Will Smith could well have invoked the famous line of Mohammed Ali, the man he once played in a movie: "I am the greatest." For Smith, who performs a veritable one-man show in the movie I Am Legend, set a box-office record for December over the weekend as the movie debuted with an estimated $77.4 million. The previous record had been set by The Lord Of The Rings: The Return of the King, which took in $72.6 million in its 2003 debut. (Warner Bros. observed that the results also represented the biggest success it has ever had with a "non-franchise" film.) Box office gurus, who were way off in their predictions on Friday, could only marvel at the Legend-ary results: $59.2 million on Friday and Saturday. And Warner Bros.' estimate that it took in an additional $18.2 million on Sunday could very well prove to be too conservative. Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox's Alvin and the Chipmunks also surpassed expectations, taking in about $44.7 million. The family film clobbered New Line's The Golden Compass, which wound up with just $9 million after opening last week with a disappointing $25.8 million, a fraction of its cost of more than $200 million to produce and market. The success of Legend and Alvin pushed box-office receipts 36 percent above those for a year ago.
The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Media by Numbers:
1. I Am Legend, $76.5 million; 2. Alvin and the Chipmunks, $45 million; 3. The Golden Compass, $9 million; 4. Enchanted, $6 million; 5. No Country for Old Men, $3 million; 6. The Perfect Holiday, $2.97 million; 7. Fred Claus, $2.3 million; 8. This Christmas, $2.3 million; 9. Atonement, $1.85 million; 10. August Rush, $1.8 million.