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'Oceans' Sequel Steals the Top Spot

LOS ANGELES ( -- "Ocean's Twelve," the high-action heist sequel starring an A-list cast, washed away the competition this weekend earning $40.8 million and stealing the fourth spot as the best-ever December opening weekend.

Ironically, "Ocean's Twelve" may unseat its predecessor as the previous fourth-place record holder, "Ocean's Eleven," which opened the same weekend in 2001 and made $38 mil in the weekend.

The other three December box office bests are from the "Lord of the Ring" trilogy: "Return of the King" at $72.6 mil on Dec. 19, 2003; "Two Towers" at $62 mil Dec. 18 2002 and "Fellowship of the Ring" at $47 on Dec. 19, 2001.

The powerhouse cast of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Don Cheadle, Carl Reiner, Casey Affleck, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac, Andy Garcia and more returns as a modern-day rat pack and adding recent Oscar winner Catherine Zeta-Jones to the mix.

"Blade: Trinity" didn't fare as well with its past sequels. Opening in second place at $16 mil for the weekend, the third part of this Wesley Snipes vampire series opened midweek to a strong $5 mil and the film has a $24.5 mil total so far. The original "Blade" opened at $17 mil in 1998 and its sequel "Blade 2" opened at $32 mil in 2002, and because they made $70 mil and $81.6 mil throughout their runs, the third part was assured. It remains to be seen if the third part, with the more humorous elements of Ryan Reynolds and Parker Posey thrown in, will spark the hoped-for "Nightstalker" franchise.

The biggest per-screen average went this weekend to "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," which only showed in two theaters, one in New York and one in Los Angeles, and brought in $57,000 per screening. By comparison, "Ocean's Twelve" brought in $12,600 per screening.

The biggest drop percentage-wise is the much-maligned "Alexander," which Colin Farrell tried defending over the weekend on "Saturday Night Live." It plummeted 70 percent from seventh to 10th position and has made $32 mil to date, a which is less than half what it cost to make.

"National Treasure" finally was unseated from the top position and fell to third with $9.9 mil and a $124 mil cum, while "The Polar Express" keeps chugging along, in fourth place at $9.7 mil and hitting $110 mil. "Christmas with the Kranks" rounds off the top five, bringing in $7.6 mil.

Total box office is healthier this weekend, with a 28 percent rise over what the top 12 films did last year, and a 30 percent increase over last weekend. The top 12 movies made $102.8 mil.

The stats are compiled by Exhibitor Relations, a Hollywood-based company which tracks box office receipts. Check back Monday afternoon for final figures.

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