Box Office Guru Wrapup: National Treasure Uncovers Holiday Gold at #1 Spot

While Walk stumbles Hard.

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Nicolas Cage's latest action adventure film National Treasure: Book of Secrets claimed the number one spot at the North American box office during what was a red hot session at the multiplexes. Along with the powerful sophomore holdovers I Am Legend and Alvin and the Chipmunks, the awesome threesome accounted for two-thirds of all business in the marketplace. Four new releases aimed at adult audiences debuted to mixed results over the final shopping weekend before Christmas. The top ten flirted with the $150M mark for the second consecutive weekend as the box office showed incredible strength in the final days of the year.

Cage posted one of the best openings of his career with National Treasure: Book of Secrets which debuted on top with an estimated $45.5M from an aggressive launch in 3,832 theaters. The Disney sequel averaged a stellar $11,874 which was almost identical to the first weekend average of $11,648 for its predecessor National Treasure which opened in November 2004 with $35.1M from 3,017 playdates. That film went on to gross $173M domestically and $347M worldwide. Book of Secrets hopes to exceed both totals by the end of its run giving the studio another lucrative franchise. Cage's previous best bow was $45.4M for last February's Ghost Rider so if estimates hold, Secrets will eke out a new career high for the actor.

With its PG rating, Book of Secrets played to a broad audience. Studio research showed that the action pic's crowd was 54% male while those over the age of 25 accounted for 55%. With so many R-rated and adult-skewing films in the current marketplace, Treasure was one of the only pics that people of all ages could go and see together. Reviews were mostly negative for the sequel.

Following its record-breaking number one launch last weekend, Will Smith's sci-fi blockbuster I Am Legend dropped to second place with an estimated $34.2M losing an understandable 56% of its audience. The Warner Bros. smash has taken in a stunning $137.5M in only ten days and could shoot past the $200M mark after the holidays giving Smith his fourth trip past the double-century mark. Overseas, Legend opened at number one in seven new countries collecting an estimated $25.3M from all 15 territories. That boosted the international sum to $54.3M and the global tally to a spectacular $192M with many more major markets like Germany, Australia, and the United Kingdom still to come.

Alvin and the Chipmunks scored a terrific second weekend dropping only 35% to an estimated $29M for a potent ten-day cume of $84.9M. With few other options for young kids, the PG-rated comedy faced little direct competition and should continue to attract large amounts of families for the rest of the year. Alvin should be able to blast past the $150M mark and could even go much higher.

Far back in fourth place was the Tom Hanks-Julia Roberts entry Charlie Wilson's War which led all other new releases this weekend with an estimated $9.6M. Playing in 2,575 theaters, the R-rated pic averaged a mediocre $3,736 per venue. Universal is hoping that this older-skewing film will find its audience in the long run over the holidays and into January. Charlie nabbed five Golden Globe nominations, the second most of any film after Atonement's seven, and cost $75M to produce. Reviews were generally positive. Studio research showed that 52% of the audience was female, 88% was Caucasian, and 80% was over the age of 30.