US Box Office Visited By Three Ghosts...

A Christmas Carol takes the top spot

It came as a surprise to very few people when A Christmas Carol topped the US box office this weekend, since studio chiefs and analysts were all visited by ghosts pretty much guaranteeing it. That it took $31 million in the process, however, was something of a disappointment, despite doing better than The Polar Express, director Robert Zemeckis' last attempt at a Christmas classic.

A whopping 74% of that total, however, came from 3D screenings, reaffirming the box office power of the third dimension, and if Carol does manage to follow The Polar Express' model and keep packing them in until January, it could end up doing extremely well despite the relatively slow start.

It was still some distance ahead of the competition, however: Michael Jackson's This Is It fell to second with $14m, while new release The Men Who Stare At Goats took $13.3m, which is better than Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, albeit less than Burn After Reading as offbeat Clooney films go.

Alien abduction movie The Fourth Kind came in fourth with $12.5m, too little to make it another Paranormal Activity (in fifth place this week) in the horror breakout stakes. And sixth is Richard Kelly's The Box, with only $7.9m. It's a very disappointing opening for that film, considering the star power of Cameron Diaz and the strong premise, but the reivews have been mixed-to-bad, which may account for it.

Further down the list, the big news was Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire, which made $1.8m at only 100 screens, making one of the best screen averages ever. The tough but brilliantly acted story of an abused teenager called Precious is likely to hang around cinemas for some time to come, especially if it does as well as expected come awards season.

For the rest of the charts, head on over to Box Office Mojo.