'National Treasure' begins 2008 atop box office

Tue Jan 1, 2008 7:02pm EST
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By Dean Goodman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Nicolas Cage adventure "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" began the new year as the top movie in North America, helping to send off 2007 on a high note.

According to studio estimates issued on Tuesday, the Walt Disney Co hit sequel sold $55.4 million worth of tickets during the five-day period beginning December 28.

Compared with the five-day Christmas period beginning December 21, the kids movie "Alvin and the Chipmunks" rose one place to No. 2 with $42.2 million, overtaking the Will Smith sci-fi thriller "I Am Legend," which earned $38 million.

The political comedy "Charlie Wilson's War" held steady at No. 4 with $20.5 million. The teen comedy "Juno" jumped four places to No. 5 with $15.7 million.

After 12 days, "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" has earned $143.8 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.

"Alvin and the Chipmunks," released by News Corp's 20th Century Fox, has earned $154.6 million after 19 days. In that same period, "I Am Legend" has tallied $205.1 million for Warner Bros. Pictures, a unit of Time Warner Inc.

The three movies combined to lift the box office out of a prolonged fall slump, when high-profile entries such as "Beowulf" and "The Golden Compass" failed to connect with moviegoers.

For the year (January 2, 2007 to January 1, 2008), overall sales rose 4.1 percent to a record $9.68 billion, according to box office analysis firm Media By Numbers. The previous high was $9.45 billion in 2004. But higher ticket prices drove the 2007 increase. The number of tickets sold was 1.42 billion, essentially unchanged from 2006. The modern-day record was 1.6 billion in 2002. Before the advent of television, the tally was much higher.   Continued...