SUNDAY AM: Word of mouth, the so-called water cooler effect, is what’s helping the top two movies hold their positions at the box office right now. America continued its Museum-going frenzy even though the movie is three weeks old. The No. 1 Ben Stiller mega-hit from Fox earned $7.1 mil Friday / 10.5 mil Saturday from 3,730 screens for a whopping new cume of $164.3 mil. Night At The Museum had an amazing $24.3 mil weekend. Same as before, 2nd place went to Sony’s The Pursuit Of Happiness which took in $4.1 mil Fri / $5.7 mil Sat from 3,027 venues. It had the best hold of all films in the Top 10. No one at Sony ever imagined, when the film was released 4 weeks ago, that it’d come so far, with a big new cume of $124.1 mil for Will Smith and a $13 mil weekend. The rest of the Top 10 changed order dramatically from last week. Universal’s Children of Men, went wider and did way better than expected. In terms of stats, 53% of the audience was over 30; divided evenly between men and women; 60% Caucasion, 15% African American, 12% Hispanic. Uni had planned a more conservative expansion, but the good critics’ response, combined with strong per screen averages and word of mouth from the limited release, caused the studio to build out to 1,209 dates. So Uni’s marketing and distribution teams expanded media buys and worked with exhibitors. I’m hearing the studio basically stole the momentum from Dreamgirls. Anyway, Men made $3.5 mil Fri / $3.9 mil Sat for a new cume of $11.7 mil and $10.1 mil this weekend. Another surprise was MTV / Paramount’s feel-good flick with Hilary Swank, Freedom Writers, opening at #4 with $3.4 mil Fri / $3.9 mil Sat from 1,360 theaters and scored a $9.7 mil weekend. Good reviews and a good Cinema Score helped, plus exit polls showed 93% of the audience would definitely recommend and 62% of the audience was 21 and under. Best of all, it cost just over $20 mil to make. Studio adds 700 theaters next weekend. Dreamworks / Paramount’s Dreamgirls slipped to No. 5, still playing in only 852 theaters and earning $2.5 mil Fri / $4 mil Sat for a new cume of $54.5 mil and weekend of $8.9 mil weekend. Next weekend, the pic expands to 1,800 theaters. Paramount’s kiddie fare, Charlotte’s Web, enjoyed a big Saturday bounce to hang in there after 4 weeks in release at #6 making $1.9 mil Fri / $2.8 mil Sat from 3,303 venues for a $6.8 mil weekend and new cume of $67.1 mil. No. 7 was Universal’s The Good Shepherd, starring Matt Damon and directed by Robert DeNiro, which took in $2 mil Fri / $2.8 mil Sat from 2,250 venues for a $6.7 mil weekend. New cume is $48.5 mil. Lionsgate’s new animated feature, Happily N’Ever After, from some of the Shrek folks, debuted weakly in 8th place with $2.1 mil Fri / $2.7 mil Sat from 2,381 theaters, and only a $6.6 mil weekend despite the usual Saturday kiddie bounce. No. 9, MGM’s Rocky Balboa, punched out another $1.9 mil Fri / $2.6 mil its third week in release from 3,018 playdates. It scored another $6 mil weekend; new cume is $60.2 mil. And, rounding out the Top 10, Warner’s We Are Marshall, in 2,502 theaters, made $1.7 mil Fri / $2.1 mil Sat for a new cume of $35.1 mil and a $4.9 mil weekend. The only other new film, New Line’s Code Name: The Cleaner, finished No. 12 with $1.4 mil Fri / $1.8 mil Sat from 1,736 theaters for a $4.3 mil weekend.
Among Oscar buzzed smaller pics Friday, Fox Searchlight’s Notes On A Scandal, in 93 theaters, made $300K Fri and $495K Sat for a $1.1 mil wkd (new cume of $2 mil). Miramax’s The Queen, in 323 theaters, $270K Fri and $460K Sat for a $1 mil wkd (new cume of $29.9 mil). Picturehouse’s Pan’s Labyrinth, the per screen champ in 44 theaters, $223K Fri and $296K Sat for a $685K wkd (new cume of $1.7 mil). D’works / P’mount’s Perfume, in 280 theaters, $175K Fri and $250K Sat for a $560K wkd (new cume of $658K). Warner’s Letters From Iwo Jima, 5 theaters, $22K Fri and $33K Sat for a $73K wkd (new cume of $466K). Also, Warner Ind.’s The Painted Veil, in 72 venues, $130K Fri and $215K Sat for a 485K wkd (new cume of $1.2 mil). Weinstein / MGM’s Miss Potter, in 26 venues, $31K Fri and $54K Sat for a $122K wkd (new cume of $139K). Miramax’s Venus, in 3 theaters, $7K Fri and $12K Sat for a $26K wkd (new cume of $165K).