The quirks of the calendar proved a welcome gift for the boxoffice, as the three-day totals soared 34% over last year and the extended holiday — with Christmas landing on a Tuesday — meant that holdovers and new pics shared in the goodies.
On Christmas Day, Fox sequel “Aliens vs. Predator — Requiem” and MGM’s “The Great Debaters” bowed to strong results, while Disney’s “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” continued to discover plenty of loot.
“Book of Secrets,” which reteams director Jon Turteltaub and thesp Nicolas Cage, grossed $65.4 million from 3,823 theaters in its first five days, according to Rentrak. Sequel was one of five films opening last Friday.
The pic maintained its winning ways on Christmas Day as a slew of other pics bowed. Runner-up for the day was Warner Bros.’ holdover “I Am Legend,” while “Aliens vs. Predator” opened at No. 3, posting an estimated one-day gross of $9.5 million from 2,563 theaters.
“Debaters,” directed by and starring Denzel Washington, grossed an estimated $3.6 million from 1,164 in its Tuesday debut, placing No. 6 for the day and sporting a per-screen average of $3,096.
Also new that day was Sony’s family entry “The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep,” which grossed an estimated $2.3 million from 2,772 to hit No. 9.
On the specialty side, Christmas Day openers included Sony Pictures Classics’ “Persepolis” (an estimated $37,118 from seven theaters for a per-screen average of $5,303) and Warners’ Rob Reiner film “The Bucket List” (an estimated $161,840 from 16 theaters in key markets for a per-screen average of $10,115).
The three-day weekend box office was up 34% over the same frame last year, while Christmas Day generated an estimated $65 million in box office receipts vs. $60 million a year ago, according to Paul Dergarabedian’s Media by Numbers.
That would seem to bode well for coming days as the Christmas-to-New Year stretch historically produces strong box office grosses.
“Book of Secrets” grossed an estimated $45.5 million for the weekend. The original “National Treasure” debuted at $35.1 million over Thanksgiving weekend in 2004.
“We’re thrilled to be the leader in such a competitive marketplace, when you find yourself up against the likes of Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Will Smith and Johnny Depp,” said Disney prexy of domestic distrib Chuck Viane.
None of the weekend’s four other wide releases could surpass holdovers “I Am Legend” and live-action/CGI combo “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” which came in at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, in their sophomore frames, both for the weekend and the five-day stretch.
Warner Bros.’ “Legend” crossed the $150 million mark on Christmas Day with a domestic cume of $151.2 million. For the five days, sci-fi actioner grossed $47.9 million from 3,620 theaters.
Twentieth Century Fox’s family-friendly “Alvin” fell just 35%, to $28.2 million from 3,499. For the five days, pic grossed $38.6 million; cume is $94.5 million.
In a closely watched race, Universal’s Tom Hanks-Julia Roberts starrer “Charlie Wilson’s War” beat out DreamWorks-Paramount’s Johnny Depp musical adaptation “Sweeney Todd” for the No. 4 spot.
Directed by Mike Nichols, “Charlie Wilson’s War” grossed $9.6 million from 2,575 for the weekend and $15.9 million for the five days.
Playing in less than half the number of theaters as “Charlie,” director Tim Burton’s “Sweeney” grossed an estimated $9.3 million from 1,249 theaters over the weekend and $13.6 million for the five days.
Per-location average for “Sweeney” for the five days was a hearty $10,918 compared to $6,174 for “Charlie Wilson’s War.”
“This is a slot we feel we now own,” Universal marketing and distribution topper Adam Fogelson said, speaking of “Charlie Wilson’s War.”
While that film is far more breezy than other recent entries concerned with the Middle East and the history of the war on terror, it nevertheless has the political overtones that auds have shied away from.
Among these films, “Charlie Wilson’s War” has certainly seen the best opening. Tom Cruise-Meryl Streep-Robert Redford starrer “Lions for Lambs” bowed to $6.7 million, while Jake Gyllenhaal-Reese Witherspoon starrer “Rendition” opened at $4 million.
“Charlie” cost at least $75 million to produce, according to U insiders, with the stars taking reduced fees. Penned by Aaron Sorkin, film also stars Philip Seymour Hoffman.
It is Hanks’ lowest opening film since “That Thing You Do!” in 1996, which grossed $6.2 million.
As for “Sweeney Todd,” DreamWorks spokesman Chip Sullivan said one of the chief challenges in selling the R-rated musical lies in its macabre storyline.
“This is not your mother’s ‘Sound of Music,’ ” he said. “But with the outstanding reviews and the exit polls, we’re in this for the long run.” Movie is a DreamWorks-Warner Bros. co-production, with DreamWorks-Par distributing domestically.
Warner Bros.’ Hilary Swank-Gerard Butler romancer “P.S. I Love You” came in at No. 6 as it opened over the weekend, grossing an estimated $6.5 million from 2,454 theaters. Five-day total was $9.3 million. Warners is distributing the film through its output deal with Alcon Entertainment, which produced and put up all the financing.
The loser of the holiday sesh was Sony’s Judd Apatow-produced biopic spoof “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.” The comedy failed to find many laughs, grossing an estimated $4.1 million from 2,650 theaters for the weekend and $6.2 million for the five days.
Fox Searchlight’s “Juno” proved the little engine that could, placing No. 10 for the weekend in grossing $3.4 million as it expanded from 40 to 264 theaters. Pic, expanding to 298 on Christmas, posted a five-day total of $6.8 million.
Also feeling good was MGM, which is distributing “Debaters” for the Weinstein Co.
“We are off and running. Everything is in place for the film to get to the end of the holiday in great shape,” MGM prexy of distribution Clark Woods said.
Among the audience for “Debaters,” produced by Oprah Winfrey, 60% were African-Americans. Film played particularly well in the South and did the best overall among women over 25.