Despite the recession, moviegoers turned out as they always do this time of year, but if the reviews are any indication, they probably didn't enjoy themselves too much. The top three movies in the country all overcame (or partially overcame, anyway) toxic buzz to get some Joementum heading into Christmas: The Jim Carrey comedy Yes Man ("Carrey has bled the well dry, doing everything he knows how to do, over and over again, just to prove that he still knows how to do it." —Stephanie Zacharek, Salon.com) took first place with $18.1 million, barely edging out the $16 million raked by Will Smith's critical whipping boy, Seven Pounds ("Among the most transcendently, eye-poppingly, call-your-friend-ranting-in-the-middle-of-the-night-just-to-go-over-it-one-more-time crazily awful motion pictures ever made." —A.O. Scott, New York Times). The week's other wide release, the sub-Ratatouille cartoon The Tale Of Despereaux, limping into third with $10.5 million.
But hey, this is the time of year when prestige movies are supposed to shine, and there's better news on that front. Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler tempted plenty to believe in a Mickey Rourke comeback, crushing the field with a per-screen-average of $52,250 on four screens. Also faring well: Slumdog Millionaire, which broke into the Top 10 with a $3.2 million take, despite being on only 589 screens; Milk, another certain Oscar contender, held steady with a $4600 per-screen-average on 356 screens; and Doubt ($18,700 per screen) and Gran Torino ($24,600 per screen) also did well in much more limited runs.
More detailed numbers available at Box Office Mojo.