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Happy Ending for Pursuit

December 19th, 2006

After weeks of mediocre box office results, the box office finally started to show some life this past weekend, but even so, only one of the three wide releases beat expectations and the overall box office was still down more than 6% from the same weekend last year. However, with an overall box office of $121 million there was still growth of 25% from last weekend and we'll take the good news where we can find it.

On paper, the Pursuit of Happyness didn't seem to have much of a chance to win the box office race going up against two big budget blockbusters, both with bigger P&A budgets and both seemingly much strong audiences. But that's exactly what it did, earning $26.5 million over the weekend to become the 13th film to reach number one for Sony this year, extending their record further. I would give half the credit of the film's success to its reviews, which climbed over the weekend to 67% positive, and half to Will Smith, who has incredible box office drawing power regardless of the genre. Given the average legs for a December release, this film should have no trouble reaching $100 million and that would make it the sixth film in a row that he has starred in to reach that milestone (not counting his cameo in Jersey Girl), and will help him climber farther up the Top Stars of the 2000s chart.

Eragon missed lowered expectations over the weekend, but with $23.2 million it was close enough to call it a victory. Granted, that wasn't what the studio was hoping for given the film's production budget, but with reviews at a mere 14% positive, it is arguably better than it deserved to bring in. As for its long term chances, its reviews and direct competition will likely shorten its stay in theaters, but school holidays just a few days away it should be able to reach $100 million before it leaves theaters.

Walden Media is a studio that specializes in family films, usually high budget family films. However, its winning percentage has been not very impressive so far. They did produce the blockbuster Chronicles of Narnia and have had a few mid-level hits like Holes and Because of Winn-Dixie, but they have also produced a number of misses like Hoot, How to Eat Fried Worms, and Around the World in 80 Days. It looks like Charlotte's Web could be added to that list as the film opened in third place with just $11.5 million. There are a few mitigating circumstances that could save the film. Firstly, its reviews are excellent, among the best of the year. Also, it's a family film released in December, and that almost always equals long legs. Should it hold on to most of its box office this weekend, it could still be a winner. It won't reach as high as original expectations, but it could avoid the stigma of flopping as well.

As expected, the battle for fourth place was very close. However, all three films beat expectations, albeit by narrow margins. With the weakness of the new films aimed at kids, Happy Feet was able to hold on better than expected to add $8.4 million over the weekend to its running tally of $149.2 million. Meanwhile, The Holiday just eked out fifth place over Apocalypto $8.015 million to $8.008 million. Apocalypto's running tally is still higher at $28.2 million to $25.1 million, but it also had the worst week-to-week drop off in the top ten and that doesn't bode well for its long term chances.

Moving on to the rest of the sophomore class, both performed well with The Blood Diamond down less than 25% to $6.5 million for the weekend and $18.6 million in total. Unaccompanied Minors was not as strong, but its 39% decline to $3.5 million is hardly tragic, but its running tally of just $10.1 million is deeply disappointing.

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Filed under: Happy Feet, The Pursuit of Happyness, Charlotte's Web, Eragon, The Holiday, Blood Diamond, Unaccompanied Minors, Apocalypto