'Bucket' drops in at No. 1


"I Am Legend" tops international boxoffice again. Story on page 4.

The old boys can still bring it on.

Warner Bros.' Jack Nicholson-Morgan Freeman starrer "The Bucket List" finished atop the domestic boxoffice in its first weekend in wide release, grossing an estimated $19.5 million.

An offbeat comedy involving the tale of two terminally ill patients, "Bucket" beat back a tough challenge from Sony/Screen Gems' urban comedy "First Sunday," with the Ice Cube starrer bowing in second place with $19 million. Fox Searchlight's "Juno," another quirky but more youth-oriented comedy, finished third with $14 million to shape a $71.3 million cume.

"Bucket" led a brigade of four Warners films in the weekend top 10.

The studio's Will Smith starrer "I Am Legend" rung up another $8.1 million in sixth place to move its five-week cume to $240.2 million, while its horror film "One Missed Call" placed seventh with a 51% drop in its second frame, yielding $6.1 million and a $20.6 million cume. Warners' Hilary Swank-Gerard Butler romance "P.S. I Love You" grossed $5 million in eighth place for a four-week cume of $47 million.

Another wide opener during the weekend — Universal's "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie," an animated feature from Big Idea Prods. — found $4.4 million in boxoffice booty to capture ninth place. But Freestyle's medieval Jason Statham starrer "In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale" fetched just $3.3 million to bow well outside of the top 10.

Industrywide, the weekend marked a 1% uptick over the same frame last year with $129 million in collective grosses, according to Nielsen EDI. But in a year-to-date comparison, 2008 is off 7% from the same portion of 2007.

Elsewhere during the weekend, Focus/Working Title's "Atonement" added 367 playdates for a total of 950 and grossed $4.3 million in 10th place. That stretched the cume for the Keira Knightley-James McAvoy starrer to $25.2 million, with the weekend's $4,526 per-theater average representing a sturdy foundation for coming frames.

Picturehouse broadened its Spanish-language horror film "The Orphanage" by 641 engagements for a total of 707, grossing $2 million, or $2,891 per playdate, with a $3.2 million cume. Citing good strength in key theaters, Picturehouse topper Bob Berney said "Orphanage" will adopt 100 more venues Friday.

The Miramax-distributed thriller "No Country for Old Men" grossed $1.3 million to bring its cume to $46.8 million. The Miramax/Paramount Vantage co-production now ranks as the Coen brothers' highest-grossing film, surpassing 2000's "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" which rung up $45.5 million domestically.

The Par Vantage-distributed "There Will Be Blood," a co-production with Miramax, added 78 theaters for a total of 129 and grossed $1.9 million. The Daniel Day-Lewis starrer saw an impressive $15,039 per venue and moved its cume to $4.4 million.

Par Vantage's "The Kite Runner," a co-production with DreamWorks, added 335 locations for a total of 715 and grossed $1.7 million, or a wispy $2,337 per site, with an $11 million cume.

Miramax's drama "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" added 18 playdates for the weekend for a total of 75, grossing $375,000. That represented a solid $5,000 per engagement and moved its cume to almost $2 million.

Sony Pictures Classics' Iran-themed animated feature "Persepolis" added nine theaters for a total of 18 and grossed $194,878, or a notable $10,827 per venue, with a $548,229 cume.

ThinkFilm unspooled "Nanking," a documentary about war atrocities, in two San Francisco theaters and one in Los Angeles, grossing $18,660, or a solid $6,220 per venue. The engagements follow earlier Academy-qualifying runs in New York. "Nanking" now packs a $44,774 cume.

ThinkFilm's Sidney Lumet-helmed "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" added three playdates for a total of 95 and grossed $95,231, or a wobbly $1,002 per engagement, with a $6.8 million cume.

Produced for an estimated $42 million, "Bucket" drew audiences comprising 75% of patrons 35 and older, with females representing 58% of patrons.

The weekend performance represented helmer Rob Reiner's best for a first session in wide release, beating the $15.5 million bow for his "A Few Good Men" in 1992.

"It outperformed all expectations," Warners distribution president Dan Fellman said.

About 95% of exit-poll respondents rated the picture "excellent" or "very good," Fellman said.

The "Bucket" cume reached almost $21 million after two sessions in limited release.

Toting an estimated budget of just $20 million, "Sunday" saw solid support from black audiences during its opening frame, but Sony execs expect continued crossover into broader audiences in coming weeks. About 54% of "Sunday" patrons were females.

"It's a film that really did play to everyone and is going to be around for a while," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said.

"Juno" today is expected to become Searchlight's highest-grossing release, outdistancing 2004's "Sideways," which fetched $71.5 million domestically. But the high-profile, modestly budgeted film is nowhere near played out yet, executives stressed.

"I now feel highly confident it will surpass $100 million," Searchlight distribution president Steve Gilula said.

"Pirates" drew almost exclusively family patrons with young kids in tow, with execs satisfied with the film's opening grosses.

"It's a family title that will work very well in home video," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said.

Freestyle executives said they were disappointed with the soft bow for "Name of the King." But despite its thin per-theater average of $2,002, they indicated cautious optimism that the Uwe Boll-helmed film could find solid footing in weeks ahead.

Looking ahead to the pre-Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, DreamWorks/Paramount plans to add a few hundred playdates for its musical "Sweeney Todd." The Johnny Depp starrer totes a $44.1 million cume after grossing $3.4 million from 1,323 engagements during the weekend.

The frame's highest-profile wide opener will be Fox's "27 Dresses," a potential date-night romantic comedy starring Katherine Heigl and James Marsden that the distributor offered in sneak previews Dec. 27 and again Sunday. Also bowing wide will be Paramount's "Cloverfield," a sci-fi monster thriller sure to see youth-dominated audiences, and Overture's first release "Mad Money," a female-skewing comedy starring Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah and Katie Holmes..

Features tend to enjoy better-than-usual grosses in advance of the MLK holiday the next day, when many schools and offices are closed.