Twelve Days of Christmas: Day Four

Weekend Wrap-Up for December 22-24, 2006

By John Hamann

December 24, 2006

Behold the dangers of asking for a SkeleRoboRaptor for Christmas.

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There were many new offerings under the Christmas Tree this weekend for moviegoers, as four new releases hit the top ten. It wasn't as busy as exhibitors would have liked it to be, but with Christmas Eve falling on a Sunday this year, the writing was on the wall. New openers this weekend included Night at the Museum with Ben Stiller, Rocky Balboa which opened nicely on Wednesday, Universal's The Good Shepherd and We Are Marshall from Warner Bros. What worked and didn't work? Read on to find out (and have a happy holiday!).

The number one film over the December 22-24, 2006 weekend is Night at the Museum, Ben Stiller's new family-friendly action comedy. After a huge Friday and Saturday, Sunday was expectedly quiet given Christmas Eve, and the weekend estimate came in at $30.8 million. Night at the Museum is distributed by 20th Century Fox, and the studio released this odd flick to a large 3,685 venues. It finished with a venue average of $8,358 – not bad considering that most theatres would have been closed on Sunday night, at least for later showings. In 2000, when Christmas also fell on a Monday, the top film was Tom Hank's Cast Away. The film that made Wilson famous earned $28.9 million over the three days leading up to Christmas from only 2,774 venues, giving it a weekend average of $10,412. Ben Stiller in 2006, as popular as he is, is no Tom Hanks in 2000, so 20th Century Fox should be happy with Museum's first weekend. They will soon be even happier, as Christmas and Boxing Day will play like Fridays and Saturdays for Museum, so this one could easily have a domestic total of $50 million by the time Tuesday night rolls around. It could even see $100 million by the end of the first day of 2007.

Is $100 million over ten days possible for a film like this? Absolutely. With school out for the holiday break, and parents spending time with kids, this is the type of movie that literally works for the whole family. The other good news for the studio is that critics didn't crush Night at the Museum. At RottenTomatoes, 71 reviewers chimed in, and 35 gave it a thumbs up. That leaves it with a rotten rating of 49%, but mixed reviews are all this one needs to find success over the holidays. With Charlotte's Web, Eragon and Happy Feet closer to the back of the pack, Night at the Museum should have enough of the family audience to turn it into a real hit over the next two weekends. Some have estimated the budget for Night at the Museum above $100 million, so it will have to dominate if it hopes to recoup that amount domestically.


Second spot goes to last weekend's champ, The Pursuit of Happyness. The Will Smith feel-good movie earned $15.0 million over the Christmas lead-up, and was off 43% compared to last weekend. Don't put too much stock in that weekend-to-weekend drop percentage. Again, with Christmas Eve falling on Sunday, returning films are kneecapped, and they appear to be doing worse than they are. Remember that Happyness will gross as much tomorrow and Tuesday as it did on Friday ($5.4 million), followed by an increase over this weekend in the next frame, so Pursuit is on the road to a big success. Currently, The Pursuit of Happyness has earned $53.3 million, and should finish with more than $100 million.

Finishing third is Rocky Balboa, a film that I didn't think would open at all, let alone on top on Wednesday. Yes, after a stellar Wednesday and Thursday, Rocky didn't fall off completely, and finished this round with a three-day gross of $12.5 million, bringing its five day total up to a surprising $22.2 million. Out to 2,752 venues, Balboa had a venue average of $4,143 – surprisingly solid for a supposedly dead franchise. Will this one dissipate as quickly as Rocky V did? Rocky V opened to $14.1 million in 1990, and then slipped away quickly, finishing with only $41 million. Another surprise was that critics actually liked this version of Rocky, as it finished with a fresh rating of 77%, and was the best reviewed film opening this weekend. Will this mean a comeback for Stallone? I've been surprised so many times with this sequel, I don't dare answer that question.

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