Holly jolly haul for 'Treasure'

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Disney's action sequel "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" booked a lucrative place at the top of the domestic boxoffice, opening with an estimated $65 million during the five-day yuletide frame.

The Will Smith-toplined horror film "I Am Legend" from Warner Bros./Village Roadshow finished second despite a 57% drop from its opening weekend, with its $47.5 million holiday haul wrapping a 12-day bounty of $150.8 million.

Fox declined to provide a five-day estimate for its live-action with animation comedy "Alvin and the Chipmunks," which held third place during the holiday weekend on a modest 36% drop from its first frame and a four-day tally of $32.8 million. "Alvin" toted a $88.7 million cume into Tuesday.

Universal's Tom Hanks-Julia Roberts starrer "Charlie Wilson's War" opened sturdily with $14.8 million in fourth place, while DreamWorks/Paramount's Tim Burton musical "Sweeney Todd" bowed roughly as expected with $12.8 million in fifth.

Warners/Alcon Entertainment romancer "P.S. I Love You" wooed $9.1 million in an acceptable sixth-place start. But Sony's music biopic spoof "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" debuted softly with just $5.8 million in eighth.

In a limited bow reflecting relatively thin art-film business during the holiday frame, Sony Pictures Classics unspooled extreme-skiing documentary "Steep" in 17 locations and grossed $30,689, or $1,805 per site. SPC's Francis Ford Coppola drama "Youth Without Youth" added 12 engagements for a total of 18 and grossed $40,090, or $2,227 per playdate with a cume of $84,436.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, Miramax's Coen brothers adventure "No Country for Old Men" rung up $2.6 million from 1,222 theaters, or $2,127 per venue with a $37.6 million cume.

Paramount Vantage's release of DreamWorks' Afghan drama "The Kite Runner" grossed $1.8 million from 377 runs, or $4,774 per location with a $2.5 million cume.

Vantage's "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" fetched $200,000 from 28 playdates, or a solid $7,143 per engagement with a $494,000 cume.

"Secrets" — in which Nicolas Cage reprises his role as treasure hunter Benjamin Franklin Gates — was again directed by Jon Turteltaub and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Turteltaub.

"There's a new Saint Nic in town," Disney distribution president Chuck Viane said. "This was a fantastic opening."

Viane said he couldn't say for sure if there would be another sequel. "I'm hoping that everybody involved would like to do it, because it's been the crowd pleaser of crowd pleasers," he added.

"Secrets" socked away $45.1 million during the weekend before extending its impressive bow atop the holiday frame. The franchise original, which debuted in November 2004, grossed $35.1 million during its first weekend.

Audiences for the sequel, which details a mystery involving a missing piece of John Wilkes Booth's diary, drew broadly across all demographics, executives said.

"Charlie Wilson's War" saw the topliners take a fraction of their usual salaries to get the Mike Nichols-helmed literary adaptation produced. Co-financed by Relativity Media and Participation Pictures, the true-life tale details the remarkable exploits of a Texas congressman and an activist socialite who orchestrated a CIA-facilitated ousting of the Russians from Afghanistan.

Patrons 30 years of age and older dominated "Charlie" audiences, which skewed 52% female.

"We're very, very, very pleased," Universal marketing and distribution president Adam Fogelson said. "We believed there was room in the market for a sophisticated, commercial, adult film, and we also believed that word-of-mouth was going to be an important part of the overall success of the film."

Based on solid opening grosses and positive exit-survey responses from patrons, "We have every reason to believe that word-of-mouth is going to carry us through the season," Fogelson added.

"Sweeney Todd," an R-rated adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical starring Johnny Depp, skewed slightly male with 65% of patrons 25 and older.

"We're off to a great start," DreamWorks spokesman Chip Sullivan said.

"P.S. I Love You," directed by Richard LaGravenese ("Freedom Writers"), was based on a novel of the same name and played to audiences skewing heavily female. The film was financed and produced by Alcon.

"We're happy with the performance," Warners exec vp distribution Jeff Goldstein said. "Now that women are available for leisure-time activity, the film will do strong business."

"Walk Hard" — directed by Jake Kasdan ("Zero Effect") and produced by Judd Apatow and Kasdan — drew mostly male and younger moviegoers.

"We're disappointed," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said of the film's bow. "We hoped for more. It's a picture that everybody loved and worked very hard on."

Three more films opened Tuesday, so a whopping eight new movies will do battle through New Year's Day as a busy holiday session — and largely positive 2007 — winds to a close.

Fox's action sequel "Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem" looks to be the monster among the Christmas Day entrants, with industryites expecting it to ring up more than $35 million through Sunday and a bit more through New Year's.

MGM/Weinstein's Denzel Washington drama "The Great Debaters" also is expected to do well. And Sony/Revolution/ Walden family fantasy "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep" will be looking to pick up any family business left over from Fox's leggy "Alvin."

There are no wide openers set for Friday, but several expansions are scheduled for high-profile limited releases, further complicating competition for adult moviegoers. And yet another prestige title gets an exclusive bow today, as Paramount Vantage's Daniel Day-Lewis starrer "There Will Be Blood" nails down its awards-consideration eligibility.

Industrywide, the busy Christmas releasing period should further bolster the year's performance as measured against 2006's boxoffice. Through Dec. 16, '07 was up 4.9% compared with the same period of last year, according to Nielsen EDI data.
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