The Lion, The Witch And The Winner — ‘Narnia’ Bumps ‘Harry Potter’

Political thriller 'Syriana' is in at #2, sandwiched between the two fantasy films.

Four children unlocked the door to box-office success this weekend, as “The Chronicles of Narnia” bowed at #1, knocking “Harry Potter” from his throne.

Adapted from C.S. Lewis’ classic novel of the same name, the film earned more than $67 million, according to early estimates, and helped pull Hollywood out of a box-office slump. In “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” four children are moved from their London home during World War II to stay with a quirky professor. Things are pretty boring for the kids until one discovers a wardrobe that leads to Narnia, a world ruled by an evil witch who keeps the land in perpetual winter. With the help of Aslan the lion, the children try to defeat the witch(see “‘The Chronicles Of Narnia’: The Next Lit Hit?”) .

Sandwiched between two films centering on magic and fantasy is the significantly more serious “Syriana,” a political thriller focusing on the global oil industry and following multiple storylines, including one set in the oil fields of the Persian Gulf (see “Clooney’s Desire For Political Debate Comes At A Price: Fingernail Torture” ). Directed by Stephen Gaghan (“Traffic”) and starring George Clooney and Matt Damon, the film bowed at #2 with more than $12 million.

After three weeks at #1, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” was knocked down to the #3 position. The blockbuster series’ fourth installment — which finds our hero battling for the Triwizard Cup — earned more than $10.3 million(see “No More Child’s Play”) .

The Johnny Cash biopic “Walk the Line” fell from #3 to #4 this week. The film — which follows the life of music’s legendary Man in Black from his troubled childhood through a struggle with drugs and courtship of June Carter — earned more than $5.7 million (see “Johnny Cash Was ‘Thrilled’ Joaquin Phoenix Would Play Him, ‘Line’ Director Says” ).

The family flick “Yours, Mine and Ours,” starring Rene Russo and Dennis Quaid as a newly married couple with 18 children between them, dropped from #4 to #5 with more than $5.1 million.

Her onscreen acrobatic skills are solid, but Charlize Theron’s “Aeon Flux” slipped at the box-office, falling from #2 to #6 after one week in theaters. The film, based on the MTV animated series, earned more than $4.6 million(see “Charlize Theron: Gimme Danger”) .

Rounding out the box-office top 10 are “Just Friends,” which fell from #5 to #7 with $3.9 million; “Pride & Prejudice,” which stuck at #8 for a second week with more than $2.4 million; “Chicken Little,” which slipped from #7 to #9 with more than $2.2 million; and “Rent,” which dropped from #6 to #10 with $2 million.

Opening in only five theaters nationwide, “Brokeback Mountain” missed the top 10 but earned over $545,000 — that’s an average of over $109,000 per screen (To put that number in perspective, “Narnia” took in $18,500 per screen). The film, which stars Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as two cowboys forced to conceal their love in 1960s Wyoming (see ” ‘Brokeback’ More Than Just ‘The Gay Cowboy Film,’ Cast Says” ), not only made more money per screen than any movie this year, it also scored an all-time record for the highest per-screen average of any live-action feature.

Overall, ticket sales were up from the corresponding weekend last year.

Next week, look for “King Kong” and “The Family Stone” to debut on the box-office top 10. “The Producers” also opens in limited release.

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