‘Four Christmases’ Rushes Thanksgiving
Four Christmases visited the top spot, bearing solid numbers, but Thanksgiving weekend as a whole lulled to a ten-year low in terms of attendance, coming in slightly below last year. Other than the commercially well-trodden comedy of Four Christmases, Thanksgiving also saw the openings of two modestly appealing titles, the ambitious Australia and the unambitious Transporter 3. Contributing to the down weekend was the flame-out of last weekend's top grosser, Twilight.

Debuting in the same ballpark as the similar Meet the Parents when adjusted for ticket price inflation, Four Christmases gathered $31.1 million over the three-day weekend on approximately 4,600 screens at 3,310 locations for a five-day tally of $46.1 million. Since business is inflated on Thanksgiving, leading to precipitous drops the weekend after, it is unlikely that Four Christmases will have the staying power of Meet the Parents. It has, though, laid claim to the highest-grossing start for a non-kids-oriented, Christmas-themed movie. The picture's marketing displayed the same type of dysfunctional family humor as the Meet the Parents movies, Christmas Vacation and other hits, this time with popular actors Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn. It was also undemanding in its running time (a scant 82 minutes), offering amusement for mostly adults over the holiday. According to distributor Warner Bros.' exit polling, 65 percent of the audience was female, 57 percent was over 25 years old, and 30 percent was classified as families.

Ranking fifth behind holdovers Bolt, Twilight and Quantum of Solace, Australia corralled $14.8 million over the three-day weekend on around 3,700 screens at 2,642 sites for a $20 million five-day start. The romantic period drama featuring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman wasn't typical Thanksgiving fare, with Alexander the closest recent antecedent on this front, and had a middling start as far as this type of picture goes. It was much better than the likes of Captain Corelli's Mandolin or Beyond Borders, but short of Cold Mountain, Legends of the Fall, The Last of the Mohicans and Far and Away in terms of attendance, compounded by the impending post-Thanksgiving fall that happens to all movies.

While a demanding running time of 165 minutes may not have fit moviegoers' tendencies over the short, family-oriented holiday, and with Kidman and Jackman not proven draws, Australia's advertising lacked a key component: a well-defined storyline. The movie looked opulent and epic with romantic trappings, but there was no explanation about what was going on. At one point, Kidman utters "We can't let them win," yet the "them" has not been specified beyond some generic shots of war and struggle. And the movie's nondescript name, "Australia," didn't help matters.

Transporter 3 played at partial throttle with a $12.1 million three-day weekend on approximately 3,000 screens at 2,626 theaters, reaching $18.2 million in five days. That was less than the debut of the comparable Hitman last Thanksgiving. The action sequel didn't aspire to take the franchise to the next level, appearing to be more of the same physics-defying car stunts and Jason Statham acrobatic brawling of the first two movies, including essentially the same poster design. That resulted in lower initial grosses than Transporter 2.


• 12/1 - 'Bolt' Holds, 'Twilight' Fades...