Film is widest 3D release of the digital age

Charles Dickens’ classic holiday tale “A Christmas Carol” takes on added dimension this weekend as the widest 3D release of the digital age.

“Disney’s A Christmas Carol,” directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Jim Carrey as Scrooge, is one of four nationwide releases debuting at the domestic B.O. “Christmas Carol” opens in 3,683 runs.

Warner Bros.’ Cameron Diaz-James Marsden horror pic “The Box” goes out in 2,635; Universal and Gold Circle’s alien abduction thriller “The Fourth Kind” bows in 2,529; while Overture Films’ George Clooney romp “The Men Who Stare at Goats” opens in 2,443.

The weekend’s high-profile specialty debut is Lionsgate’s “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,” which opens in 18 theaters in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta.

“Precious,” the harrowing but inspiring tale of an African-American girl who survives incest, has been a fest favorite and was exec produced by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry. Lionsgate has booked the film into theaters in primarily African-American neighborhoods as well as in arthouses.

“Christmas Carol” is the favorite to win the weekend. Of its 3,683 theaters domestically, 2,035 are 3D locations (including 181 Imax screens).

Overseas, “Christmas Carol” opens day-and-date in 18 territories, including the U.K., Germany, Australia, Mexico and Brazil. Many of the international runs will be in 3D.

Exhibs have been rushing to install 3D screens in time for “Christmas Carol” and 20th Century Fox’s “Avatar,” which opens Dec. 18.

Zemeckis uses the same performance-capture technology in “Christmas Carol” that he did in “Polar Express.” Film also stars Gary Oldman, Cary Elwes, Robin Wright Penn and Colin Firth. Carrey plays multiple roles, including all three ghosts.

After “Christmas Carol,” other openers could find themselves competing with Sony holdover “This Is It,” which bowed at No. 1 the previous weekend and has seen strong weekday business. “This Is It’s” domestic cume through Wednesday was $41.7 million.

With a strong star in Clooney, Overture’s “Men Who Stare at Goats” is showing strength in tracking. Directed by Clooney’s producing partner Grant Heslov, film also stars Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges and Robert Patrick. Story follows the military’s efforts to use new age concepts to its own advantage.

“Goats,” acquired by Overture for $5 million, is sparking interest among men of all ages, as well as older women. The R-rated film was produced by Clooney and Heslov’s Smokehouse, BBC Films and Winchester Capital Partners.

Warners’ “The Box,” directed by Richard Kelly (“Donnie Darko”), is stirring up interest among younger females and, like “Fourth Kind,” is rated PG-13.

With Milla Jovovich starrer “Fourth Kind,” U is hoping to capitalize on the runaway success of Paramount’s micro-budgeted pic “Paranormal Activity,” noting the similar look and feel of the two films. U says the studio has waged an aggressive viral marketing campaign for the movie on the Internet.

But the market for horror and suspense could be crowded with “The Box,” “Fourth Kind” and “Paranormal Activity” all out there.

Other openers on the specialty side include Hal Holbrook starrer “That Evening Sun,” which Freestyle opens in one theater in New York. Monterey Media opens South African thriller “Endgame” in New York.

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