‘Marley’, ‘Benjamin Button’ Lead Potent Xmas Weekend

After a poor showing the last two weeks, four new star-powered films injected some much needed life resulting in one of the strongest holiday weekends on record at the box office.

Leading the way, Marley and Me beat expectations by a significant margin with a cheerful $50.7 million from 3,480 theaters since its Christmas Day debut; $36.4 million of that came from the traditional Friday-Sunday period.  The $14.4 million Thursday tally from the Owen Wilson-Jennifer Anniston collaboration was the largest Christmas debut ever, dethroning the seven year old record previously set by Ali.

Marley and Me is a bittersweet end to an otherwise dismal year for 20th Century Fox. The canine-featured comedy is the studio’s first real success since Horton Hears a Who!, which debuted over nine months ago.

Meanwhile, Paramount finished off a banner year with an impressive opening from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The 4 day tally of $38.7 million ($26.9 million from Fri-Sun) from 2,988 theaters is the highest on record for a David Fincher direction and is one of the stronger starts for actor Brad Pitt as well. The story of a man who ages backwards is one of the higher profile contenders of the awards season, and audiences clearly responded well. With the combination of the holiday and awards season, Benjamin Button could enjoy a very leggy run.

Bedtime Stories, Adam Sandler’s first film under the Disney label performed within expectations with $38 million from a very wide 3,681 theaters since Thursday and $27.5 million over the weekend. The fantasy’s debut was slightly below Night at the Museum, a similar film from Christmas 2006 starring Ben Stiller, but holiday films targeting families typically have enormous multipliers so Bedtime Stories should end up being very profitable for Disney. The multiplier refers to the ratio of a given film’s total box office to its opening weekend. Helping matters is strong word-of-mouth despite the typically poor reviews that a Sandler film receives.

Valkyrie proved that Tom Cruise still is a bona fide star with a solid 4th place showing of $29.5 million from 2,711 theaters. It’s $21 million Friday-Sunday opening would have been enough for the top spot last weekend, which is indicative of how potent the new releases were. The World War II Nazi drama was a tough sell to moviegoers, which makes its debut all the more impressive.

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Box Office Data Source: Box Office Mojo & The Numbers