After a month of slow business, the box office perked up over Christmas weekend, thanks to the openings of Marley and Me and three other strong contenders that largely appealed to different core audiences. The increase over last weekend was over 125 percent, one of the biggest bumps on record, and the timeframe was the highest-grossing three-day December weekend ever with a $200 million tally (although it didn't crack the Top Five in terms of attendance).
Marley and Me lapped up $36.4 million on approximately 4,400 screens at 3,480 theaters over the weekend, and it broke the Christmas opening day record on Thursday with $14.4 million. Its four-day haul came to $50.7 million, which was a new high for actors Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson in lead roles. The picture scored as the most relatable in the market, mixing the type of relationship comedy that powered past hits like Meet the Parents and Parenthood with the antics and sentiment of raising a dog (the popular Labrador retriever breed in this case). In distributor 20th Century Fox's research, families and women were the main demographics.
Bedtime Stories reaped a solid $27.5 million on around 4,900 screens at 3,681 sites. Including Christmas, the family fantasy grossed $38 million in four days, which was a bit less than the four-day start of similar past Christmas release Night at the Museum . It was also on the low-end for a major Adam Sandler comedy, though, due to the holidays, the picture will have an above average second weekend for Sandler. Among the new releases, Bedtime was cast in the most clearly defined mold: the special-effects family event that has worked like gangbusters before (Night at the Museum, Alvin and the Chipmunks, etc.). If it didn't break out of that mold, it's because it's marketing was a nonsensical hodgepodge (from Sandler rowdiness to a bug-eyed hamster aping Alvin and others) with little in the way of storyline to go with its gimmick of bedtime stories coming to life. Distributor Walt Disney Pictures' exit polling indicated that families comprised 69 percent of moviegoers.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button opened to a healthy $26.9 million on close to 4,100 screens at 2,988 locations for a four-day tally of $38.7 million. The fantastical drama was the sole attempt at a sweeping epic, with its life-spanning tale of a man (Brad Pitt) aging backwards, and its debut was on the high end among comparable titles. The advertising struck a romantic, melancholic and mysterious tone, and its story and scale recalled Forrest Gump (though it didn't reach Gump's attendance heights). Distributor Paramount Pictures' research suggested that 60 percent of the audience was female and 70 percent was over 25 years old.
Positioned as the only major thriller in the market, Valkyrie seized $21 million on approximately 2,900 screens at 2,711 venues, bringing its four-day total to $29.5 million. While the picture had some hurdles, such as Nazi protagonists (albeit ones trying to assassinate Hitler) and the lead actor (Tom Cruise) obscuring his face with an eye patch, its massive marketing campaign focused on suspense and history, two things that often lure moviegoers. The opening did not rank among Cruise's highest, but it blew away most similarly-targeted movies, like The Good Shepherd, K-19: The Widowmaker, Thirteen Days and Hart's War. According to distributor MGM's tracking, 55 percent of the audience was male and 66 percent was over 25.
Also opening, The Spirit drew a piddling $6.5 million over the weekend on around 2,600 screens at 2,509 theaters for $10.3 million in four days. Brandishing the style of Sin City and 300 in its ads and little else, the comic book movie was less-attended than The Shadow and The Phantom. Doubt wasn't far behind and played at about half the theaters in its nationwide expansion. The drama collected a decent $5.3 million at 1,267 sites, increasing its tally to $8.5 million.