North American box office: gone to the dogs with ‘Marley & Me’

Trying to figure out how to talk about the box office at the moment is a bit of a challenge, what with Christmas Day — always a big moviegoing day in North America — falling on a Thursday, and all the new wide releases opening that day. And then there’s this odd week, with no new wide releases at all, and another extended weekend just ahead of us, one that arguably includes today, New Year’s Eve, a Wednesday. Or, as I suggested last week, perhaps we need to think of this as one long weekend stretching from Christmas Day to this coming Sunday, January 4.

So, for starters, these are the four-day numbers — that is, including the tallies from Thursday, Christmas Day. But after the jump I’ll talk a little about this Monday, December 29, and yesterday, Tuesday, December 30, too, because their numbers look like weekend numbers, too.

1. Marley & Me: $50.7 million (NEW)
2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: $38.7 million (NEW)
3. Bedtime Stories: $38 million (NEW)
4. Valkyrie: $29.5 million (NEW)
5. Yes Man: $22.6 million (2nd week; three-day only drop over last weekend: 9%)

actual numbers, not estimates
Now, if we don’t include Christmas Day, Bedtime Stories edges out Benjamin Button over the three-day weekend, $27.5 million to $26.9 million. But I don’t see why we shouldn’t count Christmas Day when we count other weekends extended by a holiday. So there.

Box Office Mojo notes that this is one of the strongest Christmases on record: Marley, for one, broke the Christmas Day record. But all the top five did extraordinarily well, including Yes Man, which saw only a minuscule drop over the weekend prior.

And then came Monday the 29th and Tuesday the 30th, during which Marley took in a little over $7 million on each day, Stories a little over $6 million on each day, Benjamin around $5 million each day, Valkyrie around $4 million each day, and Yes Man around $3.5 million each day. These are amazing numbers, when weekend figures have lately hovered around $1 million for just the top film alone.

Kids are off school. Adults are off work — some voluntarily, some not so much. All these movies are pretty escapist. I know that I love to get away at the movies — I think this weekend and this week shows that a lot of other people are trying to forget their troubles at the movies at the moment, too.

Not that more serious movies were being ignored. Over the three-day weekend, per-screen averages for the limited-release awards contenders were huge:

Revolutionary Road: $63,304 (on each of 3 screens)
Gran Torino: $27,652 (84 screens)
The Wrestler: $21,529 (18 screens)
Last Chance Harvey: $16,210 (6 screens)
Che: $15,900 (2 screens)
Waltz with Bashir: $10,004 (5 screens)

For comparison’s sake, Marley’s per-screen was $10,448 (at each of 3,480 venues).

Oh, and The Spirit? It was way down at No. 9 for the three-day weekend, picking up $6.5 million. That’s not too bad, considering the competition it was facing… but it’s also not so great, considering that that competition didn’t really include much of geek interest. Doh!

[numbers via Box Office Mojo]

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