'Apocalypto' lays to ruins all boxoffice newcomers

Holdover 'Happy Feet' holds off 'Holiday'

"Apocalypto," the ultra-violent story of the demise of the Mayan civilization, outgrossed three other new releases and won the weekend at the North American boxoffice with a $15 million bow.

The R-rated film from director Mel Gibson proved that curiosity rules all, as more moviegoers chose to turn out for the Buena Vista-released film rather than attend the Warner Bros. Pictures bow of "Blood Diamond," Sony Pictures' romantic comedy "The Holiday" or Warners' kid flick "Unaccompanied Minors." In fact, the No. 2 film of the weekend turned out to be the fourth-week holdover "Happy Feet" from Warner Bros. The dancing-penguin movie, which has now grossed close to $138 million, beat the Nancy Meyers film "The Holiday" by $125,000, earning $12.9 million vs. "Holiday's" $12.78 million. "Blood Diamond" was the true disappointment, with the $100 million-budgeted film grossing only $8.6 million, earning fifth place in the boxoffice rankings.

Not only did Gibson's anti-Semitic rant earlier this year not hurt "Apocalypto's" opening number, the accompanying swirl of publicity may actually have helped. According to online pollster CinemaScore, Gibson was a big reason people came to see his film. Overall, audiences liked the film, giving it a grade of B+. The majority of the audience was over 25, and while men were the dominant moviegoer, 39% of the audience were women.

Ironically, "Blood Diamond" was even better received by audiences. The Ed Zwick-directed film generated an A- among CinemaScore audiences, which helps prove the point that while "Diamond" is a well-liked film, an action drama set in South Africa doesn't feel all that fresh. The R-rated drama, which features its share of violence, had an audience more closely split between men and women than "Apocalypto." "Diamond's" audience was older too, with 84% over 25. Audiences were lured to the film for its subject matter, which deals with conflicts surrounding the mining of diamonds in Sierra Leone, and for star Leonardo DiCaprio.

"Holiday" also was more positively reviewed than "Apocalypto" by audiences. Similar to "Diamond," "Holiday," starring Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law and Jack Black, received an A- from CinemaScore. The PG-13-rated film was, as expected, strongly attended by women, primarily those over 25. The film is likely to stick around for the holiday season, as most of Meyers' comedies do, with hopes that it will hit the $100 million mark.

"Unaccompanied Minors" also bowed lower than expected. The PG-rated film based on an "American Life" segment on National Public Radio opened in seventh place to $5.8 million. The Paul Feig-directed film, about a bunch of kids stranded at an airport on Christmas Eve, was well-received overall, earning a B+ from moviegoers. The audience again was dominated by women, most likely mothers of kids clamoring to see the film. Fifty-three percent of the audience was under 18.

New Line's "The Nativity Story" held up well its second weekend in release. The story of the birth of Jesus dropped 27%, earning an additional $5.7 million. After 10 days in theaters, the PG-rated film from director Catherine Hardwicke has grossed close to $16 million.

The second weekend of Fox Atomic's "Touristas" was not as kind. The R-rated horror film, the debut release for Atomic, dropped a steep 60%, grossing $1.4 million for a 10-day cume of $5.9 million.

In limited release, Thinkfilm opened "Off the Black" in two theaters in New York and Los Angeles. The R-rated drama grossed $6,763 for a per-screen average of $3,382.