TUESDAY AM UPDATE: Well, the answer to whether Dreamgirls could do crossover biz has been answered now that it did a whopping $8.7 million from only 852 theaters on Christmas Day. The movie scored 2nd place among the holiday’s top films (even though many were playing in 3,000+ and 2,500+ venues). Its new cume is $9.6 mil. On Monday, it made over $10K per screen average. Paramount is telling me this is the 3rd best Christmas Day box office on record ever. (Catch Me If You Can did $9.8 in 3,156 theaters, and Ali $10.2 mil in 2,446 theaters.) Pic won’t widen more until January 12th.

MONDAY: I’m hearing anecdotes of packed theaters, long lines and standing ovations from cities around the country now that Dreamgirls has widened to 852 playdates. (That’s 1/4 of the usual big-opening number of venues.) Turns out the Motown musical is scoring a Christmas surprise about both the size and make-up of the pic’s audience. Paramount and Dreamworks had anticipated this story inspired by The Supremes starring Beyoncé, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson doing in the neighborhood of $4.5 mil on Christmas Day. Based on matinees, I’m hearing it could score $5 mil and possibly even $6 mil today. Many theaters sold out 24 hours before December 25th screenings and added a midnight extra to accomodate moviegoers. (Click here for all the weekend box office.) The target audience had been African-Americans, gays and upscale whites. But now the movie is playing bigger than expected with white audiences in general. Anecdotes are starting to come in of audiences cheering and clapping and crying. Typical was San Diego on Christmas Day: after Jennifer Hudson sang “And I Am Telling You…”, the audience applauded, and, at the end credits, about 1/3 of the audience stayed and gave a standing ovation when Hudson’s name appeared on the screen. That’s been happening nightly since December 15th when Dreamgirls opened in only Hollywood’s Cinerama Dome, New York’s Zeigfield, and San Francisco’s Metreon. These roadshow screenings — at $25 a pop featured reserve seating, themed lobby displays and merchandise booths and a limited edition program — broke a box-office record. The thing to remember is that this 1981 Broadway musical produced by David Geffen (he held the film rights, too) took 25 years to make it to the screen. Before Paramount acquired DreamWorks, Geffen called Paramount chairman/CEO Brad Grey and asked him to come in on the film. But, for a long time before that, Geffen had been reluctant to make the musical into a movie and then one previous effort (with director Joel Schumacher attached) collapsed. It took both director Bill Condon and, even more so, producer Larry Mark to both talk Geffen into it. (Here’s a good wrap-up about the musical to movie’s origins…) dream2.jpgMeanwhile, the marketing of this film has been state-of-the-art, from the terrific trailer to the tie-ins all over network and cable TV and elsewhere. So far, it’s been nominated for five Golden Globes, which is meaningless because these awards from the so-called Hollywood Foreign Press Association are meaningless. But the question remains: What is Dreamgirls‘ Oscar chances? It has not made the top of many of the various film critics’ Best Picture lists. As for members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, they skew older and therefore have an affinity for big Broadway musicals made into films. That said, though, anecdotes seem to indicate that the initial Hollywood mega-enthusiasm for the pic has waned, with voter chatter of “it’s not that good” starting to make the rounds. (Though certainly Hudson, the American Idol contestant, and probably Eddie Murphy, too, are shoo-ins for Best Supporting Actress/Actor noms.) On the other hand, that could just be the usual Academy jealousy and resentment — something Clint Eastwood may encounter as well with his critic-lauded Letters of Iwo Jima. But don’t count out either The Departed or The Queen: both have been early Oscar favorites.

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