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‘Treasure’ buries foes

Disney pics finish 1-2, but 'Alexander' fails to conquer

Disney had plenty to be thankful for over the long holiday weekend. Its two holdovers, “National Treasure” and “The Incredibles,” both surged over the five-day frame, giving the Mouse House the top two slots on the box office chart.

Playing in its second weekend, the Nicolas Cage adventure film “National Treasure” grossed $46.2 million, bringing its cume to $87.9 million. Comparing three-day frames, “Treasure” was down a paltry 6% from its opening weekend.

Meanwhile, Pixar pic “The Incredibles,” which had dropped to No. 3 last weekend behind Paramount’s “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie,” was the favorite toon for holiday auds, earning $33.2 million over the frame, and dropping only 9% from last weekend. Its cume is now a stunning $214.7 million.

As for the newcomers, Revolution and Sony’s “Christmas With the Kranks” pulled in $32 million from 3,393 theaters, which was good for third place.

Warner Bros.’ “Alexander,” which was co-financed by Intermedia, bowed at 2,445 locations and earned $21.6 million, which was good for the sixth spot.

‘Polar’ has endurance

Warners’ other pricey holiday pic, “The Polar Express,” now in its third week, showed some impressive durability. For the three-day span, its results improved 28% over last weekend, and for the five-day span it grossed $27.2 million, bringing its cume to $82.2 million.

Rounding out the top five, Par’s “SpongeBob” picked up $23.4 million, dropping 44%, and bringing its cume to $58.6 million.

Disney distrib topper Chuck Viane said the key to both “Treasure” and “Incredibles” is that they are playing to both family auds and adults.

“It’s been incredible to see how strongly the movies play during the day and then to adults at night,” he said.

Disney has dominated during November this year, claiming the top picture every week. It is also the first time a single studio has claimed the top two positions over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Revolution’s Tom Sherak said of the “Kranks” debut: “It’s more than we hoped for. It’s a strong number in a crowded marketplace full of family movies. The competition for that dollar is enormous right now.”

Sherak said that with no other Christmas-themed titles to open this year, the pic is well-positioned to play through the holiday.

According to Sony distrib chief Rory Bruer, the aud was 51% over age 25 and 60% female.

Does well in red states

Sherak also noted that the picture played much more strongly in the heartland than the urban centers. “It’s one of these movies that works from the middle out. Comparatively, the number in middle America are stronger than the numbers on the coasts.”

For Warners, their “Alexander” had a reverse pattern, with much better results in coastal cities. “We’re doing extremely well in the big cities,” said Intermedia’s Moritz Borman, “and rather poorly in the deep South smaller markets. It’s almost like a map of the red states and blue states.”

Warners distrib topper said the opening for “Alexander” was on par with Oliver Stone’s best opener, “Any Given Sunday,” which was released on the Wednesday before Christmas on 1999. That pic claimed $13.6 million over the three-day span and $20.6 million over the five-day holiday weekend.

‘Alexander’ solid, not great

Moritz said of “Alexander” that “it was solid, though it could have been better.”

Still, he and Fellman pointed out that the picture was limited by both its R rating as well as its three-hour running time, which means each screen can only play one prime evening-hour show.

Intermedia, which sold off most of the foreign territories on the pic, said the international prospects are much brighter for “Alexander,” following the strong play in foreign markets of other historical epics this year, including “Troy” and “King Arthur.”

Warners was also very happy with the biz for “Polar Express.” Though the picture got off to a slow start three weeks ago, studio has maintained in the face of skeptical observers that the pic would only get stronger closer to the Christmas holiday.

That strategy was vindicated to a certain extent this week as the pic improved 28% this weekend.

“It’s totally uncommon for movies to grow on their daily grosses after opening weekend,” Fellman said. “It’s an indication that this movie continues to perform based on word of mouth.”

Part of the key to success has been the 61 Imax theaters showing the pic. Despite representing less than 2% of the total run, those theaters have generated more than 12% of the gross. In 19 days, Fellman said, those theaters have grossed $10.3 million.

Those theaters have been successful attracting group sales from schools, many selling out their morning shows through the end of the year.

Overall, total box office for the three-day weekend was up nearly 3% over last year, according to estimates from Nielsen EDI. Theaters did $166 million in biz this year, compared with $161 million last year.

Year to date, total box office stands at $8.282 billion, 2.5% ahead of total grosses through this point last year.

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