Four Christmases, Won Thanksgiving

Comedy takes top spot over US holiday

Americans defied the credit crunch this weekend to make the Thanksgiving holiday ultra-boffo, as they’d probably say over at Variety. Three high-profile new releases duked it out with some strong holdovers for the top spot and, when the dust had settled, one thing was clear: Vince Vaughn > vampires.

Four Christmases, the broad Vince Vaughn-Reese Witherspoon comedy, was the undisputed champ of both the three-day and five-day frames, pulling in an estimated $31.6 million and $46.7 million respectively and well on course for a $100+ million finish.

The results must be a relief for Vaughn, whose last movie, Fred Claus, was also Christmas-themed, but limped to a mere $72 million in total. This time he had the box office might of Witherspoon to augment the overall package, something that helped overcome lacklustre reviews. It’s good news, also, for the movie’s director, King Of Kong’s Seth Gordon, making his fictional feature debut. Now, the world’s his oyster.

There had been some signs that last week’s number 1, the vampire romance Twilight, might have been able to muster its legions of ardent fans for another assault on the box office. But Catherine Hardwicke’s movie was actually the only movie in the top 10 to fall from last week’s total, over the five-day weekend. Still, it pulled in another $39 million over that period, for a 10-day total of $119.6 million, which is not bad at all. But $200 million looks unlikely at this point.

Holding up well in third spot (over five days) and second spot (over three) was Disney’s Bolt, which benefited from increased family business to post a massive increase of 37% over five days, and an impressive 1% over three days, for $26.5 million. It now has $66 million after ten days, and will now longer be viewed as something of a disappointment. It’s a lock for one hundred million, and positively even a lot more.

Meanwhile, the new Bond film, Quantum Of Solace, also got a much-needed bump, which will go a long way towards establishing it as the biggest Bond movie of all time. It now has $142 million in the States after just three weeks, and will have overtaken Casino Royale’s $167 million in a couple of weeks. Again, $200 million may be out of the question, but Jimmy Bond’s got himself out of tighter spots than this, so don’t bet against it.

Coming in at fifth with an estimated $20 million was Baz Luhrmann’s epic romance, Australia, which picked up steam after a lacklustre Wednesday opening. The $130 million-budgeted picture is unlikely to recoup that in the States, unless serious word of mouth kicks in, but its healthy increase over the weekend does augur well. Star Hugh Jackman will just have to wait until next May and X-Men Origins: Wolverine for a bumper opening weekend.

The other big new release saw The Stath come in at seven, with $18.5 million in five days for The Transporter 3. The shoddy threequel’s three-day opening of $12 million was actually down on Transporter 2’s $16 million from 2005, but it should end up with around $35 million, which is par for the course for The Stath these days.

Meanwhile, plenty of Americans got Milk, even on a limited release, as Gus Van Sant’s Oscar-baiting drama squeezed into tenth place, with a five-day haul of $1.8 million. Not bad, considering it opened in just 36 locations. The $51,833 per-screen average bodes well for a wider release over the coming weeks.

Next week, we expect Four Christmases to rule the roost again, quite frankly, for the only wide release is the decidedly low-key Punisher: War Zone (and even then, it’s only opening on 2,400 screens). Cadillac Records and Nobel Son are also opening, but will do well to get into the Top 10. Oh, and Milk is expanding, so expect that to make a splash.