No nudging 'Museum,' 'Happyness' from top spots

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"Night at the Museum" from 20th Century Fox and "The Pursuit of Happyness" from Sony Pictures continued their domination of the North American boxoffice, repeating their one-two reign for the third weekend in a row. But it was Universal Pictures' "Children of Men" that took the boxoffice by surprise. The R-rated dystopian drama, which bowed wide a weekend earlier than initially planned, netted $10.1 million in its first weekend of expansion for an impressive per-screen average of $8,434.

Of the new releases opening in this frame, Paramount Pictures' "Freedom Writers" also benefited from hitting the big screen early. The Hilary Swank starrer earned the studio a strong $9.4 million and a fourth place in the ranking. Lionsgate bowed its first animated film, the PG-rated "Happily N'Ever After," to $6.6 million and a sixth spot in the top 10. Things were not as positive for New Line Cinema, which bowed its PG-13-rated comedy "Code Name: The Cleaner" in the 12th spot with a paltry $4.2 million.

"Museum" scored an additional $23.7 million this past weekend. The PG-rated comedy has grossed an astounding $163.8 million after only three weekends in release. Sony's "Happyness" is also performing well above expectations, earning $12.8 million its fourth weekend in theaters, for a total gross of $124 million.

Overall, the total boxoffice grossed $132.6 million for the first weekend of 2007. It marked a mere .4% uptick from the first weekend in 2006, when Lionsgate bowed "Hostel" to $19 million.

While "Children of Men" from Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron resonated strongly at the boxoffice and has scored mightily with critics, it isn't a resounding success from an audience point of view. According to exit pollster CinemaScore, the film earned a B- from audiences. Attended more strongly by men than women, "Children" was primarily attended by adults over 25 for its subject matter. Lead actor Clive Owen was also a draw.

Meanwhile, "Writers" was a hit with audiences. The PG-13-rated film received an A from CinemaScore, with audiences citing the story line of a young teacher who inspires her multi-ethnic class to believe in themselves. Directed by Richard LaGravenese, the film, attended predominantly by young females, generated a strong per-theater average of $6,915 in 1,360 theaters. It will expand next weekend to more than 2,000 theaters.

New Line's "The Cleaner" from director Les Mayfield received a decent response from audiences. The comedy generated a B score from audiences, which were made up mostly of men over 25. Starring Cedric the Entertainer, Nicollette Sheridan and Lucy Liu, audiences were drawn to "Cleaner" primarily by Cedric, with the comedy genre being the second lure.

Lionsgate's "N'Ever After" from director Paul J. Bolger didn't fare well with audiences, despite a decent gross. The film received a C score from audiences, who attended mostly because it is an animated film. The subject matter of Cinderella having to rescue her kingdom from her wicked stepmother was a secondary lure.

In limited release, there were a number of expansions in the marketplace. Paramount expanded the DreamWorks drama "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" on an additional 277 screens. The film generated $592,488 for a weak per-screen average of $2,116. The film's cume stands at $690,534.

MGM added 24 screens to the Weinstein Co.'s "Miss Potter." The Renee Zellweger starrer earned $121,230 for a per-screen average of $4,663. Its 10-day cume stands at $138,785.

Fox Searchlight upped the screen count for "Notes on a Scandal" by 71. The R-rated British drama earned $1.1 million for a per-screen average of $12,100. Picturehouse added 27 screens to "Pan's Labyrinth's" screen count, bringing its total to 44. The R-rated adult fairy tale earned $763,795 for a per-screen average of $17,359. The film has generated $1.8 million in 10 days of release.
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