Weekend Box Office (November 28 - 30, 2008)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND A trio of new releases and a hearty menu of popular holdovers made for a robust Thanksgiving weekend at the North American box office. The holiday comedy Four Christmases led the way with a stellar number one opening while sophomores Bolt and Twilight were in a virtual tie for second place with nearly identical grosses. The Top 20 grossed $159M - on par with the turkey holiday from recent years.

Superstars Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon contributed their producing and acting talents to Four Christmases and were rewarded with a potent debut grossing $31.1M over the Friday-to-Sunday period, according to final studio figures, and a fantastic $46.1M over five days since opening on Wednesday. The New Line pic was distributed by Warner Bros. and averaged a stellar $9,387 from 3,310 sites over the three-day period. The PG-13 film about a couple that must attend yuletide events at the homes of each of their divorced parents was just the type of comedic entertainment that moviegoers were in the mood for during the long holiday weekend. Ticket buyers ignored the bad reviews and instead responded to the starpower, the unique premise, and the comedy. Look for both actors to add another $100M blockbuster to their resumes in the coming weeks.

Jumping up one notch from last weekend, Disney's animated flick Bolt posted a slight uptick in ticket sales for a solid holiday performance. The PG-rated toon grossed $26.6M inching up 1% from its $26.2M bow last week. Though the canine star opened weaker than expected, it made up for that shortfall by generating a sensational second weekend take. After ten days, Bolt has grossed $66.8M. The studio is hoping that it will continue to see strong legs since there will be no new kidpics released over the next two weekends.

Last weekend's top film Twilight experienced a hefty decline as expected and ranked third with $26.3M. Falling 62%, the Summit release has now banked a stellar $119.7M which is quite an impressive sum for a no-star film budgeted at only $37M. The PG-13 film averaged a sturdy $7,692 from 3,425 locations.

James Bond was still a popular draw for movie fans over the holiday weekend with Quantum of Solace dropping only 30% to $18.8M. That put Sony's domestic total at a robust $141.4M after 17 days which is 22% ahead of Casino Royale at the same point in its run and 18% ahead of 2002's Die Another Day. The overseas total for Quantum vaulted to $340.1M lifting the global haul to a stunning $482M.

Fox's big-budget historical epic Australia debuted with $14.8M over three days and $20M across five days. The Hugh Jackman-Nicole Kidman film opened in 2,642 locations and averaged a respectable $5,602. But given the cost of the massive production (the studio kicked in $78M of the $130M budget) the Baz Luhrmann-directed film will need strong legs and spectacular international grosses in order to break even. According to studio research, 65% of the audience was over 25 while 52% was female. Competition for adult audiences was fierce over the holiday weekend with many choosing to spend their dollars on Four Christmases and Quantum of Solace while young women were still distracted by Twilight. Reviews were mixed for Australia and the running time of 165 minutes meant fewer showtimes per day.

Paramount ranked sixth with its toon entry Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa which slipped only 9% to $14.2M boosting the overall cume to $159.1M. The sequel's final domestic haul looks like it will end up a bit below the $193.2M of its 2005 predecessor.

Delivering a seventh-place debut was Jason Statham's action sequel Transporter 3 which grossed $12.1M over the weekend and $18.2M over the extended holiday period. The franchise showed signs of age as the five-day bow failed to match the $20.5M four-day debut of Transporter 2 which launched over the slower Labor Day holiday frame. The third chapter in the series played in 2,626 locations and averaged a decent $4,594 over the Friday-to-Sunday span. Fox released the first two pics in the franchise while Lionsgate distributed this new chapter.

Universal's hit comedy Role Models dropped by 29% to $5.2M giving the Seann William Scott-Paul Rudd pic a solid $57.8M to date.

Specialty films filled up the next three positions on the charts. The Holocaust drama The Boy in the Striped Pajamas expanded again from 406 to 582 locations and grossed $1.7M this weekend. The Miramax release averaged a mild $2,914 but raised its sum to $5.2M.

Sean Penn's highly praised performance in the Focus Features release Milk helped to deliver the weekend's best average thanks to $1.45M from only 36 theaters. Averaging a sizzling $40,385, the R-rated film about the first openly gay elected official in America won rave reviews from critics and has generated Oscar buzz for Penn who hopes to score his fourth Best Actor nod from the Academy this decade and fifth overall. The Gus Van Sant-directed film's five-day total since opening on Wednesday is $1.9M. On Friday, Milk will expand to nearly 100 theaters and will add more runs on December 12. The film also scored six Satellite Award nominations including Best Picture, Drama. The International Press Academy will announce its winners in two weeks, on December 14.

Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire continued its impressive limited run widening from 32 to 49 theaters for a weekend gross of $1.35M putting it a hair behind in eleventh place. Cume is now $3.5M. The Fox Searchlight title averaged a potent $27,470 and will add more theaters each week in December. Slumdog won three British Independent Film Awards on Sunday including Best British Independent Film, and earned six Satellite Award nominations including Best Picture, Drama.

The top ten films grossed $152.2M which was up 9% from last year's Thanksgiving frame when Enchanted opened in the top spot with $34.4M over three days; and up 8% from 2006's holiday when Happy Feet remained at number one with $37M in its second weekend.

Compared to projections, Four Christmases surged higher than my $26M three-day forecast while Australia was on target with my $15M prediction. Transporter 3 bowed close to my $14M projection.

Be sure to check the chart of the top-grossing Thanksgiving weekend films.

For a NEW DVD review of WALL•E visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Punisher: War Zone, Frost/Nixon, and Cadillac Records all open.

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

# Title Nov 28 - 30 Nov 21 - 23 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Four Christmases $ 31,069,826 3,310 1 $ 9,387 $ 46,054,468 Warner Bros.
2 Bolt 26,581,002 26,223,128 1.4 3,654 2 7,274 66,848,840 Buena Vista
3 Twilight 26,344,032 69,637,740 -62.2 3,425 2 7,692 119,706,509 Summit
4 Quantum of Solace 18,833,552 26,707,945 -29.5 3,501 3 5,379 141,418,534 Sony
5 Australia 14,800,723 2,642 1 5,602 20,004,456 Fox
6 Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa 14,207,329 15,661,936 -9.3 3,709 4 3,831 159,066,369 Paramount
7 Transporter 3 12,063,452 2,626 1 4,594 18,230,758 Lionsgate
8 Role Models 5,191,180 7,324,445 -29.1 2,195 4 2,365 57,780,820 Universal
9 The Boy in the Striped Pajamas 1,696,187 1,647,514 3.0 582 4 2,914 5,169,495 Miramax
10 Milk 1,453,844 36 1 40,385 1,941,472 Focus
11 Slumdog Millionaire 1,346,039 947,795 42.0 49 3 27,470 3,544,374 Fox Searchlight
12 Changeling 1,207,240 2,695,450 -55.2 1,010 6 1,195 33,849,632 Universal
13 High School Musical 3: Senior Year 1,061,628 2,049,144 -48.2 1,385 6 767 88,751,254 Buena Vista
14 The Secret Life of Bees 561,671 1,264,991 -55.6 490 7 1,146 36,652,652 Fox Searchlight
15 Rachel Getting Married 530,210 751,611 -29.5 216 8 2,455 8,802,748 Sony Classics
16 Zack and Miri Make a Porno 524,425 1,605,579 -67.3 445 5 1,178 30,439,806 Weinstein Co.
17 Soul Men 455,335 912,269 -50.1 335 3 1,359 11,652,750 MGM
18 Fireproof 431,787 909,404 -52.5 486 9 888 32,306,871 Samuel Goldwyn
19 The Dark Knight 343,366 370,449 -7.3 305 19 1,126 530,258,989 Warner Bros.
20 Happy-Go-Lucky 289,208 338,071 -14.5 202 7 1,432 2,641,426 Miramax
Top 5 $ 117,629,135 $ 145,555,194 -19.2
Top 10 152,241,127 154,817,872 -1.7
Top 20 158,992,036 161,027,248 -1.3
Top 20 vs. Thanksgiving 2007 158,992,036 156,801,538 1.4

Last Updated: December 1, 2008 at 10:30PM ET