Dave Karger's online-only weekend wrap-up: ''The Chronicles of Narnia'' becomes the second-biggest December opening ever
Credit: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Pierre Vinet

Lions and witches and lots of cash, oh my! Surpassing all expectations, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe blasted into theaters this weekend, premiering with a phenomenal $67.1 million, according to studio estimates.

That tally is higher than the opening weekends of the first two Lord of the Rings films, which debuted with $47.2 million and $62 million in 2001 and 2002. In fact, Narnia logged the second-biggest December opening ever, behind only The Return of the King‘s $72.6 million. Without a doubt, a new blockbuster fantasy franchise has now been born. Credit Narnia‘s family-friendly content and top-flight special effects for that.

Second place, as expected, went to the political drama Syriana, which grossed $12 million in its first weekend of wide release. Its performance in the next few weeks, combined with its showing at pre-Oscar awards like the Golden Globe nominations this Tuesday, will dictate whether it becomes a big Academy Awards player this season.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, meanwhile, slipped to third place after three weeks at No. 1, adding another $10.3 million to its coffers and bringing its total to $244.1 million. It’s now the No. 37 top domestic grosser of all time and will pass Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban this week to become the second most successful Potter flick yet.

Walk the Line and Yours, Mine, & Ours completed the top five with $5.8 million and $5.2 million, respectively. But the week’s other big news occurs further down in the top 20. Memoirs of a Geisha, which opened in 8 theaters, pulled off a fantastic per-theater average of $84,250 for a total of $674,000, while Brokeback Mountain (which won the first big critics prize of the Oscar season, from the Los Angeles critics) grossed an absolutely unheard-of $109,000 in each of its 5 theaters for a total of $545,000. In this case, all the Oscar buzz really paid off.

Brokeback Mountain
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