January 14, 2008 / 1:51 AM / 10 years ago

Cancer comedy "Bucket List" rules movie box office

<p>Morgan Freeman poses at the premiere of "The Bucket List" at the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles December 16, 2007. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Comedies mining the unlikely topics of terminal cancer and a church robbery led the North American box office on Sunday, sending ticket sales higher for a fifth consecutive weekend.

“The Bucket List,” starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as patients boldly facing their demise, sold $19.5 million worth of tickets during the three days beginning on Friday. The Warner Bros. release, which had played in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto the prior two weekends, drew an older audience, the Time Warner Inc-owned studio said.

Rapper Ice Cube’s “First Sunday” opened at No. 2 with $19 million. The Screen Gems caper pulled in a primarily young, black crowd, the Sony Corp division said.

The teen pregnancy comedy “Juno” slipped one place to No. 3 with $14 million, while “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” fell to No. 4 with $11.5 million after three weeks at No. 1.

The top-10 contained one other new release, the Universal Pictures kids film “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie,” at No. 9 with a modest $4.4 million. Opening well down the rankings was the fantasy “In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale” with $3.3 million.

Sales for the top 12 films tallied $108.8 million, a 4.1 percent increase over the year-ago period, said box office analysis firm Media By Numbers.

REINER‘S RECORD

“The Bucket List” marks a personal best for its director , Rob Reiner, surpassing the $15.5 million bow of 1992’s “A Few Good Men,” which also starred Nicholson. It was written by Justin Zackham, a struggling screenwriter who was on the verge of quitting the business until he decided to give it one last shot with a story about two feisty men who each draw up a to-do list before they “kick the bucket.”

Critics largely ripped the movie, but it evidently appealed to an older demographic. Warner Bros. said 70 percent of viewers were older than 35. The film, budgeted in the low-$40 million range, has earned almost $21 million to date, and is well-placed to benefit from the Martin Luther King holiday next week, the studio said.

Similarly, “First Sunday” hopes to get a boost from the holiday. Ice Cube, a veteran of the “Friday” and “Barbershop” movies, plays a ne‘er-do-well who decides to rob a church. Tracy Morgan and Katt Williams co-star in the $20 million movie. Almost two-thirds of the audience were aged between 18 and 39, and a little over half the viewers were black, Screen Gems said. It did have one thing in common with “The Bucket List” -- critics were unimpressed.

“Juno” has earned $71.25 million after six weeks. The award season favorite is a day away from surpassing 2004’s “Sideways” ($71.5 million) to become the most successful film for Fox Searchlight, News Corp.’s art-house distributor.

Walt Disney Co’s “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” has earned $187.3 million after four weeks, and now ranks as the biggest movie of Nicolas Cage’s career, beating the $173 million total of 2004’s “National Treasure.”

The 20th Century Fox children’s movie “Alvin and the Chipmunks” slipped one spot to No. 5 with $9.1 million, With $187.7 million in the bank, the surprise smash is the studio’s biggest release of 2007.

Will Smith’s “I Am Legend” led the foreign box office for a fourth consecutive weekend with sales of $36.2 million from 47 markets, Warner Bros. said. Its foreign total stands at $218 million, led by such countries as Britain ($44 million), Japan ($33 million) and France ($25 million). The film was No. 6 in North America with $8.1 million, and a five-week total of $240 million.

Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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