SUNDAY AM: The weather outside is frightful – snowstorms, followed by more cold and snow, in the Midwest and East – on this weekend before Christmas. So very early numbers for the three big movies opening in wide release in some major markets Friday and Saturday looked severely lower from Hollywood predictions. To give you an idea, here are top DMA percentage changes from last Friday: New York -45%/wk, Philadelphia -18%/wk, Toronto -45%/wk, Detroit -32%/wk, Boston -81%/wk. Box office analysts are calling the weekend an absolute disaster weather-wise that’s down over 41% compared to last year.
Everyone expected yucks to trump tears at the North American box office where comedy has been mostly king since Thanksgiving. So no surprise that Warner Bros’ Jim Carrey derivative laugher Yes Man (which is a deadringer for the funnyman’s 1997 Liar Liar) opened with $6.5M Friday and $6.6M Saturday in 3,434 theaters for what was a low $18.1M weekend since the weather did not improve (includes Sunday estimates). Can’t Carrey find new material? Meanwhile, it’ll be interesting to see if Carrey can lay claim to any real coin on this pic’s performance. (Read all about it in my The Worst Talent Deal Ever?) Another risky move was Will Smith choosing this melodrama Seven Pounds for Sony with its downer story that reunites the star with his Pursuit of Happyness director Gabriele Muccino. But the experiment produced Will’s worst opening since 2001′s Ali. Audiences for Seven Pounds this weekend were 55% female and 64% were aged 25 or older. It debuted to $5.3M Friday and $5.6M Saturday in 2,758 venues for a $16M weekend. But the 2 top films will have to work fast to earn dough before the Christmas onslaught of movies open on on Thursday. Not so No. 3 because Universal’s mouse toon The Tale Of Despereaux which should stay busy throughout the holidays playing to extremely young children. (It did little business after 7 PM…) It opened to $3.5M Friday and $3.7M Saturday in 3,104 runs for a $10.5M weekend helped by big presales. Unlike most CG animated films of this scale, the pic’s costs were kept low — $60M — and the studio should see a return on its limited investment because of ancillary markets. Twentieth Century Fox’s The Day the Earth Stood Still was down a big 76% from its No. 1 finish last Friday for 4th place. It earned $2.8M Friday and $4 Saturday for a $10.1M weekend and new cume of $48.6M. Warner Bros’ other comedy Four Christmases came in No. 5 with $2.2M Friday and $3.1M Saturday for an $7.7M weekend and fresh cume of $100.1M.
The No. 6 film was Summit Entertainment’s Twilight in its 5th week of release. Playing in 2,991 theaters, it took in $5.2M this weekend for a new cume of $158.4M. Disney’s Bolt was #7 and also in its 5th week of release. Running in 2,968 venues, it earned $4.2M for a new cume of $95M. Rising to No. 8 in an expanded play of 589 locations, Fox Searchlight’s Slumdog Millionaire finished the weekend with $3.1M and a new cume of $12.1M. “This will be the best playing of all the limited releases through the end of the year,” one rival studio predicted. In 9th place, 20th Century Fox’s Australia in its 4th week in release came up with $2.3M from 2,212 runs for a new cume of $41.9M. And rounding out the No. 10, MGM/Sony’s latest Bond pic Quantum of Solace in its 6th week in release earned $2.1M from 1,874 plays for a new cume of $161.2M.
Now for the Oscar-buzzed pics in limited release besides Slumdog Millionaire… Fox Searchlight’s The Wrestler scored the best performance, with the Mickey Rourke starrer logging the best per screen average of $52,369 playing on 4 screens to score $57K Friday and $79.9K for a $209.4K weekend and $294.9M cume. Focus Features’ Milk with Sean Penn expanded to 356 screens for $1.6M which is disappointing (considering it’s on 240 less screens than Slumdog but had same screen average. The pic is only playing well in big cities. Miramax’ Doubt on 39 screens took in $725K and $18,590 per screen average for an excellent start. Warner Bros’ Clint Eastwood auteur Gran Torino on 19 screens earned $482K for a $25,397 screen average that’s a good start. But Imagine/Universal’s Ron Howard directed Frost/Nixon on 39 screens underperformed for $365K . It did half the business of Doubt on the same number of screens. Finally, The Weinstein Co’s The Reader on 8 screens earned just $97K with a terrible $12,128 per screen average that’s lower than Doubt‘s.