Weekend Box Office (December 22 - 25, 2006)

*** Golden Globe Nominees and Updated Grosses ***

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Ben Stiller ruled Christmas weekend for the second time in two years with his new effects-driven comedy Night at the Museum which opened at number one with $42.2M over four days, according to final figures released by Fox. The PG-rated pic about a night watchman who battles artifacts that come to life in a museum averaged a muscular $11,446 over the Friday-to-Monday holiday period from an ultrawide release in 3,688 theaters including 72 Imax venues. Two years ago, Stiller topped this same holiday weekend with Meet the Fockers which bowed to $46.1M in three days and $70.5M over five days. Robin Williams, Ricky Gervais, and Dick Van Dyke co-star in Museum. The pic did better-than-expected business with the non-family crowd which helped the overall gross swell.

According to official studio figures, Friday bowed to $12.4M, Saturday saw a slight 3% increase to $12.8M, Sunday tumbled 59% to $5.3M, and Monday surged 124% to $11.8M. The overall box office always falls sharply on Christmas Eve, but enjoys a vibrant rebound on Christmas Day when moviegoers have more time to visit their local multiplex.

Sony saw its Will Smith drama The Pursuit of Happyness fall one notch to second place with $23.1M over four days. The true-life tale's three-day gross dropped 44% from its opening weekend and the cume rose to $61.4M after 11 days.

Opening in third place was Sylvester Stallone's Rocky Balboa with $17M in four days and $26.7M over the six days since its Wednesday debut. The relatively low-cost $24M pic averaged a respectable $5,636 over the Friday-to-Monday period from 3,017 locations. The PG-rated film is the sixth and reportedly final installment in the popular boxing franchise and finds the fighter coming out of retirement for one final match. Reviews were overwhelmingly positive.

Oscar winners Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie saw their new CIA thriller The Good Shepherd bow in fourth place with $14.1M from 2,215 theaters for a good $6,357 average over the Friday-to-Monday span. Directed by Robert De Niro, the top ten's only R-rated pic played to an adult audience with studio data showing that the audience was 73% over the age of 30 and 53% male. Reviews were mixed.

In fifth place was Paramount's family film Charlotte's Web with $9.6M (off 30% when comparing three-day periods) for a cume of $28.4M after 11 days. Fox's fantasy adventure Eragon followed in sixth collapsing 69% in its second weekend to $9.3M. The dragon tale has taken in $39.8M in ten days and seems to have burned through much of its total audience in the first week.

The Paramount/DreamWorks musical sensation Dreamgirls expanded nationally on Monday and jumped into seventh place with only one day of wide release. The PG-13 pic grossed $9M over the four-day period including a stunning $8.7M on Monday from 852 theaters for a scorching average of $10,242 on Christmas Day alone. It played in just three theaters with $25 tickets in the ten days leading up to its expansion and has totaled $9.6M to date. Starring Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles, Eddie Murphy, and newcomer Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls has earned five Golden Globe nominations and is considered a major contender for the Oscars hoping to follow in the footsteps of recent Best Picture winner Chicago which was also based on a successful musical.

Dreamgirls generated the third-best Christmas Day opening ever and even ranked second for the day behind Night at the Museum despite playing in less than one-fourth of the number of theaters. Paramount will expand the acclaimed film to about 2,000 playdates on January 12 for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday session.

The football drama We Are Marshall opened in eighth place with $8.6M from 2,606 venues for a lukewarm $3,290 average for Warner Bros. The PG-rated pic stars Matthew McConaughey and may have suffered from strong competition from Rocky Balboa which clearly was the more popular feel-good sports drama of the holiday weekend. Marshall tells the true story of a college community that tries to rebuild after most of its football players and coachs die in a plane crash. Cume is $9.7M.

Sony's The Holiday dropped 38% to $7.1M giving the Cameron Diaz-Kate Winslet film $37.4M to date. New Line rounded out the top ten with The Nativity Story which took in $6.7M raising its total to $33.3M.

MGM's new horror film Black Christmas opened on Monday with a one-day scare of $3.3M from 1,278 locations. With a decent one-day average of $2,588, the thriller hopes to rope in teen and young adult audiences during the week and into the New Years holiday frame. On Monday, it ranked sixth for the day.

In limited release, Clint Eastwood's acclaimed World War II drama Letter From Iwo Jima got off to a solid start grossing $122,605 over four days from only five theaters. Averaging $24,521 per site, the Japanese-language film has taken in $162,000 since its mid-week bow and has already spent the last three weeks at number one in Japan. Iwo Jima is the companion film to the director's fall release Flags of Our Fathers and is expected to be a major contender at the Oscars.

Warner Independent opened The Painted Veil in four theaters and grossed $71,813 in four days for a strong $17,953 average. Since its Wednesday launch, the Edward Norton period pic has collected $93,000 and on Friday the distributor will expand to 37 locations.

Sony Classics grossed $712,760 from 60 theaters for Zhang Yimou's Curse of the Golden Flower for an encouraging $11,879 average over four days. Cume is $727,000.

Miramax's Peter O'Toole pic Venus bowed to $54,000 over the Friday-to-Monday period from three venues for a promising $18,009 four-day average. Cume since Wednesday stands at $60,000.

A handful of action films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Sony's James Bond actioner Casino Royale fell 45% to $4.5M in its sixth frame to boost its domestic cume to $145M. Overseas, Casino smashed through the $300M mark this weekend raising its international tally to $304.4M and its worldwide cume to nearly $450M. It now ranks as the highest-grossing Bond film ever worldwide, when not factoring in ticket price increases during the franchise's four-decade run.

Leonardo DiCaprio's Blood Diamond fell 53% to $4.8M over four days putting the total at a disappointing $26.8M for Warner Bros. Buena Vista reported a four-day gross of $4.5M for Mel Gibson's Apocalypto which has taken in a respectable $36.2M to date easily making it the top-grossing foreign language film of 2006.

The top ten films grossed $146.6M over four days which was off 2% from last year when King Kong remained at number one with $33.3M over its four-day frame.

Compared to four-day projections, Night at the Museum opened better than my $34M forecast while Rocky Balboa was very close to my $16M prediction. The Good Shepherd bowed just one notch above my $13M projection and We Are Marshall opened below my $14M forecast.

For NEW reviews of Rocky Balboa and We Are Marshall visit The Chief Report. Check the chart of Golden Globe nominees and their grosses throughout awards season.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when the New Years holiday frame puts a close to the 2006 box office.

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

# Title Dec 22 - 25 Dec 15 - 17 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Night at the Museum $ 42,212,651 3,685 1 $ 11,455 $ 42,212,651 Fox
2 The Pursuit of Happyness 22,554,220 26,541,709 -15.0 2,863 2 7,878 60,841,115 Sony
3 Rocky Balboa 17,003,904 3,017 1 5,636 26,697,118 MGM
4 The Good Shephard 14,142,760 2,215 1 6,385 14,142,760 Universal
5 Charlotte's Web 9,568,033 11,457,353 -16.5 3,728 2 2,567 28,377,499 Paramount
6 Eragon 9,334,259 23,239,907 -59.8 3,030 2 3,081 39,829,961 Fox
7 Dreamgirls 8,953,734 378,950 852 2 10,509 9,577,759 Paramount
8 We Are Marshall 8,582,508 2,606 1 3,293 9,682,508 Warner Bros.
9 The Holiday 6,855,456 8,014,713 -14.5 2,635 3 2,602 36,948,418 Sony
10 Happy Feet 6,565,747 8,358,421 -21.4 2,565 6 2,560 160,521,910 Warner Bros.
11 The Nativity Story 6,358,000 4,656,376 36.5 1,824 4 3,486 33,042,831 New Line
12 Blood Diamond 4,775,689 6,517,471 -26.7 1,920 3 2,487 26,778,439 Warner Bros.
13 Apocalypto 4,479,914 8,008,126 -44.1 2,144 3 2,090 36,204,070 Buena Vista
14 Casino Royale 4,350,706 5,627,644 -22.7 1,588 6 2,740 144,920,106 Sony
15 Black Christmas 3,307,602 1,278 1 2,588 3,307,602 MGM
16 The Santa Clause 3 1,319,624 1,895,591 -30.4 801 8 1,647 82,432,368 Buena Vista
17 Unaccompanied Minors 1,069,848 3,545,352 -69.8 1,125 3 951 13,069,115 Warner Bros.
18 Deja Vu 1,043,787 2,975,356 -64.9 839 5 1,244 60,162,620 Buena Vista
19 Borat 801,273 1,543,840 -48.1 458 8 1,750 124,485,270 Fox
20 Curse of the Golden Flower 711,336 60 1 11,856 725,480 Sony Classics
Top 5 $ 105,481,568 $ 77,612,103 35.9
Top 10 145,773,272 102,421,720 42.3
Top 20 173,991,051 117,079,187 48.6
Top 20 vs. 2005 173,991,051 173,045,292 0.5

Last Updated : December 27, 2006 at 11:00AM ET

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