PENGUINS LIVE ... AND LET DIE

Families across the country ate their bird and had it, too over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. In a curious bit of irony, Happy Feet, an animated film about saving monarch penguins in Antartica, was the number one film at the box office on the day that millions of Americans feasted on turkeys. According to ShowBizData.com, the Warner Bros. movie earned $50.8 million between Wednesday and Sunday ($37.2 million from Friday to Sunday). In second place was Sony/MGM's Casino Royale, which raked in $45.4 million over the five-day period ($31.3 million for the three-day). Disney's Déjà Vu debuted in third place with $28.6 million ($20.4 million over the three days). Associated Press writer David Germain described the holiday as "sturdy but unremarkable." It was down 3.4 percent from the comparable weekend last year, which saw Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire leading with $81 million.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to final figures provided by ShowBizData.com:

1. Happy Feet, $37.02 million; 2. Casino Royale, $31.3 million; 3. Déjà Vu, $20.38 million; 4. Deck the Halls, $11.76 million; 5. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, $10.29 million; 6. The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, $10.12 million; 7. Flushed Away, $5.82 million; 8. Stranger Than Fiction, $5.73 million; 9. Bobby, $4.75 million; 10. The Fountain, $3.75 million.

BOX OFFICE OFFSETS LAST YEAR'S LOSSES

So far this year, total box-office revenue is up 5.5 percent above last year when it was down 5.2 percent from 2004. And, after declining every year for three consecutive years, attendance is up 3.9 percent. (In 2005, it was down 7.1 percent.) Analysts attributed the upswing to a larger output of films this year, appealing to a wide range of moviegoers. Today's (Monday) Los Angeles Times observed that by the end of the year, 154 films will have had wide openings in at least 1,000 theaters -- a 17 percent increase over 2005. Total domestic box-office revenue for 2006 now stands at $8.4 billion, compared with $8 billion at this date a year ago. (Last year marked the first time since 2001 that the box office failed to pass the $9-billion mark.)

CASINO ROYALE FLUSHED BY SUCCESS

In nearly every country where it has opened -- the U.S. is the conspicuous exception -- the James Bond movie Casino Royale has dominated the box office. It debuted in first place in 18 additional countries over the weekend, helping to raise its overseas total for the weekend to an estimated $66.2 million and raising its total overseas gross to $108.4 million. It outperformed every previous Bond flick in each country. However, it has done so up to now without the challenge of Happy Feet.

BORAT: A ONE-TIME WONDER?

Although Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan passed the $100-million mark at the box office over the weekend, Universal Pictures may already be "feeling buyer's remorse" over its agreement to pay Sacha Baron Cohen $42.5 million to make a follow-up film in the guise of his gay Austrian fashion designed Bruno, the Los Angeles Times observed today (Monday). According to the newspaper, the studio is concerned about the numerous lawsuits filed against Fox, which released Borat, and the possibility that Baron Cohen may now be so well known that he will be unable to dupe enough people into participating in his on-camera hoaxes. Entertainment lawyer George Hedges told the Times: "Once you have a high-profile situation and you have lawyers circling around, your risk factor is higher."

MOVIE HAS ITS DEBUT IN VATICAN CITY

Catherine Hadwicke's The Nativity Story on Sunday became the first theatrical feature film ever to have its premiere in Vatican City. In an interview with the Associated Press, Hardwicke (Lords of Dogtown, Thirteen), suggested that she attempted to avoid some of the criticism that surrounded Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. "There were some things he did that maybe were a little controversial," she told the wire service. "We wanted our film to be uniting and make the public see the similarities between religions instead of the differences." The film, which is being distributed by New Line Cinema, is set to open domestically on Dec. 1.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.