Box Office: Christmas Tops the Men and Their Precious Fourth Box

Who says you can’t have Christmas in November? Not Jim Carrey and director Robert Zemeckis. The duo’s CG take on the timeless “A Christmas Carol” took the top spot at the box office in its debut, knocking last week’s champ, Michael Jackson’s “This is it” of its perch to second place. “Carol” took in $31 million in its debut, good enough for first place, but not quite as spectacular as expected, given the film’s whopping $200 million budget. “This is It”, which is composed entirely of rehearsal footage starring the late Michael Jackson as he prepared for his would-be comeback concert tour, managed to hold onto second place with another $14 million, giving it a two-week domestic total of $57.8 million. The film continues to perform well overseas, already collecting $186.5 million in worldwide tickets.

Besides “A Christmas Carol”, there were four other new films at a crowded box office, with the George Clooney military satire “The Men Who Stare at Goats” taking the third spot with a solid $13.3 million. The star-studded film, about a supposedly true military experiment in the ’70s to develop psychic warriors, was made for a modest $25 million, so should reasonably turn a profit without too much trouble in the coming weeks.

The Milla Jovovich sci-fi/horror movie “The Fourth Kind”, which has been touting its “based on real events” connection, took the #4 spot with $12.5 million. The film is almost entirely fronted by Jovovich, who, in a bit of an odd choice, actually introduces the trailer as herself. The film opened in 2,527 screens, about 100 more than “Goats”, which is actually pretty surprising given that this is the kind of film that might have benefited from a limited release to build up word of mouth before going wide, ala “Paranormal Activity”.

The week’s other new genre film is Cameron Diaz’s “The Box”, which didn’t manage to crack the Top 5, landing in the sixth spot with a weak $7.8 million debut. To add insult to injury, “The Box’s” take is still $800,000 less than “Paranormal Activity’s”, which continues to hold on by rounding out the Top 5. The low-budget horror film now boasts a $97.4 box office take in seven weeks of release. “The Box” will be lucky if it takes a quarter of that before it’s pulled from theaters.

Lionsgate’s low-budget “Precious” may be the real story here. Made for $10 million, the film has no stars, and tells the tale of a Harlem teen who overcomes her miserable upbringing. Of course, it probably helps that the film found itself being championed by the one-two uber punch of Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry. Although the film only made $1.8 million in its debut, that was from a meager 18 screens showing in 4 cities. The $1.8 million haul gives “Precious” a mind-boggling $100,000 per screen average. Compare that to “Carol”, which opened in 3,683 screens for an $8,417 per screen average, and you start to realize just how astounding “Precious'” haul is.

Buoyed by those numbers, Lionsgate plans on expanding the movie into six more cities next week to further test the waters, before finally committing and going wide the week after.

Box Office Top 10 (via):

.1 A Christmas Carol (2009) $31,000,000 $31,000,000
.2 Michael Jackson’s This Is It $14,000,000 $57,855,000
.3 The Men Who Stare at Goats $13,309,000 $13,309,000
.4 The Fourth Kind $12,521,000 $12,521,000
.5 Paranormal Activity $8,600,000 $97,430,000
.6 The Box $7,855,000 $7,855,000
.7 Couples Retreat $6,428,000 $95,980,000
.8 Law Abiding Citizen $6,172,000 $60,873,000
.9 Where the Wild Things Are $4,225,000 $69,268,000
.10 Astro Boy $2,588,000 $15,073,000