Weekend Fix: National Treasure Lives Up To Its Name

     Led by the solid opening of National Treasure: Book of Secrets, the box office continued to perform strongly this weekend.  Despite the rather tepid debuts of some of the openers, I Am Legend and Alvin and the Chipmunks held well enough to sustain the overall box office.  During the December 21-23 frame, the Top 12 films earned a cumulative $153.5 million, up 1% from last weekend, and a great 41% from the same weekend last year, when Night At The Museum opened in the top spot.
     National Treasure: Book of Secrets struck gold this weekend at the movies, getting off to a great start with $45.5 million in its debut.  The Disney adventure film blazed onto the scene in a huge 3,832 theaters, but it still racked up a very good $11,874 venue average.  Being a Disney film, Book of Secrets has a good deal of family playability, so it should remain a prominent force throughout the holiday season.  The original National Treasure opened in November, 2004 with $35 million, but held wonderfully through the holidays, eventually making a delightful $173 million.  This gave National Treasure a terrific 4.9 multiplier, and while Book of Secrets probably won’t see such small drops (it had an internal multiplier of 2.7, which is low, but typical for sequels), it should still perform very solidly throughout the Winter season.  It should hit $100 million in a week or so, with much more to come in the new year.

     I Am Legend held up the second spot quite nicely, dropping 56% to $34.2 million for the weekend.  The Warner Brothers sci-fi thriller retained an incredible second weekend per theater average of $9,454, which proves its popularity among audiences and assures that it will retain its theater count.  I Am Legend should be Will Smith’s biggest film since 1997’s Men In Black, which grossed $250 million.  After ten days, I Am Legend has earned a great $137.5 million, well on its way to the $200 million club.
     Also dropping one spot from last weekend is Alvin and the Chipmunks.  The CGI rodent comedy continues to astound me with its phenomenal performance (just look at its reviews!), and this weekend it stole another $29 million from innocent families, which represents a small 35% drop.  The Fox comedy also retained a great venue average with $8,288 in each theater.  Alvin is doing a great job of filling the void left by The Golden Compass, and it is the go-to choice for families of the kindergarten set.  It has earned an amazing $84.9 million in two weekends.

     Charlie Wilson’s War comes in fourth place this weekend, earning a rather small $9.6 million in its opening frame.  The Universal political comedy starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts failed to effectively communicate its story in its advertising campaign.  It’s war-themed nature didn’t help either.  As I see it, people go to the movies for escapism, not to see more of the depressing stuff that’s already on TV, and I’ll say this until the day that I die: If you want your movie to succeed, show audiences that they will have FUN by seeing it.  Even with a small $3,735 per theater average, Charlie Wilson’s War‘s performance is not a disaster.  During the holidays, weekend figures are not as important, and since no one has school or work, movies play well during the week as well, so if this film can build some significant awards buzz (and it boasts some good reviews), it could save itself.  We’ll have to wait and see.     In fifth, Sweeney Todd sang its way to the tune of a $9.4 million opening.  Being a Tim Burton film, this comes with a built-in cult audience who rush out to see his films on opening night, and with a 2.4 internal multiplier, it had a very front-loaded weekend.  Playing in just 1,249 venues, Sweeney Todd grabbed a nice $7,486 per theater average.  Dreamworks’ gory slasher musical (there’s a first) has earned great reviews, and it should perform pretty well in the coming weeks.

     P.S. I Love You performed as expected, earning a modest $6.5 million in its opening weekend.  The Warner Brothers romantic comedy, which stars Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler , has a small per theater average of $2,651.  There was nothing that made this film stand out form the crowd, and it looked generic and sappy.  Once again we see that just because an actress wins an Oscar (or two in this case) doesn’t mean she can open a film.
     In its fifth weekend, Enchanted displayed its staying power, dropping just 25% to $4.2 million.  The magical Disney comedy has done very well for itself, and after five weeks, it has earned a fantastic $98.5 million.

     The biggest shock of the weekend has to be the awful performance of Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.  Walk Hard, a Sony film, flopped with a terrible $4.1 million opening.  Though it boasts great reviews, its advertising (which featured tremendously creative commercials of an older Dewey Cox) didn’t give audiences a clear idea of what to expect.  Also, Judd Apatow, the producer of the spoof, may only have drawing power when it comes to what made him famous: the raunchy sex comedy.  With a very bad $1,547 per theater average, Walk Hard will unfortunately not last very long.
     New Line’s The Golden Compass continued its utter free-fall this weekend, earning just $4 million, a 55% decrease.  This cold film has not caught on with audiences, who want to feel good during the holidays, and the hugely expensive fantasy film has earned just $48.4 million after three weekends.

     In tenth place, Juno continued to impress with a great $3.4 million out of just 304 theaters.  The teen pregnancy comedy has been surrounded by almost deafening buzz, and it is totally living up to it.  With a stunning $11,184 venue average, Juno has everything going for it, and it is catching on in a big way with audiences.  It’s kind of wonderful to see a smart, fresh, independent comedy garner such massive amounts of interest, and when it goes wide on Christmas day, it should continue to perform very strongly.  So Juno it has made $6.4 million.
     Atonement, another film with tons of awards potential, had a good weekend as well.  Expanding into 297 theaters, the Focus feature earned $2 million, giving it a solid $6,648 per theater average.  With tons of awards on the way, it should do well over the next month.  So far, Atonement has grossed a strong $5.7 million.
     Back in twelfth, No Country For Old Men dropped 40% to $1.7 million.  The Miramax thriller, which is almost assured a Best Picture nomination, has grossed a smashing $36.7 million after seven weekends.
     Overall, though there were some dull openings, things remained bright at the box office this weekend.  It’s important to keep in mind that opening weekends don’t matter as much during the holiday season, so while some of the figures may be rather low, for the box office, the next two weeks are virtually an extended weekend, where movies do incredible business.
Top Twelve for December 21-23
1. National Treasure: Book of Secrets – $45.5 million
2. I Am Legend – $34.2 million
3. Alvin and the Chipmunks – $29 million
4. Charlie Wilson’s War – $9.6 million
5. Sweeney Todd – $9.4 million
6. P.S. I Love You – $6.5 million
7. Enchanted – $4.2 million
8. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story – $4.1 million
9. The Golden Compass – $4 million
10. Juno – $3.4 million
11. Atonement – $2 million
12. No Country For Old Men – $1.7 million
*All numbers courtesy of Exhibitor Relations
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