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Weekend Box Office Report: December 12 to 14: The Day the Box Office Stood Still

Aliens may have descended upon the box office this weekend but it was the art house and wards contenders that brought on the major invasion.

Weekend Top 10

# Title GROSS % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Total Distributor
1 The Day the Earth Stood Still $31.0M NEW 3,560 1 8,708 $31.0M Fox
2 Four Christmases $13.3M  -20.8 3,540 3 3,749 $88.0M New Line
3 Twilight $8.0M -38.6 3,649 4 2,196 $150.1M Summit
4 Bolt $7.5M -23.4 3,133 4 2,396 $88.9M Buena Vista
5 Australia $4.3M -39.2 2,703 3 1,585 $37.9M Fox
6 Quantum of Solace $3.8M -43.7 2,635 5 1,442 $157.7M Sony
7 Nothing like the Holidays $3.5M NEW 1,671 1 2,095 $3.5M Overture
8 Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa $3.3M -36.0 2,768 6 1,174 $170.0M Dreamworks
9 Milk $2.6M +43.7 328 3 8,037 $7.6M Focus
10 Transporter 3 $2.3M -51.8 2,541 3 885 $29.3M Lionsgate

Aliens may have descended upon the box office this weekend but it was the art house and wards contenders that brought on the major invasion.  Of the three wide releases this weekend, The Day the Earth Stood Still is the only entry that hit the ball into outer space.  Meanwhile, three smaller shining stars expanded their runs into bigger galaxies to stellar results and five brand new limited releases shone brighter than most of the big boys.

Opening The Day the Earth Stood Still, a sci-fi remake, in the middle of December reminds me of last year when I Am Legend was released.  I’m sure the good people at Fox were hoping for somewhere near the $70 million that I Am Legend opened too but Keanu Reeves is not Will Smith.  Oh, and The Day the Earth Stood Still is certainly not I Am Legend.  And while $31 million is more than half as much, the film still opened to another $39 million internationally this weekend, putting it just $10 million away from it’s reported $80 million budget.  Granted, these preliminary figures have not taken into account grosses from space, where Fox beamed the movie this past weekend as the first film in history to be beamed in its entirety to another solar system.  (No, I’m not making this up).  Of course, it will take about 4 billion light years to get these figures back so we’ll just stick with earth grosses for now.

Where do we start with all these amazing art house performances?  How about we start the holdovers?  I would ordinarily go with the new but art house hits can hit hard one weekend and disappear the next so strong holds and growth are always a testament to the strength of the film.  Despite only scoring one Golden Globe nomination for its lead, Sean Penn, Milk jumped back into the Top 10 in its third week.  Its aggressive expansion of 229 additional screens proved successful as the film managed the second highest per screen average in the Top 10.  Meanwhile, just below the Top 10, as is always seemingly the case for this entry, Slumdog Millionaire, Golden Globe nominee for Best Picture (drama), added 91 screens and brought in another per screen in the teens this weekend, settling again for the number 11 position.  And finally, Frost/Nixon, added 36 key markets and saw its gross rise almost 250%.

As the December 31 deadline for Oscar contention draws near, the prestige pictures are being unloaded in droves.  The good news is that they all seem to be finding their own audiences.  The most impressive showing this week goes to Clint Eastwood’s Gran Turino.  Opening on 6 screens, the film nailed a $47K per screen average.  Next on the list is the screen adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize winning play, Doubt. Doubt earned an average of $35K on 15 screens.  Steven Soderbergh’s four-hour epic, Che, is playing in New York and L.A. just this week to attempt sneaking Benicio del Toro into the Best Actor race.  On 2 screens, the film average just over $30K.  Best Picture contender, The Reader, from Stephen Daldry, premiered on 9 screens this weekend to an average of $21K.  And last but not least,Wendy and Lucy, starring Michelle Williams in a very stark performance, opened to an average of nearly $11K on just 2 screens.  As previously mentioned, the true test will come when the expansion follows.

NEXT WEEK: With only one week to go before the big holiday, studios will cram more big names on to your wish list while they still can.  Will Smith goes dark and hopes for gold with Seven Pounds.  He’ll have a lot of competition with Jim Carrey’s Yes Man though.  I have a feeling people might opt for a positing Jim Carrey over a morose Will Smith.  Or maybe both will be sent home by a little mouse that isn’t afraid of anything, The Tale of Despereaux.  Meanwhile, Darren Aronofsky’s much buzzed aboutThe Wrestler, opens on four screens before expanding in the new year. 


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