Dramatic sendoff to ’08 box office

'Defiance,' 'Good' open in final weekend

Coming in under the wire for awards consideration, the two final releases of 2008 are Paramount Vantage’s “Defiance,” directed by Ed Zwick, and ThinkFilm’s Viggo Mortensen starrer “Good.”

The two films — both Holocaust dramas — will open in limited runs on Wednesday.

“Defiance,” whose release was pushed back from early fall, toplines Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber. Film is based on the true story of four brothers in Eastern Europe who escaped with scores of Jews, built a city and fought the Nazis.

“Good,” directed by Vicente Amorim, tells the story of a German professor who unwittingly becomes a member of the SS.

“Defiance” and “Good” will have plenty of competition, considering the bevy of specialty titles already in the market. In terms of tone, there is also direct competition: Tom Cruise starrer “Valkyrie,” which opened Christmas Day.

Elsewhere at the B.O., studios are hoping for big grosses throughout this week and into the weekend after a robust Christmas weekend led by Fox’s Jennifer Aniston-Owen Wilson comedy “Marley and Me.”

Domestic box office revenues continue to run even with last year’s record-breaking take of $9.63 billion. Admissions, however, are down 4%-5%.

Distributors and exhibitors say they aren’t concerned about the dip, considering the economic crisis, which has produced huge plunges in other sectors, including retail and automobile sales, and a staggering drop in crude oil prices. They say the admissions decline is relatively soft in comparison.

Over the past decade, admissions have gone up and down. The biggest drop came in 2005, when theater traffic dipped 7.27%. In 2004, admissions dropped 2.43%, and in 2003, 4.87%. Admissions were up 1.38% in 2006 and 0.35% in 2007, according to the National Assn. of Theater Owners.

In 2008 alone, there have been substantial swings. Admissions were up 10% for most of the fall season and the middle part of the summer.

That box office revenues are even with last year is due to increased ticket prices. The average ticket price year to date is $7.20, compared with $6.88 in 2007. The average price for 2008 could go down once final-quarter numbers are crunched.

NATO says comparisons can be tough when the previous year has seen the sort of blockbuster sequels and three-quels that 2007 enjoyed.

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