Weekend Wrap-Up
Holiday Triumph for Night at the Museum
By John Hamann
December 31, 2006

I keep telling you we are too old to become Rockettes.

20th Century Fox finishes the holiday in style this weekend, as Night at the Museum continues to roll over all comers, dominating the holiday box office. With another huge day to come on New Year's Day, the Ben Stiller family-friendly action-comedy crossed the $100 million mark on Saturday, only its ninth day of release. The rest of the top ten is pretty much a repeat from last weekend, with increases for all save one, and some beautiful Dreamgirls.

The number one film for the second straight weekend is Ben Stiller's Night at the Museum, a 20th Century Fox – 1492 Pictures co-production. The partners received exactly what they wanted this Christmas, as Night at the Museum increases its weekend to weekend take, with a gross of $37.8 million. That's an increase over last weekend of 24%, and it will have another $10+ million day on the holiday Monday. The effect-filled comedy crossed the $100 million mark on Saturday, its tenth day of release, which, not surprisingly matches the pace set by Cast Away, the 2000 release that matched the opening day an date of Night at the Museum. Both films opened on December 22nd, which means they both had Christmas Eve on a Sunday, as well as New Year's Eve, both unfriendly days at the box office. While unfriendly, the payoff is huge, because those slow days are followed by the two of the busiest days of the box office year (Christmas and New Year's Day). The result for Night at the Museum is a domestic total already of $116.8 million, and it should see a decent hold next weekend because of New Year's Eve falling on Sunday. Night at the Museum should have no problem becoming a $200 million picture, it's a question of how it holds up in 2007.

For 20th Century Fox, it's been an excellent year. Night at the Museum joins a strong group of $100 million plus earners the studio has put out this year. Along with Museum, Fox released the $100 million earners The Devil Wears Prada and Borat, both of which were huge surprises; had Ice Age 2 earn $195 million domestically and over $650 million worldwide; and X-Men: The Last Stand earned $235 million stateside. The only ugly misses from Fox were Lindsay Lohan's Just My Luck, which earned only $17 million despite a plum release date in May, and A Good Year, with Russell Crowe, which earned a dreadful $7.4 million, again, despite a fantastic November release date. Overall, it was a fantastic year for Fox, and 2007 offers a fairly strong slate, which includes a Simpsons movie.

In second this weekend is Pursuit of Happyness (again), as the Will Smith feel-good flick continues along its Happy path. This Sony flick grossed $19.3 million this weekend, and has a healthy increase over last weekend of 30%. The Pursuit of Happyness will cross the $100 million mark tomorrow, its 18th day of release. For Will Smith, this will be his sixth consecutive picture earning $100 million or more. Currently The Pursuit sits with $98.3 million in the domestic box office kitty.

Finishing in a very strong third this weekend is Dreamgirls, the new musical from Paramount and what was formerly DreamWorks. Dreamgirls is simply a smash. Out to only 852 venues, the Bill Condon picture earned a stunning $15.5 million this weekend. It earns a venue average of $18,192, far and away the best in the top ten. Dreamgirls had already grossed about a million dollars from only three venues before expanding to 852 on Christmas Day. Since then, it's earned an astounding $38.5 million. Where does it go from here? In 2002, Chicago came out around the same time as Dreamgirls, but platformed differently, before going on to earn $170 million and a Best Picture Oscar. With Dreamgirls going wide more quickly, it will be interesting to see the difference between these two films. My hunch is that it will do better, but it's way too early to tell.

The itsy-bitsy spider and her Web inched back up the box office top ten this weekend, finishing fourth compared to last weekend's fifth place finish. Charlotte's Web continued its comeback run earning $12.0 million in its third frame. This Paramount production increased its take over last weekend by a stunning 59%, and now has $52.9 million after three weekends of release.

Finishing fifth this weekend is another unlikely winner this weekend in Rocky Balboa; however the shine is certainly wearing off. The MGM flick that was produced by a plethora of partners earned $11.4 million this weekend, and was off 7% from last weekend. Still, from out nowhere Rocky Balboa has earned $48.8 million against a $24 million budget. That already whips Rocky V's butt, as that one tanked quickly, finishing with only $41 million (however, that's in 1990 dollars).

Falling to sixth this weekend is The Good Shepherd, a film I'm wondering if Universal shouldn't have shelved until January. The Good Shepherd earned $11.2 million this weekend, matching what it earned last weekend ($10.3 million). While the hold is decent, I think this one will tail off quickly in the New Year, which could be costly for Universal. The IMDb reports a budget here of $110 million, a very long cry from its two weekend total of $35.3 million.

Fox's Eragon finishes seventh as it grosses $8.5 million, up 21% compared to last weekend. Currently Eragon sits with $56.7 million, and had better be a big hit on home video, as this one is going to finish with about $70 million.

We Are Marshall's finishes in eighth place, earning $8.0 million this weekend, which is an increase of 31% over the previous frame. Despite that, this one will end as a Christmas miss, as it currently sits with $25.1 million, and will likely finish with about $45 million.

Happy Feet is still earning for Warner Bros., as its long legs have made it an unexpected Christmas winner. Happy Feet grossed $7.8 million in its seventh weekend, increasing its take over last weekend by 50%. For a seventh weekend, that's an incredibly high gross, putting it on par with the likes of Spider-Man, Shrek and Castaway. Happy Feet should finish its run with $200 million, or very close to it. Its current total is $176.2 million.

Rounding out the top ten is The Holiday, another flick that would be a large miss at any other time of year. The Holiday grossed $6.8 million this weekend, and does have a fairly large total of $50.0 million. However, a film like this should be dominating over the holidays, not finishing tenth.

Overall, studios and exhibitors have much to smile about this weekend. The top ten films pulled in $138.3 million, despite having New Year's Eve land on Sunday. Last year, things were worse, as New Year's Eve landed on Saturday, crippling the weekend's busiest day. The top ten last year grossed $123.3 million. In 2000, when New Year's Eve was also on a Sunday, the top ten grossed $117.1 million, with inflation, probably on par with last year.

Happy New Year everyone!