There was no stopping the runaway smash comedy Night at the Museum which North American audiences picked as their favorite film for the third straight weekend. New releases were met with varying levels of success. Both the futuristic saga Children of Men and the high school drama Freedom Writers earned high marks while playing in moderate national play. However, the animated film Happily N’Ever After and the action-comedy Code Name: The Cleaner were both met with soft openings.
Overall, the first weekend of 2007 was solid and holdovers displayed considerable strength as audiences continued to find time to see all the interesting films in the marketplace. A remarkable 14 movies collected weekend sales of $4M or more giving the box office great breadth.
The Ben Stiller comedy Night at the Museum easily topped the charts over the weekend with an estimated $24M in its third weekend of play boosting its cume to a stellar $164.1M. Down only 35% from the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the New Year’s holiday frame, the Fox blockbuster matched the comedian’s hit Meet the Fockers from two years ago which also topped the charts over the same three weekends. With its lucrative start and impressive holding power, Museum should be able to zoom past the $200M mark domestically.
Will Smith’s The Pursuit of Happyness also stayed put for the third straight weekend taking the number two spot again with an estimated $13M. The Sony hit enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten slipping only 33% and pushed its cume to $124.2M. Pursuit could be headed for $160M or more.
Adult audiences responded to Alfonso Cuaron’s futuristic drama Children of Men which expanded nationally in its second weekend and took third place with an estimated $10.3M. The critically acclaimed Universal release averaged a sturdy $8,515 from 1,209 theaters and has collected $11.9M since its limited opening a week earlier.
Hilary Swank saw impressive results for her school teacher drama Freedom Writers which debuted in fourth place with an estimated $9.7M from only 1,360 theaters. Averaging a strong $7,136 per location, the PG-13 film from Paramount and MTV Films connected with a young and multicultural audience. According to studio data, 62% of the audience was under the age of 21 and 50% were non-white. The road ahead for Freedom looks promising as the film scored an exceptionally high A grade from CinemaScore and 93% of those polled would definitely recommend it. Paramount will widen the picture on Friday into 700 more theaters for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. school holiday weekend.
The studio’s hit musical Dreamgirls followed in fifth place with an estimated $8.8M in its second full weekend of wide release, off 37%. The Jamie Foxx-Beyonce Knowles pic upped its total to $54.5M and continues to post the best average in the top ten with a stellar $10,358 from 852 sites. Paramount will add about 1,000 more theaters on Friday.
Family audiences were not too charmed by the new animated offering Happily N’Ever After which opened in sixth place with just $6.8M, according to estimates. The PG-rated fairy tale satire averaged a lukewarm $2,856 from 2,381 locations for Lionsgate and could not compete with Night at the Museum which continued to dominate the family crowd.
Competing kidpic Charlotte’s Web followed closely with an estimated $6.6M for Paramount, down 43%, pushing the cume to $67M. Universal’s CIA thriller The Good Shepherd ranked eighth with an estimated $6.5M, off 41%, for a mediocre $48.4M sum.
Rocky Balboa punched up an estimated $6.3M for MGM dropping 41% and raised its cume to an impressive $60.9M. Rounding out the top ten was another sports drama, the football saga We Are Marshall, which fell 37% to an estimated $5.1M giving Warner Bros. an underwhelming $35.4M to date.
Debuting poorly in eleventh place was the action-comedy Code Name: The Cleaner which bowed to an estimated $4.6M from 1,736 for a messy $2,650 average. The New Line release stars Cedric the Entertainer and Lucy Liu.
Three films fell from the top ten but still generated weekend grosses of $4M or more. The fantasy adventure Eragon took in an estimated $4.6M, down 44%, for a $66.8M total to date. Tied with $4M a piece were the Cameron Diaz comedy The Holiday and the penguin toon Happy Feet. Sony’s holiday comedy fell 41% and upped its sum to $59M while the animated smash dropped 48% lifting its cume to $185.4M.
Several arthouse films in limited release expanded over the weekend. Fox Searchlight’s Judi Dench pic Notes on a Scandal expanded from 22 to 93 theaters and grossed an estimated $1.1M for a potent $11,828 average. The film widens to over 200 sites on Friday and then into over 600 playdates on January 26. Cume is $2M. Paramount’s Perfume was not as successful in its expansion going from three to 280 sites grossing an estimated $551,000 for a weak $1,968 average. Total to date stands at $649,000.
Warner Independent went from 37 to 72 theaters for its period drama The Painted Veil and grossed an estimated $480,000. Averaging a solid $6,667, the pic has taken in $1.2M to date and will expand to 200 runs on Friday. MGM’s Miss Potter continues to attract mediocre numbers grossing an estimated $123,000 from 26 playdates for a mild $4,731 average. Cume is $140,555 for the Renee Zellweger film.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $97.2M which was off 1% from last year when Hostel opened at number one with $19.6M; and up 4% from 2005 when Meet the Fockers remained on top in its third weekend with $28.5M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com