Weekend Box Office (November 24 - 26, 2006)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Movie fans feasted on tasty leftovers over the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend as the top two films atop the charts remained unchanged from last week. The penguin toon Happy Feet held onto the number one spot while the James Bond actioner Casino Royale followed in second place once again. Both films enjoyed solid sophomore frames and grossed nearly $100M in combined ticket sales over the Wednesday-to-Sunday period. Several new films that opened were treated like side dishes with audiences finding some of them to be unappetizing. Among the better performers were the action thriller Deja Vu and the family comedy Deck the Halls which finished the weekend in third and fourth places, respectively. Overall, the multiplexes were bustling as the top ten matched last year's holiday performance which was impressive given the lack of a Harry Potter-type juggernaut on this year's movie menu.

Sitting on top of the North American box office for a second straight weekend was Happy Feet which danced up $37M over the Friday-to-Sunday period, according to final studio figures, and an impressive $50.6M over the five-day Wednesday-to-Sunday holiday span. That propelled the cume for the Warner Bros. blockbuster to $99.3M after only ten days giving the studio a great start for its pricey $100M kidpic. In a year overstuffed with animated films, the penguin flick joins Ice Age: The Meltdown and Cars as the only toons to spend back-to-back weeks at number one in 2006. The three-day gross slipped a scant 11% from its opening weekend indicating solid word-of-mouth and possibly good legs ahead.

The slender decline was similar to the turkey weekend drops of 2004's National Treasure and 2000's How the Grinch Stole Christmas which slipped only 9% and 5%, respectively, when Thanksgiving fell on their second weekends. All three films carried PG ratings, played to broad audiences, opened at number one, and retained their box office crown over the turkey holiday. Treasure captured half of its eventual $173M domestic total in the first ten days while Grinch's share was a similar 53%. If Happy Feet can stay strong throughout the holiday season, it could find its way to $175-190M.

Holding steady in the number two spot was Agent 007 in Casino Royale which collected $30.8M over three days and $44.9M over five days. Off only 25%, that pushed the ten-day domestic haul for the Sony release to a stellar $94.1M. Although Casino opened softer than the last film in the series - 2002's Die Another Day starring Pierce Brosnan - it enjoyed a better sophomore hold. Die dropped 34% in its second weekend to a matching $31M over the three-day portion of the Thanksgiving holiday banking $101.4M in ten days.

Casino is also benefiting from encouraging buzz and could be on its way to grossing $150-160M from North America coming close to the $160.9M of Die which holds the franchise record. Even if the new Daniel Craig film does not set a new franchise benchmark for domestic sales, it still means that the risky casting change has paid off with today's audiences still finding Bond to be a relevant film series. Overseas, Casino Royale continued to open at number one in every market it invaded this weekend and watched its international cume soar to $128.2M as its worldwide gross zoomed to an eye-popping $222.3M in under two weeks. The studio expects Casino Royale to outperform the $432M global gross of Die Another Day to become the biggest Bond ever.

Holiday moviegoers looking for something new to see powered the Denzel Washington crime thriller Deja Vu into third place with an opening weekend of $20.6M over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Directed by Tony Scott (Crimson Tide, Top Gun), the PG-13 film averaged a sturdy $6,620 from 3,108 sites for Buena Vista. The studio made a bold move when it programmed Deja Vu's launch to be just five days after the opening of Casino Royale which would also pull in action fans. Since its Wednesday bow, Deja Vu has grossed a strong $28.6M.

Washington proved once again that he is one of Hollywood's most reliable and consistent box office draws. Seven of the last eight films he has headlined have opened with $20M or more. Few A-listers can make that claim. In his new film, the Oscar-winning actor plays a ATF agent who uses new government technology to try to alter the past in order to prevent a ferry explosion that kills over 500 innocent people in New Orleans. It was the first Hollywood film shot in the city after Hurricane Katrina. Reviews were generally positive.

Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick battled their way into fourth place with the new holiday comedy Deck the Halls which opened to $12M. Fox launched the film in 3,205 locations and averaged a decent $3,745 per site. Since its Wednesday launch, the PG-rated family film has taken in $16.9M. That puts Deck below the openings of recent live-action Thanksgiving weekend kidpics like last year's Yours, Mine, and Ours and 2004's Christmas with the Kranks. Those comedies debuted to five-day tallies of $24.3M and $30.8M. Competition was tough for Deck which had to deal with Happy Feet, The Santa Clause 3, and Flushed Away stealing away $53M over the three-day span from the same audience.

Dropping 29% to $10.3M in its fourth trek was Fox's Borat which joined the century club over the weekend. November's only non-penguin film to reach number one has now taken in $109.1M. Jumping up 20% from last weekend thanks to the holiday was Disney's The Santa Clause 3 which followed close behind with $9.9M. The Tim Allen pic has collected $67.1M to date and is running 29% behind the pace of its 2002 predecessor.

The animated tale Flushed Away slipped 13% to $5.8M and has grossed $57.3M thus far. Sony's Will Ferrell comedy Stranger Than Fiction ranked eighth with $5.7M, down 13%, for a $32.5M total.

Two new films rounded out the top ten with less-than-spectacular results. MGM released The Weinstein Co. pic Bobby and grossed $4.9M from 1,667 theaters for a mild $2,914 average. Written and directed by Emilio Estevez, the R-rated film examines the lives of several people on the day that Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated in 1968. The all-star cast includes Anthony Hopkins, Laurence Fishburne, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Sharon Stone, Helen Hunt, Martin Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, and Happy Feet star Elijah Wood. Bobby opened in two theaters a week earlier and expanded nationally on Thanksgiving Thursday. The distributor chose not to open nationwide on the typical Wednesday date since that day marked the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Cume to date is $6.1M.

Opening poorly in tenth place was the sci-fi romance The Fountain with $3.8M from 1,472 for a weak $2,560 average. Darren Aronofsky (pi, Requiem for a Dream) directed the PG-13 film which stars Hugh Jackman (another voice from the chart-topping penguin pic) and Aronofsky's real-life girlfriend Rachel Weisz in a tale of a man's search to cure his wife's illness. Over five days, Fountain collected only $5.5M.

Another Thanksgiving turkey came in the form of the comedy Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny which failed to find paying customers and finished outside of the top ten. The Jack Black comedy took in $3.2M from 1,919 theaters for a wimpy $1,686 average. The R-rated pic was targeted at young men and saw a soft $5.2M bow over the Wednesday-to-Sunday holiday span.

The film industry satire For Your Consideration expanded from 23 to 623 theaters this weekend and grossed $1.9M. With a mediocre $3,088 average, the Warner Independent release upped its cume to $3M.

The new Hindi-language action sequel Dhoom 2 opened with a bang grossing $979,001 from 63 sites for a loud $15,540 average. The Yash Raj Films release generated the third largest opening for a Bollywood film in North America and collected $1.3M since its bow on Thanksgiving Thursday.

Fox Searchlight debuted its comedy The History Boys and grossed $101,523 from seven theaters for a solid $14,503 average. Adapted from the Tony Award-winning play, the R-rated film bowed in six U.S. theaters on Tuesday and added one Canadian location on Friday. Cume to date stands at $143,099 and the distributor will expand to four additional markets on December 8.

Four films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Paramount Vantage's Babel fell 32% to $2M pushing the cume up to a decent $15.2M. The Brad Pitt pic may finish in the $17-19M range although it could go further.if it secures major award nominations. Another film generating Oscar buzz followed as Martin Scorsese's The Departed shot up $1.7M in its eighth weekend, down 34%, boosting the cume to $116.7M. With a production cost of $90M, the acclaimed director's top-grossing film should reach the $120M mark domesically.

The horror sequel Saw III scared up $1.6M, down 46%, for a strong $78.1M to date. The $12M Lionsgate hit looks to end with about $80M or a bit less than Saw II's $87M from last year. After Dark's Horror Fest concluded its limited five-day theatrical run with $2.6M from 488 theaters last week for a solid $5,328 average.

The top ten films grossed $140.7M over three days which was off 2% from last year when Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire remained at number one with $54.7M; and down 4% from 2004 when National Treasure stayed in the top spot with $32.2M.

Compared to projections, both Deja Vu and Deck the Halls opened a couple of notches below my respective forecasts of $23M and $14M. Bobby debuted a bit lower than my $7M prediction and The Fountain was on target with my $4M projection. Tenacious D bowed much lower than my $8M forecast.

For DVD reviews of Cars and An Inconvenient Truth, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Nativity Story, Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj, and Turistas all open.

Marketplace: Shop for videos, DVDs, music, books, and posters at discounted prices using search engines

# Title Nov 24 - 26 Nov 17 - 19 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Happy Feet $ 37,038,046 $ 41,533,432 -10.8 3,804 2 $ 9,737 $ 99,256,766 Warner Bros.
2 Casino Royale 30,785,874 40,833,156 -24.6 3,443 2 8,942 94,053,658 Sony
3 Deja Vu 20,574,802 3,108 1 6,620 28,649,398 Buena Vista
4 Deck the Halls 12,001,256 3,205 1 3,745 16,916,923 Fox
5 Borat 10,304,802 14,602,874 -29.4 2,552 4 4,038 109,136,807 Fox
6 The Santa Clause 3 9,929,029 8,302,661 19.6 3,043 4 3,263 67,073,095 Buena Vista
7 Flushed Away 5,756,455 6,596,962 -12.7 2,621 4 2,196 57,266,350 Paramount
8 Stranger Than Fiction 5,726,536 6,605,197 -13.3 2,258 3 2,536 32,504,604 Sony
9 Bobby 4,857,736 69,039 1,667 2 2,914 6,100,358 MGM
10 The Fountain 3,768,702 1,472 1 2,560 5,456,908 Warner Bros.
11 Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny 3,234,879 1,919 1 1,686 5,212,156 New Line
12 The Queen 2,587,471 2,201,664 17.5 653 9 3,962 20,970,016 Miramax
13 Babel 1,968,883 2,904,642 -32.2 902 5 2,183 15,194,482 Par. Vantage
14 For Your Consideration 1,924,071 372,012 417.2 623 2 3,088 3,017,715 Warner Ind.
15 The Departed 1,709,135 2,585,402 -33.9 910 8 1,878 116,748,722 Warner Bros.
16 Saw III 1,574,838 2,916,062 -46.0 1,044 5 1,508 78,090,811 Lionsgate
17 Dhoom 2 979,001 63 1 15,540 1,298,477 Yash Raj
18 Let's Go To Prison 972,410 2,220,050 -56.2 1,495 2 650 4,096,935 Universal
19 The Prestige 861,024 1,949,969 -55.8 565 6 1,524 51,099,913 Buena Vista
20 Volver 512,127 142,952 258.3 30 4 17,071 1,331,883 Sony Classics
Top 5 $ 110,704,780 $ 111,877,320 -1.0
Top 10 140,743,238 129,191,068 8.9
Top 20 157,067,077 141,414,775 11.1
Top 20 vs. Thanksgiving 2005 157,067,077 160,288,549 -2.0

Last Updated : November 27, 2006 at 6:45PM ET

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