As it turns out, the movie studios haven't needed those late-night talk shows to promote their newest releases, after all. For the second weekend in a row, the box office produced solid results, soaring 36 percent above those for the comparable weekend a year ago. It was led by National Treasure: Book of Secrets, which recorded an estimated $45.5 million for the first three days of a five-day holiday weekend -- 30 percent more than the original National Treasure earned when it opened with $35.1 million in 2004. Last week's No. 1 and No. 2 films finished No. 2 and No. 3, with the Will Smith starrer I Am Legend producing $34 million and Alvin and the Chipmunks, $29 million. Charlie Wilson's War debuted in fourth place with a soft $9.6 million, a veritable bomb for a movie starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, directed by Mike Nichols, and written by Aaron Sorkin. The film received all-over-the-place reviews. Although it's supposedly based on a true story, Wall Street Journal critic Joe Morgenstern wrote, "I didn't believe a word of it," while Claudia Puig in USA Today described it as "an eye-opening and sassy tale." It barely edged out Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, starring Johnny Depp, a veritable blockbuster for a non-stop singing musical -- and especially one showing on only 1,250 screens. Also surprising was the performance of P.S. I Love You, which was savaged by critics but nevertheless managed to draw $6.5 million in ticket sales. Its audience turned out to be 70 percent female. (They perhaps followed New York Post critic Lou Lumenick's advice: "Ladies, love means never having to force your significant other to sit through something as sloppy as P.S. I Love You.") Also surprising -- for the opposite reason -- was the poor performance of Judd Apatow's Walk Hard, which received mostly good reviews and strong studio promotion but tanked with just $6.5 million.
The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Media by Numbers:
1. National Treasure: Book of Secrets, $45.5 million; 2. I Am Legend, $34.2 million; 3. Alvin and the Chipmunks, $29 million; 4. Charlie Wilson's War, $9.6 million; 5. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, $9.35 million; 6. P.S. I Love You, $6.5 million; 7. Enchanted, $4.15 million; 8. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, $4.1 million; 9. The Golden Compass, $4 million; 10. Juno, $3.4 million.