Four films find favor over holiday frame

Twentieth Century Fox’s Owen Wilson-Jennifer Aniston starrer “Marley and Me” remained best in show at the weekend box office, fetching a winning gross of $24 million from 3,505 runs for a cume of $106.5 million in only 11 days.

“Marley” led an unusually robust holiday sesh at the box office. Four of the five films opening nationwide on Dec. 25 did great business — “Marley,” Disney’s “Bedtime Stories,” Paramount’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and United Artists/MGM’s “Valkyrie.”

The specialty side also made strong gains, with Miramax’s “Doubt” and Fox Searchlight’s “Slumdog Millionaire” coming in at Nos. 8 and 10, respectively, according to Rentrak. “Defiance” scored the best per-location average over the entire weekend, followed by “Gran Torino” and “Revolutionary Road.”

B.O. revs for the week between Christmas and New Year’s were up nearly 20% over the same stretch in 2007.

“It’s a very atypical Christmas to have this many movies succeed,” Disney prexy of domestic distribution Chuck Viane said.

Holiday films should continue to prosper well into January.

“Bedtime Stories” remained at No. 2 over the weekend, grossing an estimated $20.3 million from 3,684 locations for a cume of $85.3 million.

Going into the holiday, most thought “Bedtime Stories,” which is a broad family film, would take the lead, but “Marley” came out of the gate at No. 1 and has remained there. Based on the bestselling memoir about a journalist and his family’s dog, “Marley” reunited “The Devil Wears Prada” director David Frankel with Fox 2000. New Regency is also a producer.

David Fincher’s “Button,” toplining Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, continued to exceed expectations over the weekend. Film grossed an estimated $18.4 million from 2,988 locations for a cume of $79 million. Pic’s performance is particularly impressive considering its running time of 2:47.

“What’s so great is you’ve got a movie that is so unique that has been embraced by audiences. It’s off to a spectacular start and should have a great hold,” Paramount vice chair Rob Moore said.

Par produced “Button” with Warner Bros.

Tom Cruise starrer “Valkyrie” still thrilled as well. Directed by Bryan Singer in his first feature outing since “Superman Returns,” “Valkyrie” grossed an estimated $14 million for a cume of $60.7 million.

All four titles saw minimal declines from the previous weekend. “Marley” fell 34%, “Bedtime” 26%, “Button” 31% and “Valkyrie” 33%.

Lionsgate wasn’t so lucky with its Christmas Day release, Frank Miller’s “The Spirit.” Pic grossed $3.3 million for the weekend from 2,509 playdates for an 11-day cume of $17.8 million. It came in No. 13 for the frame.

Back on the top 10 chart, Warner Bros.’ Jim Carrey laffer came in No. 5, declining only 17% in its third sesh to an estimated $13.9 million from 3,434; cume is $79.4 million.

Also in its third weekend, Sony’s Will Smith drama “Seven Pounds” declined 24% to an estimated $10 million from 2,271 for a cume of $60 million. Film held at No. 6.

Universal’s “The Tale of Despereaux” came in No. 7. Toon declined just 21% to an estimated $7 million from 3,091; cume is $43.7 million.

Coming in No. 8, Miramax’s Meryl Streep-Philip Seymour Hoffman starrer “Doubt” declined a narrow 6% to an estimated $5 million from 1,267 runs for a cume of $18.6 million in its fourth week. “Doubt” went wide over Christmas after opening in a limited run Dec. 12.

“The decision to do so has paid really good dividends,” Miramax prexy Daniel Battsek said.

Among other holdover specialty films, Fox Searchlight’s “Slumdog Millionaire” and Warner Bros.’ “Gran Torino,” directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, remained favorites.

“Slumdog Millionaire” has kept its theater count at roughly 612 theaters over the holidays. For the weekend, pic was up 11% in grossing an estimated $4.8 million; cume is $28.8 million in its eighth week.

“Gran Torino” grabbed a stellar per-screen average of $33,571 in grossing an estimated $2.8 million from 84 runs for a cume of $9.7 million in its fourth sesh. Some box observers believe “Gran Torino” has a shot at becoming Eastwood’s top-grossing movie ever. Pic goes wide this Friday.

Two new specialty entries were Paramount Vantage’s “Defiance,” directed by Ed Zwick, and ThinkFilm’s Viggo Mortensen starrer “Good,” both of which opened Dec. 31.

“Defiance” posted a per-screen average of $60,000 in its first weekend, grossing an estimated $121,000 from two locations for a cume of $198,000.

“Good” grossed an estimated $9,300 from two runs in New York and L.A. for a per-screen average of $4,650.

DreamWorks/Paramount Van-tage’s Kate Winslet-Leonardo DiCaprio drama “Revolutionary Road” posted a per-screen average of $25,763 in its second sesh, grossing an estimated $979,000 from 38 locations for a cume of $1.4 million.

Searchlight’s Mickey Rourke starrer “The Wrestler” nabbed a per-location average of $23,994, grossing an estimated $431,884 from 18 locations; cume is $1.8 million in its third weekend.

Overture’s Emma Thompson-Dustin Hoffman starrer “Last Chance Harvey” scored a per-location average of $17,833 in grossing an estimated $107,000 from six runs for a cume of $355,741 in its second weekend.

Sony Picture Classics’ “Waltz With Bashir” enjoyed a per-location average of $10,875 as it grossed an estimated $54,374 from five runs for a cume of $160,064 in its second frame.

For the weekend, Universal’s “Frost/Nixon” posted a per-location average of $7,030 as it grossed an estimated $1.4 million from 205 locations for a cume of $6.3 million in its fifth frame.

Fellow awards contender “Milk,” from Focus Features, grossed an estimated $1.9 million from 309 locations for a per-location average of $6,020 and a cume of $17.1 million in its sixth sesh.

And the Weinstein Co.’s “The Reader” posted a per-location average of $4,070 in its fourth weekend, grossing an estimated $1.6 million from 398 theaters for a cume of $3.6 million in its fourth frame.

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