Old acquaintances not forgotten

'Call' rings in new year as lone wide opener vs. hits, expanders

Despite regular calls from theater owners for a "12-month releasing year," the studios continue to resist unspooling their bigger films over certain periods -- and early January certainly is one of them.

Of course, that's the good news for the bevy of big holiday films. Opened with great fanfare like the much-anticipated Christmas present, these movies now will be watched for signs of becoming the gift that keeps on giving.

In any event, those wide players will have to contend with just one major opener elbowing its way into the mix during the first boxoffice weekend of 2008, with Warner Bros. bowing its Edward Burns-Shannyn Sossamon starrer "One Missed Call" in about 2,240 theaters.

A couple of platforming films also mark important expansions this weekend, as distributors focus on the adult moviegoers who often represent core support for awards-consideration candidates.

Fox Searchlight will continue to broaden its latest little-comedy-that-could, "Juno," adding about 900 theaters for a total of 1,900. Some see "Juno" as this year's "Little Miss Sunshine" -- Searchlight's 2006 overachiever -- and its five-day performance of $16.1 million featured a nifty 26% uptick in weekend grosses and boosted the film's cume to $31.5 million.

Similarly, Focus Features is expanding its Working Title-produced period drama "Atonement" to about 600 runs in a platformed campaign built on awards-season buzz. Focus has held off scheduling an even bigger expansion to allow publicity about the film's Golden Globes nominations to circulate, augmenting positive word-of-mouth from critics and early patrons.

"One Missed Call" is a horror film produced by Alcon Entertainment. There's little chance it will win the weekend, as it's unlikely to gross higher than the upper single-digit millions.

"Missed" is expected to draw audiences dominated by teens and other horror movie buffs.

Disney's "National Treasure: Books of Secrets" took the top spot in boxoffice rankings during the two long holiday sessions and is likely to threepeat this weekend. The Nicolas Cage starrer takes its $143 million cume into the weekend and appears well on its way to $200 million-plus.

A 50% drop from its most recent Friday-Sunday grosses would result in a roughly $18 million haul this weekend. That's well in line with the usual chart-topping performances for the year's first boxoffice frame.

In 2006, Lionsgate's horror movie "Hostel" finished No. 1 in a $128 million industry session.

Fox's "Alvin and the Chipmunks" finished second last weekend, just above Warners' Will Smith starrer "I Am Legend." Both hitting their fourth frames, it will be fun to see if Smith's sci-fi horror film can best the wisecracking rodent this session, as it did during the film's first two outings.

But don't count out Universal's Tom Hanks-Julia Roberts starrer "Charlie Wilson's War" from figuring in a medal position this weekend. "Charlie" finished fourth during its sophomore session, including an unusual 22% uptick compared with its first weekend.

Uni executives have said all along that success with the adult-skewing drama would be marked over several frames. But the Mike Nichols-directed film's sprint to a solid $42 million cume since its Dec. 21 release has heightened the sense that "Charlie" could end up as one of those movies that even the most hardened of industryites just has to salute: the gutsy gambit turned commercial windfall.

Notably, "Charlie" topliners took drastically reduced salaries to appear in the Aaron Sorkin-penned adaptation of the nonfiction best-seller.

Another film finishing midtable in last weekend's top 10 also will bear watching for signs of sturdy legs. Warners' Alcon-produced romancer "P.S. I Love You" rung up $13.6 million during its second long weekend, including a 40% uptick in its first Friday-Sunday grosses. Skewing heavily female, "P.S." has inked a $28 million cume to date.