BASHIR. The former is hoping for recognition for Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson as lead actors but the competition is tight this year and the former is Israel’s official submission for the Foreign Language Oscar. Each earned per screen averages of $16K and $10K, respectively.

NEXT WEEK: Nothing. There are no new wide releases next week. Apparently, New Year’s is a time for leftovers in Hollywood.

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