BOX-OFFICE BLAHS AT CHRISTMAS

Like the holiday stockings hanging at the fireplace, the Christmas box office turned out to be pretty much a mixed bag. Although some studios revised their estimates for the Friday-to-Sunday period, they did not release final figures nor estimates for Monday, Christmas Day, when two new films, the horror flick Black Christmas and the musical Dreamgirls, were added to the mix. There were no break-out hits. The debut of the Ben Stiller comedy Night at the Museum led the list with $30.9 million over the three-day period, in line with analysts' predictions but well off Stiller's best opening: $46.1 million for Meet the Fockers in 2004. Sylvester Stallone's return as Rocky Balboa after 16 years, did OK business with about $12.2 million, after earning $9.7 million on Wednesday and Thursday, as it finished in third place -- a performance that would seem to indicate that audiences were not as impressed with Stallone's comeback as the critics were. Will Smith's The Pursuit of Happyness dropped to second place with $14.9 million, 43 percent below its opening take a week ago. The biggest drop, however, was registered by the fantasy flick Eragon, which plunged 70 percent in its second weekend to $7.1 million, to place sixth. Another new film, We Are Marshall, crashed on take-off as it opened with just $6 million. Playing in just five theaters, Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima debuted with $89,000, an average of $17,800 per theater.The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Media by Numbers (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):

1. Night at the Museum, 20th Century Fox, $30,880,000, (New); 2. The Pursuit of Happyness, Sony, $14,874,000, 2 Wks. ($53,304,000); 3. Rocky Balboa, MGM, $12,220,999, (New); 4. The Good Shepherd, Universal, $9,925,000, (New); 5. Charlotte's Web, Paramount, $7,693,000, 2 Wks. ($26,530,000); 6. Eragon, 20th Century Fox, $7,101,000, 2 Wks. ($37,596,000); 7. We Are Marshall, Warner Bros. $6,080,000, (New); 8. The Nativity Story, New Line, $5,198,000, 4 Wks. ($32,512,000); 9. Happy Feet, Warner Bros. $5,131,000, 6 Wks. ($159,099,000); 10. The Holiday, Paramount, $4,877,000, 3 Wks. ($34,977,000).

DREAM OPENING FOR DREAMGIRLS, SAY REPORTS

Early reports indicate that Dreamgirls may have made a bigger splash than anyone expected when it opened on Monday in 852 theaters. Some venues reportedly added midnight screenings and allocated additional screens to the film after selling out existing tickets a day in advance. L.A. Weekly columnist Nikki Finke wrote on her website Monday, "The target audience had been African-Americans, gays and upscale whites. But now the movie is playing bigger than expected with white audiences in general. Anecdotes are starting to come in of audiences cheering and clapping and crying." Finke wrote that while the movie was originally expected to do about $4.5 million in business on Monday, the figure could rise to as much as $6 million. UPDATE: Surpassing all expectations, Dreamgirls raked in an astounding $8.7 million on Monday, according to Paramount and DreamWorks. The figure represented a per-theater average of more than $10,000 for the single day.

LAST-MINUTE POSTPONEMENT FOR BANGKOK FILM FESTIVAL

Just one month after firing Film Festival Management, the U.S.-based company that organized the Bangkok International Film Festival, and one month before the 2007 BIFF was scheduled to take place, the Tourism Authority of Thailand has postponed this year's festival to July. TAT blamed the inability to reach an agreement with Paragon Cineplex, which was to have been the principal site of the screenings. The theater, as well as many others in Bangkok, will be featuring the epic Legend of Naresuan at the time of the festival. (Local news reports indicated that no new films, either from Thailand or Hollywood, will be released until two weeks after Naresuan premieres.) Asked why a contract with the theater had not been formalized earlier, a spokesman for the festival blamed "delays in the bureaucratic process caused by the coup in September." The spokesman, Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, insisted, however, that members of the current military regime governing Thailand were not involved in the decision to postpone the festival. The delay, Chattan said, will also give festival organizers additional time to seek out "more quality films."

Brian B.