‘Christmas Carol’ cheers in $9 million

'Precious' boasts notable limited bow of $585,000

Family crowd pleaser “Disney’s A Christmas Carol” easily took the top spot Friday with close to $9 million in a frame that was crowded with wide releases from such headliners as George Clooney, Cameron Diaz and Milla Jovovich.

Also faring extremely well was Lionsgate’s limited bow of Lee Daniels’ urban drama “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” which posted a notable $585,000 from 18 theaters – the second best for any film unspooling in under 100 locations after Miramax’s “Chicago” which minted $684,789 off 77 sites in its first Friday. The last limited release, according to Rentrak Theatrical, to generate a boffo amount in under 100 was Focus Features’ “Milk” from last November which grossed $268,487 off 34.

Compared to director Robert Zemeckis’ previous performance-capture animated films, the first day for “Christmas Carol” fell in between the first Friday of 2004’s G-rated “The Polar Express” which made $6.2 million and his 2007 PG-13 lit pic adaptation “Beowulf” which made $10 million. “Beowulf” and “Polar Express” respectively posted opening weekends of $27.5 million and $23.3 million. Matinees will no doubt work in favor of “Christmas Carol” as it looks to keep its lock on No. 1.

“Christmas Carol” stars Jim Carrey as both Ebenezer Scrooge and the classic tale’s three ghosts. Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Cary Elwes and Robin Wright Penn also star. Pic was in play at 3,683 sites, 2,035 of which were 3-D equipped (including 181 Imax screens).

Overall, including “Christmas Carol,” new product occupied four of the top five slots except for Sony’s concert pic “Michael Jackson’s This Is It” which took fourth with $4.15 million in its second Friday, off 47% on 3,481. The domestic cume for “This Is It” stands at $48 million.

Universal and Gold Circle’s fact-based thriller “The Fourth Kind” starring Jovovich enjoyed second place yesterday with $5 million off 2,527. Overture Films’ political farce “The Men Who Stare at Goats” featuring an all-star cast led by Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, Robert Patrick as well as Clooney took third with $4.6 million off 2,443.

Fifth was a tight squeeze for horror pics. Warner Bros.’ Cameron Diaz entry “The Box” and Paramount’s “Paranormal Activity” both drew an estimated $2.85 million, but some industry estimates show “Box” owning the slot. “Box” was booked in 2,635 locations, while “Paranormal” resided in 2,558. In its seventh Friday, “Paranormal” fell 53%, raising its B.O. to $91.7 million.

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