Bad weather takes toll on frame

The weekend box office got iced by terrible weather, and the result was anything but a merry start for Jim Carrey laffer “Yes Man” and Will Smith drama “Seven Pounds.”

Warner Bros.’ “Yes Man” grossed $18.2 million from 3,434 runs to win the crown, while “Seven Pounds” took $16 million from 2,758, according to Rentrak. Both titles were expected to come in at least $5 million higher.

The opening for “Seven Pounds” is the lowest for a Smith pic since 2001’s “Ali.” Film, which reunited Smith with drama “Pursuit of Happyness” director Gabriele Muccino, also received generally bad reviews.

Universal toon “The Tale of Despereaux,” the frame’s other new entry, grossed an estimated $10.5 million from 3,104 runs on the strength of tots and their parents.

Friday’s crippling storm in the Northeast dragged down grosses dramatically in a menacing start to the Christmas holiday. Weekend was down by as much as 44% over last year. In Boston, Friday’s B.O. dropped a whopping 81% from the previous Friday, while it fell 45% in Gotham.

There were, however, some strong players at the specialty box office: “The Wrestler” saw a boffo opening, while “Slumdog Millionaire” continued to gain strength. (Both pics are from Fox Searchlight.)Question now is how much “Yes Man” and “Seven Pounds” can rebound over the two-week Christmas holiday stretch. There are also five wide releases opening on Christmas Day that may have to contend with more winter weather.

The good news for Hollywood is the domestic box office continues to run even with last year, which saw record-breaking revenues. And Warner Bros. is on the verge of grossing the most of any studio in a given year, unseating crown holder Sony ($1.705 billion). Through Friday, Warner’s box office revs clocked in at $1.68 billion.

In more good news for Warners, comedy “Four Christmases” jumped the $100 million mark over the weekend, far outpacing original expectations for the comedy. Pic dropped just 41% to $7.7 million in its fourth weekend to come in No. 5. Cume is $100.2 million.

Warner prexy of distribution Dan Fellman said the “Yes Man” victory was still a nice win for Carrey considering how bad markets in the Northeast were affected.

“Yes Man” bested the $14.4 million debut of 2005 Christmas comedy “Fun With Dick and Jane,” which went on to cume $110.3 million domestically. Carrey’s pic appealed primarily to young males.

The other male-skewing film in the marketplace is 20th Century Fox’s “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” which dipped a steep 67% in its second weekend to an estimated $10.2 million from 3,560 runs. Pic still placed No. 4; and cume is $48.6 million.

“Seven Pounds” played older, with 64% of the audience over 25 — a population that can be more influenced by reviews. Women made up 55% of the aud.

In the past several years Smith’s films have had extraordinary staying power. “Happyness” opened to $26.5 million two years ago at Christmas on its way to grossing $162.6 million domestically. Sony is looking for the same sort of multiple with “Seven Pounds.”

“I’m certain the movie will find its way. We had great exits, and people like the movie. I think the long-term prospects are very, very good,” said Sony prexy of worldwide distribution Rory Bruer.

In December 2001, Smith topliner “Ali” opened to $14.7 million, while “Legend of Bagger Vance” opened to $11.5 million the year before. “Ali” grossed $58.2 million domestically, while “Bagger Vance” was officially labeled a dud in cuming $30 million.

And “Seven Pounds” only narrowly beat the $15.5 million debut of Smith’s 1995 actioner “Bad Boys” ($15.5 million).

Looking at the Christmas-New Year’s stretch, “Tale of Despereaux” has an advantage as the only G-rated film in the marketplace. “We’re in great shape to play through the holidays,” said Universal prexy of distribution Nikki Rocco.

Two years ago, toon “Charlotte’s Web” opened to $11.5 million on its way to cuming $83 million domestically.

Disney family pic “Bedtime Stories,” toplining Adam Sandler, opens Christmas Day, posing competition for “Yes Man” and even “Despereaux.” Film is considered the front-runner next weekend.

Other pics opening nationwide on Thursday are “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Marley and Me,” “Valkyrie” and “The Spirit.”

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