Weekend Wrap-Up for December 14-16, 2007

Will Smith a Legend at the Box Office

By John Hamann

December 16, 2007

That's a state of the art bathtub, built for comfort.

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After last weekend's disappointing debut of The Golden Compass, the box office was desperate for a kick start heading into the lucrative holiday season. The box office got a much bigger kick than was expected, as Will Smith opened I Am Legend to record-breaking results. Also opening big this weekend was the kid flick Alvin and the Chipmunks, which was looking to do Garfield type numbers. The top 12 number to beat from last year was $110.9 million, and thanks to Will Smith and Alvin, the box office finally has something to celebrate.

The number one film of the weekend is I Am Legend, as Will Smith conquers the box office once again. I Am Legend earned a ludicrously large $76.5 million this weekend, as it fills a huge hole at movie theaters created by a string of disappointments released since the Thanksgiving weekend. Released to 3,606 venues, this Warner Bros. production earned a venue average of $21,224. This the biggest opening ever for a December release, passing huge blockbusters like Lord of the Rings: Return of the King ($72.6 million opening) and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe ($65.6 million opening) to earn the December crown. This a breathtaking breakout success. Tracking had I Am Legend opening in the $40-50 million dollar range, and this debut trounced that expectation. This is three times what Golden Compass opened to last weekend, and must leave New Line shaking its head at I Am Legend's success.


For Will Smith, this is his biggest opening ever, and pretty much crowns him as king of the box office. His former biggest flicks, I Robot and Men in Black II, both opened to $51.2 million, and were two parts of Smith's four $50 million openers (the others were Independence Day with a $50.2 million opening and Men In Black with a $51.1 million opening). Smith's last six films have finished between $138 million and $190 million, and I Am Legend should finish as his third $200 million plus picture, and maybe as his second $300 million plus feature. Why do Will Smith's flicks work so well? Simple: he picks good projects. Legend has been in the studio system for years, bouncing around, but it was always a project that had a huge amount of fan-based support. Admittedly, he did get lucky with a release date at a historically low point at the box office, leaving a huge amount of room for success. This one was 59% fresh at RottenTomatoes, which is good enough for a sci-fi action-thriller. This is an event flick that works just enough, and audiences should be lapping it up in serious amounts throughout the holiday season and beyond.

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