Weekend Box Office – DISNEY’S A CHRISTMAS CAROL Takes $31 Million; PRECIOUS Boasts Biggest Limited Release Opening of All Time

     November 8, 2009

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You know it’s the end of the year when there are more new releases per week than any one person could reasonably care about. Or maybe I should just speak for myself.  The first full weekend of November featured four new wide releases all boasting some major star power: “Disney’s A Christmas Carol” with Jim Carrey (times four), “The Box” with Cameron Diaz, “The Fourth Kind” with Milla Jovovich and “The Men Who Stare at Goats” with George Clooney.  And though no one film can be said to be a total washout this weekend, the A-listers fell short compared to the stunningly successful debut of Lee Daniels’ “Precious”. The indie sensation opened in just 18 theatres, taking in an estimated $100,000 per screen to make it the most-lucrative limited release of all-time.

Title Weekend Total
1 Disney’s A Christmas Carol $31,000,000 $31
2 This Is It $14,000,000 $57.8
3 The Men Who Stare at Goats $13,309,000 $13.3
4 The Fourth Kind $12,521,000 $12.5
5 Paranormal Activity $8,600,000 $97.4
6 The Box $7,855,000 $7.8
7 Couples Retreat $6,428,000 $95.9
8 Law Abiding Citizen $6,172,000 $60.8
9 Where the Wild Things Are $4,225,000 $69.2
10 Astro Boy $2,588,000 $15

christmas_carol_movie_poster_01.jpgMore than two weeks before Thanksgiving, Disney is already gearing up for Christmas with their 3D adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol”. The studio had to scratch Dickens name out of the title – though with one star playing four characters I’m not sure why they didn’t go with “Jim Carrey’s A Christmas Carol” in the end. Even up against the “It’s too early for Christmas” issue, director Robert Zemeckis managed to bring in an estimated $31 million through Sunday thanks to a nice Saturday matinee bump for the PG-rated film.  That’s on the low end of what the studio was hoping for but significantly more than Zemeckis’s first two motion-capture animated features: 2004’s “Polar Express” ($23 million) and 2007’s “Beowulf” ($27 million). The movie is hoping to have legs throughout the holiday season and with mediocre reviews and that “New Moon” on the horizon it was probably a smart move to go out as early as they did.

Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” has finally found its legs after stumbling a bit during its first three days in US release.  The concert doc climbed from fourth place on Friday back up to number two in its second weekend, marking a better than expected drop of only 40%. US totals for “This Is It” stand at just under $58 million with international totals expected later on Sunday.  I’ll tell you that, even with a drop of 50% overseas (which isn’t likely), the movie should cross the $200 million mark in the next few days.

men_who_stare_at_goats_movie_poster_01.jpg“The Men Who Stare at Goats”, staring George Clooney, Ewan McGregor and Jeff Bridges, came in at number three for the week with a decent $13.3 million from 2,443 locations. After its hilarious trailer promised great things, the film has been a bit of a disappointment to critics, notching mostly mixed reviews and a Rotten Tomato rating of 59%.

That figure makes “Goats” look like a blockbuster, however, compared to the dismal 16% rating for another new entry – the “real-life” alien abduction thriller “The Fourth Kind”.  A strong viral marketing campaign (plus the recent success of some movie called “Paranormal Activity”) helped “The Fourth Kind” to a big Friday opening of $5 million. That momentum did not hold all weekend and Milla Jovovich’s latest horror fell off a few percentage points on Saturday and ended the frame with an estimated $12.5 million from 2,527 screens. As low as the expectations were for this film, however, the fact that “The Fourth Kind” could stay above “Paranormal” through Sunday has to be seen as a major accomplishment.

Bringing up the rear of our parade of new releases is the WB-distributed thriller “The Box” from “Donnie Darko” director Richard Kelly.  Cameron Diaz and James Marsden star as a couple who face a moral crisis when a wish-granting box that kills people shows up on their doorstep.  As a high-concept thriller with a decidedly un-funny Diaz in the lead, “The Box” was always going to be a long shot for commercial success. After a weekend take estimated at just $7.9 million from 2,635 theatres, therefore, distributor Warner Brothers has to be relieved that things weren’t even worse.

If tradition did not dictate that box office charts end at number ten, you would find the indie sensation “Precious” holding its own at #13 (tied with “Amelia”) with a $1.8 million gross from just 18 theatres.  This is going to bolster the film as it expands in the coming weeks on its ultimate quest towards Oscar gold for star Gabby Sidibe and director Lee Daniels.

Next week is the last weekend before vampires descend from Summit’s “New Moon”.  We have a pretty low key week ahead with only the disaster flick “2012” and the stop-motion animated “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” set to make any waves.  I’m not expecting big things from either but then again, I’m wrong a lot…

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