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Christmas At The Box Office (So Far)

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First of all, the top three movies that opened on Christmas day all broke the record for the biggest Christmas Day opening of all time. The previous high was Ali, which snagged $10.2 million in 2001 on its opening day (and proved to be severely front loaded, natch). Marley & Me opened with a whopping $14.5 million. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button opened in second with a surprising $11.5 million. It took in $10.2 million on Friday and if it doesn't peter out by the New Year, it retakes the front runner position from Slumdog Millionaire for the Best Picture race (it may just make back its $150 million budget... I was doubtful).

Look for lots of gossip columns/blog entries on Monday detailing how Jennifer Aniston (with the help of Owen Wilson) defeated her ex-husband Brad Pitt at the box office, never mind that one was a family-friendly, PG-rated dog movie and the other was a nearly three-hour sobering drama about aging and dying (the latter opening in 600 fewer theaters). I'll say they're both winners, they both performed well above relative expectations. and leave it at that.

Third place went to Bedtime Stories, which had $10.3 million. Most, including me, thought it would win the derby, but its third place finish is more a sign of the other films' strength than any weakness of this Adam Sandler vehicle. It did another $10 million on Friday, so it'll still post Night At The Museum numbers - a touch over $30 million. Fourth place went to Valkyrie, which pulled in $8.5 million. With its Friday numbers already at an additional $8 million, the three-day number looks to be right in the $25 million range where Tom Cruise vehicles usually reside (The Last Samurai, Vanilla Sky, Collateral). So, looks like all the hub-bub about Tom Cruise's fallen status was for naught. People just didn't want to see Lions For Lambs no matter who was in it (it was an interesting, thoughtful movie, but not something that needed to be seen in theaters).

The only real flop of the season was the allegedly atrocious The Spirit. Only $6.4 million worth of moviegoers have so far paid to see Frank Miller's cinematic defecation on Will Eisner's grave. Alas, from what I've been told, at no point does the title character exclaim: "What are you, retarded? I'm the goddamn Spirit!". This superhero entry is the final film in Lionsgate's aggressive and somewhat innovative 12-film blitz that started at the very end of August (twelve films in sixteen weeks, all in different genres and what not). Ironically, it appears that they saved the worst for both best and last, opening and closing this experiment with Disaster Movie and The Spirit, respectively.

The holdovers all more or less copied their prior weekend business (as is usually the case for the last two weekends of the year). Yes Man and Seven Pounds will close out the first holiday weekend with about $50 million and $40 million respectively. Both will try their darnedest to squeak past the $100 million mark by mid-January. Obviously, the happy Jim Carrey comedy has a better shot than the downer Will Smith drama, but these are so far fine totals for both films, respectively (especially as their opening weekends were tempered by last week's brutal snow storms).

So, everything looks to be absolute gangbusters for the end of the year. We may have a $200 million 3-day number by Sunday and we'll see what happens after that. Mazel tov to Aniston (her second biggest opening after Bruce Almighty), Cruise (Valkyrie has outside shot at being Cruise's biggest non-M:I and non-Spielberg opening ever), and Pitt (who will have his third biggest opening ever for a stand-alone star vehicle, after Mr. And Mrs. Smith and Troy). And mazel tov to Frank Miller, who got exactly what he deserved this holiday season.

Scott Mendelson