Weekend Fix: Alvin Could Beat Out National Treasure…

     The last weekend of 2007 proved to be a great one at the movies, and a diverse offering of films helped propel the box office to lucrative heights.  This weekend, the Top 12 grossed a grossed a phenomenal $168.7 million, which represents an 11% increase over last weekend, and a whopping 17% increase over the same weekend last year.  The amazing holiday season has completely wiped out the bad taste left by the Fall’s weak offerings.  Thankfully, the Winter season has redeemed the terrible box office declines of the September, October, and November, in which only The Game Plan, Enchanted, and American Gangster could be seen as real successes.  While, the top film this weekend was kind of a given, the real story is the unbelievable success of the film in second place.

     National Treasure: Book of Secrets again topped the box office this weekend.  The Disney adventure picture found another $35.6 million this weekend, representing a 20% drop from a week ago.  While this is probably a bit larger than the Disney execs would like to see, it was somewhat expected given that the film was a sequel.  Sequels normally open larger and drop more quickly than their predecessors, and this holds true for Book of Secrets as well.  You see, normally 20% is a tiny drop, but given the holiday season and the family nature of the film, it’s a bit large.  Still, the Nicholas Cage film (actually, I prefer to think of it as a Justin Bartha [pictured above] film- he’s infinitely more entertaining as second banana, Riley) is doing very well, and with a great $9,299 per theater average, it should keep playing for many weeks to come.  After ten days, National Treasure: Book of Secrets has earned $124 million.
     As I said, the real story of the weekend is the second placed film, Alvin and the Chipmunks.  Now in it’s third weekend, the adaptation of the popular 60’s cartoons has been unstoppable at the box office.  After a stunning $44.3 million opening, it fell a small 35% to $28.1 million, and this weekend, the CGI chipmunk film increased 6% to $30 million.  For a movie with such awful reviews, its performance is fairly surprising, but the Fox film was marketed well, and it firmly established itself as the first holiday offering for families of young children.  With a running total of $142.4 million, the question now is: Can Alvin and the Chipmunks outgross National Treasure?  Based on its per venue average of $8,611, a long theater run and a $200 million gross seem entirely attainable, but you’ll have to stay posted to see just how far it can go.

     Will Smith holds onto the third place spot with I Am Legend.  The vampire/zombie/apocalyptic action thriller dropped 18% to $27.5 million this weekend.  I Am Legend has been making Sony very happy for three weeks now, and after just 17 days, it already ranks as the 9th most successful film of 2007 (Check back tomorrow for 2007’s Top 50).  Based on its $7,570 venue average, it looks like I Am Legend has enough steam left in it to surpass Men In Black‘s $250 million gross and become Smith’s highest grossing film in ten years.  So far, it’s earned a box-office saving $194.6 million.

     Charlie Wilson’s War performed better than last weekend, increasing 7% to $11.8 million over the last three days.  Fantastic reviews, along with some good old-fashioned movie stars in Tom Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Julia Roberts are keeping this picture going.  Since it has a much more adult audience, it’s guaranteed to have pretty good legs at the box office, for adults don’t rush out to the theaters to see films like teenagers do, and it might end up a rather solid performer.  Its per theater average of $4,570 is still not great, but it’s better than last week, and with a little awards attention, it should go much further.  After ten days, Universal’s Charlie Wilson’s War has made $34.5 million.

     In fifth place is Juno, the movie that audiences love to love.  Out of just 998 theaters, Juno earned a fantastic $10.3 million, giving it the best venue average in the Top 12 with a stunning $10,321.   Trendier and more marketable than Little Miss Sunshine ever was, the teen pregnancy comedy has caught on, and it is one of the few films I can remember that actually outperforms its own buzz.  Screenwriter Diablo Cody has received major attention for the screenplay and leading actress Ellen Page is almost guaranteed a few awards for her work.  With a miniscule budget, a great cast, a killer soundtrack, and endlessly positive word of mouth, Juno should keep making Fox Searchlight very, very happy.  It has earned an incredible $25.7 million after four weekends.

     Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem couldn’t crack the Top 5 in its opening weekend, earning $10 million.  Earlier this week, AVP:R earned $9.5 million on just its first day, so this figure is nothing to get excited about.  Neither is the low $3,849 per theater average.  Expect the sci-fi actionfest to keep crumbling very quickly from here, for unlike Charlie Wilson’s War, this has a very young audience who all rush to see the film as soon as they can.  After 6 days, the Fox movie has made $26.7 million.

     The Water Horse continued to perform poorly, earning a small $9.2 million in its first weekend.  I couldn’t imagine a less exciting ad campaign that The Water Horse‘s, and audiences have met the film with a resounding blah.  When it comes to the box office, slow and steady doesn’t win the race.  With a bad per theater average of $3,319, Sony’s fantasy flick has earned a sad $16.8 million.
     For no apparent reason, P.S. I Love You surged a great 40% this weekend to $9 million.  The poorly reviewed Hilary Swank romantic comedy from Warner Brothers earned a bad $6.5 million last weekend, but it did well for itself over the past few days.  It still had a low venue average of $3,693, but it can probably make it to $40 million by the end of its run.  So far, P.S. I Love You has earned $23.4 million.
     Sweeney Todd fell 14% to $8 million this weekend for ninth place.  Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s dreary musical does not have the mass playability of Hairspray or Chicago, but it’s done marginally well for itself.  With some awards attention, it could go pretty far.  Still only playing in 1,249 theaters, Sweeney Todd had a solid $6,405 per theater average, so it’ll stick around for a while.  Thus far, the Paramount/Dreamworks musical has bagged $26.7 million.

     Showing the greatest staying power of any film in the Top 12, Enchanted lost 490 theaters this weekend, but still increased a whopping 54% for a $6.5 million weekend.  The Disney comedy starring Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, and Susan Sarandon had a per theater average of $2,874, which is fantastic for a film in its sixth weekend.  So far the magical blockbuster has conjured up a terrific $110.7 million.
     MGM and Oprah’s The Great Debaters played pretty well out of just 1,171 theaters.  The well reviewed debating movie starring Denzel Washington earned $6.3 million, which is pretty good for a relatively unknown movie.  It had a pretty good $5,383 venue average, but it will need a lot of awards buzz to really qualify as a success.  So far, The Great Debaters has made $13.6 million in six days.
     The Golden Compass held on for one last weekend in the Top 12, with just $4.3 million.  The expensive New Line failure dropped 1,018 theaters going into the weekend, and with a bad $2,248 per theater average, it will drop the rest fairly quickly.  (Note to Hollywood: Do not put Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig in the same movie- it will fail.  Earlier this year, those two led $80 million production The Invasion to a measly $15 million finish.)  After four weekends, The Golden Compass has pulled in only $58 million.
Top 12 for December 28-30
# Movie Title Weekend Gross Total
1 National Treasure: Book of Secrets $35,632,000 $124,035,000
2 Alvin and the Chipmunks $30,000,000 $142,374,569
3 I Am Legend $27,525,000 $194,600,000
4 Charlie Wilson’s War $11,767,750 $34,506,180
5 Juno $10,300,000 $25,681,218
6 Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem $10,050,000 $26,880,017
7 The Water Horse $9,200,000 $16,821,000
8 P.S. I Love You $9,100,000 $23,398,000
9 Sweeney Todd $8,000,000 $26,719,000
10 Enchanted $6,500,000 $110,650,000
11 The Great Debaters $6,304,000 $13,548,000
12 The Golden Compass $4,350,000 $58,000,000

All Numbers Courtesy of Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.

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