Dreamgirls: David James; Night at the Museum: Doane Gregory
Joshua Rich
January 09, 2007 AT 05:00 AM EST

As Jennifer Hudson sings in Dreamgirls, ”You’re gonna love meeeee!” And moviegoers definitely took her cue over the holidays.

Sure, as expected, Night at the Museum won the last weekend of 2006 with a $46.7 million four-day take and became Ben Stiller’s fifth No. 1 film in three years. (This is according to Monday’s early estimates.) And, sure, The Pursuit of Happyness (No. 2) added $24.7 mil to earn distinction as Will Smith’s sixth consecutive $100 mil grosser.

But the breakout success of the Christmas season was Paramount/DreamWorks’ Broadway musical adaptation. Dreamgirls earned $8.7 mil on December 25th alone and, on its first full weekend, it made $18.7 million in just 852 locations — a huge $21,915 per-theater average. With $41.6 mil already in the bank, a wide expansion yet to come, a solid A CinemaScore review from audiences, and building Oscar buzz, Dreamgirls may very well approach the $170.7 mil that fellow song-and-dance showcase Chicago earned four years ago.

Moving on, Charlotte’s Web held strong at No. 4 with $15.1 mil, and the spy yarn The Good Shepherd rounded out the top five with $14.3 mil. And let’s not overlook how Rocky Balboa continued its knockout box-office performance, bringing its two-week total to $51.1 mil — damn good for a reported $24 mil-budgeted film based on a 30-year-old series.

MGM and The Weinstein Company’s Black Christmas (No. 13) won the battle of the new releases mainly by virtue of its 1,544 theater count. The horror flick earned $4.6 mil for a weak $2,982 average. But several other freshmen films in much more limited release fared quite well. Pan’s Labyrinth ($44,176 average), Children of Men ($43,500), Notes on a Scandal ($25,000) and Perfume: The Story of a Murderer ($16,333) all smelled some sweet success in a small number of theaters. Along with Miss Potter ($6,475), they helped 2006 end 3 percent above 2005. Yes indeed, there was plenty to sing about, happyness aplenty, and good tidings for (almost) all.

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