(Photo by © 20th Century Fox, © Buena Vista, @ Universal)

Just because a film is Rotten doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with plenty of Christmas cheer — or at least enough one-liners, touching scenes, or outright weirdness — for it to win our affections at this time of year. This Christmas, for the first time, we at Rotten Tomatoes are spreading the love, giving you an expanded list of the Best Christmas Movies ever – all Fresh and sparkly and ranked by Tomatometer – but also the below list of movies that fall on the Rotten end of the Tomatometer, but which are still on our own nice lists come December. They’re movies the critics mostly dismissed, but that are still worth your yuletide time.


This 2017 sequel celebrates Father Christmas by doubling the number of moms in the first film. Titular bad moms Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn butt heads with their own mothers, played by Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines, and Susan Sarandon, in a comedy that doesn’t aspire to much more than a chance for these talented actresses to pass on a little Christmas cheer and chaos. And that they do.


Almost Christmas (2016)

49%

The worst thing Almost Christmas has going for it is also the best thing: it’s so familiar. It’s a big family coming together for the holidays and they all have their own personal drama and relationships but also there’s love there, and more than a few laughs. We’ve seen this movie before, but we keep seeing it (and studios keep making it) because it works. Like milk and cookies for Santa, comedy-dramas like Almost Christmas and the yuletide are a natural, comforting fit.


No, not the classic animated special featuring Frankenstein’s Monster himself, Boris Karloff, as the narrator; that holiday gem sits at 100% on the Tomatometer. This Jim Carrey vehicle, directed by Ron Howard, translates Dr. Seuss’ whimsical illustrations into live-action, and the results aren’t particularly good, for goodness sake. But, while the Dr. Seuss-meets-Tim Burton’s nightmares aesthetic is a bit unsettling, the comedy holds up — especially in a scene where the Grinch’s own echo shouts “you’re an idiot” at him.


You’ve got to appreciate a movie that gives the whole plot away in the title. One of the earliest Ernest films, Ernest Saves Christmas sees Ernest (who began life as a character in local TV commercials) helping Santa Claus as he seeks his replacement. It’s kind of a proto-Santa Clause, in a weird way.


The Family Stone (2005)

53%

Imagine if the worst blowout your family had over a holiday meal was a movie, and also kinda charming and cathartic rather than stressful. That’s The Family Stone, which stars the great Diane Keaton as a forceful matriarch and Sarah Jessica Parker as a potential (emphasis on the “potential”) future daughter-in-law. Rachel McAdams as a kind of Regina George in sweatpants almost steals the show. Bring tissues.


Four Christmases (2008)

25%

Four Christmases understands that the holidays can be rough, especially if you’re dealing with multiple families who may or may not all like each other and/or you and your partner. This 2008 film – which has developed a following over the past decade – adds some hilarious big-name actors (Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon) to that reality in order to create a movie experience that’s a relatable escape. Look out for a very funny turn by Katy Mixon, who would go on to star in American Housewife.


Last Christmas (2019)

46%

Take the Mother of Dragons and the hot guy from Crazy Rich Asians, mix them with the music of George Michael, bring in Emma Thompson to co-write the script and Paul Feig to direct, and sprinkle a bit of holiday magic over the whole thing, and you’re looking at Last Christmas. Look, we get that the story is somewhat predictable – pretty much everyone figured out where it was going just from watching the trailer – and it’s all a tad overly sentimental, but with this kind of pedigree, it’s hard not to be charmed by its immensely likable stars and its feel-good fuzziness.


The Holiday (2006)

49%

It’s fair (if a little reductive) to say that The Holiday is what would be if it only focused on two couples instead of, like, 25. Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet star as two women who swap homes for the holidays and fall in love with Jude Law and Jack Black, respectively. A little predictable, sure, but in that special way that’s warm and reassuring — the Christmas rom-com equivalent of chestnuts roasting on an open fire.


There’s something charmingly old-school about Kevin McCallister’s second adventure. He travels to New York by mistake thanks to lax airport security regulations, enjoys a New York City that feels bygone for some vague nostalgic reason, and Donald Trump makes a cameo (that was cute, rather than controversial, at the time). But, if remembering Christmases of yesteryear isn’t enough for you, Home Alone 2 is worth it if only because it’s a hoot to see young Kevin inflict a possibly fatal amount of damage to the hapless Wet Bandits, once again.


The Ice Harvest (2005)

47%

The Ice Harvest is a Christmas movie in the way Die Hard is a Christmas movie: Arguably. Harold Ramis’ thriller comedy is set on Christmas Eve, and there’s a cool wintry vibe throughout the whole thing. It’s enough to make The Ice Harvest a good Christmas watch when you want to come up for some less holly jolly air while still feeling like you’re honoring the Christmas spirit.


Jingle All the Way (1996)

20%

Jingle All the Way is not just an unfairly maligned Christmas movie — it’s also a pretty good Power Rangers movie in disguise. Turbo-Man is a hero for our time, as are dads like Howard Langston (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Myron Larabee (Sinbad) who, in the true spirit of Christmas (read: capitalism), will brave crowded malls to make sure their kids get the perfect present under the tree on Christmas morn.


A typical workplace Christmas party is either underwhelming (oh, there’s fake holly in the break room) or a terrible mistake (how many co-workers did I kiss?). This 2016 comedy is about the latter sort. Starring Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, and T.J. Miller, Office Christmas Party doesn’t quite go so far as to put the “X” in “X-mas,” but it certainly earns its R rating, making it a rowdy change of pace for this time of year.


The Polar Express (2004)

56%

Robert Zemeckis’ take on the classic Christmas children’s book was extremely ambitious — only problem was that motion-capture technology wasn’t quite there yet in 2004, so CGI Tom Hanks and Co. ride the titular train straight through the uncanny valley. You can’t help but appreciate what Zemeckis was trying to do, and there’s a very sweet Christmas story underneath the eerily smooth textures. In fact, there’s a case to be made that the uncanny look of the movie only adds to the surreal holiday magic that propels this mighty train’s engines. A case – but not an open-and-shut one.


Reindeer Games (2000)

26%

Another action flick set at Christmastime, Reindeer Games sets itself apart from Die Hard and The Ice Harvest,/i> by making the holiday a little more than just scenery. When Ben Affleck and Co. rob a casino, they’re all dressed as Santa Clauses (Santas plural, not the Tim Allen kind). Reindeer Games is a pretty thorough fusion of Christmas and kick-ass, which is no small feat.


Kris Kringle doesn’t actually do much conquering in this extremely cheap-looking 1964 sci-fi comedy. Instead, Martians kidnap him in order to bring some Christmas cheer to their very boring martian children. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is the subject of one of the best Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes, but even without the bots’ commentary, it’s a hall-of-fame “so bad it’s good” flick – every character acts like they’re high on a mixture of sugarplums and quaaludes. Also, fun fact: This was the first time Mrs. Claus ever appeared on screen.


The Santa Clause 2 (2002)

56%

The Santa Clause 2 is a charming second reminder to always read the fine print – and one that’s just 5% shy of Freshness on the Tomatometer. It’s fun to see Tim Allen as a more confident Santa Claus in his second go-around, and the film operates in a neat space thematically. Everything is fantastical and Christmasy, while also being grounded with talk of contracts, parenting, and finding love after divorce. Let’s call it “Christmas magical realism.”


It doesn’t take a lot of work to make the Santa Claus fable horrifying (“he knows when you are sleeping / he knows when you’re awake”). So, Silent Night, Deadly Night takes the next logical step and makes an axe-murderer out of him. There are some depictions of mental health in this movie that deserve big lumps of coal, but if you’re willing to just accept Silent Night, Deadly Night as a seasonally appropriate ’80s slasher, you won’t be disappointed.


George Lucas made a habit of going back to update or change parts of the Star Wars films he didn’t like for new “special editions,” but the one thing he can’t do is erase this 1978 TV special from history. Sure, there was a cool cartoon that introduced Boba Fett to the far, far, away galaxy, but the actors all look miserable and/or stoned, large swaths of the dialogue are incomprehensible Wookie-speak, and at one point Chewbacca’s grandpa gets noticeably horny. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth tracking down this holiday season, if only to see why George hates it so much.


Imagine if Psycho was set at Christmastime and centered on a demented British lady and her mummified daughter instead of a demented American man and his mummified mother. Who Slew Auntie Roo — originally titled Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?, because, British — is excellent counter-programming for all that colorful feel-good Christmas fare.

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The biggest thrills of the Saw movies are their surprise endings, which seem to keep audiences guessing even more than M. Night Shyamalan‘s latest creations. That’s why the producers of the Saw sequels are starting there and working backwards.

“We just basically locked down the ending about a month ago so it’s working off of what happens from there,” said Oren Koules. “There’s nothing guaranteed. It’s really Mark [Burg] and I looking at each other and saying, ‘Okay, this story works, let’s go.’ When it doesn’t, we won’t go. We’ll miss a year, we’ll miss two years. It’s two things: If we have a story that works and the fans want to see it. It’s such a simple equation. Right now we’re working on some things on V. There’s nothing definitive.”

Burg may even have plans to make Saw V and VI at the same time, though coming up with two shocking, surprising scripts for one epic shoot may not be possible (especially now with the WGA in full effect). This plan also hinted at which characters from Saw IV might become the focus of a Saw V.

“It was an idea of ours to try and keep the cast together because it’s really difficult with Scott [Patterson] doing a TV series and other people doing other shows that we’re going to try to. I’d say it’s not out of the question but it’s going to be really hard for us to get the screenplay to Saw VI where we want it to be to be able to do it.”

If Saw V does go ahead, it looks like Jigsaw will remain a factor. Despite having his head on a morgue scale on the posters for Saw IV, Koules wants actor Tobin Bell back for “as many as he wants.”

The boys know that they won’t always be making a Saw movie a year. They’re prepared to accept their fate when the grosses go down. “I think we’ll all know,” said Koules. “As of the tracking, as of today and as of everything else right now, we’re still rolling. Listen, we’re surprised. There’s going to be a day we wake up, we don’t have a $25 million weekend, we have a $4 million weekend. We’re fine. We own the films. We’re okay.”

This week at the movies, we’ve got mother/daughter conflict ("Because I Said So," starring Diane Keaton and Mandy Moore) and dark proceedings on a North Dakota sunflower farm ("The Messengers," starring Dylan McDermott and Penelope Ann Miller). What do the critics have to say?

Diane Keaton is one of America’s finest actresses, and Mandy Moore has continued to emerge as an engaging cinematic presence. Thus, critics say it’s especially disappointing that "Because I Said So," a dramedy about the dating woes of a mother and daughter, is so derivative. Keaton stars as a mom who is overly involved in Moore’s love life, in the hopes of helping her avoid past mistakes. The pundits say the actors in "Because" do the best they can with the material, which isn’t much, since the script is slight and shrill. At eight percent on the Tomatometer, the critics are saying to stay away from this one just "Because."


The eight percent tomatometer came as a shock.

The folks behind "The Messengers" are sending a missive to audiences by not screening the film for critics. The message is this: the movie probably isn’t any good. Directed by the Pang brothers, the film stars Dylan McDermott and Penelope Ann Miller as a couple whose children see dead people; evil goings-on ensue. Memo to readers: Guess that Tomatometer!


"I see…film critics!"

Also opening this week in limited release: "East of Havana," a documentary about young rap artists in Cuba, is at 100 percent; "An Unreasonable Man," a documentary about Ralph Nader‘s tumultuous career, is at 91 percent on the Tomatometer; "Fired!" a comedic meditation on the nature of getting sacked, is at 75 percent; "In The Pit," a Mexican documentary about freeway builders, is at 57 percent; "Puccini for Beginners," a screwball love-triangle comedy starring Gretchen Mol, is at 36 percent; "The Situation," a multifaceted look at the U.S. occupation of Iraq starring Connie Nielsen, is at 36 percent; and “Constellation,” a story of familial togetherness, is at zero percent.


"An Unreasonble Man" is good for consumers.

And finally, it’s time to dole out congrats to those clairvoyant souls who correctly guessed last week’s Tomatometers for "Epic Movie" and "Blood and Chocolate." To sir_mcchris_the_pirate, we say, "yo-ho-ho and a bottle of props" for correctly guessing "Epic"’s three percent. And a "bow-wow-wow-yippie-yo-yippie-yay" to the one and only dreday, on a Tomatometer-guessing spree; the good doctor correctly estimated "Blood"’s eight percent.

Recent Diane Keaton Movies:
————————————-
53% — The Family Stone (2005)
69% — Something’s Gotta Give (2003)
13% — Town and Country (2001)
11% — Hanging Up (2000)
32% — The Other Sister (1999)

Recent Mandy Moore Movies:
—————————————
41% — American Dreamz (2006)
45% — Romance and Cigarettes (2006)
67% — Brother Bear 2 (2006)
34% — Racing Stripes (2005)
60% — Saved! (2004)

Films Not Screened for Critics in 2007
———————————————-
3% — Epic Movie
8% — Blood and Chocolate
22% — The Hitcher
16% — Primeval

Hollywood studios try to inject some juice into the North American box office this weekend by unleashing three big new releases aimed at getting people back into the habit of going to the movies.

Boys will be courted with the fantasy adventure pic "Eragon," girls will get to play with "Charlotte’s Web," and adults looking for a feel-good story to counter their holiday shopping blues will have the father-and-son Smith team in "The Pursuit of Happyness."

The dragon tale "Eragon" attacks the cinemas on Friday giving fantasy audiences the entertainment they’ve been missing this holiday season. Fox’s PG-rated actioner will try to fill a void in a season without a "Potter," "Narnia," or "Hobbit." Don’t expect grosses to come close to the numbers posted by those megahits, but if "Eragon" can still reach a portion of that huge audience, the studio will be happy. Ordinarily, the effects-driven film would probably have a tough time at the box office but thanks to a severe lack of competition, Fox has a golden opportunity. The marketing push has been strong and young males have little else to be excited by. Gamers might also be interested in seeing this adventure on the big screen and leave behind their new hardware for a couple of hours. A built-in audience of readers of the book will help too. Landing in 3,020 theaters, "Eragon" could open with around $23M this weekend.


The latest fantasy novel turned fantasy epic: "Eragon."

The beloved children’s story "Charlotte’s Web" hits the multiplexes with Hollywood’s favorite young girl Dakota Fanning in the lead role. Paramount’s G-rated tale will aim for family audiences and is using the starpower of voice actors Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, and John Cleese to connect with parents. With "Happy Feet" being the only major family film to do well over the past few weeks, kids should be ready to move on to something new. Girls will probably outnumber the boys here especially with "Eragon" opening at the same time. But the brand is known and the rating is tame so parents will look at this as a safe bet for their younger ones. Good reviews will help too. With children going on their school holidays soon, look for long-term strength as many will wait until Christmas week to go and see it. Opening in over 3,000 theaters, "Charlotte’s Web" might take in about $21M this weekend.


"Charlotte’s Web," no longer in animated form.

Will Smith and his real-life son Jaden Smith hit the big screen together in Sony’s uplifting drama "The Pursuit of Happyness" which aims to give adult moviegoers something to see this weekend. Based on the true story of Chris Gardner, the PG-13 film tells the story of a man who hits hard times and becomes homeless and moonlights during the day in a stock broker training program hoping for a new lease on life. "Pursuit" has gotten Smith some notice for his acting performance (including a Golden Globe nomination) and the novelty of seeing father and son in a movie together will certainly help sell tickets. The man in black has some of the strongest pull among Hollywood stars at the box office with appeal that transcends all age, race, and gender lines. It’s no wonder that he is now pursuing his tenth $100M blockbuster.

Reviews have been mixed for the film overall even though Smith is hearing buzz about a possible Oscar nomination. Sony must have been hoping for better reactions from critics though. Instead, the studio will appeal directly to adult moviegoers and their desire to see an uplifting feel-good story anchored by a popular star at this time of year. Don’t expect "Pursuit" to reach the levels of the actor’s last film "Hitch" which bowed to $43.1M from 3,575 theaters for a $12,068 average. But if good word-of-mouth circulates, it could stay in the top ten throughout the holiday season and go on to be a winner. Appeal looks solid with both men and women plus a strong turnout from African Americans will help to boost the grosses. Opening in 2,852 theaters, "The Pursuit of Happyness" might debut with around $19M.


Will Smith and son, playing Chris Gardner and son, in "The Pursuit of Happyness."

Opening with special solo engagements in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco is the lavish musical "Dreamgirls" starring Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles, Eddie Murphy, and Jennifer Hudson. Paramount and DreamWorks are putting on a special live roadshow performance with these engageemnts for ten days before the film expands across the country on December 25. In New York City, "Dreamgirls" opens exclusively at the giant Ziegfeld theater which has already sold out its five weekend performances. With a giant auditorium of 1,200 seats and ticket prices of $25, look for this one theater to contribute over $100,000 to the weekend gross. West Coast venues hope to contribute similar numbers. Though the gross will be inflated by the ticket price, sky high demand thanks to critics awards, Globe nods, and Oscar buzz has already led to Friday’s opening night shows in California to sell out as well.


"Dreamgirls," opening in limited locations.

Other new films entering the marketplace in limited release include Steven Soderbergh‘s World War II drama "The Good German" starring George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, and Tobey Maguire from Warner Bros. MGM counters with its Iraq War drama "Home of the Brave" starring Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Biel, Christina Ricci, and 50 Cent. The Weinstein Company platforms the Jude Law thriller "Breaking and Entering" from director Anthony Minghella in an Oscar-qualifying run in Los Angeles.


Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson in "Home of the Brave."

Among holdovers, last weekend’s top film "Apocalypto" moves into its all-important second weekend which will indicate what type of staying power Mel Gibson‘s latest film has. Curiousity and media hype helped to bring out moviegoers on the first weekend, but will they keep coming? The Buena Vista release fared much better than expected on Sunday grossing $840,000 more than originally expected. The studio expected a Sunday drop of 38% but was pleased to see the bloody epic dip only 23%. This weekend’s three new offerings do not look to give too much of a direct threat to "Apocalypto" so a 35% drop may in order. That would give the Mayan adventure about $9M for the frame and $29M in ten days.

Warner Bros. will see some competition for its penguin blockbuster "Happy Feet," but its hit toon has been holding up quite well each week. A 35% fall would leave "Feet" with around $8.5M and allow it to flirt with the $150M mark. Sony’s "The Holiday" got off to a decent but not spectacular start with its $12.8M bow. The Cameron DiazKate Winslet starrer may slide 35% to roughly $8.5M pushing the total to $25M after ten days.

LAST YEAR: Leaping into the number one spot, although with less muscle than expected, Peter Jackson‘s "King Kong" opened with $50.1M over the weekend and $66.2M over its five-day debut. Universal’s mega-budgeted ape flick went on to gross a commendable $218.1M domestically and $549M worldwide which fell a bit short of the film’s lofty expectations given its budget and filmmaker. "Kong" knocked fellow effects-driven actioner "The Chronicles of Narnia" to second place with $31.8M dropping 51% in its sophomore frame. "Narnia" would eventually climb back into the top spot. Debuting in third was the romantic comedy "The Family Stone" starring Sarah Jessica Parker with $12.5M on its way to $60.1M for Fox. Warner Bros. rounded out the top five with "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" which grossed $6M and "Syriana" which collected $5.6M. No other films dared to open against "King Kong," however the critically acclaimed "Brokeback Mountain" expanded to just 69 theaters in its second weekend and jumped into the top ten with $2.5M for a scorching $36,355 average.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

A wave of new releases hits the multilplexes on Friday as the North American box office looks to bounce back after a slugglish weekend and get the final month of the year started with a bang.

Mel Gibson‘s ultraviolent historical epic "Apocalypto" hits theaters nationwide while his "What Women Want" director Nancy Meyers counters with the feel-good romantic comedy "The Holiday" starring Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet. The latter’s iceberg lover Leonardo DiCaprio stars in the new political thriller "Blood Diamond" and kids too young for all those flicks will be offered the family comedy "Unaccompanied Minors."

Mel Gibson once again plays tricks on the box office bringing forth one of the most unpredictable grossers of the year in "Apocalypto." The R-rated film examines the end of the once-great Mayan civilization from five centuries ago with the story of one brave man, captured by warriors and set to be sacrificed, who must break free and rescue his pregnant wife and young son. As one of the bloodiest and most violent films of 2006, the Buena Vista release is also one of the most challenging to market. Like the director’s last effort, 2004’s smash hit "The Passion of the Christ," "Apocalypto" is made in a language now dead and is subtitled all the way through. But whereas "Passion" had some small level of starpower, Gibson’s new offering boasts a cast of unknowns including many non-actors.

Selling a subtitled film with no stars about a part of history that few today are talking about is risky enough. But Gibson’s arrest over the summer for drunk driving and his anti-Jewish remarks led to horrible PR for "Apocalypto’s" only marketable asset. A few weeks ago, this film looked like it would have a tough road to travel in order to succeed. But like with "Passion," targeted marketing at those audience segments most likely to embrace the pic has helped fuel positive buzz and even good reviews have sparked more interest, not only with moviegoers, but also with exhibitors. Disney upped its opening weekend run from 2,000 to 2,500 theaters as the exhibition community is showing more confidence in the box office potential of the film. "Passion" also saw its theater bookings jump in the final weeks before launching.

Because of Gibson’s summer escapade, there are some who cannot be convinced to spend money and time on a Mel movie. However, the controversy has given "Apocalypto" a ton of free media exposure over the last couple of months and curiosity has grown. Plus the studio has wisely targeted the large Latino audience which never gets to see a big Hollywood epic made about its ancient history. They came out in big numbers for "Passion" and are expected to show up again this weekend. Also there are moviegoers sick of wasting time and money on sequels and remakes who want something fresh and unique that are looking at the Mayan adventure as an experience they can’t get anywhere else. It will be a closely-watched opening for "Apocalypto," but a weekend tally of about $15M could result giving Gibson a reasonable shot at scoring back-to-back number one hits with foreign language movies.

Mel Gibson’s "Apocalypto."

Moviegoers in search of less bloodshed and a lower body count this weekend will be checking out the new romantic comedy "The Holiday" which stars Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet as two frustrated professionals who decide to swap homes in order to get away from their woes. The PG-13 film finds Diaz going to snowy England while Winslet’s character heads to sunny Los Angeles. Jude Law and Jack Black play the love interests in the Nancy Meyers film. "Holiday" boasts plenty of starpower even though the casting of Nacho Libre in a date movie will have many scratching their heads. Teenage girls and adult women will make up the primary audience, but male interest will be there too thanks to the sassy Diaz who remains a big box office pull with both genders.

Female audiences have been neglected in recent weeks with most major grossers tapping into male or family audiences. The December marketplace will welcome a multi-star romantic comedy set during the Christmas season, however the whites-only casting policy may prevent a more diverse turnout. Sony offered sneak previews last Saturday to boost awareness and word-of-mouth. "Holiday" looks to reach the same crowds that came out for previous mid-December romantic comedies like last year’s "The Family Stone" ($12.5M opening), Meyers’ 2003 hit "Something’s Gotta Give" ($16.1M), and 2002’s Yankee-Brit combo "Two Weeks Notice" ($14.3M). "The Holiday" should receive good cheer from ticket buyers and take in roughly $15M this weekend.

Kate Winslet and Jack Black in "The Holiday."

Like this weekend’s Mel Gibson epic, Leonardo DiCaprio’s new film "Blood Diamond" is also a violent tale of a man whose village is ransacked by warlords and who must fight to retrieve his wife and family. This time, the action takes place only seven years ago in the African nation of Sierra Leone where rebels fight to protect their illegal diamond trade. Djimon Hounsou and Jennifer Connelly co-star in the R-rated film directed by Ed Zwick ("The Last Samurai," "Glory"). Warner Bros. has poured some major marketing dollars into hyping up its new political thriller and like most major releases these days, "Blood Diamond" has some controversy of its own which the studio hopes will help generate more interest. Many stories have been written about how the film might impact the global diamond industry as more Americans (by far the world’s largest consumers of the gem) learn about how conflict diamonds make their way into the market.

Story and starpower should be the main factors at the box office, however. DiCaprio has pull and Hounsou has been getting lots of notice for this role including winning the Best Supporting Actor award from the National Board of Review this week. A year ago this weekend, DiCaprio’s "Departed" foe Matt Damon teamed up with George Clooney for the international political saga "Syriana" which went nationwide with a $11.7M opening from 1,752 theaters for a $6,699 average. With mixed reviews and only 158 more theaters, "Blood Diamond" could find itself in the same neighborhood as it will appeal to much the same audience. Young women who dig the "Titanic" boy and want more upbeat entertainment may get steered over to "The Holiday" and young men who seek screen violence will find much more of it in "Apocalypto" so competition will be fierce this weekend. Opening in 1,910 theaters, "Blood Diamond" might shine with around $12M this weekend.

Leo and Djimon in "Blood Diamond."

Kids have just one new movie aimed at them this weekend. Warner Bros. offers up its second wide release of the frame with "Unaccompanied Minors," a story about a group of children causing chaos when left behind at an airport. The PG-rated film will play exclusively to the family crowd and with "Happy Feet," "Deck the Halls," and even "The Santa Clause 3" still lingering in the marketplace, competition will be tight. Lewis Black and Wilmer Valderrama are the only major names here so starpower will not be much of a factor in drawing in paying customers. "Minors" just does not have enough bells and whistles to rise above the crowded arena. Although the film opens with the most number of theaters, it may end up with the worst gross among the newbies. "Unaccompanied Minors" sneaks into 2,775 sites and could take in about $9M.

A group of kids up to airport hijinks in "Unaccompanied Minors."

After a three-week party atop the box office charts, "Happy Feet" will dance its way down a couple of notches thanks to the wave of new product. "Unaccompanied Minors" will be the only true competitor so the drop should not be too hard. A 35% fall to about $11M could result giving Warner Bros. $136M overall.

James Bond has also been celebrating a solid box office run with its three straight silver medals and is hoping to surpass "The Devil Wears Prada" ($124.7M) and "Over the Hedge" ($155M) to eventually become the top-grossing film of 2006 to not reach the number one spot. This weekend, a 40% decline could be in order giving Agent 007 around $9M for the session pushing the cume for Sony to $129M.

LAST YEAR: Making a big splash at the box office was "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" which bowed to a ferocious $65.6M for the second largest December opening in history. Disney’s effects-filled adventure went on to capture $291.7M domestically and a stunning $750M worldwide. Opening far back in the runnerup spot, but still posting solid numbers, was the oil industry drama "Syriana" with $11.7M and a $6,699 average. The Warner Bros. release went on to gross $50.8M domestically and $93M globally. "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" dropped to third after three weeks at number one and grossed $10.3M. The Johnny Cash flick "Walk the Line" followed with $5.7M and the family comedy "Yours, Mine & Ours" rounded out the top five with $5.1M. Debuting in limited release with explosive averages were "Memoirs of a Geisha" with a $85,313 average from eight locations and "Brokeback Mountain" with a $109,485 average from only five theaters. Final domestic grosses reached $57M and $83M and each won three Oscars.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

OK, so "King Kong" didn’t exactly storm out of the gates following its release last Wednesday, but the lovestruck gorilla enjoyed a rather impressive 3-day weekend all the same. The monkey’s mega-movie grabbed just over $50 million over the weekend, giving it a total tally of $66.2 million from over 3,500 screens.

Variety‘s Ben Fritz sums up the Kong-quest rather nicely: "The big ape is already catching a second wind.

Swinging to a respectable weekend after a weaker-than-expected start on Wednesday, "King Kong" grossed $50.1 million Friday-Sunday; five-day cume was $66.2 million. "King Kong" averaged $14,055 per play at 3,568 locations.

Universal is pinning its hopes on "Kong’s" strongest stat: a 40% jump from Friday to Saturday. That’s significantly better than any of the "Lord of the Rings" pics, all of which also opened Wednesday a week before Christmas.

"This movie is setting its own pattern," asserted Marc Shmuger, U vice chairman in charge of worldwide marketing and distribution. "It’s a new one for those of us in the business and who study it. Who knows where it could go?""

Pulling in at second place, with a pretty impressive $31.1m second weekend, is Disney’s "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," which has now earned $112.5m from the moviegoers. Third place went to the newly-arrived ensemble comedy "The Family Stone," which netted $12.7m from 2,400 theaters.

Fourth and fifth place went to a pair of old pals: "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" ($5.9m, $252.5m total) and "Syriana" ($5.4m, $22.3m total).

Next week sees the arrival of five new wide releases: "Fun with Dick and Jane" and "Cheaper by the Dozen 2" on Wednesday, "The Ringer" on Friday, and "Rumor Has It" and "Wolf Creek" on Sunday … which means there will be a little for something for everyone at the multiplexes.

As always, you can check out a closer look at the weekend numbers by visiting the Rotten Tomatoes Box Office Page.

This week at the movies, we have a giant ape {"King Kong"} and some yuletide dramedy ("The Family Stone"). Will the critics go bananas for these flicks?

It seems that virtually every holiday film is set in New England (where it snows), and revolves around the eccentric and conflict-prone but otherwise loving family members who are meeting the protagonist’s significant other for the first time. "The Family Stone," starring Diane Keaton, Sarah Jessica Parker, Rachel McAdams and a host of other likeable actors, has all these elements, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie. Rather, critics are split on the matter; some feel that "The Family Stone" is sly, sharp, and funny, but others say it’s a bit too clichéd to fully register. Like the Christmas turkey on the 27th of December, "The Family Stone" is currently fresh, but at 60 percent on the Tomatometer, it’s not the freshest.

Oh, and you may have heard about this movie involving a big ape, that was based on this other movie about a big ape that everyone likes. It’s called "King Kong," and it was directed by this guy named Peter Jackson, who did some movies you might have heard of. Anyway, "Kong" is Certified Fresh, at 84 percent on the Tomatometer, which means that a lot of critics think it’s really good. Just so you know.

Holiday Movies:
——————-
4% — Christmas With the Kranks (2004)
8% — Surviving Christmas (2004)
84% — Elf (2003)
73% — Bad Santa (2003)
87% — It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Disney & Walden’s "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" had a pretty fantastic opening weekend at the box office, pulling in just over $67 million from 3,600 theaters. "Narnia" became the #3 biggest opening of the year, behind only "Star Wars Episode 3" and "Harry Potter Episode 4."

The wide release of Stephen Gaghan‘s oil-fest "Syriana" did fairly well, pulling in $12 million from over 1,700 theaters. Third place with about $10 million was "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," which has now grossed nearly $245 million in four weeks.

Fourth and fifth place went to "Walk the Line" ($5.7m weekend, $77m total) and "Yours, Mine and Ours" ($5.1m weekend, $40.9m total).

Next week sees the release of Peter Jackson‘s highly-anticipated "King Kong" (on Wednesday) and Fox’s ensemble comedy "The Family Stone" (on Friday).

For a closer look at the weekend numbers, take a visit to the Rotten Tomatoes Box Office Page!

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