Box Office Guru Wrapup: Four Christmases has a lot to be thankful for this weekend

Bolt up to second; Twilight losing its bite at third

by Gitesh Pandya | Sunday, Nov. 30 2008

A trio of new releases and a hearty menu of popular holdovers made for a robust Thanksgiving weekend at the North American box office. The holiday comedy Four Christmases led the way with a stellar number one opening while sophomores Bolt and Twilight were in a virtual tie for second place with nearly identical grosses. The top ten films grossed $154M - the best tally for the turkey holiday in eight years.

Superstars Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon contributed their producing and acting talents to Four Christmases and were rewarded with a potent debut grossing an estimated $31.7M over the Friday-to-Sunday period and a fantastic $46.7M over five days since opening on Wednesday. The New Line pic was distributed by Warner Bros. and averaged a stellar $9,571 from 3,310 sites over the three-day period. The PG-13 film about a couple that must attend yuletide events at the homes of each of their divorced parents was just the type of comedic entertainment that moviegoers were in the mood for during the long holiday weekend. Ticket buyers ignored the bad reviews and instead responded to the starpower, the unique premise, and the comedy. Look for both actors to add another $100M blockbuster to their resumes in the coming weeks.

Jumping up one notch from last weekend, Disney's animated flick Bolt posted a slight uptick in ticket sales for a solid holiday performance. The PG-rated toon grossed an estimated $26.6M inching up 1% from its $26.2M bow last week. Though the canine star opened weaker than expected, it made up for that shortfall by generating a sensational second weekend take. After ten days, Bolt has grossed $66.9M. The studio is hoping that it will continue to see strong legs since there will be no new kidpics released over the next two weekends.

Last weekend's top film Twilight experienced a hefty decline as expected and ranked third with an estimated $26.4M. Falling 62%, the Summit release has now banked a stellar $119.7M which is quite an impressive sum for a no-star film budgeted at only $37M. The PG-13 film averaged a sturdy $7,699 from 3,425 locations.

James Bond was still a popular draw for movie fans over the holiday weekend with Quantum of Solace dropping only 27% to an estimated $19.5M. That put Sony's domestic total at a robust $142.1M after 17 days which is 23% ahead of Casino Royale at the same point in its run and 18% ahead of 2002's Die Another Day. The overseas total for Quantum vaulted to $340.1M lifting the global haul to a stunning $482.2M.

Fox's big-budget historical epic Australia debuted with an estimated $14.8M over three days and $20M across five days. The Hugh Jackman-Nicole Kidman film opened in 2,642 locations and averaged a respectable $5,607. But given the cost of the massive production (the studio kicked in $78M of the $130M budget) the Baz Luhrmann-directed film will need strong legs and spectacular international grosses in order to break even. According to studio research, 65% of the audience was over 25 while 52% was female. Competition for adult audiences was fierce over the holiday weekend with many choosing to spend their dollars on Four Christmases and Quantum of Solace while young women were still distracted by Twilight. Reviews were mixed for Australia and the running time of 165 minutes meant fewer showtimes per day.

Paramount ranked sixth with its toon entry Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa which slipped only 7% to an estimated $14.5M boosting the overall cume to $159.5M. The sequel's final domestic haul looks like it will end up a bit below the $193.2M of its 2005 predecessor.

Delivering a seventh-place debut was Jason Statham's action sequel Transporter 3 which grossed an estimated $12.3M over the weekend and $18.5M over the extended holiday period. The franchise showed signs of age as the five-day bow failed to match the $20.5M four-day debut of Transporter 2 which launched over the slower Labor Day holiday frame. The third chapter in the series played in 2,626 locations and averaged a decent $4,695 over the Friday-to-Sunday span. Fox released the first two pics in the franchise while Lionsgate distributed this new chapter.

Universal's hit comedy Role Models dropped by 28% to an estimated $5.3M giving the Seann William Scott-Paul Rudd pic a solid $57.9M to date.

Specialty films filled up the next three positions on the charts. The Holocaust drama The Boy in the Striped Pajamas expanded again from 406 to 582 locations and grossed an estimated $1.7M this weekend. The Miramax release averaged a mild $2,904 but raised its sum to $5.2M.

Sean Penn's highly praised performance in the Focus Features release Milk helped to deliver the weekend's best average thanks to an estimated $1.38M from only 36 theaters. Averaging a sizzling $38,361, the R-rated film about the first openly gay elected official in America won rave reviews from critics and has generated Oscar buzz for Penn who hopes to score his fourth Best Actor nod from the Academy this decade and fifth overall. The Gus Van Sant-directed film's five-day total since opening on Wednesday is $1.9M. On Friday, Milk will expand to nearly 100 theaters and will add more runs on December 12.

Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire continued its impressive limited run widening from 32 to 49 theaters for a weekend gross of $1.37M, according to estimates, putting it a hair behind in eleventh place. Cume is now $3.6M. The Fox Searchlight title averaged a potent $27,898 and will add more theaters each week in December.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $154.1M which was up 10% from last year's Thanksgiving frame when Enchanted opened in the top spot with $34.4M over three days; and up 10% from 2006's holiday when Happy Feet remained at number one with $37M in its second weekend.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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