Weekend Box Office (January 4 - 6, 2008)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Moviegoers continued to rush to the multiplexes to catch up on holiday holdovers as the North American box office kicked off 2008 with robust ticket sales that were led by mostly the same movies from last week. Nicolas Cage's adventure sequel National Treasure: Book of Secrets remained at number one for the third straight frame, indie darling Juno grew even bigger jumping into second place, and Hollywood's only new release One Missed Call settled for a fifth place finish although its debut was stronger than expected.

Uncovering $20.1M in its third expedition, according to final studio figures, the new National Treasure installment retained its box office crown dropping 45% from last weekend. After only 17 days of release, the Disney blockbuster has already grossed a stunning $170.9M nearly matching the $173M that the first film grossed during its six-month run in theaters. Book of Secrets should surpass that total on Monday or Tuesday and become Cage's top-grossing film ever.

The PG-rated adventure also raced past the studio's own hit Wild Hogs to rank number 12 among all of 2007's blockbuster hits. Secrets should crack the top ten by next weekend joining a long list of other sequels which dominated moviegoing last year. At its current pace, the Cage smash should end up in the neighborhood of $220M domestically. Overseas, Book of Secrets broke through the $100M mark this weekend and stands at a global tally of $271.5M and counting.

There was a tight three-way race for the silver medal this weekend between a pregnant teen, the last man on earth, and a trio of chipmunks. Fox Searchlight gave a major expansion to its runaway hit comedy Juno widening it from 1,019 to 1,925 locations and grossed $15.9M over the weekend squeezing out the win. The per-theater average dipped by only 21% to a sturdy $8,239. Independent films that expand this wide rarely retain such strong averages. Word of mouth has been propelling Juno on the charts and the PG-13 high school tale continues to find new fans, especially with young women. The cume to date shot up to a remarkable $51.7M with sizable potential still ahead.

Juno now looks set to reach a couple of major milestones at the box office. It will easily surpass the $71.5M of Sideways to become the highest grossing film in company history for Searchlight. Budgeted at under $10M, the pregnancy pic will smash through the $100M mark and could go much higher depending on added buzz the film may receive from Golden Globe wins and Oscar nominations. The Ellen Page hit may even challenge Disney's Amy Adams comedy Enchanted to become the top-grossing female-led film of the year.

Narrowly taking third place with $15.7M was Will Smith's superhit I Am Legend dropping 43%. With a towering $228.1M in 24 days, the action hit has become the third biggest blockbuster in the A-list actor's career trailing his mid-90s alien smashes Independence Day ($306.2M) and Men in Black ($250.1M). Legend now ranks as the sixth highest-grossing film of 2007 and the second biggest non-sequel after Transformers ($319.1M). Overseas, the Warner Bros. actioner enjoyed big number one bows in Australia, New Zealand, and Greece and boosted its cume to $169.3M putting the global tally at $397M. In North America, Legend seems on course to conclude with $260-270M.

Right behind with $15.5M was Fox's comedy sensation Alvin and the Chipmunks which dropped by 46% in its fourth frame. The PG-rated family film has now collected a massive $176.3M and is less than a week away from surpassing the $183.1M of The Simpsons Movie to become the studio's top-grossing film of 2007. It will also become one of last year's top ten overall blockbusters when it beats Homer and pals. Budgeted at under $70M, Alvin should zoom past the double century mark and finish with $210-220M.

The weekend's only new release found itself with a solid fifth place debut. One Missed Call, a remake of a Japanese horror film, grossed $12.5M from 2,240 theaters for a strong $5,585 average. The PG-13 film was expected to open with less than $10M. Warner Bros. marketed Call as a creepy thriller for teens and young adults and scored impressive results. Not facing any other new openers also helped.

Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts found themselves in sixth place with the political dramedy Charlie Wilson's War which dropped only 33% to $8.1M. Universal's $75M Golden Globe nominee has grossed $52.6M to date and should finish with $70-75M. Close behind with $7.8M was the Hilary Swank-Gerard Butler romance P.S. I Love You which enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten slipping only 16%. After a slow start, audiences are finding the Warner Bros. title which has taken in $39.2M thus far. A final tally of $60-65M seems likely.

The kid adventure The Water Horse followed with $6.2M, off only 32%, for a take of $30.8M. Look for roughly $50M by the end of its run. Johnny Depp's blood-soaked musical barber pic Sweeney Todd fell 32% to $5.5M for a $38.6M cume. The $50M DreamWorks/Warner Bros. venture should reach a somewhat disappointing $50-55M from North America. Overseas prospects look brighter.

Focus expanded its period romance Atonement and popped into the top ten in the ten spot. The Keira Knightley-James McAvoy drama widened from 310 to 583 locations and collected $5.1M. Its average of $8,687 was the best among all wide releases edging out Juno's $8,239. Nominated for seven Golden Globes, more than any other film, Atonement has grossed $19.2M domestically plus $38.5M internationally. Next weekend the love story bows in several major overseas markets such as France, Spain, Sweden, and Brazil.

Two very different holiday season releases fell out of the top ten over the weekend. The R-rated sci-fi thriller Aliens vs. Predator - Requiem tumbled 55% to $4.5M in its second weekend pushing the 13-day total to $37.1M. Look for a $45M final gross marking a sharp fall from the $80.3M that 2004's Alien vs. Predator collected.

Disney's fairy tale comedy Enchanted dropped 41% to $3.8M in its seventh outing boosting the robust sum to $119.8M. The PG-rated hit should be able to reach roughly $130M before closing up shop.

Denzel Washington's period drama The Great Debaters declined only 29% in its sophomore frame to $4.3M. With $22M in its first 13 days, the MGM release looks to end up with a disappointing $35M overall which would be less than the opening weekend of Washington's last film American Gangster.

Posting sensational numbers in limited release once again was one of the year's most acclaimed films There Will Be Blood which grossed $1.3M from only 51 theaters for a stellar $25,904 average. Total sits at $1.8M. The Paramount Vantage release picked up four major awards from the National Society of Film Critics this weekend including the Best Picture trophy and is gearing up for another expansion this Friday which will take it into 125 playdates. Blood is slowly building itself up as a major Oscar contender and is already seen as a shoo-in for a Best Picture nod when nominations are announced on January 22. Also a major contender is No Country For Old Men which like Blood is a co-production between Paramount Vantage and Miramax.

Warner Bros. saw a solid $326,786 from only 16 runs for its Jack Nicholson-Morgan Freeman pic The Bucket List. Averaging an impressive $20,424, the Rob Reiner-directed film opens nationwide in about 2,800 theaters this Friday hoping to boot Nicolas Cage from the top spot.

The top ten films grossed $112.5M which was up a healthy 18% from last year when Night at the Museum stayed at number one for the third weekend with $23.7M; and up 15% from 2005 when Hostel debuted in the top spot with $19.6M.

Compared to projections, One Missed Call opened ahead of my $9M forecast.

View the updated charts for the Top 20 Blockbusters of 2007 and 2008 Golden Globe nominations.

For reviews of National Treasure: Book of Secrets and Charlie Wilson's War visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when First Sunday, In the Name of the King, and The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything all debut.

Marketplace - Shop for DVDs, electronics, books, and posters at discounted prices:

# Title Jan 4 - 6 Dec 28 - 30 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 National Treasure: Book of Secrets $ 20,062,684 $ 36,672,708 -45.3 3,762 3 $ 5,333 $ 170,870,795 Buena Vista
2 Juno 15,860,744 10,634,576 49.1 1,925 5 8,239 51,667,586 Fox Searchlight
3 I Am Legend 15,717,458 27,414,467 -42.7 3,648 4 4,309 228,055,662 Warner Bros.
4 Alvin and the Chipmunks 15,546,125 29,029,898 -46.4 3,462 4 4,491 176,283,861 Fox
5 One Missed Call 12,511,473 2,240 1 5,585 12,511,473 Warner Bros.
6 Charlie Wilson's War 8,106,250 12,012,360 -32.5 2,594 3 3,125 52,552,540 Universal
7 P.S. I Love You 7,834,467 9,289,337 -15.7 2,471 3 3,171 39,202,724 Warner Bros.
8 The Water Horse 6,230,489 9,186,054 -32.2 2,777 2 2,244 30,823,470 Sony
9 Sweeney Todd 5,536,538 8,194,360 -32.4 1,249 3 4,433 38,608,100 Paramount
10 Atonement 5,064,577 3,123,028 62.2 583 5 8,687 19,155,607 Focus
11 Aliens vs. Predator - Requiem 4,484,155 10,059,425 -55.4 2,617 2 1,713 37,054,994 Fox
12 The Great Debaters 4,250,948 6,005,180 -29.2 1,290 2 3,295 22,013,765 MGM
13 Enchanted 3,807,523 6,431,622 -40.8 1,932 7 1,971 119,820,940 Buena Vista
14 The Golden Compass 2,873,467 4,683,801 -38.7 1,611 5 1,784 65,664,496 New Line
15 No Country For Old Men 1,818,026 2,218,782 -18.1 819 9 2,220 44,759,744 Miramax
16 Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story 1,800,986 3,853,916 -53.3 2,041 3 882 17,284,363 Sony
17 The Kite Runner 1,647,029 1,845,396 -10.7 384 4 4,289 8,669,803 Par. Classics
18 There Will Be Blood 1,321,144 190,739 592.6 51 2 25,905 1,829,285 Par. Vantage
19 The Orphanage 500,671 233,323 114.6 69 2 7,256 917,756 Picturehouse
20 The Savages 457,343 522,952 -12.5 110 6 4,158 2,545,266 Fox Searchlight
Top 5 $ 79,698,484 $ 115,764,009 -31.2
Top 10 112,470,805 158,924,807 -29.2
Top 20 135,432,097 182,551,842 -25.8
Top 20 vs. 2007 135,432,097 124,901,406 8.4

Last Updated: January 7, 2008 at 8:00PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Friday at 9:50am ET.