'Narnia' nips Kong in topsy-turvy frame

Narnia proved a slightly more popular destination than Skull Island with the family trade over the four-day holiday weekend.

Disney and Walden’s “The Chronicles of Narnia” took first place for the first time since its debut three weeks ago, grossing $32.8 million against “King Kong’s” $31.6 million.

Boffo grosses reduced the box office shortfall for the year from 5% to a still sobering 4%. It’s the biggest year-to-year drop since Nielsen EDI started tracking grosses in 1982.

Fantasy epic “Narnia” was up 4% from the weak Christmas frame. Per play average was $6,675 over three days at 3,853 locations. Cume is now an impressive $224.8 million.

“We benefited from our family appeal this weekend, but the picture is maintaining this pace because it plays to all audiences,” Disney distrib topper Chuck Viane said. “The last shows of the night have been consistently good.”

“Kong” was just behind “Narnia,” declining 5% to $31.6 million in four days at 3,627 theaters. Three-day per theater average was $6,782.

Cume is now $174.3 million. Worldwide gross has crossed $400 million, compared with the $450.3 million taken in by “Narnia.”

With a domestic take in the mid-$200 million range and more than $500 million worldwide now likely, “Kong” is on track to be a solid performer. While far from the “Lord of the Rings”-size blockbuster U was hoping for, it’s also nowhere close to the disappointment studio may have feared after a $9.8 million opening day.

Showing the difference in their demos, “Narnia” solidly beat “Kong” Friday, but the ape roared back to win Sunday. Studios were projecting a virtual tie Monday.

With most tots able to go to matinees Friday and Monday thanks to the school holiday, family pics saw their grosses rise significantly. “Cheaper by the Dozen 2″ jumped 26%, while “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” was up 16% in its seventh frame.

Several pics had particularly weak showings, however, including the first full weekends of “Rumor Has It …,” “The Producers” and “Memoirs of a Geisha.”

Top 10 ranking was nearly identical to last week, as there were no new wide releases.

“Fun With Dick and Jane” came in at No. 3 again, posting $21 million, down just 2%. Sony’s Jim Carrey starrer averaged $5,366 over three days in 3,056 plays. Total take is $64.6 million. Pic is on track to be a decent performer, though far from the comedy smash Sony was hoping for, given a budget around $100 million.

Close behind was a surging “Cheaper by the Dozen 2.” Fox family comedy grossed $19.3 million at 3,211 locations, giving it a three-day average of $4,437 and a cume of $55.1 million.

Despite improved perf, sequel is still well behind its 2003 predecessor, which cumed more than $85 million by its second frame.

A trio of femme-oriented pics were grouped together in fifth, sixth and seventh places, though only one is beating studio hopes.

WB’s “Rumor Has It …” made a weak $11.6 million in its first full frame since opening Dec. 25. Jennifer Aniston starrer had a per play average of $3,284 over three days at 2,815 locations. Cume is $26.7 million.

Continuing to impress in its third full week after coming in with modest expectations, “The Family Stone” rose by 2% with its $10.2 million gross at 2,464 theaters. Average over three days is $3,277, and cume has reached $46.2 million.

“Memoirs of a Geisha” once again did tepid business for Sony in its second wide week following two spectacular frames in limited. Pic declined 2% to $10 million, averaging $5,042 over three days at 1,547 playdates. Cume is just $30.4 million.

Fox Searchlight’s low-budget comedy “The Ringer” came in No. 8 with $8 million, up 4% in its second frame. Johnny Knoxville starrer played 1,853 theaters and posted a three-day average of $3,305. Cume is $21.6 million.

“The Producers” and “Wolf Creek” didn’t crack the top 10 in their first full frames after going wide and bowing, respectively, Dec. 25. U’s tuner adaptation grossed a weak $5.3 million at 978 playdates in its first full frame since going wide — albeit to a small print count — Christmas day. Three-day average was $4,090, and cume is $11.9 million.

Dimension’s “Wolf Creek” took a scary fall with its $4.9 million four-day gross. Three-day average was $2,086 per theater at 1,761 playdates. That’s the same as it made in two days Dec. 25-26. Cume on the horror pic, which the Weinstein Co.’s genre label picked up at Sundance for $3.5 million, is $13.3 million.

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