''Fockers'' sets Christmas record. The comedy sequel earns $44.7 million over the weekend, outscoring ''Fat Albert'' and ''Aviator''

By Gary Susman
December 27, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

Is there a nice irony in the fact that the movie that now holds the record for Christmas business is about a proudly Jewish family? Maybe it was Barbra Streisand’s return to the screen after eight years that got moviegoers so verklemmt over Meet the Fockers that the film rang up an estimated $44.7 million over the weekend. (The Meet the Parents sequel has earned a total of $68.5 million since it opened on Wednesday.) That $44.7 million beats the Christmas weekend record set two years ago by Leonardo DiCaprio’s Catch Me If You Can ($30 million), while Fockers‘ Christmas Day take of $19 million topped the $14 million record set last Dec. 25 by The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

A distant second was the live-action version of Fat Albert, which ate up $12.7 million of moviegoers’ money. Last week’s champ, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, was off 58 percent, landing in third place with $12.5 million. Onetime Christmas weekend champ DiCaprio saw his The Aviator expand to 1,800 screens, landing in fourth place with $9.4 million. At No. 5, Ocean’s Twelve swiped another $8.6 million.

Like Aviator, other Oscar hopefuls expanded to wider releases over the weekend and landed in the top 10. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou plunged into 1,100 theaters and surfaced at No. 9 with $4.9 million. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera haunted more than 600 screens, earning $4.2 million and finishing in tenth place. Neither film was stronger than new horror movie Darkness, which opened at No. 6 with $6.4 million.