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I Am Legend enjoys biggest December opening in US ever

Will Smith in I Am Legend

Story by Jack Foley

WILL Smith’s latest science fiction thriller I Am Legend has enjoyed the biggest December opening ever in the US with takings of $76.5 million, according to studio estimates.

The Warner Bros film, based on the 1954 source novel by Twilight Zone author Richard Matheson, finds Smith as Robert Neville, a brilliant scientist who somehow becomes the last man in New York City after a terrible man-made virus is unleashed.

Immune, Neville must work out why he has survived and whether he’s actually the last person alive in the world – whilst being careful to avoid “the infected”, former humans who have mutated into flesh-eating zombies who come out at night to search for food.

Commenting on the figures, Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers, told the Hollywood Reporter: “It’s no wonder Will Smith feels so lonely. Everyone else on Earth is in the movie theater!”

The opening figure also marks a personal best for Smith, who is no stranger to box office hits following the likes of Bad Boys, Independence Day, Hitch and I, Robot.

In what proved a healthy weekend for American cinemas, 20th Century Fox’s festive family offering Alvin & The Chipmunks took $45 million, to claim second spot at the box office.

Combined with I Am Legend‘s take, the figures have given Hollywood a much-needed year-end surge after a relatively drowsy fall season, when cinema-goers shyed away from some of the more weighty movies on offer.

Overall business soared, with the top 12 movies pulling in $153.6 million, up 39% from the same weekend last year when, ironically, Smith once again hogged the top spot with a $26.5 million debut for his Oscar-nominated drama, The Pursuit of Happyness.

I Am Legend even out-performed the $72.6 million premiere of 2003’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which had enjoyed the previous best December opening.