For the second weekend in a row, moviegoers in the holiday spirit pushed "Four Christmases" to the top of the box-office chart.
The romantic comedy, starring Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn, racked up $18.2 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates Sunday. Although it received largely unfavorable reviews, the Warner Bros. film has been a hit with audiences, with a two-week total of $70.8 million.
It was a solid weekend overall at the box office, despite the faltering economy, weak consumer spending and the lack of a major newcomer movie.
For all releases, the three-day sum is expected to total $87 million, a 6.1% increase compared with the same weekend last year, according to box-office tracker Media by Numbers. And box-office revenue was up over 2007 for the fifth weekend in a row.
"In this holiday marketplace, there's really a movie for every type of cinematic diet," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media by Numbers. "It's the best of all possible worlds for the moviegoer."
Year-to-date revenue, at $8.7 billion, is up 0.5% compared with last year, although attendance is down 4%. Theaters have been able to keep box-office revenue up by raising ticket prices.
After coming in third during last weekend's Friday-Sunday period, "Twilight" surged to the No. 2 spot with $13.2 million in ticket sales. The vampire romance has pulled in $138.6 million during its three-week run.
"The teen girls are proving that they're a very powerful force at the box office," Dergarabedian said.
Richie Fay, president of domestic distribution for "Twilight" distributor Summit Entertainment, attributed the film's robust ticket sales to the throngs of young viewers who have attended repeat viewings with their friends.
"It's really a Romeo and Juliet story," Fay said, "but Romeo happens to be a 17-year-old vampire."
"Bolt," Disney's animated dog story featuring the voices of John Travolta and Miley Cyrus, came in at No. 3 with $9.7 million in its third week.
"Australia," starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, moved up one spot to No. 4 with $7 million in sales.
The 20th Century Fox film has gotten off to a slow start, but Chris Aronson, senior vice president of distribution at Fox, said he expected "Australia" to gain momentum as word of mouth about the movie spread.
"I think this movie really hearkens back to what movies used to be, and I think there's a big audience for that," Aronson said. "It's not fast food, it's not 90 minutes in-and-out."
The latest James Bond film, "Quantum of Solace," dropped one spot to fifth place with $6.6 million after four weeks in domestic theaters. The Sony/MGM action flick, starring Daniel Craig, also broke the $500-million mark worldwide and is on track to be the most successful Bond film ever.
One of the weekend's biggest success stories was Universal Pictures' "Frost/Nixon," which opened in limited release in just three theaters, including one in Los Angeles.
With a massive per-theater average of $60,049, it was the second-best per-theater average on an opening weekend this year, according to Media by Numbers. In comparison, the weekend's per-theater average of "Four Christmases" was $5,451.
"Frost/Nixon," about the post-Watergate television interviews between British TV personality David Frost and former President Richard Nixon, has already generated Oscar buzz.
Nikki Rocco, president of domestic distribution at Universal, attributed the film's breakout success to its A-list filmmakers, including director Ron Howard, and a compelling story line.
"Richard Nixon was a very well-known character, and what happened during his lifetime and his presidency was really a fascinating part of our lives," Rocco said. "And it's an excellent history lesson for those who didn't live through Watergate."
"Frost/Nixon" is slated to open in dozens of new markets over the next few weeks.
The only new releases among the top 10 films were Lionsgate's "Punisher: War Zone," which premiered in eighth place with $4 million in ticket sales, and Sony/TriStar's "Cadillac Records," which pulled in $3.5 million and finished in ninth place.
A slew of highly anticipated movies will open in the coming weeks, starting with Fox's "The Day the Earth Stood Still," which opens in theaters Friday.
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Preliminary results (in millions) in the U.S. and Canada, based on studio projections:
*--* Movie 3-day gross Total Weeks (studio) (millions) (millions)
1 Four Christmases (Warner Bros.) $18.2 $70.8 2
2 Twilight (Summit Entertainment) 13.2 138.6 3
3 Bolt (Disney) 9.7 79.3 3
4 Australia (Fox) 7.0 30.9 2
5 Quantum of Solace (Sony/MGM) 6.6 151.5 4
6 Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa 5.1 165.7 5 (Paramount)
7 Transporter 3 (Lionsgate) 4.5 25.4 2
8 Punisher: War Zone (Lionsgate) 4.0 4.0 1
9 Cadillac Records (Sony/TriStar) 3.5 3.5 1
10 Role Models (Universal) 2.6 61.7 5 *--*
*--* 3-day gross Change Year-to-date gross Change (in millions) from 2007 (in billions) from 2007 $87.0 +6.1% $8.7 +0.5% *--*
Source: Media by Numbers
Los Angeles Times