B.O. Analysis, Dec. 14: The ‘Earth’ Rules the ‘Day’

A great weekend for Twentieth Century Fox as their remake of director Robert Wise‘s 1951 sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still topped the chart with $31 million.

Even more impressive was the fact that 12.5 percent (or $3.8 million) of the gross was generated by 123 IMAX screens thus proving that even in tough economic times audiences are willing to pay a premium for the bigger-than-life immersive giant screen experience.

At No. 2 with a miniscule 21 percent third weekend drop was Warner’s Four Christmases, which continues to bring its holiday cheer to a willing audience. The third spot went to Twilight, which has held better than expected as teen girls and their mothers propel the film past the $150 million mark in domestic receipts.

Fourth place belonged to Disney’s animated Bolt in 3-D, which continues to be a holiday favorite with families dropping a mere 23 percent in its fourth weekend out of the kennel. Finally, at No. 5 is held by Fox’s Australia, which keeps chugging away and adding to its box-office take which now stands at nearly $40 million in North American theatres.

The truly impressive successes keep coming from the limited release marketplace with Warner’s Gran Torino. The film directed by and starring Clint Eastwood has capitalized on a terrific trailer and critical acclaim and would up with the second best debut per-theatre average of any film released this year of over $47,000.

Gran Torino comes hot on the heels of last weekend’s massive per-theatre debut for Frost/Nixon, which added 36 theatres this weekend and continues to impress. Other strong limited debuts were from Miramax’s Philip Seymour HoffmanMeryl Streep starrer Doubt, which opened in just 15 theatres to the tune of over $35,000 per location.

Also very strong was IFC’s Che, starring Benicio Del Toro. The Steven Soderbergh directed film earned a whopping $60,000 in just two theatres for an incredible $30,000 per venue. Weintein Co.’s The Reader also debuted strong as the film comes off of a great week of Golden Globe nominations and a notable performance by star Kate Winslet. The film has earned $181,000 since opening on Wednesday and posted solid $21,000 per theatre.

This was, as expected, a major “down” weekend vs. the comparable frame a year ago when Will Smith‘s I Am Legend and the animated juggernaut Alvin and the Chipmunks packed a one-two punch that generated a massive and unbeatable $121.5 million and propelled the overall marketplace to a $160 million plus mid-December weekend. Next weekend holds the promise of a very nice performance with Smith‘s Seven Pounds, Jim Carrey‘s Yes Man and Universal’s animated The Tale of Despereaux hitting theatres.

THREE-DAY STUDIO ESTIMATES (Source Media by Numbers)

1. NEW! The Day the Earth Stood Still  (Fox) – $31M; 3560 theaters; $8,708 PTA

2. Four Christmases (Warner Bros.) – $13.27M; 3540 theaters; $3,749 PTA; -21%; $87.9M cume

3. Twilight (Summit Ent.) – $8M; 3649 theaters; $2,196 PTA; -39%; $150.1M cume

4. Bolt (Disney) – $7.5M; 3133 theaters; $2,396 PTA; -23%; $88.8M cume

5. Australia (Fox) – $4.2M ;2703 theaters; $1,585 PTA; -39%; $37.8M cume

6. Quantum of Solace (Sony/MGM) – $3.8M; 2635 theaters; $1,442 PTA; -44%; $157.6M cume

7. NEW! Nothing Like The Holidays (Overture Films) – $3.5M; 1671 theaters; $2,095 PTA

8. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (Paramount) – $3.2M; 2768 theaters; $1,174 PTA; -36%; $170M cume

9. Milk (Focus) – $2.6M; 328 theaters; $8,035 PTA; -44%; $7.6M cume

10. Transporter 3 (Lionsgate) – $2.2M; 2541 theaters; $885 PTA; -52%; $29.2M cume