Ho-ho-ho! Merry Christmas, box office fans! Oh, wait, you thought the holiday was over? Think again: This weekend, audiences still will have plenty of presents to unwrap at the multiplex. There are all sorts of blockbuster holdovers, like National Treasure: Book of Secrets and I Am Legend, and don’t forget about the three major movies that opened on Christmas Day — Alien vs. Predator: Requiem, The Great Debaters, and The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep. And since so many people have been off from work and school, grosses should stay strong, even for movies that have been around a while (last year, you’ll recall, the box office for most movies that played on the weekend before New Year’s Eve actually went up).
So who has been naughty and who has been nice? Who’ll be finding lumps of coal in their stockings nearly a week after Saint Nick flew past? And what movie will close out this final weekend of 2007 in first place? Allow Santa’s little box office helper (a.k.a. me) make everything clear, boys and girls.
THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE
National Treasure: Book of Secrets
Walt Disney · PG · 3,832 theaters · 2nd weekend
Duh. Like there was really any doubt that Nicolas Cage’s history-based adventure would repeat at No. 1 this weekend. The Jerry Bruckheimer-produced film has already banked more than $70 million in less than a week of release. It is part of a hugely popular franchise (2004’s National Treasure topped out at $173 mil domestically). And it drew an A- CinemaScore review from a broad and diverse audience when it opened last weekend — a harbinger of a long life in theaters. Gee, uh, think Disney will make a third one?
Weekend prediction: $35 million
I Am Legend
Warner Bros. · PG-13 · 3,636 theaters · 3rd weekend
I Am Legend has grossed more than $150 mil in two weeks. And I’m here to inform you that it’s now official: Will Smith, with yet another hit movie under his belt, has jumped past Fred Willard and the inventors of sex, ponies, and ice cream to become the most beloved person on the planet.
Weekend prediction: $27 million
Alien vs. Predator: Requiem
Fox · R · 2,611 theaters · NEW
This star-free sequel to the $80.3 million-grossing 2004 franchise mashup kinda came out of nowhere to earn a respectable $9.5 mil on Christmas, its first day out. I mean, did you know this movie was coming? Well, anyway, go figure: I suppose the fact that it’s an R-rated, boy-baiting action flick afloat in a sea of soft family fare gave it a boost. But how long will the good times last? After all, that deadly C grade from CinemaScore — while not as bad as, say, having a parasitic alien baby claw its way out of your chest — portends a steep decline in the days to come.
Weekend prediction: $12 million
The Great Debaters
MGM/Weinstein Co. · PG-13 · 1,164 theaters · NEW
Denzel Washington’s second directing effort (after 2002’s Antwone Fisher, which grossed $21.1 mil) gets high marks for good intentions and a solid pedigree. It features a heartwarming true story about an all-black college debating team in the 1930s. It was produced by Oprah Winfrey. And it is the passion project of Washington, who’s one of the most popular entertainers around (not as popular as Will Smith or the guy who invented ponies, sure, but still pretty popular). That said, critical reaction has been lukewarm, its screen count remains on the low side, and that $3.6 mil Christmas Day debut was a tad disappointing.
Weekend prediction: $8 million
THE OTHER NEW RELEASE
The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep
Columbia/Revolution · PG · 2,772 theaters · NEW
This veddy British family fantasy about a child who nurses the Loch Ness Monster to maturity drew a nice A- CinemaScore mark but brought in just $2.4 mil on Christmas Day. So it’ll likely be another victim of the recently common Too Sweet For Its Own Good box office syndrome (see also: Martian Child, August Rush, and so on). Unless, of course, the Adult Swim crowd catches on…
Weekend prediction: $7 million