Well, we still have marquee movie stars. Will Smith proved yet again that he's invincible at the box-office; I Am Legend has already grossed over $200 million in North America alone.
The robust success of the National Treasure sequel means that the often weird Nic Cage is still a star. It also means that Disney marketing chief-turned-production prexy Orin Aviv (who came up with the original idea for National Treasure) can rest on his laurels for a while. Disney's family-brand strategy is paying off big-time. Enchanted passed the $100-million mark over the holidays; it's at $113 million. And the third-ranked studio in market share (Paramount/DreamWorks was number one) also earned membership in the studios' $1-billion club for 2007.
Twentieth Century Fox won holiday bragging rights for making an ancient high-concept--Alvin and the singing helium-squeaked chipmunks--relevant again for all audience quadrants. While Fox marketed the family pic effectively, Alvin and the Chipmunks obviously played well, too. (Family fare, it seems, is good.)
Judd Apatow's amazing golden year (Knocked Up, Superbad) ended with the disappointing Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, which has earned just $12 million after ten days. Luckily, Apatow has a rash of 2008 movies, from Drill-Bit Taylor, starring Owen Wilson, to Seth Rogen's Pineapple Express, to restart his winning streak. And John C. Reilly can make up some lost ground in the Apatow-produced Step Brothers in July, co-starring Will Ferrell. While a smart satire of the musical biopic genre was never going to boast mass-market appeal, Sony's ad campaign featuring a bare-chested Reilly didn't help. It grabbed your attention, but it was a turn-off.
On the Oscar-contender field, Denzel Washington's late-breaking The Debaters earned a respectable $16 million in eight days. And Mike Nichols' genial Charlie Wilson's War built support from both critics and adult audiences; it has earned $43 million. But is it in the Oscar race? Buzz is building for both supporting actor Philip Seymour Hoffman and writer Aaron Sorkin.
Tim Burton's macabre Johnny Depp musical Sweeney Todd has managed a respectable $30 million since its December 21 opening--on just 1200 screens. (It goes wide January 11.) While the movie boasts equally ardent admirers and attackers, it will factor in the Oscar race, in many categories. Best Picture? It's possible. Remarkably, critics' fave No Country for Old Men, which leads national critics' ten-best lists, passed the $40-million mark. And based on their holiday stats, Atonement, Juno and There Will Be Blood are steady as they go. In other words, they also have forward momentum: a very good thing, where Oscar is concerned.
(Here's my annual look at the Oscar race for Premiere.)
[Originally appeared on Variety.com]