Family drama tops box office with $14.8 million

Twentieth Century Fox’s Jennifer Aniston-Owen Wilson starrer “Marley and Me” led the crowded pack of Christmas Day openers, grossing an estimated $14.8 million from 3,480 playdates to become the best opening ever for Dec. 25. 

Not only does “Marley” feature an adorable dog, it is rated PG, meaning it is appropriate for families.(Bring your hankies, however.)

Paramount’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”–toplining Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett–also overperformed, grossing an estimated $11.8 million from 2,988 runs to score the second best Christmas Day opener of all time. Directed by David Fincher, “Button” has already picked up a number of key award noms. 

“Marley” and “Button” did 40% to %50% more business than box office insiders expected. 

A record five films opened nationwide on Thursday. Disney family title “Bedtime Stories”–toplining Adam Sandler–grossed roughly $10.5 million from 3,651 theaters to place No. 3 for the day. Film should pick up the pace today as kids are freed up.

The big question is whether “Bedtime” can beat “Button” and come in No. 2 for the long Christmas weekend.

Tom Cruise starrer “Valkyrie,” from United Artists/MGM, also found more holiday cheer that forecasted. Nazi thriller, directed by Bryan Singer, came in  No. 4 in its debut, grossing an estimated $8.5 million from 2,711 runs. 

The only title underperforming among the five Christmas Day openers was Lionsgate’s “The Spirit,” from Frank Miller. Title, placing No. 7 for the day, debuted to an estimated $4 million from 2,509 theaters.

Beating “Spirit” were holdovers “Yes Man,” from Warner Bros., and Sony’s “Seven Pounds.”  Toplining Jim Carrey, “Yes man” grossed an estimated $6 million from 3,434 playdates for a cume of more than $33 in its 7th day in release.

“Seven Pounds,” starring Will Smith, grossed an estimated $4.8 million from 2,758 runs for a cume of $25.6 million in its 7th day.

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