Combining relatable themes about struggling to succeed against the odds, self-reliance and fatherhood with Will Smith's affability, The Pursuit of Happyness obtained $26.5 million at around 3,600 screens at 2,852 theaters, which was in the range of past December release Jerry Maguire among similar pictures adjusted for ticket price inflation.
With the $55 million Pursuit, Smith marked his second picture in a row after Hitch to succeed based in large part on his charm without the help of co-stars, special effects and the traditional trappings associated with the blockbusters that established his movie stardom, like Independence Day and Men in Black. Hitch claimed the romantic comedy opening record, and, while not as splashy, Pursuit was bustling for a drama and is well-positioned for the holidays, like Jerry Maguire ten years ago.
Distributor Sony, which broke the record it set in 2002 for annual box office by a single studio over the weekend with nearly $1.6 billion, reported that Pursuit's audience was 59 percent female and 57 percent over 25 years old, based on exit polling. With moviegoer pollster CinemaScore, Pursuit garnered a promising "A" grade across the board.
Among the many fantasy pictures greenlighted in the wake of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings' successes, Eragon rode to $23.2 million on around 3,700 screens at 3,020 sites or a fraction of those blockbusters. Based on the novel of the same name, the $100 million dragon-themed adventure delivered initial attendance in the range of Dragonheart (1996), and, though Eragon's marketing did little to draw the uninitiated, the start was towards the high end of the fantasy genre, excluding the more anomalous Potter, Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.
Charlotte's Web spun $11.5 million on around 4,600 screens at 3,566 locations, which was about average for an adaptation of an older children's book but below par for a talking animal picture. Around Christmastime, though, business for family pictures is spread throughout the holidays. The $80 million-plus version of E.B. White's famous novel, which seemed to suffer from its resemblance to Babe and other recent yapping animals, will hope to weave a long run like past December releases Jumanji and another White adaptation, Stuart Little.
The end may come sooner for last weekend's top dog, Apocalypto, than the movies that opened beneath it, The Holiday and Blood Diamond. Apocalypto bled 47 percent to $8 million, while The Holiday was down 37 percent to $8 million and Blood Diamond eased 25 percent to $6.5 million.
The holiday season's two biggest movies, Happy Feet and Casino Royale, were still in play after a month in release. Happy Feet drew $8.4 million, down 35 percent for a $149.2 million total, while Casino Royale is on the heels of Die Another Day in raw grosses. After another decent hold, down 37 percent to $5.6 million, Casino's tallied $137.5 million compared to Die's $138.5 million through the same point, though Casino still trails both Die and Tomorrow Never Dies in attendance by a likely insurmountable margin.
Reporting sell-outs for 21 shows at three theaters in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City, Paramount and DreamWorks' musical Dreamgirls grossed $378,950, averaging $126,316 per site. The opening was pitched as a premium movie-going event with a $25 ticket price, and the movie will hold at three theaters until Christmas day, when it rolls out to over 800. By comparison, The Good German, a black-and-white post-World War II drama from director Steven Soderbergh and actor George Clooney, opened to a quiet $76,817 at five venues.
• Review - Charlotte's Web
• 12/19/05 - 'King Kong' Mighty But No Monster
• 2/14/05 - 'Hitch' Scores Romantic Comedy Record
• 12/20/04 - 'Lemony' Licks Competition
• Weekend Box Office Results
• Showdown: 'Pursuit' Vs. 'Jerry Maguire'
• Children's Book Adaptations
• Fantasy Adventures
NOTE: This report was originally written on Sunday, Dec. 17 and was revised on Monday, Dec. 18 with actual grosses.