Fortune-seeker Nicolas Cage, lonely guy Will Smith and a pack of talking chipmunks ended Hollywood's year on a happy note. Cage's "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" was the No. 1 movie for a second weekend with $35.6 million, followed by "Alvin and the Chipmunks" with $30 million and Smith's "I Am Legend" with $27.5 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
Those hits along with a solid crop of other holdovers and new movies that opened Christmas Day capped a year-end hot streak for Hollywood, whose business soared the last few weeks after a sluggish fall.
"It's being spread among three or four key movies, then another six or seven or eight below that, which is great," said Mark Zoradi, president of the motion-picture group at Disney, which released "National Treasure."
The top 12 movies took in $169.2 million, up 18 percent from the final weekend of 2006, when "Night at the Museum" led the box office with $36.8 million.
Hollywood will finish the year with record revenues of about $9.7 billion, up from the previous best of $9.45 billion in 2004, according to box-office tracker Media By Numbers.
Since prices are higher, the revenue represents actual admissions that were up only a fraction over 2006's and fell well short of modern Hollywood's record of 1.6 billion tickets sold in 2002.
With the holidays falling on Tuesday, many people have been taking five-day weekends, a boost for the movie business. Many students are off from school until next week, too.
"It's turned into like a two-week-long weekend for the movie industry," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers.
"National Treasure," a sequel with Cage chasing historical clues to find a legendary city of gold, raised its domestic total to $124 million.
"Alvin and the Chipmunks," from 20th Century Fox, lifted its haul to $142.4 million. The Warner Bros. hit "I Am Legend," with Smith as a plague survivor who may be the last man alive, has climbed to $194.6 million.
Opening with huge numbers in limited release was 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. Playing at just two theaters in New York City and Los Angeles, "There Will Be Blood" took in $185,525 over the weekend and $309,703 since opening Wednesday. It expands to the top 10 markets Friday.
"There Will Be Blood" joins other films of violence and misdeeds such as "No Country for Old Men," "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" and "Michael Clayton" aiming for top honors at the Academy Awards. All scored well in this month's Golden Globe nominations.
Oscar campaigner Harvey Weinstein, who delivered such best-picture winners as "Shakespeare in Love" and "Chicago" while at Miramax, said he hoped his feel-good drama "The Great Debaters" would stand out for awards consideration among all the blood-soaked fare. The Weinstein Co. release, distributed by MGM, took in $6.3 million over the weekend and $13.5 million since opening on Christmas.
A Golden Globe nominee for best drama, "The Great Debaters" features director and star Denzel Washington alongside Forest Whitaker in a story of a black debate team in the 1930s South.
"We're late, but we're hoping we can get that last best-picture spot" for the Oscars, Weinstein said. "The other movies are pretty bloody, but this is an uplifting American story."
Oscar nominations come out Jan. 22.
Other films that debuted on Christmas had solid weekends. "Alien vs. Predator: Requiem," a sci-fi horror sequel from 20th Century Fox, took in $10.05 million, raising its total since opening day to $26.9 million. Sony's Loch Ness monster fantasy "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep" grossed $9.2 million and lifted its sum to $16.8 million.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Wednesday.
1. "National Treasure: Book of Secrets," $35.6 million.
2. "Alvin and the Chipmunks," $30 million.
3. "I Am Legend," $27.5 million.
4. "Charlie Wilson's War," $11.8 million.
5. "Juno," $10.3 million.
6. "Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem," $10.05 million.
7. "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep," $9.2 million.
8. "P.S. I Love You," $9.1 million.
9. "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," $8 million.
10. "Enchanted," $6.5 million.
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