Year starts with big bang at boxoffice

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New Year's weekend was very good to Hollywood. The four-day frame gave flight to the already-strong debuts of 20th Century Fox's "Night at the Museum" and Sony Pictures' "The Pursuit of Happyness." It added much-needed oomph to some slagging holdovers, including Paramount Pictures' "Charlotte's Web" and Warner Bros. Pictures' "We Are Marshall." The weekend also allowed the specialty arena to produce two of its first year-end hits with the debut of Picturehouse's "Pan's Labyrinth" and the second weekend of the well-reviewed "Children of Men."

Also, the last weekend of 2006 saw Paramount's release of DreamWorks' "Dreamgirls" become a solidified success.

The frame also helped push the 2006 boxoffice to a 5% gain compared with 2005 as well as a 9% increase compared with the same four-day period last year.

The weekend saw "Museum" and "Happyness" continue their ascent. In its second weekend in release, the Ben Stiller starrer "Night" generated an additional $36.7 million, pushing its two-week cume to $115.8 million. Will Smith's "Happyness" earned $19.3 million, an increase of 30.7%, bringing its three-week cume to the coveted $100 million mark.

Third place belonged to the astronomical first full weekend of "Dreamgirls," which debuted on Christmas Day to $8.7 million. The adaptation of the Broadway play generated a four-day take of $18.3 million, for a per-screen average of $21,578. The film's three-week take totals $41.3 million. According to Cinemascore, the PG-13 musical scored high with all audiences. According to the exit pollster, the Bill Condon-directed film earned a 95% positive score with audiences, made up primarily of women older than 25. Interestingly, the majority of the audience was lured to theaters to see star Beyonce Knowles, followed closely by the urge to see the launch of a 1960s girl singing act. Paramount will expand the film to about 1,800 theaters Jan. 12.

In limited release, "Labyrinth," from director Guillermo del Toro, scored solidly with audiences. Bowing in 17 theaters in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Toronto, the R-rated Spanish-language adult fairy tale earned $779,427 for a per-screen average of $45,849. Universal wasn't far behind with its second week of Alfonso Cuaron's "Children of Men." The R-rated thriller saw its per-screen average jump to $43,936 for a four-day take of $702,982. The film's eight-day take stands at close to $1.3 million. The studio will expand the Clive Owen-Julianne Moore starrer to about 1,200 theaters.

Other holdovers also surged during the holiday frame. All the films in the top 10 grossed significantly more than the previous weekend, with the exception of MGM's "Rocky Balboa," which fell 19% in its second weekend in release. The Sylvester Stallone starrer debuted on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and has $51 million to date.

Children's movies were the biggest performers for the holiday frame, with Paramount's "Web" grossing 51% more than it did Christmas week. The G-rated film, which earned $14.4 million, outgrossed its opening bow. Starring Dakota Fanning, "Web" has grossed $55.8 million in three weeks of release. Warner Bros. Pictures' "Happy Feet" also soared, earning an additional $10 million, bringing its cume to $178 million.

Two other Warners pics benefited from the holiday frame.

"Marshall" garnered an additional $10.4 million to propel its two-week cume to $27.4 million. The studio is hoping strong word-of-mouth will propel the film throughout the slower moviegoing month of January. The same can be said for the Leonardo DiCaprio starrer "Blood Diamond," which surged 42% from last weekend to $6.7 million. While underperforming, the film's cume stands at $37.5 million with hopes for more.

Other limited bows included Paramount's "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer," which earned $55,523 on three screens. The R-rated film's cume stands at $75,893. MGM bowed the Weinstein Co.'s "Miss Potter" to a disappointing $13,205. On two screens, the film earned $6,603 per screen.
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