Sony no longer in 'Pursuit' of domestic b.o. record


Will Smith and Sony Pictures were the weekend winners at the North American boxoffice, earning the top spot of the frame with a $26.5 million bow for "The Pursuit of Happyness." The opening garnered Sony Pictures its 13th No. 1 opener of the year and pushed the studio's domestic boxoffice gross for 2006 to $1.573 billion — the highest annual domestic gross of any studio ever. It also proved that Smith is as close to a sure thing as you can get in Hollywood, with "Happyness" marking the actor's 10th film to open north of $20 million.

20th Century Fox's "Eragon" also was a winner at the weekend derby, reaping $23.2 million for the dragon fantasy tale from the Fox 2000 division. The PG-rated flick based on the Christopher Paolini novel scored much better than Paramount Pictures' G-rated E.B. White adaptation "Charlotte's Web," which landed in a soft third at the weekend boxoffice with an $11.4 million take.

Overall, the weekend boxoffice ended down 7% compared with the same frame last year when Universal Pictures opened "King Kong" to a very strong $50 million. That opening, though, was somewhat of an anomoly during this busy pre-Christmas weekend, and industryites are optimistic that the weekend's numbers portend strong business to come over the Christmas holiday.

The holdovers from last weekend also performed solidly, with Sony's "The Holiday" falling only 37% to $8 million. The Nancy Meyers-directed romantic comedy has generated $25 million in 10 days of release. Warner Bros. Pictures' "Blood Diamond" dropped only 25% thanks to Leonardo DiCaprio's Golden Globe nomination. The R-rated film from director Ed Zwick generated an additonal $6.5 million to put its 10-day cume at $18.6 million.

Buena Vista had a more severe fall with Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto. The male-oriented actioner fell 47% to $8 million, with its total standing at $28.2 million.

Warner Bros.' "Unaccompanied Minors" dropped 39% to $3.5 million. The PG-rated kid flick has generated $10 million in two weeks.

The three films that made their debut performed well, according to CinemaScore. The exit pollster gave "Happyness" and "Web" an A, while "Eragon" received a B. As expected, "Happyness" drew primarily adults, with 67% of the audience over 25, while "Web" was dominated by moms and their children. Paramount was encouraged by the exit polls and believes the strong reviews and word-of-mouth will keep the film in theaters throughout the winter break. "Eragon" drew mostly men, but it was pretty evenly split betwen the under 25/over 25 crowd.

In limited release, Paramount bowed the Paramount/DreamWorks co-production "Dreamgirls" in three theaters in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. With specially priced tickets at $25 apiece and only 21 showings, the Bill Condon-directed musical experienced soldout shows. The film grossed $378,950 for a $126,317 per-screen average. The film will go wide to 800 screens on Christmas Day.

Also in limited release was Warner Bros.' "The Good German." The Steven Soderbergh-directed film bowed on five screens to $76,817. Starring George Clooney and Cate Blanchett, the film reaped a per-screen average of $15,363.

MGM opened Irwin Winkler's war drama "Home of the Brave" to a weak $6,000. Meant to be the film's Oscar qualifying run, it's not clear how or when the film will expand, considering its poor opening-weekend performance.

Of the limited holdovers, Paramount Vantage's "Babel" received the biggest bump from its seven Golden Globe nominations. The Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu-directed drama rose 9% on the weekend, earning an additional $495,750. The film's total gross stands at $18.3 million.