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Borat is king of the US Box office

Talk about yer underdogs. At first Borat looked like a contender. Then speculation was rife that it had become an underpowered, web-only phenomenon like Snakes On A Plane. But against all the odds – and despite bringing his particular brand of journalism to just over 800 cinemas after the studio got cold feet about a wider release – Borat has emerged triumphant.

The film made $26.4 million in its first three days, which – when you factor in that limited release schedule – is nothing short of amazing. To add to his impressive feats, the per-screen average is actually higher than Star Wars: Episode III. Yes, Borat is more popular than Darth Vader. We like!

Less fortunate was the movie so favoured to win the weekend that the cup had already been engraved with its title: The Santa Clause 3. The only thing that The Escape Clause star Tim Allen will be swigging from his second place cup is milk, to wash down a hefty portion of humble pie. The third Santa Clause franchise effort didn’t tank, though it only managed $20 million, which is $9 million less than part two took in on the same weekend four years ago. Looks like this is one family franchise that might well be out of magical elf dust. The Santa Clause 4: The Straight To Video Clause, anyone?

That was still better than the third place new arrival – Flushed Away. Despite boasting starry voices (Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet) and the combined forces of DreamWorks Animation and Aardman, the ratty adventure took in $19 million, which is hardly the sort of launch expected from “the people who brought you Shrek and Madagascar”.

The last “new” film isn’t exactly new in cinemas – The Queen has been out for six weeks now, but has finally been given a wide enough release and made enough money to enter the charts at number 10. With $3 million this week and $10 million earned so far, it’s not doing badly at all.

On to the middle, then, where we find all the returning films corralled together. It’s a mixed bag as usual with some continuing to earn well (The Departed at fifth, now over the $100 million mark and cruising towards the title of Scorsese’s highest earner and The Prestige at sixth, staying on stage for a running total of $39 million), and some slipping. Flags Of Our Fathers just can’t seem to find an audience despite invading more screens across the country, having made $26 million so far, which doesn’t even start to cover the $90 million budget, let alone make a profit. Let’s see if it gets some help come awards season. Meanwhile, last week’s top dog – Saw III – sank to fourth, losing 54% of its earning power and nabbing $60 million so far.

Finally, Open Season took a hit from the fresh family competition and dropped to ninth, while Man Of The Year showcased the holding power that Robin Williams brought to the awful RV, grabbing nearly $4 million this weekend for a total to date of $34 million.

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