LOS ANGELES – Jim Carrey's Scrooge collected holiday donations from movie fans with his new take on "A Christmas Carol," which took in $31 million to open as the weekend's top movie.
The Disney animated version of the Charles Dickens classic knocked the King of Pop out of the No. 1 spot as "Michael Jackson's This Is It" slipped to second place with $14 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
Sony's "This Is It," presenting rehearsal performances Jackson shot before his death last June, raised its domestic total to $57.9 million. Worldwide, "This Is It" has taken in $186.5 million.
Featuring Carrey as Ebenezer Scrooge and also as the three holiday ghosts that show Scrooge the error of his miserly ways, "A Christmas Carol" came in on the low end of Disney's expectations for opening weekend.
On the other end of the spectrum, Lionsgate's acclaimed drama "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" had a spectacular start, pulling in $1.8 million in just 18 theaters, averaging $100,000 a cinema. That compares with an $8,418 average for "A Christmas Carol" in 3,683 theaters.
"Precious" had a record average for films opening in 10 or more theaters. Others that have averaged $100,000 or more typically debut in only a few cinemas.
The weekend brought a rush of other new movies, led by George Clooney's comedy "The Men Who Stare at Goats," which finished at No. 3 with $13.3 million. The Overture Films release is a satiric look at U.S. military efforts to create "warrior monks" who can predict the future or walk through walls.
Debuting in fourth place with $12.5 million was Universal's "The Fourth Kind," starring Milla Jovovich as a psychologist studying alien abductions in Alaska.
Cameron Diaz and James Marsden's sci-fi tale "The Box" opened at No. 6 with $7.9 million. The Warner Bros. thriller centers on a couple given a mysterious box that can provide them $1 million, but at the cost of a stranger's life.
With nearly two months of playing time through the holidays, Disney is counting on steady business for "A Christmas Carol," particularly over Thanksgiving weekend and in the buildup to Christmas itself.
"You have to play these things for the long term," said Chuck Viane, Disney's head of distribution. "You've got to have the patience and you've got to pick the right weekend. For us, the days when the malls turned to Christmas stores is when we wanted to go."
Director Robert Zemeckis shot the movie using the same performance-capture technology used on his 2004 holiday offering "The Polar Express." Carrey and his co-stars acted on a bare soundstage as digital cameras caught their performances, with computer animators later adding costumes, sets, props and other effects.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "A Christmas Carol," $31 million.
2. "Michael Jackson's This Is It," $14 million.
3. "The Men Who Stare at Goats," $13.3 million.
4. "The Fourth Kind," $12.5 million.
5. "Paranormal Activity," $8.6 million.
6. "The Box," $7.9 million.
7. "Couples Retreat," $6.4 million.
8. "Law Abiding Citizen," $6.2 million.
9. "Where the Wild Things Are," $4.2 million.
10. "Astro Boy," $2.6 million.