Cage, chipmunks bring box office cheer
By Dean Goodman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hit movies starring Nicolas Cage and the Chipmunks led a strong slate of diverse crowd pleasers at the North American box office on Sunday.
Additionally, movies playing in limited release, such as awards-season contenders "Juno" and "There Will Be Blood," pulled in sell-out holiday crowds. "The Bucket List," a comedy starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, opened strongly in three cities before its national release on January 11.
Cage ruled the roost for a second weekend with "National Treasure: Book of Secrets," which sold an estimated $35.6 million worth of tickets in the three days beginning Friday, according to distributor Walt Disney Pictures.
After two weeks, the action fantasy has earned $124 million, and is hot on the trail of the $173 million total of its 2004 predecessor, "National Treasure," the biggest movie of Cage's career. The early international total for the sequel stands at $59.8 million.
Cage stars as a treasure hunter who tries to solve an ancient puzzle related to Lincoln's assassination, in the process managing to break into both Buckingham Palace and the White House. Critics ridiculed the movie, which also stars Jon Voight and Dame Helen Mirren.
The surprise smash "Alvin and the Chipmunks" moved up one place to No. 2 with $30 million. The helium-voiced critters, a childhood staple for almost 50 years, have sold $142.4 million worth of tickets after three weeks. The Twentieth Century Fox film cost in the high-$50 million range to produce.
SMITH HITS DOUBLE CENTURY
Will Smith's sci-fi thriller "I Am Legend" slipped one place to No. 3 with $27.5 million, also in its third weekend. The total for the former champ rose to $194.6 million. Distributor Warner Bros. said it would reach $200 million on Monday, becoming the studio's third release to hit that level this year, after "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" and "300." Warner Bros. also had three $200 million movies in 2005, and said no other studio has ever accomplished that feat in a calendar year. Continued...