'Marley & Me' Leads Record-Breaking Holiday Box Office

'Bedtime Stories,' 'Benjamin Button' also performed well over holiday weekend, while 'Spirit' stumbled.

The Box Office Top Five

#1 [movie id="362765"]"Marley & Me"[/movie] ($37 million)

#2 [movie id="338327"]"Bedtime Stories"[/movie] ($28.1 million)

#3 [movie id="280659"]"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"[/movie] ($27.2 million)

#4 [movie id="341563"]"Valkyrie"[/movie] ($21.5 million)

#5 [movie id="358529"]"Yes Man"[/movie] ($16.4 million)

Christmas came right on time for Hollywood this year. Despite bad weather and poor retail sales around the country, the box-office boom proved that audiences were stirring on December 25. Nearly all of the major holiday openers cracked the top five, and the weekend brought in a record-breaking $204 million, making it the highest-grossing three-day Christmas weekend to date.

The big winner was [news id="1601015"]"Marley & Me,"[/news] starring Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson and a big, lovable dog. It opened at $14.7 million on Christmas Day, breaking the record, and went on to gross $37 million for the weekend and $51.7 overall. (Insert your "That's a lot of milk bones," "The box office has gone to the dogs" and "Bow wow!" jokes here.)

Adam Sandler's [news id="1601778"]"Bedtime Stories"[/news] was expected to take the #1 slot, since it was the most kid-friendly offering, but apparently not even Sandler's tall tales can compete with "Marley." It opened at just $10.6 million but still did solid business, eventually collecting $38.6 million overall.

"Bedtime" had some fierce competition for the #2 spot in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." The Brad Pitt/ Cate Blanchett drama had the better debut, opening at $12 million, but lost ground over the four-day weekend as families flocked to matinee shows. It has grossed $39 million overall, which suggests that its critical buzz could help it edge out Sandler and "Marley" in the upcoming weeks.

The big surprise of the holidays was [news id="1601846"]"Valkyrie,"[/news] which did much better than anticipated thanks to being the only thriller and the most macho offering. The Tom Cruise film overcame some negative buzz to earn a solid $21.5 million over the weekend and $30 million total.

[news id="1601771"]"The Spirit,"[/news] however, stumbled. Frank Miller's take on the Will Eisner comic book opened at #9, bringing in only $6.51 million over the weekend and $10.3 million overall. [news id="1601849"]Negative advance word[/news] has been trailing the neo-noir since Comic-Con, and the poor reviews didn't help attract the wider, non-fanboy audience it needed. Even the holiday holdover "Yes Man" did better, bringing in $16.4 million over the weekend. That suggests that when all is said and counted, it's clear audiences like to spend their holidays laughing, crying and, well, rooting for Tom Cruise to kill Hitler. Goodwill towards men, indeed.

Upcoming Releases

The first weekend of 2009 will see only "Defiance" making its debut, in a limited release.

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