Reiner comedy nudges out 'Sunday,' 'Juno'

Hollywood skipped the red carpet Sunday, but star power still drove the B.O., with Jack Nicholson-Morgan Freeman starrer “The Bucket List” winning the weekend.

With an estimated bow of $19.5 million, Warner Bros.’ road-trip laffer narrowly edged Sony/Screen Gems’ “First Sunday,” which reported $19 million. Fox Searchlight’s breakout comedy “Juno” came in third at $14 million, and the distrib projects it will eclipse “Sideways” today to become the top-grossing Searchlight title ever.

“Bucket,” which follows the quest of two terminally ill men to live it up before time runs out, brought director Rob Reiner the biggest bow of his career.His previous best was “A Few Good Men,” which took in $15.5 million during its opening weekend in 1992.

Warners distrib don Dan Fellman credited the two topliners for bringing life to the pic’s potentially downbeat theme.

“Everyone wanted to see these two actors together in one movie,” he said. “It’s well-positioned heading into the holiday weekend and will start to play a little younger as it goes.”

Exit surveys pointed to 95% of auds rating the pic very good or excellent. The crowd was 58% female; 70% of ticket buyers were older than 35.

Fellman said a two-week run on 16 locations in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto helped establish support in those markets ahead of the wide break. On Christmas Day, the pic averaged more than $10,000 per site, and those early runs give it a cume just shy of $21 million.

Runner-up “First Sunday,” an urban comedy starring Ice Cube and Tracy Morgan, finished at the top end of projections.

Rory Breuer, distrib honcho at Sony, said the Screen Gems title delivered the urban core, but noted that the numbers — notably the film’s $8,586 per-engagement average — suggest a significant crossover.

“It played to everyone — all ethnicities,” he said.

Exit surveys showed that 63% of the pic’s aud was between 18 and 39, and 54% was female.

Speaking of crossovers, “Juno’s” cume has reached an eye-popping $71.2 million, besting last year’s “Little Miss Sunshine.”

Steve Gilula, the specialty division’s co-chief operating officer, said a $100 million tally is close to a sure thing. The pic’s storyline has made it a universal draw. “People can view it through their own prism,” he said. “Pro-life people are very comfortable with her keeping the baby. (Screenwriter) Diablo Cody is firmly pro-choice, but she found a way to make the story work.”

Two holdovers, “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” each took steps closer to $200 million. “Treasure” collected $11.5 million, while “Alvin” took in $9.1 million.

Overall biz was essentially flat compared with last year’s sesh.

Warners, aside from winning the current frame, had four of the top eight titles, including “Bucket List,”with “I Am Legend,” “P.S. I Love You” and “One Missed Call” each recording solid holds.

The frame’s two other wide bows aside from “Bucket” and “Sunday” didn’t resonate. U’s G-rated toon “The Pirates That Don’t Do Anything: A Veggietales Movie,” a service deal for production company Big Idea, pulled in a ninth-place $4.4 million.

Focus Features’ “Atonement” finished at No. 10 with $4.3 million, edging out parent company Universal’s “Charlie Wilson’s War,” which is fading with a $59.5 million cume. “Atonement’s” haul stands at $25.2 million.

Freestyle Releasing’s “In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale,” written and directed by Teutonic genre-meister Uwe Boll, scraped up $3.3 million to finish No. 14. Loosely adapted from a vidgame, the film’s cast includes Jason Statham, Burt Reynolds, Leelee Sobieski, Matthew Lillard, Ray Liotta and Ron Perlman.

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