Christmas fell on a Thursday this year, leading to a very lucrative four-day weekend for all but one of the Christmas Day openers.

The pattern has always been to open one, maybe two big films around Christmas. This year we got five. Marley & Me was the best family option, and led the pack with $51.7 million over the long weekend, setting a Christmas Day record in the process. Good word-of-mouth is likely -- the audience reaction at the showing I saw can only be described as "epic." I think I may have actually caught some inanimate objects crying toward the end. Scarves, handbags, etc.

Adam Sandler's Bedtime Stories was next, underperforming slightly with $38.6 million. Sandler is somewhat untested in the PG family film arena, but I had expected Bedtime Stories to land somewhere in the vicinity of Click, which grossed $40 million on a three-day weekend in June. Bedtime Stories' $28 million three-day is the lowest for a film headlined by Sandler since Eight Crazy Nights in 2002, or if you think that doesn't count, since Little Nicky in 2000. Of course since Bedtime Stories opened on a Thursday, using the three-day number isn't quite fair. In any event, the fact that Marley took off certainly didn't help.

The third-place, $39 million finish for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a draw. That the heady, nearly three-hour drama was able to compete in this marketplace is surely a relief to Paramount, but the movie is so expensive ($150 million) that people were probably hoping for more. On the other hand, $30 million for Valkyrie -- which people had written off as a stinker after some release date shuffling and an upswing in general Tom Cruise negativity -- is cause for some high-fiving at MGM/UA.

Something had to fall by the wayside, and predictably it was the annual attempt at counterprogramming. The Spirit, critically panned and marketed to maximize its weirdness, ended up in 9th place with $10 million. The closest point of comparison here is probably last year's Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, which opened on Christmas Tuesday and grossed $13.7 million the following three-day weekend for a total of $30.5 million by Sunday. I think where Spirit went wrong was that adults weren't interested -- which is sort of the point of Christmas counterprogramming. The boys were dragged along to Marley or Bedtime Stories, which left only a relative handful of teenagers.

See the full (three-day) top 10 below.

1 - Marley & Me (Fox) - $37.00 ($10,632) - $51.68
2 - Bedtime Stories (Sony) - $28.07 ($7,625) - $38.60
3 - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount) - $27.00 ($9.036) - $39.01
4 - Valkyrie (MGM/UA) - $21.53 ($7,941) - $30.02
5 - Yes Man (Warner Bros.) - $16.45 ($4,790) - $49.59
6 - Seven Pounds (Sony) - $13.40 ($4,859) - $39.03
7 - The Tale of Despereaux (Universal) - $9.37 ($3,015) - $27.95
8 - The Day the Earth Stood Still (Fox) - $7.90 ($3,289) - $63.62
9 - The Spirit (Lionsgate) - $6.51 ($2,595) - $10.35
10 - Doubt (Miramax) - $5.68 ($4,479) - $8.83

Numbers from Box Office Mojo.

That pretty much wraps up 2008. There are no new wide releases next week. (Defiance and Good both open on a few screens on December 31st.)