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'Dream' of a big Christmas comes true

December 27, 2006|David Colker | Times Staff Writer

"Dreamgirls," the movie musical that was widely released on Christmas, captured a huge audience, taking in $8.7 million for the day.

That's the third-biggest haul ever for a film that opened or went national on the holiday, according to analysts. The film, distributed by Paramount Pictures, beat out all others that have debuted on Christmas Day except for "Ali" in 2001 and "Catch Me If You Can" in 2002. Both of those movies, however, opened in more than 2,000 theaters, compared with the limited release of "Dreamgirls" in only 852 theaters.

"Dreamgirls" earned more than $10,200 per screen for the day and was so popular that some theaters added late-night showings.

"We had theaters that were already sold out for the day by the morning and started to add shows," said Rob Moore, president of marketing and distribution at Paramount.

Moore said audience exit polling showed a 95% favorable rating for the film. "That's the highest I've ever seen, and I've been involved in testing for more than 20 years," he said.

The musical, about a Supremes-style singing group and starring Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles and Eddie Murphy, technically had its debut Dec. 15. To build audience and Oscar buzz, Paramount released the film in three theaters -- one each in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. Moviegoers paid $25 for a reserved seat and a souvenir program. The "road show" generated nearly $1 million and brought the total box-office take for "Dreamgirls" to $9.6 million through Monday.

The film's one-day Christmas gross put it in seventh place for the full, four-day holiday weekend, Friday through Monday.

The box-office champ for the weekend was 20th Century Fox's "Night at the Museum," which took in $42.2 million over the four days. The comedy, starring Ben Stiller and featuring an intergenerational cast of comic actors including Dick Van Dyke, Robin Williams and Ricky Gervais, is well on its way to joining the over-$100-million club. That is good news for Fox, given the movie's production cost of $110 million.

For its part, "Dreamgirls" cost about $65 million to make. A big Christmas Day opening, however, does not guarantee that a film will make money. "Ali," which reportedly racked up more than $115 million in production costs, took in $10.2 million on its holiday debut but quickly cooled and ended up grossing a disappointing $58.2 million domestically.

"There was a fan base that rushed to see 'Ali' on opening day," said Brandon Gray, president of website Box Office Mojo, which tracks ticket sales. "But word of mouth was mixed and that hurt longevity."

Another film that fizzled after a solid opening day was 2005's "Rent," which like "Dreamgirls" was based on a Broadway musical. "It's just these kinds of films that have the built-in fan base," Gray said. "Then the trick is to expand on it."

"Dreamgirls" should hope to follow in the footsteps of "Chicago," a 2002 Broadway adaptation that took in $170.7 million at the box office and won an Academy Award for best picture.

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david.colker@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Dream debut

"Dreamgirls" had the third-biggest natiowide opening on a Christmas Day.

*--* No. of Gross Title Distributor Year theaters (In millions) "Ali" Sony 2001 2,446 $10.22 "Catch Me If You Can" DreamWorks 2002 3,156 9.88 "Dreamgirls"* Paramount 2006 852 8.73 "Patch Adams"Universal 1998 2,712 8.08 "Cheaper by the Dozen" Fox 2003 3,298 7.84

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*"Dreamgirls" opened in three theaters Dec. 15.

Source: Media by Numbers

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