B.O. thanks to 'Feet,' 'Casino'

Take top two spots for second week in a row

Warner Bros. Pictures' "Happy Feet" and Sony Pictures' "Casino Royale" held up remarkably well over the five-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend, taking the top two spots for the second consecutive frame with impressive estimated takes of $51.6 million and $45.1 million, respectively. Meanwhile, Denzel Washington did his job opening another movie above the $20 million mark, with his Buena Vista Pictures actioner "Deja Vu" grossing an estimated $20.8 million over the three-day portion of the weekend and $29 million for the five days.

Still, the Thanksgiving frame at the North American boxoffice was down compared with last year at this time as even the strongest of this year's performers couldn't compete with "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," which reaped $81.2 million a year ago.

The five-day holiday frame this Thanksgiving earned an estimated $208 million for the top 12 films, a 3% drop-off compared with last year's take of $215.4 million.

Regency Enterprises fielded two films that didn't perform as well as expected: 20th Century Fox's release of Regency's "Deck the Halls" bowed to a relatively weak $16.9 million for the five days, while Warners' release of its Regency co-production "The Fountain" battled with New Line Cinema's "Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny" for the 10th spot in the boxoffice derby.

According to estimates, "Fountain" beat out "Tenacious D" for the three-day period. "Fountain," featuring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz, grossed $3.72 million, while "Tenacious D," starring Jack Black and bandmate Kyle Gass, earned an estimated $3.27 million.

MGM's release of the Weinstein Co.'s "Bobby" earned the ninth-place spot in its second-week expansion, but its five-day take of $6 million was not what the companies were hoping for.

George Miller's long odyssey making "Happy Feet" seems to have paid off, with the full holiday frame increasing the CG-animated penguin movie's 10-day gross to $100 million. With no other major animated movies set to enter the marketplace, the PG-rated "Happy Feet" is likely to play strong through the remainder of the year.

"Our outstanding performance is due to our ability to draw in both families and adults unaccompanied by kids," Warners distribution president Dan Fellman said. "We're spreading out a little bit. Last weekend, the picture skewed 60/40 female, and this weekend we are evening out."

"Casino," a co-production between Columbia Pictures and MGM, also is proving its strength. The latest incarnation of James Bond has grossed an estimated $94.2 million in its 10 days in theaters.

"Audiences have so embraced this Bond, both star Daniel Craig and the movie itself," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said. "It bodes well for our future. With $215 million earned worldwide, ('Casino') looms to be the biggest Bond ever. We couldn't be happier with its success."

And then there is Washington. The actor has opened seven movies to more than $20 million throughout his career, and this weekend was no exception. "Deja Vu," from director Tony Scott, reaped $29 million for the five-day frame for a per-theater average of $9,340. According to Buena Vista, the film, co-starring Jim Caviezel and Val Kilmer, has scored strong with audiences, earning an A- from CinemaScore.

Buena Vista distribution president Chuck Viane said that "Deja Vu" dropped 2% on Saturday while the other top releases fell 9%-11%. "Everybody here is thrilled," he said.

"Deck the Halls" opened a little softer then expected. The holiday-themed comedy starring Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito opened to an estimated $16.9 million for the five days, for a per-screen average of $5,267. Although certain elements of the story line about two neighbors competing for the best decorated house might have felt a bit recycled, the film from director John Whitesell played more to moms and young girls then Fox expected.

"I really thought there was a little more male side to this movie," Fox distribution president Bruce Snyder said. "I thought it would have been more balanced."

"Bobby," from director Emilio Estevez, earned $6 million during the five-day frame for a per-theater average of $3,645. The R-rated film, which expanded wide Thursday -- a day later then most because Wednesday was the anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy -- has grossed $6.1 million in its 10-day run.

"We didn't open 'Bobby' on Wednesday out of respect for the anniversary of JFK's assassination," Weinstein Co. co-head Harvey Weinstein said. "It seems our key and core audience didn't find the film until Saturday, when we had the strongest hold of any major movie."

The film reached primarily older females, and the distributors are hoping strong word-of-mouth will allow the film to play through the holidays.

"We're a little disappointed with this gross. We were hoping to do better," MGM distribution president Clark Woods said. "But there is a lot of film in this marketplace, a lot of film dedicated to the older female audience."

Darren Aronofsky's "Fountain" did best in the major markets, where fans of the director queued up to see his latest work. But that enthusiasm didn't expand to the rest of the country, though Warners is hopeful that new audiences will find the film over the course of the holiday season.

Fellman said that the company chose to open the film wide because it felt there was an opportunity to expand interest by broadening it out for the holiday. "We believe it will continue to play well in the bigger markets, and we hope to gain more attention in the smaller ones," he said.

In limited release, Fox Searchlight's "The History Boys" opened at six theaters Tuesday and added an additional theater Friday in Canada. The film's five-day total reached $132,559 for a per-screen average of $19,695; its cume is $142,299. The film, despite mixed reviews, played strongest in New York, where the play on which the film is based was a Broadway hit and won multiple Tonys. The studio intends to expand the film to four more markets Dec. 8, nine additional markets Dec. 15 and everywhere by Dec. 22.

Paramount Vantage's "Babel" earned $2.6 million over the five-day period in its fifth weekend in release. The Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu-directed drama has earned $15 million overall.

Sony Pictures Classics' "Volver" also is continuing its run. In its fourth weekend, the Pedro Almodovar-directed film starring Penelope Cruz earned an additional $628,438 on 30 screens for a per-screen average of $20,948. The film's cume is $1.3 million.

Warner Independent Pictures expanded its run of "For Your Consideration" to 623 screens during the weekend. The Christopher Guest-directed comedy earned an additional $2.7 million for a per-theater average of $4,273. Its cume is $3.1 million.

For the week ending Nov. 23, total boxoffice amounted to $244.8 million, down nearly 15% from the $287.8 million earned in the same period a year ago. The year-to-date boxoffice is $8.19 billion, up nearly 6% from last year's $7.73 billion. Admissions are up 4%.
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