LOS ANGELES – The third weekend was still a charm for "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," which remained the top movie with $20.45 million.
Charlize Theron's sci-fi tale "Aeon Flux," a movie apparently so bad distributor Paramount did not screen it beforehand for critics, still managed to debut in second place with $13.1 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
With "Aeon Flux" the only notable new wide release, the remainder of the top 10 was filled out with holdover flicks, led by 20th Century Fox's Johnny Cash chronicle "Walk the Line," the No. 3 movie with $10 million.
It was a quiet weekend at theaters compared to the busy Thanksgiving period. The top 12 movies took in $79 million, virtually the same as the corresponding weekend a year ago.
Hollywood is in the midst of a prolonged slump, with attendance down 8 percent compared to 2004, though studios are preparing for a brisk December with such films as "King Kong," "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," "The Producers" and Steven Spielberg's "Munich."
Warner Bros. lifted its domestic total for "Harry Potter" to $229.8 million. Worldwide, the latest adventure of boy wizard Harry has taken in $560 million.
"`Harry Potter' is clearly dominating the business," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. "It's the movie that everybody hoped it would be. The box-office performance is living up to, and maybe at this point, exceeding expectations."
"Aeon Flux" stars Theron in an action adventure based on the 1990s animated series about a rogue anti-hero battling a government leader in a post-apocalyptic world. The movie cost $60 million to make, and it was uncertain if box office combined with DVD and television rentals will recoup that investment.
Still, the movie's opening weekend came in at the high end of Paramount's expectations, said Wayne Lewellen, the studio's head of distribution. The fact that Paramount did not screen "Aeon Flux" for reviewers probably did not affect the outcome, he said.
"The audience was young males, and they don't really respond to reviews, anyway," Lewellen said.
In limited release, the road-trip tale "Transamerica" opened strongly with $45,269 in two theaters, averaging $22,635 a cinema. By comparison, "Aeon Flux" averaged $5,023 in 2,608 theaters.
"Transamerica" has drawn Academy Awards buzz for Felicity Huffman, who gives a remarkable performance as a man preparing for the final surgical procedures to become a woman.
The Weinstein Co. plans to expand "Transamerica" to the top 20 markets during Christmas week then continue rolling the movie out to more theaters as Oscar nominations approach in January.
Also in narrower release, the snowboarding documentary "First Descent" debuted weakly with just $423,000 in 243 theaters for a $1,741 average.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," $20.45 million.
2. "Aeon Flux," $13.1 million.
3. "Walk the Line," $10 million.
4. "Yours, Mine & Ours," $8.4 million.
5. "Just Friends," $5.9 million.
6. "Pride & Prejudice," $4.62 million.
7. "Rent," $4.6 million.
8. "Chicken Little," $4.5 million.
9. "Derailed," $2.4 million.
10. "In the Mix," $1.9 million.