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Family-friendly films boost box office

'There Will Be Blood' fills theaters

Family-friendly films saw a spike the day after Christmas as kids and parents looked for something to do, while Paramount Vantage scored one of the best recent per-location averages with the bow of “There Will Be Blood” in two theaters in New York and Los Angeles.

“Blood,” directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and starring Daniel Day Lewis, grossed an estimated $67,951 in its bow, according to Rentrak, for a per-location average of $33,976. Film is among the last three specialty titles to unspool before the year ends.

The other two are Spanish horror hit “The Orphanage,” which Picturehouse opens Friday in 18 theaters in top markets, and John Sayles’ “Honeydripper,” which Emerging Pictures opens in New York and L.A.

The long weekend is expected to see plenty of action on all fronts, as a flood of wide releases continue the hunt for their share of the B.O. holiday pie, including Christmas Day openers “Aliens vs. Predators — Requiem” and Denzel Washington’s “The Great Debaters.”

The domestic box office remains ahead of 2006 by 5%, according to Nielsen EDI. That’s a relief for studios, who saw the box office take a surprise stumble this fall after a record-breaking summer. The holiday sesh thus far has rallied the B.O. back to good health, posting some of the best numbers on record for an extended holiday frame.

On Wednesday, Disney’s “National Treasure: Book of Secrets,” Warner Bros.’ “I Am Legend” and 20th Century Fox’s “Alvin and the Chipmunks” continued to lead the box office chart. Released on Dec. 14, “Legend” has already grossed $159.7 million.

Fox’s “Aliens vs. Predator” came in No. 4 on Wednesday, grossing an estimated $4.4 million from 2,563 theaters in its second day in release. Sequel should be a strong player over the long weekend and keep its spot high up on the B.O. chart.

Kiddie pics “Alvin” and Sony’s “The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep” were among the only titles seeing a Tuesday-Wednesday jump. In line with tradition, kidpics usually take a backseat to older-skewing titles on Christmas Day, while the trend reverses itself the next day.

“Alvin,” released Dec. 14 and one of the year’s unexpected box office hits, jumped the $100 million mark on Wednesday. Live-action/CGI hybrid grossed an estimated $8.4 million from 3,499 theaters. Pic grossed $6 million on Christmas Day, and its cume stands at $102.8 million.

“Water Horse” grossed $2.4 million from 2,772 in its Christmas Day debut. Pic, from Walden Media, increased its take to an estimated $2.5 million Wednesday.

MGM’s “Great Debaters,” from the Weinstein Co., was No. 10 on Wednesday with an estimated gross of $2 million from 1,164. Movie was produced by Oprah Winfrey’s production house Harpo Films. Tracking has been strong for the pic, which also stars Forest Whitaker.

TWC’s Harvey Weinstein said the film is appealing to both African-American and white auds.

“That’s one of the reasons why it was so important that Denzel star in the movie, in addition to his directing,” he said. “We took a chance on a movie that every studio in town passed on.”

“Aliens” bumped Tom Hanks-Julia Roberts starrer “Charlie Wilson’s War” to No. 5 on Wednesday. The Universal film grossed an estimated $3.7 million from 2,575 runs; cume was $19.7 million through the title’s first six days in release.

Fox Searchlight’s quirky specialty title “Juno” move up the chart to No. 6, grossing an estimated $2.9 million for the day from 998 theaters for a cume of $12.9 million. That left Tim Burton’s Johnny Depp starrer “Sweeney Todd” at No. 6. DreamWorks-Paramount horror musical grossed an estimated $2.7 million on Wednesday from 1,249. Cume is $16.4 million in the film’s first six days.

“Water Horse” came in No. 8 for the day, while Warner Bros.’ Hilary Swank-Gerard Butler romancer “P.S. I Love You” placed No. 9, grossing an estimated $2.5 million from 2,454. Cume is $11.8 million in the pic’s first six days.

‘Legend’ strong o’seas

On the foreign front, “Legend” looks likely to lead again over “The Golden Compass” and “Book of Secrets” during the year’s final frame.

“Legend,” which has led in every major market in which it has opened, bowed impressively in the U.K. on Boxing Day (Wednesday) with a record-setting $4.4 million at 397 playdates. The Will Smith actioner dominated Brit moviegoing with 58% of the market, topping “Compass” by over 400%.

The boffo Blighty launch lifted “Legend” to $76.4 million in international grosses; international cume should be well past the $100 million mark by the end of the weekend.

“Golden Compass,” which is nearing $150 million overseas, has expanded into Australia, Brazil and New Zealand. Its $1.4 million Boxing Day debut in Oz easily topped the $900,000 launch for “Aliens vs. Predator — Requiem.”

The “National Treasure” sequel’s expanding into Russia and Mexico after topping $30 million in its first week from 17 markets. The weekend should also see significant contributions from “Enchanted,” “Bee Movie,” “Alvin and Chipmunks” and “Aliens vs. Predator.”

“Bee Movie,” the only toon in the market, has hit $87 million offshore and should finish the frame above the $100 million mark. Its Italian launch topped $3 million in less than a week, and its Scandinavian Christmas debuts generated jolly numbers, with $510,000 in its first two days in Sweden, $250,000 in its first two in Denmark and $230,000 in its first day in Norway.

Paramount launched its first foreign foray for “No Country for Old Men” in Australia on Boxing Day and took in a socko $500,000 from 54 locations in its first two days. First international openings of Par’s “Kite Runner” saw $110,000 from 80 locations in the U.K. on Boxing Day while New Zealand took in $30,000 from 20 in two days.

Universal’s expanding “American Gangster,” which has cumed $56.2 million overseas, into South Korea and Spain, along with “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” into Egypt, Israel and Singapore and “Atonement” into Australia, Hong Kong and Malaysia.

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