No time to waste this week: Gotta start preparing Thanksgiving dinner. I’ll be eating with Dad this year, so I’m thinking I should probably get, like, a 50-pound turkey. Think that’ll be enough? Oh, but before I start cruising through the big holiday weekend ahead of us, an update from Sunday is in order. As I had expected, Monday’s final box office numbers indeed showed that the distance between Happy Feet and Casino Royale was closer than initially reported. After the weekend’s final dance was tapped and card was dealt, my man James Bond was a mere $700,273 behind, which, I would say, is not unlike losing a three-point football game on the road. Still something to be (mostly) proud of.
The question going into this weekend (which, because of the holiday, starts two days early), however, is whether those films will continue to dominate or whether one of the five additional wide releases will stuff themselves with cranberry sauce and moviegoers’ money. The new film with the best chance of finishing at No. 1 is Fox’s PG-rated Santa-season comedy Deck the Halls, playing in more than 3,000 venues. The family flick is a smart choice because, even though stars Matthew Broderick and Danny De Vito have never been huge box-office bait, you always have to keep in mind the top rule of Christmastime cinema: Never misunderestimate the power of St. Nick. I don’t know what it is, but people just love the jolly old diabetic elf. And they’ll go to any movie, even if it’s not actually about him, just to think about him, or something. How else to explain Christmas With the Kranks’ inflated $30.8 million bow two years ago? Think people would have seen that movie if it were about the Tooth Fairy? Nah. So look for the similarly themed DTH to wrap up the five-day weekend with a similar $31 mil.
That means DTH should beat out the weekend’s other prominent opener, Disney’s romance-thriller Déjà Vu, which is also playing in 3,000-plus theaters. Denzel Washington has turned into a true box-office force of late: Six of his last eight releases, including the big hit Inside Man earlier this year, opened with more than $20 mil. Also, this movie comes from producing titan Jerry Bruckheimer and director Tony Scott, who first teamed on The Greatest Movie Of All Time, Top Gun, 20 years ago. So the hit-making pedigree is there. And yet, Déjà Vu may have a hard time staying out of the danger zone. Advance buzz has been iffy, the film has a strange time-travel concept that even I can’t explain, and competition from fellow action movie Casino Royale is going to be strong. Washington & Co., therefore, should be happy with a $24 mil gross — well ahead of Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny’s $15 mil in about 1,800 locations, The Fountain’s $10 mil in 1,400-plus places, and Bobby’s $9 mil in an expanded 1,600 theaters. I’m biased, for what it’s worth, in favor of The Fountain, which I saw a few weeks ago and liked a lot. It may star mainstream actors like Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz, but it has a real dreamy, arty feel about it, which explains why I dig it — and why Warner Bros. has had the darnedest time selling it. And why, alas, it’ll probably wind up the weekend’s sentimental loser, the Rutgers football of the box office, if you will.
But, anyway, all of these newbies, I say, will trail last week’s virtual co-champs, which have a lot of momentum going into the holiday weekend. With kids out of school, the animated Happy Feet should again edge out Casino Royale by a feather, $36 mil to $35 mil. Which will make for a very happy Thanksgiving to be sure. Gobble gobble!