Gran Torino's expansion into wide release, plus strong openings for The Unborn and Bride Wars, combined for a surprisingly robust early January weekend at the box office.

With Gran Torino, Warner Bros. appears to have pulled off a genuinely successful platform release -- which isn't easy (though perhaps somewhat easier when your movie is a populist crowdpleaser). The film crept along in limited release for four weeks before expanding to 2800 screens this weekend for a cool $29 million. Next week, Defiance will attempt a similar coup, and we'll see what happens; my guess is that it won't play nearly as well.

Bride Wars and The Unborn essentially tied for second place with around $21 million each. Both did well, which is not a huge shock; the obligatory January horror film tends to be easy money, and Bride Wars pretty much matched the precedent set by 27 Dresses last January. And Screen Gems found an audience for its African-American-led drama Not Easily Broken, which did an okay $5.6 million on just over 700 screens.

The first real post-holiday weekend was rough on the holdovers, which, with the exception of Slumdog Millionare, pretty uniformly took hits of 50% or more. Unsurprisingly, Marley & Me remains the biggest winner of the holiday season; it should top out around $140 million. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, meanwhile, is hoping to hold on for long enough to get a boost when the Oscar nominations come out.

The full top 10 after the jump.

1 - Gran Torino (Warner Bros.) - $29.03 ($10,337) - $40.07
2 - Bride Wars (Fox) - $21.50 ($6,665) - $21.50
3 - The Unborn (Universal) - $21.10 ($8,950) - $21.10
4 - Marley & Me (Fox) - $11.35 ($3,263) - $123.71
5 - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount) - $9.45 ($3,207) - $94.33
6 - Bedtime Stories (Sony) - $8.55 ($2,435) - $97.18
7 - Valkyrie (MGM/UA) - $6.66 ($2,347) - $71.51
8 - Yes Man (Warner Bros.) - $6.16 ($2,083) - $89.41
9 - Not Easily Broken (Screen Gems) - $5.60 ($7,735) - $5.60
10 - Seven Pounds (Sony) - $3.90 ($1,588) - $66.83

Numbers from Box Office Mojo.

Next week, Daniel Craig's Defiance squares off against Hotel for Dogs, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, My Bloody Valentine 3-D, and Notorious. Looks like a pretty dire weekend if you ask me.