A solid end to dreary year

LOS ANGELES – A strong New Year’s weekend led by “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “King Kong” still left Hollywood with the holiday blues over a weak year in which movie attendance fell to its lowest in eight years.

“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” finished at No. 1 over the long Friday-to-Monday weekend with $33.7 million, edging “King Kong,” which came in second with $31.8 million.

The overall box office rose, with the top-12 movies grossing $131.4 million from Friday to Sunday, up 6 percent from New Year’s weekend a year earlier.

Yet a slump that lasted most of 2005 put Hollywood in the hole, with domestic revenues finishing at $8.945 billion, down 5.2 percent from 2004’s and the first time since 2001 that total grosses dipped below $9 billion.

Factoring in higher ticket prices, the picture was bleaker, with attendance off 7.1 percent compared to 2004’s. Movie theaters sold 1.41 billion tickets in 2005, the least since 1997, when attendance totaled 1.39 billion.

Many studio executives say 2005’s downturn largely resulted from a relatively weak crop of movies that failed to excite fans. Studios hope to see revenues rebound in 2006, particularly this summer, whose big movies include “Mission: Impossible 3,” “Superman Returns,” “The Da Vinci Code,” “X-Men 3,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” and the animated tales “Cars” and “Over the Hedge.”

While 2005 may have been an off year for movie quality, competition from other entertainment – including video games and home-theater systems – likely took a toll on the industry.

“The younger male audience, if you ask 10 of them if they’d rather go to the movies or play a video game, a lot of them are going to say they’d rather play a video game,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. “Hollywood cannot release mediocre movies and expect people to line up in record numbers when consumers have so many options for their entertainment.”

The top 20 movies at U.S. and Canadian theaters Friday through Monday, followed by distribution studio, gross, number of theater locations, average receipts per location, total gross and number of weeks in release, as compiled Tuesday by Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. are:

1. “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” Disney, $33,712,024, 3,853 locations, $8,750 average, $225,703,346, four weeks.

2. “King Kong,” Universal, $31,826,925, 3,627 locations, $8,775 average, $175,559,825, three weeks.

3. “Fun With Dick and Jane,” Sony, $21,025,463, 3,056 locations, $6,880 average, $64,607,789, two weeks.

4. “Cheaper By the Dozen 2,” Fox, $18,857,703, 3,211 locations, $5,873 average, $54,684,215, two weeks.

5. “Rumor Has It,” Warner Bros., $11,790,273, 2,815 locations, $4,188 average, $26,865,647, two weeks.

6. “The Family Stone,” Fox, $10,297,267, 2,464 locations, $4,179 average, $46,334,354, three weeks.

7. “Memoirs of a Geisha,” Sony, $10,215,915, 1,547 locations, $6,604 average, $30,633,403, four weeks.

8. “The Ringer,” Fox Searchlight, $8,050,428, 1,853 locations, $4,345 average, $21,652,504, two weeks.

9. “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” Warner Bros., $7,635,442, 2,316 locations, $3,297 average, $277,083,157, seven weeks.

10. “Munich,” Universal, $6,436,850, 532 locations, $12,099 average, $15,949,005, two weeks.

11. “Syriana,” Warner Bros., $5,275,483, 1,725 locations, $3,058 average, $38,913,027, six weeks.

12. “The Producers,” Universal, $5,110,290, 978 locations, $5,225 average, $11,723,457, three weeks.

13. “Brokeback Mountain,” Focus, $4,847,443, 269 locations, $18,020 average, $15,102,697, four weeks.

14. “Wolf Creek,” Weinstein Co., $4,756,767, 1,761 locations, $2,701 average, $13,159,405, two weeks.

15. “Walk the Line,” Fox, $3,356,236, 1,160 locations, $2,893 average, $92,436,258, seven weeks.

16. “Yours, Mine & Ours,” Paramount, $1,609,765, 1,174 locations, $1,371 average, $51,173,331, six weeks.

17. “Pride & Prejudice,” Focus, $1,366,606, 407 locations, $3,358 average, $34,118,092, eight weeks.

18. “Chicken Little,” Disney, $1,119,459, 803 locations, $1,394 average, $132,265,084, nine weeks.

19. “The Polar Express,” Warner Bros., $948,727, 66 locations, $14,375 average, $172,796,043, six weeks of IMAX re-release.

20. “Casanova,” Disney, $551,673, 37 locations, $14,910 average, $1,037,872, two weeks.

Universal Pictures and Focus Features are owned by NBC Universal, a joint venture of General Electric Co. and Vivendi Universal; DreamWorks is a unit of DreamWorks SKG Inc.; Sony Pictures, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount and Paramount Classics are divisions of Viacom Inc.; Disney’s parent is The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is a division of The Walt Disney Co.; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight Pictures are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros., New Line and Warner Independent are units of Time Warner Inc.; Lions Gate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC Films is owned by Rainbow Media Holdings, a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems Corp.

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