Defying expectations, Jack Nicholson's ''Bucket List'' surged to the top of the box office and held off strong challenges from Ice Cube's heist comedy ''First Sunday'' and the indie hit ''Juno''
Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman, ...
Credit: Sidney Baldwin

Defying many industry projections (but not mine!), The Bucket List, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman’s saccharine dramedy about two dying men who go on a global adventure before kicking it, eked out a victory at the weekend box office. The film earned a solid $19.5 million according to Sunday’s estimate. It sported the best opening sum of director Rob Reiner’s career (passing the $15.5 mil made by A Few Good Men way back in 1992). And it received a nice A- CinemaScore review from an audience that was 59 percent female and a whopping 84 percent over the age of 25. In doing so, it defeated a field of candidates that included several still-strong holdovers and one surprising new hit.

Indeed, the biggest story of the weekend wound up being the unexpectedly impressive performance of First Sunday, which came in at No. 2 with $19 mil. (Yep, it almost won the whole thing, and, in fact, it may have; we’ll have to wait for the final numbers to be released tomorrow to know for sure.) The heist comedy further solidified Ice Cube’s position as one of the most dependably bankable stars around, earning the third-best opening gross of his career (it fell just short of the bows of the two Barbershop movies, which brought in $20.6 mil and then $24.2 mil on their respective initial weekends). What’s more, the movie received an A- CinemaScore review of its own, and considering that it, too, drew a primarily older-woman crowd, it has the potential to continue its robust run for several more weeks.

Speaking of long-playing surprise hits, Juno (No. 3) grossed another $14 mil to bring its overall tally to a huge $71.2 mil — well more than was banked by recent awards-baiting indie sensations like Little Miss Sunshine ($59.9 mil), The Queen ($56.4 mil), Crash ($54.6 mil), and Lost in Translation ($44.6 mil), and the tiniest of ticks below the $71.5 mil that Sideways took in three years ago. It also continued its domination over some of the holiday season’s biggest smashes, as National Treasure: Book of Secrets fell into the fourth spot with $11.5 mil and Alvin and the Chipmunks rounded out the top five with $9.1 mil.

Bubbling under the higher reaches of the rankings — well under, actually — were the predictably feeble new releases The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything: A Veggie Tales Movie (No. 9 with $4.4 mil) and In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (which took in a mere $3.3 mil). Also mildly disappointing was the fact that the collective box office was off about 1 percent from the same frame a year ago.

But there was one last bit of good news to boast about further down the chart: Presumptive Oscar contender No Country for Old Men added $1.3 mil to its $46.8 mil total, making it the highest-grossing Coen Brothers movie ever (O Brother Where Art Thou? earned $45.5 mil). And to that I say, Bravo, CoBros! Nice way to start the new year, eh, fellas?

First Sunday
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