Weekend Box Office (December 23 - 26, 2005)

*** Golden Globe Nominee Grosses ***

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The long Christmas holiday frame witnessed a tight race for box office supremacy between two big-budget adventure films, but Universal's King Kong remained the leader edging out Disney's The Chronicles of Narnia by a slim margin. Meanwhile, in the battle between two debuting comedies, Jim Carrey's Fun With Dick and Jane easily beat out Steve Martin's Cheaper by the Dozen 2. Studios bombarded moviegoers with a wide variety of choices over the four-day Friday-to-Monday holiday weekend as the top ten was littered with new faces.

The mighty ape faced intense competition but managed to keep its hold atop the charts as King Kong grossed $33.3M over the long four-day holiday weekend, according to final studio figures. After 13 days of release, the PG-13 film pushed its cume to $120.6M making it Peter Jackson's fourth $100M+ blockbuster in the last four years. Over the Friday-to-Sunday portion, the three-hour-plus saga collected $21.3M dropping a steep 58% from its opening weekend. Comparisons to other sophomore declines are difficult since Kong's mid-week bow softened its opening weekend figure and with Christmas Eve falling on a Saturday this year, all movies were adversely affected this past weekend.

Kong and Narnia were virtually tied on Friday and Saturday, however Christmas Sunday saw the ape audience come out in full force with a much stronger surge compared to Narnia's rise. After a weaker-than-expected start, Universal is hoping that fans will come out and find Kong now that holiday distractions have passed. The $207M budgeted production also collected an estimated $34M internationally to boost its overseas cume to $153.6M and its worldwide total to $274M.

Close behind in second place was The Chronicles of Narnia which captured $31.7M over four days and $20.4M over three days. Down 36% over the Friday-to-Sunday span, the PG-rated fantasy has now pushed its sum to $165.1M in 18 days. Disney added 173 more theaters to the run putting Narnia's theatercount at 3,853 with a $8,225 four-day average in its third weekend. Kong is playing in 3,576 sites with a $9,305 average in its second attack. With most students and many adults having time off this week, everyday becomes a Saturday for exhibitors and both Kong and Narnia are expected to see their totals climb fast leading into the lucrative New Year's holiday weekend.

Jim Carrey tapped into his large fan base and attracted enough business to push his latest comedy Fun With Dick and Jane into the third spot with $21.5M over four days and $29.1M in the six days since its Wednesday launch. Sony averaged a stellar $7,045 over four days from its badly-needed hit film. Given its strong start and the lucrative holiday week and New Year's weekend ahead, Dick might become the studio's first $100M blockbuster since last February's Will Smith comedy Hitch. The studio has released a whopping sixteen films in between with most underperforming. Co-starring Tea Leoni, Dick finds Carrey playing a business man whose life changes dramatically after his company gives him the boot. Moviegoers not interested in big-budget action and adventure made the comedian's latest hit the top choice of the holiday weekend.

Opening in fourth place was Steve Martin's comedy sequel Cheaper by the Dozen 2 which laughed up $15.3M over four days and $20.6M over six days. Fox averaged a decent $4,832 from 3,175 across the Friday-to-Monday holiday span. The previous Cheaper by the Dozen also launched over Christmas weekend two years ago, but debuted more than twice as strong with $35.4M over its four-day Thursday-to-Sunday period. This time, Dozen 2 faced competition for families from Narnia while Carrey pulled away much of the comedy crowd. Reviews were horrendous.

Sony went nationwide with its period drama Memoirs of a Geisha expanding it from 52 to 1,547 locations cruising into fifth with $10.2M. The Rob Marshall-directed film averaged a commendable $6,571 over four days and pushed its cume to $13.3M. Dropping to sixth for the holiday weekend was the romantic comedy The Family Stone which grossed $10M in its sophomore frame. Fox has taken in a solid $29.2M after 11 days with the Sarah Jessica Parker pic. Geisha and Stone both saw adult women as the core audience.

With Cheaper and Stone, Fox is trying to close the year-to-date market share gap between it and Warner Bros. which could continue to shrink when the final week of the year concludes. Following the Christmas frame, both studios stood at $1.3 billion in sales although Warners has a slim $36M lead. The figure covers the box office year beginning on January 3, 2005. Thanks to King Kong, Universal surpassed the $900M mark over the weekend and ranks third. It will need continued strength from its late-year slate of films in order to become the third studio to join the billion-dollar club.

Playing to young males and opening in seventh was the Johnny Knoxville comedy The Ringer which took in $7.7M from 1,829 theaters. The PG-13 pic about a man who fakes his way into the Special Olympics averaged $4,211 over four days.

The Jennifer Aniston comedy Rumor Has It placed eighth with $7.5M from 2,815 locations for a two-day average of $2,670. The PG-13 film about a woman who returns home for her sister's wedding only to uncover family secrets co-starred Kevin Costner and Shirley MacLaine. The Warner Bros. release shared shelf space with other high profile films targeting women. Looking at just the Sunday-Monday span, Rumor was a fifth place film.

In ninth place, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire became the second biggest film of the franchise with $6.4M boosting the cume to $263.1M. The fourth wizard film has now surpassed the $262M gross of 2002's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and climbed to number 28 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters just behind Shrek which took in $267.7M in 2001. Overseas, Goblet neared the half-billion mark with an estimated $23M haul pushing the international total to $497M. The global gross stands at an astounding $760M.

In tenth with $6M was Steven Spielberg's Munich which attacked only 532 theaters giving it a potent $11,355 average leading all contenders in the top ten. Universal's acclaimed drama on the revenge mission that followed the killing of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics played to a much older audience than other current films. Studio research showed that a very high 71% of the crowd was age 30 or older while 59% was male. The subject matter and the director were the two main factors drawing in ticket buyers. Nominated for a Globe for Best Director, Munich expands into over 1,800 theaters on January 6.

The Weinstein Company launched its horror entry Wolf Creek on Christmas Day and captured $4.9M in two days from 1,749 theaters. Averaging $2,806 over two days, the R-rated fright flick played as counterprogramming for those not interested in jolly and happy films during the holiday season. The horror crowd came out in encouraging numbers and reviews have been exceptionally positive so Wolf Creek hopes to go much further tapping into high school and college students on break.

As if a mega-budgeted ape adventure and a serious political drama weren't enough to market and distribute, Universal also got into the comedy game on Sunday with the national expansion of its musical The Producers. The Nathan Lane-Matthew Broderick pic got off to a respectable start grossing $3.3M although most of that was over two days since the PG-13 widened from 6 to 975 locations on Christmas Day. Nominated for four Golden Globes, Producers averaged $3,388 per stage and co-stars Uma Thurman and Will Ferrell.

Buena Vista witnessed encouraging results from its limited bow of the Heath Ledger film Casanova which debuted on Sunday in only 37 theaters. The period piece took in $231,077 for a two-day average of $6,245 per site.

More than half of last weekend's top ten fell from the elite list over the crowded Christmas weekend. The George Clooney pic Syriana took in $4.8M over four days to raise its total to $30.5M. A final tally of $40-45M from less than 1,800 theaters could result. Focus expanded its awards contender Brokeback Mountain from 69 to 217 theaters and lassoed $3M for an impressive $13,599 average. With $7.9M to date, the cowboy love story must now work harder to gain acceptance in newer markets where the subject matter may not generate as much excitement.

Fox's Johnny Cash film Walk the Line collected $2.5M in its sixth frame for a $87.1M cume. The Golden Globe nominee for Best Picture - Musical or Comedy was produced for $28M, but is likely to gross around $95M from North America and possibly more if it can secure some major Oscar nods. The family comedy remake Yours, Mine & Ours has given Paramount $48.3M to date. The $45M Dennis Quaid-Rene Russo film looks to reach a decent $51M. The New Line comedy Just Friends lifted its total to $31M while Paramount's action flick Aeon Flux inched up to a $24.5M sum. Friends should finish with a respectable $33M while the $60M Flux flop seems set for only $26M.

The top ten films grossed $149.7M over four days. Last year, Meet the Fockers debuted at number one with $46.1M over three days and in 2003, The Return of the King held the top spot with $50.6M in its second weekend.

Compared to projections, Fun With Dick and Jane opened stronger than my $15M four-day forecast while Cheaper by the Dozen debuted below my $20M prediction. Memoirs of a Geisha was close to my $9M projection and Rumor Has It bowed lower than my $10M forecast. Wolf Creek opened close to my $7M prediction, The Ringer bowed higher than my $6M forecast, and Munich and The Producers were both close to my $4M projection for each.

Be sure to check the Golden Globe chart which tracks the box office of the major nominees with weekly updates throughout awards season

For reviews of King Kong, The Chronicles of Narnia, Munich, and The Producers visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when 2005 comes to a close.

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# Title Dec 23 - 26 Dec 16 - 18 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 King Kong $ 33,274,680 $ 50,130,145 -33.6 3,576 2 $ 9,305 $ 120,597,410 Universal
2 The Chronicles of Narnia 31,692,295 31,837,683 -0.5 3,853 3 8,225 165,135,135 Buena Vista
3 Fun with Dick and Jane 21,530,160 3,056 1 7,045 29,105,916 Sony
4 Cheaper by the Dozen 2 15,340,679 3,175 1 4,832 20,622,433 Fox
5 Memoirs of a Geisha 10,165,114 1,302,331 680.5 1,547 3 6,571 13,254,749 Sony
6 The Family Stone 10,009,399 12,521,027 -20.1 2,469 2 4,054 29,209,405 Fox
7 The Ringer 7,702,439 1,829 1 4,211 7,702,439 Fox Searchlight
8 Rumor Has It 7,515,531 2,815 1 2,670 7,515,531 Warner Bros.
9 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 6,424,119 5,952,452 7.9 2,521 6 2,548 263,139,532 Warner Bros.
10 Munich 6,040,860 532 1 11,355 6,040,860 Universal
11 Wolf Creek 4,908,206 1,749 1 2,806 4,908,206 Weinstein Co.
12 Syriana 4,785,436 5,605,167 -14.6 1,725 5 2,774 31,532,611 Warner Bros.
13 The Producers 3,303,541 154,590 975 2 3,388 3,546,792 Universal
14 Brokeback Mountain 2,951,071 2,508,494 17.6 217 3 13,599 7,888,312 Focus
15 Walk the Line 2,474,226 3,688,031 -32.9 1,534 6 1,613 87,128,009 Fox
16 The Polar Express - Imax RE 1,377,113 1,091,215 26.2 66 5 20,865 170,778,929 Warner Bros.
17 Yours, Mine & Ours 1,268,701 3,511,110 -63.9 1,746 5 727 48,312,538 Paramount
18 Pride & Prejudice 1,153,458 1,579,825 -27.0 556 8 2,075 31,634,097 Focus
19 Chicken Little 675,451 1,054,952 -36.0 874 8 773 130,266,798 Buena Vista
20 Aeon Flux 452,813 1,751,220 -74.1 852 4 531 24,523,382 Paramount
Top 5 $ 112,002,928 $ 106,046,474 5.6
Top 10 149,695,276 119,586,181 25.2
Top 20 173,045,292 126,808,623 36.5

(Grosses in italics are four-day numbers and in bold are two-day figures)

Last Updated : December 28, 2005 at 6:30PM EST