Frisky 'Marley' hangs on to top spot

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Fox's neurotic-canine comedy "Marley & Me" proved sufficiently dogged amid tough holiday competition to repeat atop the domestic boxoffice during the weekend with an estimated $24.1 million.

The Owen Wilson-Jennifer Aniston starrer dropped a modest 34% in its second session as its 11-day cume reached $106.5 million. The studio's double-dip of boxoffice glory through the holidays helped turn frowns upside down at Fox after a largely difficult year theatrically.

"We ended the year No. 1, and we start the year at No. 1," Fox senior vp distribution Bert Livingston said. "It's terrific."

Elsewhere among the frame's top finishers, Disney's Adam Sandler family fantasy "Bedtime Stories" slid a skimpy 26% from its opening weekend to register $20.3 million in second place, with an $85.4 million cume. Paramount's epic-length adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, was third with $18.4 million, as a smallish 31% dip from last frame's tally led to a $79 million cume since the film's Christmas bow.

MGM's Tom Cruise starrer "Valkyrie" slid just 33% to $14 million to grab fourth place over its sophomore session and shape a $60.7 million cume. Miramax's drama "Doubt," starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep, fell only 6% to $5 million in its second weekend of wide release, fetching eighth place and an $18.7 million cume through four frames of limited and wide distribution.

Fox Searchlight's drama "Slumdog Millionaire" shed two playdates for a total of 612 in grossing $4.8 million in 10th place, lifting its cume to $28.8 million. Lionsgate's comic-book adaptation "The Spirit" departed the top 10 on a 49% sophomore-session decline to $3.3 million and a $14.5 million cume.

Industrywide, the weekend's $151 million in collective grosses represented a 19% decline from the last frame of the 2007 boxoffice year, according to data service Nielsen EDI. The latest frame's performance was hampered by the lack of any wide openers.

In a limited bow, ThinkFilm's Nazi drama "Good," starring Viggo Mortensen, grossed $9,600 from single sites in New York and Los Angeles, or an acceptable $4,650 per location, with a $12,500 cume since unspooling Wednesday.

Elsewhere in the busy year-end specialty market, Paramount Vantage's literary adaptation "Revolutionary Road," starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, added 35 theaters for a total of 38 and grossed $979,000, or an impressive $25,763 per venue. The "Road" cume reached $1.4 million.

The Weinstein Co.'s Winslet starrer "The Reader" added 282 playdates for a total of 398 and grossed $1.6 million, or a sturdy $4,070 per engagement, with a $3.6 million cume.

Sony Pictures Classics' animated feature "Waltz With Bashir" held its five playdates and grossed $54,374, or an encouraging $10,875 per engagement, with a cume of $160,064. The National Society of Film Critics named "Bashir" the best film of the year on Saturday.

Universal's political drama "Frost/Nixon" held in 205 locations and grossed $1.4 million, or a solid $7,030 per site, with a $6.3 million cume. The studio finished calendar 2008 with its biggest-ever boxoffice tally of $2.83 billion in worldwide coin.

Warner Bros. held in 84 theaters for Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino," which cruised to $2.8 million, or a turbocharged $33,574 per engagement. "Torino" tows a $9.7 million cume ahead of a scheduled wide expansion into 2,700 venues Friday, with execs particularly stoked by its strong grosses from several suburban markets.

Overture's romantic drama "Last Chance Harvey" held in six locations and grossed $107,000, or an auspicious $17,833 per site, with a $355,741 cume.

Fox Searchlight's Mickey Rourke starrer "The Wrestler" held in 18 theaters and grossed $431,884, or an impressive $23,994 per venue, with a $1.8 million cume.

Focus Features' Harvey Milk biopic "Milk" shed two engagements for a total of 309 and grossed $1.9 million, or a sturdy $6,020 per location, with a $17.1 million cume.

And IFC Films got in some last licks with a pair of New York exclusives for its full-length version of "Che," grossing $35,556, or $17,778 per venue. Cume hit $214,522 in advance of the Ernesto "Che" Guevara biopic splitting into two parts — "The Argentine" and "Guerrilla" — starting Friday in select theaters in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The coming weekend marks the first frame of the 2009 boxoffice year, and the session will boast three wide openers: Fox's romantic comedy "Bride Wars," Sony's faith-themed drama "Not Easily Broken" and Universal's supernatural thriller "The Unborn." (partialdiff)
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