'Golden Compass' Is Another Fantastic Failure -- But It Still Tops Box Office

'Juno' makes $60,000 per theater in limited release.

The Box-Office Top Five

#1 "The Golden Compass" ($26.1 million)

#2 "Enchanted" ($10.7 million)

#3 "This Christmas" ($5 million)

#4 "Fred Claus" ($4.6 million)

#5 "Beowulf"($4.4 million)

Lord, have mercy! With just $26.1 million in its opening frame, "The Golden Compass," an epic fantasy about a young girl's quest to save her father, was smote by the big hand of viewer apathy — or at least its Catholic finger. On MTV and elsewhere, some Christians promised a boycott of the film for its supposed anti-religious stance. Though their direct impact is uncertain, the haul for Chris Weitz's visionary film is a dismally low figure — by comparison "The Chronicles of Narnia" made $65.5 million two years ago — and almost certainly means no sequel for the proposed trilogy. (There are two more books in Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" series.)

With "Golden Compass" joining a long list of underperforming fantasy films including "Eragon," "Stardust" and, recently, "Beowulf," it may signal to Hollywood that there are only so many flicks in that genre that translate to automatic box-office success. So what's the lesson for New Line, the distributor of "Golden Compass"? Easy. Bring on "The Hobbit" already.

In its third week, meanwhile, "Enchanted" continued to prove that fairy tales do come true, earning $10.7 million to come in second place. Disney's ironic look at its own princess history isn't just a sure bet to cross $100 million (it currently stands at $83.8 million), its continued success strengthens speculation that star Amy Adams will score an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. And they all lived happily ever after.

The holiday farce "This Christmas" continued to impress, earning $5 million to come in third place. The Chris Brown laugher has now brought in $42 million overall. "Fred Claus" with $4.6 million and "Beowulf" with $4.4 million rounded out the top five.

Among other new releases, "Atonement," starring James McAvoy and Keira Knightley earned $814,000 in 32 theaters, but it was Jason Reitman's "Juno" that broke the bank (and a few records as well) earning $420,000 in just seven theaters — for a per screen average of $60,000. The pregnancy comedy expands next week.

Upcoming Releases

Quick, who's the biggest movie star in Hollywood? Brad Pitt? Matt Damon? "Aw, hell no." Will Smith, whose last two movies, a drama and a romantic comedy, both scored well over $100 million, is the last man standing (literally) in "I Am Legend," opening Friday in over 3,500 theaters. Family audiences, meanwhile, might be screaming "Alllll-vin!" when the plucky singer makes his live-action debut in "Alvin and the Chipmunks." Also opening is "The Perfect Holiday."

Check out everything we've got on "The Golden Compass," "Enchanted" and "This Christmas."

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