Opening day: ‘Christmas Carol’ debut not looking too jolly

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Walt Disney Studios’ big-budget holiday bet ‘A Christmas Carol’ got off to a soft start Friday, selling a studio-estimated $9 million in the U.S. and Canada.

Based on the performance of similar films, that means the motion-capture-animated tale starring Jim Carrey should gross $30 million to $35 million through Sunday, a relatively weak debut given its production budget of nearly $200 million and Disney’s substantial investment in marketing.


Pre-release surveys had indicated the movie would open to at least $40 million domestically over its first three days.

A soft launch at home won’t necessarily be a lump of coal in Disney’s stocking, however. Several other family movies have done huge business overseas this year, and the studio is surely hoping ‘A Christmas Carol’ will do the same. In addition, family movies often play for a long time in theaters. Director Robert Zemeckis’ previous motion-capture holiday tale, ‘The Polar Express,’ grossed $30.6 million in its first five days after debuting on a Wednesday and went on to collect a healthy $162.8 million.

‘This Is It’ had a strong hold for a concert movie. Sony’s Michael Jackson film saw ticket sales drop 47% on Friday from a week earlier, putting it on track for a full weekend decline of closer to 40% and a three-day gross of about $14 million. Most concert movies decline more than 50% on their second weekends.

Overture’s ‘The Men Who Stare at Goats’ and Universal’s release of Gold Circle’s ‘The Fourth Kind’ appear headed toward openings in the low- to mid-teens, while ‘The Box’ from Warner Bros is on track to gross about $8 million by Sunday.

-- Ben Fritz