Stiller #1: ‘Night At The Museum’ Tops ‘Happyness’ For Third Week

New releases 'Freedom Writers,' 'Children of Men' debut behind box-office holdouts.

The Top Five

#1 “Night at the Museum” ($24 million)
#2 “The Pursuit of Happyness” ($13 million)
#3 “Children of Men” ($10.3 million)
#4 “Freedom Writers” ($9.7 million)
#5 “Dreamgirls” ($8.8 million)

It’s been quite a few months for museums at the box office. First Tom Hanks finds a naked dude dead in the Louvre and sets opening-weekend records with “The Da Vinci Code” and now Ben Stiller’s “Night at the Museum” is enjoying its third straight week in the #1 slot. Anyone care to wager if Hollywood has a development deal in place yet with the Guggenheim? “Here’s the pitch! There’s this serial killer, and he’s stuck in the Guggenheim with a detective played by Ashton Kutcher! Do we get a green-light or what?”

The reality is that the unreality of Ben Stiller being chased by dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History has been a box-office bonanza this holiday season. And earning a still-strong $24 million this past weekend, it’s not showing much weakness yet. A $200 million gross looks as inevitable as the sequel that’s sure to be announced any day now.

While Will Smith’s heart-tugging drama “The Pursuit of Happyness” has been pursuing the top spot at the box office for naught, its staying power is similarly awesome. A $124 million gross for a drama resting solely on the shoulders of one star (the film doesn’t even bother with a credible love interest) is mighty impressive. It’s further evidence that Smith may just be the biggest box-office draw the world’s got nowadays.

A couple of new entries entered the top five in the third and fourth slots. Alfonso Cuarón’s Clive Owen-led futuristic tale of a world without babies, “Children of Men”, edged out Hillary Swank’s “Freedom Writers” for third place. Both films performed respectfully considering their midsize opening (each debuted in just over 1200 theaters). Still, the upside for “Freedom Writers” looks to be better than “Children of Men,” which was made for a sizable tab (a reported $72 million) — though Cuarón’s critically lauded cautionary tale could have a longer-than-usual shelf life if it garners any Oscar attention at the end of the month.

Films at the #5 spot aren’t usually worthy of much attention — but when your name is “Dreamgirls” and you’re playing in only 852 theaters after weeks of release, it’s a different story. With an expected bevy of Academy Award nominations on the way (and a good shot at some prizes at the Golden Globes next week) and plans for expansion imminent, its $54 million gross looks to get bigger by leaps and bounds — and soon.

There was less cheery news for a debut that failed to break the top five, “Happily N’Ever After.” This fairy tale apparently has a Brothers Grimm-like dark ending — a tepid $6.8 million gross in its opening weekend.

How’d We Do?

Everyone from yours truly to guest prognosticator Dominique Swain nailed it with predictions of “Night at the Museum” ‘s dominance (see “Projection Booth: ‘Night At The Museum’ Poised For Another #1 Weekend” ). So it came down to who came closest in guessing the actual gross, and lo and behold, it was this writer edging out the competition. Check out our closely contested leader board below:

Prognosticator (Weeks Won)
Josh Horowitz, MTV Movies Editor (5)
Larry Carroll, MTV News Writer (5)
Celebrity guest (1)

In Perspective

He was the man most expected to earn his license to kill last year. But by all accounts, the role of James Bond wasn’t the one Clive Owen sought. And with glowing reviews for his newly released “Children of Men,” the man who would be Bond has nothing to apologize for. Here’s a look at how the film career of Clive Owen has shaken out since landing on our radar with 2000′s “Croupier.” That’s shaken, not stirred. Sorry, Clive — you’ll always be the Bond that got away to us.

» “Inside Man” (2006) $88.5 million
» “Derailed” (2005) $36 million
» “Sin City” (2005) $74.1 million
» “Closer” (2004) $33.9 million
» “King Arthur” (2004) $51.8 million

Next week

A quartet of diverse fare is on the movie menu this coming week. The long-delayed teen drama — and Justin Timberlake vehicle — “Alpha Dog” will try to prove it’s the top dog. And JT isn’t the only music artist trying to establish film cred. Ne-Yo and Chris Brown star in “Stomp the Yard” and attempt to, yes, stomp the competition. No such tempting puns jump out with the release of Luc Besson’s animated adventure “Arthur and the Invisibles” nor the South Africa-set horror flick “Primeval.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “Night at the Museum”, “The Pursuit of Happyness” and “Freedom Writers”.

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