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Box Office Wrapup: Penguins and Bond Still Rule Multiplexes

by | December 4, 2006 | Comments

Three new releases failed to make much of an impression on North American moviegoers this weekend as the top films at the box office remained the same.

The dynamic duo of the penguin toon "Happy Feet" and the James Bond actioner "Casino Royale" ranked one and two for the third straight time while Denzel Washington‘s action thriller "Deja Vu" found itself in the familiar third spot once again. Overall, the post-turkey blues set in with total ticket sales dropping significantly from last weekend.

The animated blockbuster "Happy Feet" became only the second film of 2006 to spend three consecutive weekends at number one. Warner Bros. held steady at the top with an estimated $17M over the weekend dropping an understandable 54% from the Thanksgiving holiday frame. After 17 days of release, the penguin hit has grossed a stellar $121M and seems on course to reach the $180-190M domestic range depending on how it holds up over the holidays. The year’s only other film to stay in first place for three weekends was Johnny Depp‘s "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest" which also happens to be the top-grossing blockbuster of 2006.

In its usual runnerup spot was Agent 007 in "Casino Royale" which took in an estimated $15.1M in its third mission to boost the total to $115.9M. Off 51%, the Sony hit averaged $4,460 per theater which was virtually the same as Feet’s $4,481 average. "Casino" has been holding up better than the last James Bond flick "Die Another Day" which grossed less in its third weekend. The new Daniel Craig actioner opened with $40.8M and dropped 25% to $30.8M on Thanksgiving weekend. During the same weeks in 2002, "Die" bowed to a stronger $47.1M, but fell a larger 34% to $31M over the turkey frame, and then another 59% to $12.8M on the third session. "Casino" was running 7.2% behind "Die" after the first ten days but has now cut the margin down to only 3.6%. The new smash looks likely to edge out the previous installment’s $160.9M domestic tally. Worldwide, "Casino Royale" surged past the $300M mark in global ticket sales and continues to dominate the international box office.

The "Happy"-"Casino" combo has now grossed a stunning $236.9M putting it slightly ahead of the $229.3M that moviegoers spent a year ago on "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" over the same time period. Factor in the usual 3% for annual ticket price increases and the dollar amount is almost identical. So far, the two hits have tag-teamed to help keep this year’s holiday box office relatively even with last year’s. However, December may struggle to keep up with its 2005 counterpart when movie fans spent a towering $400M on "The Chronicles of Narnia" and "King Kong." This month’s upcoming releases will all have to pitch in solid numbers for the marketplace in the final month of the year to keep up with last year.

Also not shifting its chart position this weekend was the Denzel Washington actioner "Deja Vu" which remained in third place with an estimated $11M. Dropping only 46%, the Buena Vista release watched its cume climb to $44.1M after 12 days. The time-shifting thriller may go on to capture $75-80M.

New Line’s Biblical drama "The Nativity Story" debuted in fourth place with an estimated $8M from a wide release in 3,183 theaters. Averaging only $2,521 per venue, the PG-rated film was expected to reach double digit millions given its 3,000-plus theater launch just weeks before Christmas. The flashier family blockbuster "Happy Feet" may have proven to be too strong of a competitor despite doing $104M in business before "Nativity" even opened.

The Christmas comedy "Deck the Halls" followed with an estimated $6.7M dropping 45% in its second weekend. Fox has stuffed $25M into its stocking after 12 days and could be headed for a mediocre $40-45M final. Another holiday comedy, "The Santa Clause 3," was right behind with an estimated $5M, off 50%, pushing the total for Disney to $73.2M. In seventh was the raunchy pic "Borat" which fell 53% to an estimated $4.8M giving Fox a stellar cume of $116.3M.

The horror pic "Turistas" bowed in eighth place with an estimated $3.5M from 1,570 locations for an average of just $2,255 per site. Fox’s R-rated thriller about American tourists attacked while on vacation in Brazil played to the expected audience of older teens and young adults.

Sony’s comedy "Stranger Than Fiction" followed with an estimated $3.4M, down 41%, for a cume to date of $36.9M. The Will Ferrell pic’s weekend take included grosses from the studio’s Saturday evening sneak previews of its upcoming Cameron DiazKate Winslet pic "The Holiday" which ran at 75% capacity nationwide. The romantic comedy officially opens on Friday against three other new wide openers.

Rounding out the top ten was the new college comedy "Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj" which opened with an estimated $2.3M from 1,979 theaters for an average of only $1,160. The MGM sequel performed much like a pair of recent R-rated comedies aimed at young males — "Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny" and "Let’s Go to Prison" — which debuted with just $3.2M and $2.2M respectively.

Three films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. The DreamWorks animated film "Flushed Away" released by Paramount tumbled 61% to an estimated $2.3M in its fifth weekend and raised its total to $60.1M. Look for a $65M final.

MGM’s political drama "Bobby" fell a steep 59% in its second weekend of national play. The Emilio Estevez pic grossed an estimated $2M lifting the sum to only $9.2M and should end with a weak $12-14M. The Warner Bros. sci-fi romance "The Fountain" dropped 57% in its sophomore frame to an estimated $1.6M giving the studio a puny $8.1M in 12 days. A $11-12M final seems likely.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $76.9M which was up 5% from last year when "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" remained at number one with $19.9M; and up 2% from 2004 when "National Treasure" stayed in the top spot with $17M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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