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Four Christmases, Reese Witherspoon, Vince Vaughn

New Line

Twilight plunged. Australia wasn't epic. All of which gave Vince Vaughn the opportunity to attone for Fred Claus. Which he did.

Vaughn's and Reese Witherspoon's Four Christmases debuted atop the weekend box office with $31.7 million, per estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations. Since opening last Wednesday, the holiday comedy has taken in $46.7 million.

Ticket sales for Twilight dropped a steep 62 percent from last weekend. The vampire romance still managed a $26.4 million Friday-Sunday gross, good for third place, and hit nearly $120 million overall.

Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman and a reported $130 million budget added up to a lackluster, not blockbuster, fifth-place, $14.8 million debut for Australia.

Drilling down in the box office standings (where you'll find the weekend's biggest pound-for-pound hit):

  • Milk, the Harvey Milk biopic starring Sean Penn, scored $1.4 million, and a Top 10 debut despite playing at only 36 theaters. Milk played to packed houses, averaging $38,375 per screen. The weekend's next biggest movie, Four Christmases, averaged about $9,500.
  • Four Christmases' opening gives Vaughn a shot to return to the land of Wedding Crashers and The Break-Up, after his last major movie, Fred Claus, couldn't get anywhere near $100 million. (It grossed $72 million.)
  • The comedy is Witherspoon's first hit since 2005's Walk the Line. It's her second biggest career opener, after 2002's Sweet Home Alabama ($35.6 million).
  • As expected, Bolt had sturdier legs than Twilight. The dog movie not only moved up in the rankings, from third to second, it made more money this weekend ($26.6 million) than last ($26.2 million).
  • Twilight, by the way, didn't really top $70 million last weekend. Final numbers showed it "only" made $69.6 million. The last two weekends, the studios' Sunday estimates have proved a tad too optimistic.
  • Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa ($14.5 million) became the ninth movie this year to top $150 million overall. At nearly $160 million and counting, it's in seventh place in the 2008 rankings.
  • Transporter 3 ($12.3 million) opened bigger than 2002's The Transporter ($9.1 million), but smaller than 2005's Transporter 2 ($16.5 million).
  • Thanksgiving audiences spread the love—and the money—around. Seven movies made at least $12 million.
  • Angelina Jolie's Changeling ($1.2 million; $33.9 million overall) fell out of the Top 10 after a four-weekend stay. High School Musical 3: Senior Year ($1.1 million; $88.7 million overall, per Box Office Mojo) took the plunge after five weekends.
  • Zack and Miri Make a Porno ($540,000; $30.4 million overall, per Box Office Mojo) also vacated the Top 10. On the upside for Kevin Smith, it'll soon become the filmmaker's highest-grossing movie ever, topping 1999's Dogma.

Here's a recap of the top-grossing weekend films based on Friday-Sunday estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

  1. Four Christmases, $31.7 million
  2. Bolt, $26.6 million
  3. Twilight, $26.4 million
  4. Quantum of Solace, $19.5 milliion
  5. Australia, $14.8 million
  6. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, $14.5 million
  7. Transporter 3, $12.3 million
  8. Role Models, $5.3 million
  9. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, $1.7 million
  10. Milk, $1.4 million

(Originally published Nov. 30, 2008 at 9:58 a.m. PT)