Holiday weekend boosts business

Disney’s modern-day princess tale “Enchanted” easily fit the glass slipper, grossing an estimated $50 million at the domestic box office over the five-day holiday frame.

Pic became the second-best Thanksgiving opener after “Toy Story 2.”

“Enchanted,” playing 3,730 theaters and starring Amy Adams, wasn’t the only film enjoying a better-than-expected holiday feast. Sony’s “This Christmas” debuted at No. 2, grossing a jolly $27 million from 1,858 runs for the Wednesday-Sunday stretch.

With seven films opening wide on Wednesday, Nov. 21, studios were worried there wouldn’t be enough to go around. As it turned out, moviegoers seemed glad for the return of more commercial titles to the theater marquee after a flood of serious dramas this fall.

The Thanksgiving box office was essentially flat compared to last year, when “Casino Royale” and “Happy Feet” led the pack. That was a welcome relief for distribs, who have been watching the domestic office stumble for much of the fall. Also, many of the films unspooling over the Thanksgiving frame were relatively inexpensive to make.

Duking it out over Thanksgiving for young male auds were Paramount and Shangri-La Entertainment’s digital 3-D epic “Beowulf” and 20th Century Fox’s bigscreen vidgame adaptation “Hitman.”

In its second frame, “Beowulf” — a poster child for the box office potential of 3-D — was No. 3, grossing an estimated $23.3 million for the five days from 3,218 runs; cume is $56.4 million. For the three-day weekend, “Beowulf” grossed an estimated $18.6 million, down 41% from the previous weekend, when it opened at No. 1.

“Hitman,” starring Timothy Olyphant, opened at an estimated $21 million for the five-day frame from 2,458 locations. Of that, pic grossed $13.3 million over the three-day weekend.

Also looking to lure males was MGM horror entry “The Mist,” from Dimension Films. Pic, directed by Frank Darabont, opened to only so-so numbers and placed No. 8 with $13 million for the five days and $9 million for the three days from 2,423 runs.

Likewise, Warner Bros.’ family entry “August Rush” wasn’t able to place among the top five Thanksgiving films, coming in at No. 7. Film grossed $13.3 million for the five days from 2,310 runs and $9.4 million for the three days, putting it behind Warners’ holiday holdover “Fred Claus.”

Miramax had nothing to complain about it as it went wide with the Coen brothers’ “No Country for Old Men,” which grossed $11 million for the five days from 860 runs. Movie made $8.1 million for the three days, drawing a per-screen average of $9,433, one of the best of the frame. Cume is $16.6 million.

Disney now boasts the top five Thanksgiving openers of all time: “Toy Story 2” ($80.1 million), “Enchanted” ($50 million), “A Bug’s Life” ($47.7 million), “Unbreakable” ($46 million) and “101 Dalmatians” ($45 million).

“People wanted to go out and really be entertained, and ‘Enchanted’ is one of those unbelievably entertaining movies,” Disney prexy of distribution Chuck Viane said. “People were in the mood to laugh. It’s been a very heavy fall, and we gave them an opportunity to enjoy themselves.”

Directed by Kevin Lima from a script by Bill Kelly, the critically acclaimed “Enchanted” also stars Patrick Dempsey and James Marsden. Barry Josephson and Barry Sonnenfeld produced.

A unique twist on Disney’s lucrative stable of princess stories, the movie begins in an animated kingdom before the princess finds herself in a live-action New York City.

Families made up the core of the “Enchanted” aud, although 47% were over the age of 25, indicating that some adults came without children. This is where reviews helped, Viane said.

“It’s been a very good Thanksgiving overall, because you had films serving many different audiences. And it was huge for the family market,” Viane said.

Sony and Screen Gems also were celebrating the perf of “This Christmas,” whose ensemble cast includes Regina King, Delroy Lindo, Loretta Devine and Nia Long, as well as hip-hop/pop music star Chris Brown.

Roughly 65% of the aud was African-American, while 59% were females and 43% between the ages of 17 and 34.

“We couldn’t be happier. Everything about the movie worked. And it certainly crossed over,” Sony prexy of distribution Rory Bruer said. “It had universal appeal.”

Several of the holiday films appear to have already made back their production budgets or the money the studio put into the film.

“This Christmas,” directed by Preston Whitmore, cost roughly $13 million to produce, while “Hitman” cost under $20 million.

The R-rated “Hitman” was directed by Xavier Gens.

“ ‘Hitman’ hit a nerve with gamers and non-gamers alike,” Fox senior VP of distribution Chris Aronson said.

Warners put up roughly $14 million in picking up “August Rush” to distribute. Pic, about a musical prodigy trying to find his parents, stars Freddie Highmore, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Keri Russell and Robin Williams.

Warners prexy of distribution Dan Fellman said roughly 70% of the film’s audience was female, and he expects it to play well through the holidays.

Among the various films, “Beowulf” is the priciest, having cost upwards of $150 million to produce, though Steve Bing’s Shangri-La put up more than two-thirds of it. Pic’s solid performance is welcome news for Hollywood studios as they invest more and more in digital 3-D.

Dimension Films topper Bob Weinstein said he was pleased with the perf of “The Mist,” which cost $13 million to produce.

“It’s a base hit for us,” Weinstein said.

But one need look no further than the weekend-to-weekend drops among kid titles to see the power of family films, particularly at this time of year.

DreamWorks Animation’s “Bee Movie” declined just 14% as it happily jumped the $100 million mark at the box office over the holiday, coming in No. 5. Toon grossed $16 million for the five days from 3,507 runs for a cume of $112 million in its fourth frame. Three-day total was $12 million.

Warners’ “Fred Claus,” toplining Vince Vaughn, was No. 6 in its third frame, declining just 10% from the previous weekend. Film grossed $15.1 million from 3,603 runs for the five days; three-day total was $10.7 million. Cume is $53 million.

For the five-day holiday frame, Universal’s “American Gangster” hit No. 9, grossing $13.2 million from 2,799 runs in its fourth frame. Three-day total declined 28% to $9.2 million. Cume is $115.8 million.

Among other holdovers, Fox’s “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” grossed $10.9 million over the five-day holiday frame from 3,168 locations. Three-day total was $8 million for a decline of just 17% in its second frame; cume is $22.3 million.

Also in its second frame, New Line’s “Love in the Time of Cholera” continued to struggle, grossing $950,000 from 852 theaters over the three days as cume hit $3.5 million.

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