Television Listings

"Christmas Carol" brings early cheer to box office

By Carl DiOrio

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The holiday season starts early this weekend, as Disney opens director Robert Zemeckis' 3D animated feature "A Christmas Carol."

The industry dates the holiday box office season from the weekend before Thanksgiving (November 20-22), but Disney executives believe "Carol" will play strongly well past Turkey Day.

Prerelease tracking surveys show good awareness and must-see interest for the Jim Carrey vehicle, and "Carol" should top the weekend rankings easily with a three-day tally in the $35 million-$45 million range.

"Carol" will play on a mix of 2D and 3D screens and is set for 3,700 theaters overall. It boasts about 2,050 3D screens, including 181 Imax auditoriums. Zemeckis' ImageMovers banner produced the film's pricey mix of motion capture and CGI for an estimated $100 million-plus.

Zemeckis' first animated holiday outing, 2004's "The Polar Express," grossed $305 million worldwide.

Three other pictures also open in wide release on Friday: "The Men Who Stare at Goats," a military comedy starring George Clooney; the supernatural horror thriller "The Fourth Kind"; and the psychological thriller "The Box."

"Goats" could be headed for a bow in the low- to mid-teen millions from more than 2,400 theaters. It likely will skew older than other pictures this weekend and thus could display decent legs in subsequent frames.

Overture Films acquired "Goats" from Winchester Films and Clooney and first-time director Grant Heslov's Smokehouse Pictures for less than $5 million.

"The Fourth Kind" should open in the $8 million-$12 million range. The main interest lies with younger moviegoers, with World Series spots helping to raise male awareness. The film, directed by relative newcomer Olatunde Osunsanmi ("Within"), is being released in more than 2,500 theaters by Universal Pictures on behalf of producer Gold Circle Films.

Directed by "Donnie Darko" helmer Richard Kelly, Warner Bros.'

"The Box," a genre-bending yarn about a married couple who receive a mysterious wooden box that threatens to turn them into millionaire murderers, should ring up $6 million or more from more than 2,600 theaters. Women represent core support for the Warner Bros. release, which stars Cameron Diaz and James Marsden.

Last weekend's champ, Sony's Michael Jackson concert documentary "This Is It," opened to $23.2 million. An unusually strong Sunday tally could mean positive word-of-mouth is spreading. But with Halloween falling on a Saturday, the opening weekend was anything but a normal one in many respects.

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