Weekend Box Office (December 21 - 23, 2007)

*** 2008 Golden Globe Nominee Grosses ***

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Nicolas Cage's latest action adventure film National Treasure: Book of Secrets claimed the number one spot at the North American box office during what was a red hot session at the multiplexes. Along with the powerful sophomore holdovers I Am Legend and Alvin and the Chipmunks, the awesome threesome accounted for two-thirds of all business in the marketplace. Four new releases aimed at adult audiences debuted to mixed results over the final shopping weekend before Christmas. The top ten flirted with the $150M mark for the second consecutive weekend as the box office showed incredible strength in the final days of the year.

Cage posted the second best opening of his career with National Treasure: Book of Secrets which debuted on top with $44.8M from an aggressive launch in 3,832 theaters, according to final studio figures. The Disney sequel averaged a stellar $11,687 which was almost identical to the first weekend average of $11,648 for its predecessor National Treasure which opened in November 2004 with $35.1M from 3,017 playdates. That film went on to gross $173M domestically and $347M worldwide. Book of Secrets hopes to exceed both totals by the end of its run giving the studio another lucrative franchise. Cage's best bow to date is still $45.4M for last February's Ghost Rider which the actor almost beat this weekend.

With its PG rating, Book of Secrets played to a broad audience. Studio research showed that the action pic's crowd was 54% male while those over the age of 25 accounted for 55%. With so many R-rated and adult-skewing films in the current marketplace, Treasure was one of the only pics that people of all ages could go and see together. Reviews were mostly negative for the sequel.

Following its record-breaking number one launch last weekend, Will Smith's sci-fi blockbuster I Am Legend dropped to second place with $33.5M losing an understandable 57% of its audience. The Warner Bros. smash has taken in a stunning $136.8M in only ten days and could shoot past the $200M mark after the holidays giving Smith his third trip past the double-century mark and his first in over a decade. Overseas, Legend opened at number one in seven new countries collecting an estimated $25.3M from all 15 territories. That boosted the international sum to $54.3M and the global tally to a spectacular $191M with many more major markets like Germany, Australia, and the United Kingdom still to come.

Alvin and the Chipmunks scored a terrific second weekend dropping only 36% to $28.2M for a potent ten-day cume of $84M. With few other options for young kids, the PG-rated comedy faced little direct competition and should continue to attract large amounts of families for the rest of the year. Alvin should be able to blast past the $150M mark and could even go much higher.

Far back in fourth place was the Tom Hanks-Julia Roberts entry Charlie Wilson's War which led all other new releases this weekend with $9.7M. Playing in 2,575 theaters, the R-rated pic averaged a mediocre $3,750 per venue. Universal is hoping that this older-skewing film will find its audience in the long run over the holidays and into January. Charlie nabbed five Golden Globe nominations, the second most of any film after Atonement's seven, and cost $75M to produce. Reviews were generally positive. Studio research showed that 52% of the audience was female, 88% was Caucasian, and 80% was over the age of 30.

Paramount gave the DreamWorks musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street a moderate national roll-out in 1,249 theaters and found itself with a solid fifth place bow with $9.3M. The Johnny Depp film directed by Tim Burton averaged an impressive $7,447 per site and earned good reviews from critics along with four Golden Globe nods. Studio research showed that Todd played slightly more female with 52% of the audience being women. Those over the age of 25 accounted for 65% of the crowd. The $50M film will expand further on January 11, however the road ahead could be bumpy given its surprising 25% plunge in ticket sales from Friday to Saturday. Other films saw their Saturday numbers match or exceed Friday's. Paramount is hoping this musical plays more like Dreamgirls than like Rent.

Also opening this weekend but to little fanfare was the romance P.S. I Love You which bowed in sixth with $6.5M. The Hilary Swank-Gerard Butler drama averaged a mild $2,641 from 2,454 theaters and played primarily to adult women. Critics were mostly underwhelmed. Disney's princess tale Enchanted dipped only 24% to $4.2M and boosted its cume to $98.4M. The Amy Adams hit will join the century club by Christmas.

The pre-holiday weekend's biggest casualty was the comedy Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story which stumbled into eighth place with a dismal $4.2M. Produced by comedy king Judd Apatow and starring John C. Reilly, the R-rated film averaged a measly $1,575 per site. Reviews were generally positive. By comparison, Apatow's other R-rated comedy hits this year Knocked Up and Superbad opened to $30.7M and $33.1M, respectively. Sony marketed Walk Hard as being from the man responsible for comedy hits like Superbad and Talladega Nights, but audiences did not bite this time. Walk Hard cost $35M to produce and proved that Apatow does not always have the golden touch.

The fantasy adventure The Golden Compass tumbled 55% in its third weekend to $4M and placed ninth. The New Line release has grossed only $48.4M domestically but has already taken in over $100M from outside of North America.

Rounding out the top ten was the indie comedy hit Juno with $3.4M from just 304 locations for a stellar $11,267 average. Fox Searchlight expanded the award-winning teen pregnancy pic from 40 locations last weekend and is still generating a strong average. With $6.4M in the bank, Juno is turning out to be the little-engine-that-could hit of the holiday season and will widen to 998 sites on Tuesday, Christmas Day.

A six-pack of films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. The period piece Atonement saw its sales inch up by 7% to $1.9M putting the total for Focus at $5.8M. Fellow awards season contender No Country For Old Men fell 34% to $1.9M giving Miramax a cume of $36.9M.

The Perfect Holiday tumbled 57% to just under $1M in only its second weekend for a weak $4.5M for Yari Film Group. Sony's This Christmas has fared much better this season and grossed $924,232 pushing the cume to a solid $47.7M.

Warner Bros. saw steep drops for a pair of its releases. The Vince Vaughn comedy Fred Claus crashed 61% and made $864,915 while August Rush fell 73% to $473,938. Totals to date stand at $70.6M and $29.5M, respectively.

The top ten films grossed $147.7M which was up a sturdy 43% from last year when Night at the Museum opened at number one with $30.4M over three days; and up a stunning 56% from 2005 when King Kong remained in the top spot with $21.3M in three days.

Compared to projections, National Treasure: Book of Secrets opened very close to my $44M forecast. Charlie Wilson's War bowed below my $14M prediction while Sweeney Todd was on target with my $10M projection. P.S. I Love You debuted close to my $5M forecast and Walk Hard launched well below my $15M prediction.

View the updated chart of 2008 Golden Globe nominations and current box office grosses.

For NEW reviews of Charlie Wilson's War and National Treasure: Book of Secrets plus DVD reviews of Halloween and National Treasure, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when the Christmas openers Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, The Great Debaters, and The Water Horse will be in the marketplace.

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

# Title Dec 21 - 23 Dec 14 - 16 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 National Treasure: Book of Secrets $ 44,783,772 3,832 1 $ 11,687 $ 44,783,772 Buena Vista
2 I Am Legend 33,503,201 77,211,321 -56.6 3,620 2 9,255 136,768,494 Warner Bros.
3 Alvin and the Chipmunks 28,179,556 44,307,417 -36.4 3,499 2 8,054 84,046,353 Fox
4 Charlie Wilson's War 9,656,250 2,575 1 3,750 9,656,250 Universal
5 Sweeney Todd 9,300,805 1,249 1 7,447 9,300,805 Paramount
6 P.S. I Love You 6,481,221 2,454 1 2,641 6,481,221 Warner Bros.
7 Enchanted 4,222,859 5,533,884 -23.7 2,752 5 1,534 98,421,252 Buena Vista
8 Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story 4,174,383 2,650 1 1,575 4,174,383 Sony
9 The Golden Compass 3,980,000 8,825,549 -54.9 2,953 3 1,348 48,418,000 New Line
10 Juno 3,425,045 1,427,454 139.9 304 3 11,267 6,409,721 Fox Searchlight
11 Atonement 1,940,584 1,806,862 7.4 297 3 6,534 5,752,959 Focus
12 No Country For Old Men 1,874,865 2,827,530 -33.7 1,222 7 1,534 36,892,644 Miramax
13 The Kite Runner 1,178,368 471,713 149.8 377 2 3,126 1,879,253 Par. Classics
14 The Perfect Holiday 972,877 2,283,360 -57.4 1,247 2 780 4,494,095 Yari Film Group
15 This Christmas 924,232 2,260,812 -59.1 879 5 1,051 47,738,082 Sony
16 Fred Claus 864,915 2,221,438 -61.1 1,155 7 749 70,645,805 Warner Bros.
17 August Rush 473,938 1,765,319 -73.2 701 5 676 29,495,525 Warner Bros.
18 Bee Movie 408,864 760,196 -46.2 539 8 759 123,060,493 Paramount
19 Beowulf 374,112 1,380,513 -72.9 352 6 1,063 80,420,514 Paramount
20 The Polar Express - Imax (RE) 397,461 317,204 25.3 32 12 12,421 1,809,573 Warner Bros.
Top 5 $ 125,423,584 $ 138,705,701 -9.6
Top 10 147,707,092 149,043,492 -0.9
Top 20 157,117,308 157,905,215 -0.5
Top 20 vs. 2006 157,117,308 117,517,886 33.7

Last Updated: December 26, 2007 at 11:45PM ET

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