Top 12 Film Industry Stories of 2007 : #7:
Will Smith and Some Chipmunks End Box Office Slump

By Kim Hollis

December 29, 2007

He's 100 times more believable as a scientist than Denise Richards.

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As the last remnants of the summer box office frenzy – The Bourne Ultimatum, Rush Hour 3 and Superbad – left theaters, so did the hearts and minds of audiences who enjoy movies. September through November was a virtual dead zone at the box office, with the only true bright spots being The Game Plan, American Gangster, Enchanted and This Christmas. Week after week, we saw overall box office totals in a serious decline from last year's numbers. After a glorious summer of consistent highs, this was a disturbing trend, but the honest evaluation is that there wasn't much to get excited about when it came to film in the fall of 2007. Not even The Golden Compass, presumed by many to be a potential box office savior, intrigued audiences enough to get them to spend their hard-earned cash on a trip to the theater.

That all changed the weekend of December 14th.

I Am Legend, the apocalyptic Will Smith movie with vampire-zombies, an adorable dog and an IMAX run, earned $77.2 million in its debut weekend. For those keeping score at home, this is the all-time record for a December opener, beating the likes of all three Lord of the Rings films as well as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Clearly, that long-lasting void of quality popcorn movies had audiences hungering for an event picture like this one.

Early indications did not have I Am Legend performing as it did. Tracking put the film at around a $50-55 million opening weekend, which would have been terrific for a thriller in December. Thanks to the power of the Fresh Prince – who also was able to open the drama The Pursuit of Happyness to $26.5 million on the same weekend in 2006 - the drought at the box office ended and people were talking about movies again.


But I Am Legend wasn't the only movie to have an impact that weekend. Alvin and the Chipmunks, a movie that featured small animals eating poop in the preview trailer, scored $44.3 million in its first three days. Like I Am Legend, it absolutely defied all tracking data as well as expectations from its studio, 20th Century Fox. The two movies carried the top 12 at the box office to a mighty 109% increase from the previous weekend as well as a 37% increase over the same weekend in 2006. And since between them, I Am Legend and Alvin and the Chipmunks made up 80% of the receipts, it's obvious that they were the key factor in this bump.

As of this writing, both I Am Legend and Alvin and the Chipmunk continue to be a force thanks to the benefit of holiday box office. Legend has already seen receipts of $160 million, while Alvin and Co. crossed the $100 million mark the day after Christmas. They led the charge for a number of Christmas releases, including National Treasure: Book of Secrets, that had the box office up 36% from 2006 over the five-day weekend of December 21st-25th.

Will December 2008 be able to compare? Perhaps. Although movie studio plans can change on a whim at any time, current films scheduled for release include a remake of the science fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still, another Will Smith film in Seven Pounds, and the Jim Carrey comedy Yes Man. We'll also see Twilight, an adaptation of the very popular Stephenie Meyer vampire novel for young adults, the animated film The Tale of Despereaux (an adaptation of a Newbery Medal winning book). And perhaps the most intriguing of all is JJ Abrams' reboot of the Star Trek franchise, a project that is sure to inspire some massive interest.



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