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‘Meet’ greets new year atop B.O.

'Fockers' sees record take over holiday weekend

“Meet the Fockers” continued to dominate the holiday marketplace in its second week, setting records for the biggest New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day grosses.

Over the weekend, Universal’s laffer sequel brought in $42.8 million, down just 7% from its huge opening weekend. Cume is a monstrous $163.4 million.

“Fockers,” which accounted for nearly a third of all weekend biz, led a surging marketplace in the year’s final frame, helping boost total 2004 biz (just barely) past 2003.

With no new wide releases and coming off of a weak Christmas weekend that was truncated because Christmas Eve fell on a Friday, seven of the top 10 films made more money this weekend than last. The other three sank only slightly.

Nielsen EDI’s estimate of $151 million in total biz — the highest ever for a three-day New Year’s frame — means overall box office for the year is $9.225 billion, just $60 million or 0.7% more than 2003’s $9.165 billion. Final annual figures will be tallied after studios release their actual weekend numbers today.

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“Fockers” became the top-grossing film for New Year’s Eve, taking in $12.5 million on Friday to top the $8.5 million earned by “CastAway” in 2000. Pic also set the record for New Year’s Day with $18 million on Saturday, topping previous record holder “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” which brought in $12.8 million last year.

“It’s a good beginning of the year,” said U distrib chief Nikki Rocco. In addition to tossing huzzahs to helmer Jay Roach and stars Ben Stiller, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand, she acknowledged, “There aren’t any other comedies in the marketplace.”

Holiday boost

Rocco added the weekend got a big boost from a stronger-than-expected New Year’s Eve, a holiday during which people usually find things to do other than go to the movies.

In second place for the weekend was Paramount’s “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events,” which pulled in $14.7 million in its third week, up 17% from last weekend. Cume is $94.8 million for the Jim Carrey starrer.

Behind it was Miramax and Warner Bros.’ “The Aviator,” also in its third week, which counted $11.2 million in receipts, up 30% for the frame. Pic, playing in 1,796 theaters, has cumed $31.1 million.

Fox’s “Fat Albert,” in its sophomore session, did $10.7 million — a 7% improvement over its opening weekend, which was truncated to two days because of its Christmas Day release. Cume on the 1970s toon adaptation is $33.9 million.

In the No. 5 spot is Warners’ “Ocean’s Twelve,” which raked in $9.2 million in its fourth week, up 10% (cume: $106.9 million).

‘Treasure’ maps major gain

Walt Disney’s “National Treasure,” in the sixth spot with $7.0 million, posted the biggest gain of the weekend, up 77% in the seventh week of its run.

Warners’ “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera” and Dimension’s “Darkness,” both of which opened last weekend, held the No. 9 and 10 spots.

“Phantom” grossed $4.8 million at 622 locations, up 20% from last week, lifting cume to $16.25 million. “Darkness” was down 20% with $4.5 million; cume is $16.5 million.

While the strong perfs helped 2004 score an advance in box office receipts, the year likely will see a decline in total admissions. With average ticket prices in 2004 advancing to $6.22, up 3% from 2003’s $6.03 average, EDI’s annual figures would mean admissions were down 2.4% for 2004 — the second straight year attendance has declined.

Title (weeks in release) – 3-day, eng., $/eng., cume, % change

1. Meet the Fockers (2) – $42.8m, 3,524, $12,155, $163.4m, -7%

2. Lemony Snicket’s … (3) – $14.7m, 3,623, $4,057, $94.8m, +17%

3. The Aviator (3) – $11.2m, 1,796, $6,259, $31.1m, +30%

4. Fat Albert (2) – $10.7m, 2,744, $3,909, $33.9m, +7%

5. Ocean’s Twelve (4) – $9.2m, 3,290, $2,809, $106.9m, +10%

6. National Treasure (7) – $7.0m, 2,282, $3,067, $154.8m, +77%

7. Spanglish (3) – $6.3m, 2,489, $2,531, $31.0m, +36%

8. The Polar Express (8) – $5.7m, 2,513, $2,280, $155.2m, -12%

9. The Phantom of the Opera (2) – $4.8m, 622, $7,741, $16.3m, +20%

10. Darkness (2) – $4.5m, 1,718, $2,644, $16.5m, -26%