Disney sequel nets $35.6 million, 'Alvin' in second

The second weekend of the holiday sesh continued to bring big gains for the film biz, with Disney sequel “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” leading and 20th Century Fox’s runaway hit “Alvin and the Chipmunks” overtaking Warner Bros.’ “I Am Legend” for the No. 2 spot.

“Book of Secrets” declined a narrow 20% in its second frame to an estimated $35.6 million from 3,832 runs for a cume of $124 million, according to Rentrak. That bests the $87.2 million grossed by the original “National Treasure” in its first 10 days.

Overtaking “Legend” for the first time since both films bowed on Dec. 14, live-action/CGI hybrid “Alvin” grossed an estimated $30 million from 3,484 runs for a cume of $142.4 million, outpacing all expectations and positioning the family title to be among the top 10 grossing films of the year.

“Legend” has already accomplished that feat. Sci-fi thriller, toplining Will Smith, grossed an estimated $27.5 million from 3,636 runs over the weekend for a cume of $194.6 million. That’s a decline of just 18%. Film, coming in No. 3 for the weekend, will easily jump the $200 million B.O. mark today.

Frame marks the third weekend in a row that box office business is up from the previous year. And with the holiday not over, studios and specialty distribs expect to see significant grosses over the next week.

“I honestly think grosses for ‘Book of Secrets’ will finish the holiday ahead of the final domestic gross for the first movie,” Disney prexy of distribution Chuck Viane said.

“National Treasure,” released over Thanksgiving 2004, went on to gross roughly $173 million at the domestic box office.

Fox senior VP of distribution Bert Livingston said “Alvin” is unstoppable.

“It’s unusual to see a movie make this much in its third weekend,” Livingston said.

After the top three pics, there was still plenty of action among more targeted fare.

Universal’s Tom Hanks-Julia Roberts “Charlie Wilson’s War” came in No. 4 for the weekend, grossing an estimated $11.8 million from 2,575 runs for a cume of $34.5 million in the pic’s first 10 days. Mike Nichols directed from a script by Aaron Sorkin, while Philip Seymour Hoffman also stars. Pic was up 23%.

“There are people who said this kind of movie didn’t work, but with ‘Charlie Wilson’s War,’ all of that is being proven wrong,” U marketing and distribution topper Adam Fogelson said.

“Charlie Wilson’s War” wasn’t the only awards hopeful landing among the top five pics at the weekend box office.

Fox Searchlight’s quirky dramedy “Juno”–playing in only 998 theaters–came in No. 5 for the frame, grossing an impressive $10.3 million in its fourth weekend for a per location average of $10,321 and cume of $25.7 million. “Juno” was up a whopping 201% from the previous weekend, when it likewise played in 998 locations.

Searchlight topper Peter Rice said the weekend gross for “Juno” is the best on record for an indie cross-over hit, outpacing the best weekend numbers for titles including “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “Sideways” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

“I think this film is very relatable,” Rice said.

The Fox empire also took the No. 5 spot with Christmas day opener “Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem,” which grossed an estimated $10 million from 2,611 runs for a cume of $26.9 million in the sequel’s first six days. Fox noted that the film was up over the weekend.

Landing at No. 7 for the weekend was Sony and Walden Media’s kiddie entry “Water Horse: Legend of the Deep,” which grossed an estimated $9.2 million from 2,772 runs for a cume of $16.8 million. Like “Aliens,” pic opened on Christmas.

MGM and the Weinstein Co.’s “The Great Debaters”–the third film opening on the holiday itself–  wasn’t able to crack the top 10 list, coming in No. 11 for the weekend. Film, directed by and starring Denzel Washington, grossed an estimated $6.3 million from 1,171 runs for a cume of $13.5 million.

The Weinstein Co. noted that “Debaters” enjoyed a 17% Friday-to-Saturday jump, indicating promising word-of-mouth.

Warners’ Hilary Swank-Gerard Butler romancer “P.S. I Love You” placed No. 8 for the frame, grossing an estimated $9.1 million from 2,464 runs for a cume of $23.4 million in the pic’s first 10 days. Like other films playing to adult auds, the pic was up over the previous weekend.

Romancer saw a whammo 40% gain, reflecting the fact that female moviegoers have more time on their hands now that Christmas is over, Warners exec VP of distribution Jeff Goldstein said.

DreamWorks-Paramount’s bigscreen musical adaptation “Sweeney Todd” fell to No. 9  in its second weekend, grossing an estimated $8 million from 1,249 runs for a cume of $26.7 million in the film’s first 10 days in release. Tim Burton directed the Johnny Depp-Helena Bohnam Carter film.

The No. 10 slot went to Disney’s “Enchanted,” which continued to sing sweetly in its sixth frame. Princess tale grossed an estimated $6.5 million from 2,262 theaters for a cume of $110.6 million.

The only holiday release unable to find much cheer was Sony laffer “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.” Produced and co-written by Judd Apatow, film grossed an estimated $3.7 million from 2,650 theaters over the weekend for a cume of $12.2 million in the comedy’s first 10 days in release. Film placed No. 13 for the weekend.

Just as there was an overall box surge among commercial titles, there was plenty of heat in the specialty race.

Debuting on Christmas day, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Daniel Day Lewis starrer “There Will Be Blood” scored the best per screen average of the year–$93,000–when grossing an estimated $185,525 from two theaters in New York and L.A over the weekend. Film is a Paramount Vantage-Miramax co-production that Vantage is distribbing domestically.

Warners also saw a sterling per screen average for Jack Nicholson-Morgan Freeman starrer “The Bucket List,” which is playing in a limited run before going wide on Jan. 11. Pic, opening on Christmas, grossed an estimated $323,000 over the weekend from 16 theaters for a per location average of $20,188 and six day cume of $618,152.

Sony Pictures Classics’ “Persepolis,” also bowing on the holiday, posted a per location average of $13,015 over the weekend in grossing an estimated $91,107 from seven theaters for a cume of $166,653.

Picturehouse’s Spanish horror title “The Orphange” posted a per screen average of $12,791 in grossing an estimated $230,233 from 18 theaters in its debut over the weekend.

Among holdovers, Focus Features’ arthouse entry “Atonement” continued its strong run, coming in No. 14 for the weekend overall and grossing an estimated $3 million from 310 locations for a cume of $11.1 million in the film’s fourth frame and a per location average of $9,951.

Right behind “Atonement” was the Coen brothers’ “No Country for Old Men,” which jumped the $40 million mark in grossing an estimated $2.2 million from 960 runs in the pic’s eighth frame for a per location average of $2,307 and cume of $41 million–the best box office showing ever for the siblings.

Paramount Classics’ “The Kite Runner” logged a per screen average of $4,640 for the frame, grossing an estimated $1.8 million from 377 runs for a cume of $5.4 million in the film’s third frame.

Elsewhere, Fox also reported strong success with sneak peeks Thursday night of romantic comedy “27 Dresses,” toplining Katherine Heigl and penned by “The Devil Wears Prada” scribe Aline Brosh McKenna. Sneaking the pic in 539 theaters across the country, studio said most shows were sold out, and the rest at capacity.

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