Who won the box office battle this weekend? Depends who you ask, and when. Early Sunday, Disney estimates had ''The Haunted Mansion'' opening on top with $25.3 million, besting the week-old ''Cat in the Hat'' at $24.7 million. But later in the day, Universal revised its ''Cat'' tally upward to $25.6 million, beating ''Mansion'' by a whisker and scratching out a second straight victory. Still, ''Mansion'' claimed the best performance over the five-day Thanksgiving weekend, earning $35 million since it opened on Wednesday.
Similarly impressive was ''Elf'''s holiday magic; in its fourth week, its take actually rose 18 percent, stuffing another $22.2 million into its stocking for a third-place finish. Moviegoers seeking more grown-up fare made ''Gothika'' the fourth-place finisher, as the Halle Berry thriller scared up another $12.71 million, down 34 percent from last week's debut. That was enough to edge out ''Master and Commander,'' which sailed into the No. 5 slot with a $12.7 million take, down just 17 percent from last week.
Besides ''Mansion,'' the weekend's other new movies included indie black comedy ''Bad Santa,'' which opened in sixth place with a solid $12.5 million. Ron Howard's western spectacle ''The Missing'' rode in seventh with $11.7 million, while the sci-fi adventure ''Timeline'' opened a disappointing eighth at just $8.5 million. You don't need a time machine to predict this movie's speedy retreat to the video shelves.