"The Bucket List," the tale of two cancer patients who decide to travel the world before they die, bested movies about treasure hunting, bumbling crooks and pirates to top the weekend box office, according to studio estimates Sunday.
"This was definitely a win for the older audience," Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers, said of the movie, which stars 70-year-old actors Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. "The conventional wisdom is the younger audience drives the box office."
The Warner Bros. release directed by Rob Reiner "skews to older audiences, but I think the star power is what brought the audience," Dergarabedian said. "Never underestimate the clout of the older movie audience."
In its first week in national distribution, "The Bucket List" brought in $19.5 million at more than 2,900 theaters. It initially had opened on Christmas Day in limited release.
The film was closely followed by the comedy "First Sunday," featuring Ice Cube and Tracy Morgan as hapless petty criminals who scheme to rob a church but end up being rewarded with a lesson about second chances. The Sony Screen Gems film banked $19 million at 2,200 theaters.
"These two films appealed to different audiences and both did very well," Dergarabedian said. "January is not known as a hot month for box office."
The No. 1 box office draw for three consecutive weeks — Disney's "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" with Nicolas Cage — dropped to fourth place, with $11.5 million in tickets at 3,400 theaters. It has banked more than $187 million in domestic receipts.
The independent film "Juno," featuring Ellen Page as a whip-smart pregnant teen, locked up third position, continuing its commercial and critical run and building momentum as Hollywood's awards season progresses. The film had three nominations for Sunday's Golden Globes, among them best musical or comedy and an acting honor for Page.
With $71.2 million already in the bank, "Juno" is on its way to becoming Fox Searchlight's biggest hit ever, approaching "Sideways" at $71.5 million.
Paramount Vantage's "There Will Be Blood," starring Daniel Day-Lewis in a tale of greed and violence during California's oil boom in the early 20th century, continued to turn in impressive numbers in limited release. It took in nearly $2 million at 129 theaters, and its $15,000 per theater average easily outdistanced other movies in the marketplace.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "The Bucket List," $19.5 million.
2. "First Sunday," $19 million.
3. "Juno," $14 million.
4. "National Treasure: Book of Secrets," $11.5 million.
5. "Alvin and the Chipmunks," $9.1 million.
6. "I Am Legend," $8.1 million.
7. "One Missed Call," $6.1 million.
8. "P.S. I Love You," $5 million.
9. "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A Veggie Tales Movie," $4.4 million
10. "Atonement," $4.3 million.