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'Golden Compass' Disappointing But Still Top Film

"The Golden Compass," a $180 million family fantasy starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig,
did not meet expectations at the North American box office, opening at No. 1 but with weekend ticket sales of just $26.1 million, its distributor said Sunday.

New Line Cinema, a unit of Time Warner Inc, had hoped the film would pull in between $30 million and $40 million.

"It's a little bit disappointing," said Rolf Mittweg, president and chief operating officer of New Line's worldwide distribution and marketing operations.

He hoped word of mouth would help the film in coming weeks, especially with school holidays starting. "It's all about longevity," he said.

Based on the first book in British author Philip Pullman's acclaimed children's series "His Dark Materials," writer/director Chris Weitz's film is set in an alternate world ruled by an oppressive religious authority. It features talking animals and a heroine played by youngster Dakota Blue
Richards.

Even though the film downplays the religious aspect, the Catholic League said it wanted Christians "to stay away from this movie." But the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
described it as "an exciting adventure story with a traditional struggle between good and evil."

After leading the pack for two weeks, Walt Disney Co's hit fairy-tale fantasy "Enchanted" slipped to No. 2 with $10.7 million, taking its three-week tally to $83.9 million.

Sony Corp's urban comedy "This Christmas" held at No. 3 with $5.0 million, giving it a $42.8 million total, also after three weeks.

Following are the top 10 films at the North American box office for the weekend beginning Dec. 7, led by "The Golden Compass," according to studio estimates compiled Sunday by Reuters.

Final data will be issued Monday.

1 (+) The Golden Compass .......... $ 26.1 million
2 (1) Enchanted ................... $ 10.7 million
3 (3) This Christmas .............. $ 5.0 million
4 (6) Fred Claus .................. $ 4.7 million
5 (2) Beowulf ..................... $ 4.4 million
6(10) No Country for Old Men ...... $ 4.2 million
7-(7) August Rush ................. $ 3.5 million
7-(4) Hitman ...................... $ 3.5 million
9 (5) Awake ....................... $ 3.3 million
10 (9) Bee Movie ................... $ 2.6 million

NOTE: Last weekend's rankings in parentheses, + denotes new
release.

TOTALS TO DATE
Bee Movie .................... $121.0 million
Enchanted .................... $ 83.9 million
Beowulf ...................... $ 76.0 million
Fred Claus ................... $ 65.6 million
This Christmas ............... $ 42.8 million
Hitman ....................... $ 35.8 million
No Country For Old Men ....... $ 28.9 million
The Golden Compass ........... $ 26.1 million
August Rush .................. $ 25.1 million
Awake ........................ $ 10.7 million

"The Golden Compass" was released by New Line Cinema. "Fred
Claus" and "August Rush" were released by Warner Bros.
Pictures. Both are units of Time Warner Inc.
"Enchanted" was released by Walt Disney Pictures. "No
Country for Old Men" was released by Miramax Films. Both are
units of Walt Disney Co.
"This Christmas" was released by Screen Gems, a unit of
Sony Corp


"Beowulf" was released domestically by Paramount Pictures,
a unit of Viacom Inc. Paramount also released "Bee
Movie," which was produced by DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc
.
"Hitman" was released by Twentieth Century Fox, a unit of
News Corp.
"Awake" was released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc, which is
owned by a variety of investors.

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