'Treasure' on top as 'Alvin' overtakes 'Legend'

The five-day New Year’s frame continued the late-year boost to the film biz, with Disney sequel “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” leading and 20th Century Fox’s surprise hit “Alvin and the Chipmunks” overtaking Warner Bros.’ “I Am Legend” for the No. 2 spot.

Distribs can’t remember a more flush — or crowded — Christmas-to-New Year’s frame. There were a total of seven new wide releases and several new specialty titles.

For the most part, there was plenty of box office coin to go around, with the holiday B.O. up as much as 7% over last year, guaranteeing that 2007 grosses will top 2006′s by about 5%. Attendance, however, was flat.

“Book of Secrets” saw a five-day estimated gross of $55.4 million from 3,823 theaters, according to Rentrak; cume is $143.8 million through New Year’s Day. Of that, $35.6 million came in over the weekend, with the pic declining just 20% from its first frame. Sequel will easily outperform the original “National Treasure,” which grossed $173 million domestically.

“It’s been a great ride, considering how competitive the marketplace is,” said Disney prexy of distribution Chuck Viane.

Last year’s highest-grossing pic during the same stretch was Fox’s “Night at the Museum,” which took $127.3 million between its Dec. 22 opening and New Year’s.

Overtaking “Legend” for the first time since both movies bowed on Dec. 14, live-action/CGI hybrid “Alvin” reported a five-day gross of $42.2 million and a three-day gross of $35.6 million from 3,484 runs; cume is $154.6 million. Over the weekend, “Alvin” was up 3% from the previous frame.

Fox senior VP of distribution Bert Livingston said the pic has drawn people of all ages, providing its surprise strength.

“No one expected this,” Livingston said.

“Legend” crossed the $200 million mark at the domestic box office Monday. For the five days, the sci-fi actioner grossed an estimated $38 million from 3,636 theaters; cume is $205.1 million. Of that, $27.3 million came in over the weekend, with the pic declining just 18%.

After the top three movies, there was plenty of action among more targeted fare, as well as some disappointments.

Sony laffer “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” produced and co-written by Judd Apatow, was unable to find its stride, declining a steep 47% over the weekend to $3.8 million from 2,650 theaters. Comedy’s cume is $12.2 million in its first 10 days, its underperformance a rare blemish for Apatow.

The Weinstein Co. said word of mouth for Denzel Washington’s “The Great Debaters” remains strong, even though the pic, distributed by MGM and produced by Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films, fell just shy of making the top 10 list over the long New Year’s weekend.

“Debaters” saw a five-day estimated gross of 9.4 million and a three-day gross of $6 million from 1,171 runs; cume is $16.6 million through the pic’s first eight days. “Debaters” opened on Christmas. Per-location average over the weekend was $5,128.

Among the titles turning out to be strong performers is Universal’s Tom Hanks-Julia Roberts starrer “Charlie Wilson’s War,” which remained at No. 4 as B.O. climbed 23% in its second weekend. Film saw an estimated five-day gross of $20.5 million and a three-day gross of $12 million from 2,575 runs; cume is $43.2 million in its first 10 days.

Many thought “War” would be handicapped by its political overtones, although it is much breezier in style than either “Lions for Lambs” or “Rendition,” both of which did poorly at the box office earlier in the year.

“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,” said U marketing and distribution topper Adam Fogelson.

Mike Nichols directed from a script by Aaron Sorkin; Philip Seymour Hoffman also stars.

Fox Searchlight’s “Juno” broke records among specialty fare in placing No. 5 overall, grossing an estimated $15.7 million for the five days and $10.6 million for the three days from 998 screens for a cume of $31 million in its fourth frame. Weekend numbers were the best ever for a specialty title playing on that number of screens.

Landing at No. 6 for the five-day stretch was Sony and Walden Media’s kiddie entry “The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep,” which grossed an estimated $14 million from 2,772 runs. Cume is $21.6 million in its first six days. The film did especially well Monday and Tuesday. For the weekend, pic grossed an estimated $9.2 million.

The Fox empire also took the No. 7 spot for the five-day stretch with Christmas Day opener “Aliens vs. Predator — Requiem,” which reported an estimated gross of $13.8 from 2,611 for a cume of $30.6 million. Of that, $10 million came in over the weekend.

“Aliens,” which bowed Christmas Day and cost roughly $35 million to produce, drew its most interest on opening day, in keeping with other pics that appeal primarily to young men.

Warner Bros.’ Hilary Swank-Gerard Butler romancer “P.S. I Love You” came in at No. 8, reporting a five-day gross of $13 million and a three-day gross of $9.3 million from 2,464 for a cume of $27.3 million in the pic’s first 10 days.

Like other films playing to adults, the movie was up over the previous weekend. Romancer saw a whammo 40% gain, reflecting the fact that female moviegoers had more time on their hands after Christmas, Warners exec VP of distribution Jeff Goldstein said.

DreamWorks-Paramount’s bigscreen adaptation of “Sweeney Todd” was No. 9 with an estimated five-day gross of $11.8 million and $8.2 million from 1,249 runs. Cume is $30.5 million in the film’s first 10 days.

Tim Burton directed the Johnny Depp-Helena Bonham Carter tuner, adapted from Stephen Sondheim’s macabre Broadway tuner.

A DreamWorks spokesman said “Sweeney” is in strong shape, considering that it’s playing only 1,249. The DreamWorks-Warner Bros. co-production cost $50 million to produce. DreamWorks-Par is distribbing domestically and will take “Sweeney” wide on Jan. 11.

Initial tracking suggested that teen girls would be the biggest aud for “Sweeney,” largely because of Depp and also because they often propel horror films. In fact, older moviegoers are the ones turning out.

“It’s playing like a musical,” DreamWorks spokesman Chip Sullivan said.

The No. 10 slot went to Disney’s “Enchanted,” which continued to sing sweetly in its sixth frame. The princess tale posted an estimated five-day gross of $9.7 million and a three-day gross of $6.5 million from 2,262 theaters for a cume of $113.8 million.

Elsewhere, Fox 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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