NEW YORK -- It was a memorable and merry Christmas in Hollywood as moviegoers shattered box-office records, responding in droves to a diverse array of high-profile releases over the holiday weekend.
The estimated $278 million in weekend box-office revenue broke
the previous record of roughly $253 million set in July 2008, the
weekend "The Dark Knight" was released.
A diverse group of films drew throngs to the multiplexes: James
Cameron's "Avatar" pushed strongly into its second week while
"Sherlock Holmes," "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel"
and "It's Complicated" all opened.
"Avatar," the 3-D epic, topped them all, earning $75 million
for 20th Century Fox, according to studio estimates Sunday.
Remarkably, that was only a 3 percent drop from its opening weekend
total of $77.4 million. (Blockbusters typically drop 30-50 percent
in the second weekend.) In its 10 days of release, "Avatar" has
made $212 million domestically - and could be on its way to a
worldwide gross of over $1 billion.
"This thing is going to be playing and playing, I can tell you
that," said Bert Livingston, 20th Century Fox distribution
executive. "There's a lot of business out there. Everybody's got
good movies out."
In second was "Sherlock Holmes," Guy Ritchie's reboot of the
franchise with Robert Downey Jr. starring as Arthur Conan Doyle's
detective. The Warner Bros. film opened with a weekend total of
$65.4 million, including a record Christmas Day debut of $24.9
It was a start that seemed sure to pave the way for sequels. Dan
Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros., called the result
"Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel," which opened
Wednesday, took in $50.2 million on the weekend and $77.1 million
in its five days of release. The film, also from Fox, earned an
impressive $18.8 million on Wednesday alone. The strong start
suggested that "Squeakquel" was likely to surpass its 2007
original, which made $217 million.
Also opening was Nancy Meyer's "It's Complicated," the
romantic comedy starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve
Martin. With an audience 72 percent female, the Universal film took
in $22.1 million, a solid debut.
The sparkling Christmas weekend results spelled good things for
all the films in release in the coming week - one of the most
lucrative of the year.
"We all know what next week means to the industry. This is ...
huge," said Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal.
"Christmas is past us. No more shopping, no more returning.
College kids are home. ... I'm so optimistic about what the next
weekend holds for us."
Said Livingston: "Starting this Monday, every day is a
Two films with Oscar aspirations also released wide over the
weekend: Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air" (Paramount) and Rob
Marshall's "Nine" (Weinstein Co.).
"Up in the Air," which has some of the best awards momentum,
grossed $11.8 million, bringing its cumulative total to $24.5
million - already nearly earning back its production budget.
"For us, this movie was always the movie that we felt was going
to be a real focus during the awards season," said Rob Moore,
Paramount vice chairman. "It feels like this should have a long
run as awards season continues."
"Nine," the adaptation of the Broadway musical (which itself
was a riff of Federico Fellini's classic film "8 1/2") earned
$5.5 million in 1408 theaters.
"It's an absolutely fitting end to the biggest box office year
of all time," said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for
Hollywood.com. "It's just been a total roller coaster ride. It's
like audience members are on board."
2009 still has several days to go, but the year is already a
record for domestic ticket sales with more than $10 billion at the
box office. That surpassed the $9.7 billion mark of 2007.
While some of the credit has to go the recession (movies
historically do well in hard times when a trip to the movie theater
is a relatively cheap form of entertainment and escapism), there
was a feeling Sunday that Hollywood had put forth a better product
Merry Xmas in Hollywood: Box Office Record Falls
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