Weekend Wrap-Up: National Treasure Pulls a Hat Trick at the Box Office

Here's a little secret that not everyone is aware of: the box office numbers we talk about Monday mornings are estimates. The studios are guessing about Sunday's box office take based on those of Friday and Saturday, but the calculus that goes into those Sunday estimates doesn't always hold. When the final numbers come out on late Monday, they're usually mere refinements of the estimates, but some weekends -- like this one -- even mere refinements can change rankings.

Look at the No. 2, 3, and 4 movies as of early Monday:

2. I Am Legend, with $16.3 million

3. Juno, with $16.225 million

4. Alvin and the Chipmunks, with an even $16 million.

It won't take much to shift those rankings, particularly since the pregnant-teen dramedy Juno and the cute-singing-furballs comedy Alvin are already in unknown territory: no one expected either of them to make anywhere near the kind of dough they're raking in. Even Will Smith is having one of his best showings ever with his alone-after-the-apocalypse sci-fi thriller.

By comparison, it's hardly a surprise that National Treasure: Book of Secrets, which was always destined to be a surefire crowd pleaser, enjoyed a third week at No. 1: it earned another $20.2 million from Friday through Sunday. It won't have a serious challenger till Cloverfield opens on January 18th, and perhaps not even then -- it'll pass $200 million by the end of the month, and probably much sooner, and will be Nicolas Cage's biggest hit before it runs out of steam.

The only new wide release this weekend, One Missed Call -- which wasn't screened for critics but earned a rare zero-perfect Fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes among those who ventured out to see it at the multiplex -- clocked in at No. 5 with $13.5 million.

In limited release, There Will Be Blood -- Paul Thomas Anderson's uncompromising drama of one man's drive in the early days of the oil industry -- continues to do extraordinarily well, with the best per-screen average of the week: $26,215 at each of 51 locations. The Bucket List, Rob Reiner's dramedy about dying happy, was close behind, earning $19,687 on each of 16 screens. (It goes wide this Friday.) National Treasure's per-screen, for comparison, was a mere $5,376.

[Box office numbers via Box Office Mojo.]

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MaryAnn Johanson (email me)

reviews, reviews, reviews! at FlickFilosopher.com