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‘Fockers’ Gets Early Start at Christmas Box Office
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – With the arrival of Christmas weekend, it’s Hollywood’s last chance to open a box office bonanza or two before the calendar year ends.
Universal Pictures’ family comedy “Meet the Fockers,” which opened Wednesday, already has staked its claim in hopes of attracting big audiences — many of them presumably fleeing family gatherings.
On Christmas Day, 20th Century Fox will make a bid for younger audiences — as well as nostalgia freaks — when it bows its live-action comedy “Fat Albert.”
Dimension Films, counterprograming against the seasonal merriment, is betting on the horror thriller “Darkness,” while Warner Bros. Pictures unleashed the musical adaptation “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera” in limited release Wednesday.
This is the first time since 2000 that holiday moviegoers haven’t been abuzz about a “Lord of the Rings” movie. Back then, the big film was Jim Carrey’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” which ended up with $260 million.
This year, the best year-end performer has been Disney/Pixar’s “The Incredibles,” which opened Nov. 5 and has collected $238.5 million so far.
As moviegoers approach the year’s final, 10-day moviegoing rush, there’s still plenty of potential cash for the contenders to divvy among themselves. Yet, this year’s particular calendar configuration is apt to make for an unpredictable frame: Many theaters close early Christmas Eve, and in many locations, audiences probably won’t rebound until sometime late Saturday, with Sunday likely to play strongly.
“Meet the Fockers” is in position to better the opening of its predecessor “Meet the Parents,” which bowed to $28.6 million in October 2000.
Directed by Jay Roach, who also shot the prequel, the PG-13 film adds Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand to the cast, which is headed by Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller. As Streisand makes her first film appearance in eight years, even hard-edged critics appear to be extending her a warm welcome back, and that could help to pull in older as well as younger moviegoers.
Last year, Fox demonstrated a knack for luring in the family audience with its Christmas Day opening of “Cheaper by the Dozen,” starring Steve Martin, which bowed to $27.5 million. This year, it’s offering the PG-rated “Fat Albert,” director Joel Zwick’s (“My Big Fat Greek Wedding”) adaptation of the vintage animated series “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.”
“Fat Albert” lacks “Cheaper’s” star appeal — even though Cosby does make an appearance as himself — and the fact that it doesn’t open until Saturday will limit its grosses, at least on its first weekend.
“Albert” also will be squaring off for some of the family audience against reigning champ “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.” Paramount’s Jim Carrey vehicle, based on Daniel Handler’s books, bowed to $30 million last weekend and easily maintained its No. 1 status Monday and Tuesday.
Dimension Films will make a bid for disaffected teens on Christmas Day with “Darkness,” an R-rated terror tale filmed in Spain by Juame Balaguero (“The Nameless”) and starring Anna Paquin and Lena Olin.
Meanwhile, Warners. is pumping up the volume on the sumptuous, PG-13-rated “Phantom,” directed by Joel Schumacher.
Although it opened in just 622 theaters Wednesday, that should be enough to accommodate the first rush of the “Phantom” faithful; the true test of the movie’s appeal won’t take place until it expands during the new year.
This weekend, Miramax Films will open up the throttle on “The Aviator,” Martin Scorsese’s biopic of Howard Hughes starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Having opened Friday in just 40 theaters, the movie is expanding into 1,796 locations. Additionally, Disney will expand Wes Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou” into 1,105 theaters after two weekends playing in just New York and Los Angeles.
Among exclusive openers, two films with Oscar aspirations are arriving in Los Angeles and New York. United Artists opened Terry George’s drama “Hotel Rwanda,” starring Golden Globe nominee Don Cheadle, on Wednesday, and Newmarket Films will bow Nicole Kassell’s “The Woodsman,” starring Kevin Bacon as a pedophile, on Christmas Eve.