B.O. Analysis, Dec. 21: Just Say ‘Yes!’

There are some things that Hollywood can’t control and the weather is one of them. Brutal weather in many areas of the country — particularly the Northeast — kept potential moviegoers shoveling snow and out of theaters.

This was the second consecutive 40 percent plus “down” weekend vs. the comparable period a year ago, with the terrible weather contributing considerably. Not to mention the fact that this year’s lineup had no chance of surpassing the one-two-three punch of 2007’s I Am LegendAlvin and the Chipmunks and National Treasure: Book of Secrets, which dominated the marketplace last year at this time.

Nonetheless, it was a great weekend for Jim Carrey as Warner’s Yes Man with $18.2 million gave him his first live-action No. 1 since 2004’s Lemony Snicket and re-establishes him as a box-office force to be reckoned with.

In a rare second spot debut, Will Smith in Sony’s drama Seven Pounds earned $16 million over the weekend as the modestly budgeted drama, which broke Smith’s eight consecutive No. 1 debut streak, proves that audiences will follow the star no matter which direction he takes.

In third place was the tale of an animated mouse named Despereaux, which earned $10.5 million for Universal. Another casualty of the bad weather, the film certainly would have earned more if parents were not dealing with snowy conditions.

It seems like the majority of the good news came from the lower region of the box-office chart as limited release films such as Slumdog Millionaire, Milk, Gran Torino, Frost/NixonDoubt and The Reader all performed exceptionally well on a per-theatre basis.

The latest example of this was Fox Searchlight’s acclaimed The Wrestler, which scored a major smack down in just four locations and a $52,000 plus per-theatre average. The film will expand in coming weeks and continues to build buzz for Mickey Rourke’s incredible performance, chasing Oscar gold for the first time in his roller-coaster career.

2008 looks to end with a whimper rather than a bang as revenues for the year are running nearly dead even with 2007 and have taken a considerable hit with the mid-December downturn. Christmas week holds many gifts for moviegoers with Benjamin Button, ValkyrieBedtime Stories and Marley and Me poised to make their debuts. Let’s just hope a white Christmas for much of the nation does not lead to dark days for the nation’s theatres.

THREE-DAY STUDIO ESTIMATES (Source Media by Numbers)

1. NEW! Yes Man (Warner Bros.) – $18.16M; 3434 theaters; $5,288 PTA

2. NEW! Seven Pounds (Sony/Columbia) – $16M; 2758 theaters; $5,801 PTA

3. NEW! The Tale of Despereaux (Universal) – $10.5M; 3104 theaters; $3,385 PTA

4. The Day The Earth Stood Still (Fox) – $10.1M; 3560 theaters; $2,851 PTA; -67%; $48.6M cume

5. Four Christmases (Warner Bros.) – $7.7M; 3515 theaters; $2,203 PTA; -41%; $100.1M cume

6. Twilight (Summit Ent.) – $5.2M; 2991 theaters; $1,748 PTA; -34%; $158.4M cume

7. Bolt (Disney) – $4.2M; 2968 theaters; $1,434 PTA; -43%; $95M cume

8. Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) – $3.1M; 589 theaters; $5,348 PTA; +45%; $12.1M cume

9 .Australia (Fox) – $2.3M; 2212 theaters; $1,051 PTA; -44%; $41.9M cume

10. Quantum of Solace (Sony/MGM) – $2.1M; 1874 theaters; $1,147 PTA; -42%; $161.2M