Weekend Box Office (December 30, 2005 - January 2, 2006)

*** Golden Globe Nominee Grosses ***

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND In the final weekend of 2005, the lion returned to the top spot to reclaim the box office throne from the giant ape. Disney's The Chronicles of Narnia edged out Universal's King Kong by a slim margin to lead the four-day New Year's holiday frame in what has been a see-saw battle between two tentpole blockbusters during the holiday season. Most films saw sales increases over the four-day Christmas session as the top ten inched up 7% from the previous frame.

Capturing $33.7M over the Friday-to-Monday holiday span, according to final studio figures, The Chronicles of Narnia took back the number one spot switching places with King Kong which grossed $31.8M. Narnia saw its grosses increase 6% over the Christmas frame while Kong slipped 4%. Looking at grosses across the eleven-day holiday season beginning on Friday December 23, the PG-rated lion pic was the stronger performer with $92.3M compared to the ape's $88.2M. Still, both films had a very loud roar.

Strong business from families helped Narnia which has now surged to $225.7M allowing it to rise to fourth place among all 2005 hits. In another week, it should surpass the $234.3M of War of the Worlds to rank third for the year behind Star Wars Episode III ($380.3M) and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ($277.1M). Narnia also broke into the list of the top 50 all-time domestic blockbusters and sits at number 49 after Rush Hour 2 which made $226.1M in 2001. With a production budget north of $150M, the C.S. Lewis juggernaut could be on its way to more than $275M from North America alone giving Disney a potent franchise for years to come.

Although no longer the box office champ, King Kong still remained muscular in second place and raised its cume to $175.6M after 20 days of release. Its average of $8,775 from 3,627 theaters was a hair better than Narnia's $8,750 from 3,853. Kong could continue to climb to more than $225M domestically at its current pace. Together, the two megahits have kicked in a staggering $401.3M into the marketplace in the final weeks of the year.

Overseas, Kong grabbed an additional $29M from 49 markets to boost its international tally to $222.5M. The Peter Jackson film broke the $400M global mark on Monday. The $207M-budgeted actioner should crash through the $500M barrier later this month.

Moviegoers not interested in effects-driven adventure spent their dollars on a wide assortment of star-driven comedies which filled up the next four spots on the chart. The ranking seemed to reflect the current starpower of the lead actor.

Jim Carrey held steady in third place collecting $21M over four days for Fun With Dick and Jane in its second weekend. Off 2%, the PG-13 film drove its sum to a strong $64.6M after 13 days and should find its way to about $100M. Steve Martin's Cheaper by the Dozen 2 followed in fourth again but saw its four-day gross surge 23% to $18.9M. After the same number of days as Dick, Fox's Cheaper has grossed $54.7M and might see its total reach around $90M. By comparison, the first Cheaper by the Dozen which opened two years ago laughed up $138.6M.

In fifth place was Jennifer Aniston's intergenerational comedy Rumor Has It with $11.8M over four days in its first full weekend of release. The Warner Bros. title has boosted its total to a solid $26.9M in nine days and hopes to find its way to $45-50M by the end of its run. Sarah Jessica Parker and Diane Keaton fought each other in sixth place with their meet-the-parents holiday comedy The Family Stone which collected $10.3M, up 3%. With a healthy $46.3M after 18 days, the star-driven Fox release may find its way to around $65M.

Splitting the adult female vote with Rumor and Stone, Sony's period drama Memoirs of a Geisha followed close behind with $10.2M over the long weekend its yuletide session. The Rob Marshall-directed movie has grossed $30.6M to date and could be headed for around $50M.

The Johnny Knoxville comedy The Ringer laughed its way to $8.1M in its second weekend, up 5%, putting its 11-day cume at a solid $21.7M. Playing in 1,853 theaters, the PG-13 film is the second widest release ever for Fox Searchlight and might become one of the distributor's top five grossing films.

2005's second biggest blockbuster, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, remained in ninth place with $7.6M, up 19% from last weekend. Warner Bros. has been spending heavily on its "see it again" ad campaign since school children have been on vacation and the results are evident in the grosses which have been especially strong during the midweek period. Goblet now stands at $277.1M putting it at number 27 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters after last winter's Meet the Fockers ($279.2M). A final gross of around $290M from North America could result.

Overseas, the Hogwarts pic collected an estimated $17M from 60 markets boosting its international total to $535M and raising the global gross to a towering $812M. That makes Goblet the number one film internationally in 2005. Star Wars Episode III still holds the worldwide crown with $848M, however the latest wizard tale should surge past that later this month.

Rounding out the top ten once again was Steven Spielberg's political revenge thriller Munich with $6.4M which was up 7%from its Christmas weekend take. The total for the Universal release is $15.9M with an expansion into 1,400 theaters planned for this Friday. Averaging $12,099 from 532 locations, Munich enjoyed the highest average and smallest theater count in the top ten.

The annual marketshare race between studios will end once final weekend grosses are reported late Tuesday. However, it seems that Warner Bros. will win a slim victory over Fox when all numbers are tallied. Powered by the late-year strength of Harry Potter, Warners should finish the 2005 box office year (January 3, 2005 through January 2, 2006) with about $1.38 billion compared to Fox's $1.36 billion led by the year's top film Revenge of the Sith. Both studios saw growth over 2004. Of course, marketshare comparisons are more about bragging rights and less about profitability since each studio spends a different amount on production, acquisitions, and marketing.

Third and fourth places also saw a tight race. Sony, which has added in grosses from MGM releases after its acquisition of the lion studio, reported that it will squeak by the $1 billion mark for 2005. Universal will also just barely break the billion dollar mark. Take out the MGM films and Universal easily wins the bronze for the year. Sony's total represents a strong drop from 2004 while Universal witnessed respectable growth. Disney looks to finish in fifth place with $928M (down 20% from 2004), Paramount will follow with roughly $820M (up 31%), and DreamWorks will place seventh with around $500M (down 46%). The big seven studios combined for $7 billion in ticket sales in 2005 which was relatively even with what they made in 2004.

Two new films debuted this weekend in platform release to strong results allowing each to qualify for Oscar consideration. Woody Allen's British-set tennis drama Match Point served up $529,434 over four days from a mere eight theaters for a scorching $66,179 per court. Since its Wednesday bow, the DreamWorks title has grossed $731,383 in six days and expands nationally on January 20. Starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Scarlett Johansson, Match Point has earned some of the best reviews in recent years for the quirky filmmaker and even scored four Golden Globe nominations including Best Picture - Drama and Best Director.

Meanwhile, The Weinstein Co. premiered the Pierce Brosnan drama The Matador in only four houses and took in $92,312 for a potent $23,078 average. The caper flick will slowly add more markets in the weeks ahead as it battles all the other high profile awards contenders competing for the attention of upscale moviegoers.

A handful of additional films also took in some healthy business despite not finishing in the top ten. George Clooney's political thriller Syriana collected $5.3M over four days, climbing 10% from the Christmas frame. The Warner Bros. title has banked $38.9M and should finish with roughly $50M. Universal's musical The Producers enjoyed its first full weekend of national release and grossed $5.1M boosting the cume to $11.7M.

The horror flick Wolf Creek followed with $4.8M in its first full weekend and watched its cume grow to $13.2M after 9 days. A final of about $20M seems likely for the Weinstein Co. release. Close behind was awards front-runner Brokeback Mountain which finally started its tv campaign with $4.8M over four days from only 269 theaters. Focus continued its gradual expansion boosting the theater count by 52 and averaged a stellar $18,020 over four days in its fourth weekend of limited play. Total stands at $15.1M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $159.8M over four days. Last year, Meet the Fockers ruled New Year's weekend with $41.7M over three days in its second frame while in the previous year, The Return of the King held the top spot with $28.2M in its third weekend over three days.

Compared to projections, Narnia grossed a bit less than my $35M four-day forecast while Kong was close to my $30M prediction. Fun With Dick and Jane and Cheaper by the Dozen 2 were both a bit above my respective projections of $19M and $17M.

Be sure to check the Golden Globe chart which tracks the box office of the major nominees with weekly updates throughout awards season. For reviews of Munich and The Producers visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Hostel, Grandma's Boy, and Bloodrayne all open.

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# Title Dec 30 - Jan 2 Dec 23 - 26 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Chronicles of Narnia $ 33,712,024 $ 31,692,295 6.4 3,853 4 $ 8,750 $ 225,703,346 Buena Vista
2 King Kong 31,826,925 33,274,680 -4.4 3,627 3 8,775 175,559,825 Universal
3 Fun with Dick and Jane 21,025,463 21,530,160 -2.3 3,056 2 6,880 64,607,789 Sony
4 Cheaper by the Dozen 2 18,857,703 15,340,679 22.9 3,211 2 5,873 54,684,215 Fox
5 Rumor Has It 11,790,273 7,515,531 56.9 2,815 2 4,188 26,865,647 Warner Bros.
6 The Family Stone 10,297,267 10,009,399 2.9 2,464 3 4,179 46,334,354 Fox
7 Memoirs of a Geisha 10,215,915 10,165,114 0.5 1,547 4 6,604 30,633,403 Sony
8 The Ringer 8,050,428 7,702,439 4.5 1,853 2 4,345 21,652,504 Fox Searchlight
9 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 7,635,442 6,424,119 18.9 2,316 7 3,297 277,083,157 Warner Bros.
10 Munich 6,436,850 6,040,860 6.6 532 2 12,099 15,949,005 Universal
11 Syriana 5,275,483 4,785,436 10.2 1,725 6 3,058 38,913,027 Warner Bros.
12 The Producers 5,110,290 3,303,541 54.7 978 3 5,225 11,723,457 Universal
13 Brokeback Mountain 4,847,443 2,951,071 64.3 269 4 18,020 15,102,697 Focus
14 Wolf Creek 4,756,767 4,908,206 -3.1 1,761 2 2,701 13,159,405 Weinstein Co.
15 Walk the Line 3,356,236 2,474,226 35.6 1,160 7 2,893 92,436,258 Fox
16 Yours, Mine & Ours 1,609,765 1,268,701 26.9 1,174 6 1,371 51,115,641 Paramount
17 Pride & Prejudice 1,366,606 1,153,458 18.5 407 9 3,358 34,118,092 Focus
18 Chicken Little 1,119,459 675,451 65.7 803 9 1,394 132,265,084 Buena Vista
19 The Polar Express - Imax RE 948,727 1,377,113 -31.1 66 6 14,375 172,773,812 Warner Bros.
20 Casanova 551,673 231,077 138.7 37 2 14,910 1,037,872 Buena Vista
Top 5 $ 117,212,388 112,002,928 4.7
Top 10 159,848,290 149,695,276 6.8
Top 20 188,790,739 173,045,292 9.1

Last Updated : January 3, 2006 at 7:00PM EST