I was considering a title pun on Richard Kelly getting Box-ed out -- which works on multiple levels!! -- but I couldn't pull the trigger. That, though, is my main concern this weekend, to be honest: I am heartbroken (though not surprised) that Kelly's wonderful, hugely ambitious sci-fi flick couldn't get a foothold at the box office. People at my Thursday night screening thought they had seen one of the worst movies ever, which I guess is what happens when you're led to expect harmless PG-13 horror and get something so radically different. I also suspect that Donnie Darko would have been similarly received had it opened on 2,600 screens instead of building its cult cred in mini-release and on DVD.

Anyway, The Boxearned $7.9 million -- not a total disaster for a $25 million movie, but not exactly a resume-builder for Kelly to the extent he has commercial ambitions. It was roundly defeated by the rest of the weekend's newcomers, most notably A Christmas Carol, which took first place with $31 million. That may not seem like a lot, but note that Zemeckis's The Polar Express opened to even less on its way to $180 million. I predict that A Christmas Carol, which looks wonderful on IMAX 3-D, will hold up well.

The weekend's other big winner was Precious, which Lionsgate pushed to an impressive $100,000 per-screen average on 18 screens. Even accounting for the very limited release, that's pretty strong; Brokeback Mountain-like numbers ($80-90 million) are probably within reach.

More, and the weekend top 10, after the jump.

Overture's The Men Who Stare at Goats and Universal's high-concept horror movie The Fourth Kind landed in the middle, with $13.3 and $12.5 million, respectively; good for the relatively inexpensive films. Between Goats and Law Abiding Citizen -- which proved to have good legs, crossing the $60 million mark this weekend -- Overture has had a good couple of months. Michael Jackson's This Is It continued to do well with a $14 million second weekend. And in weird and dispiriting news, Couples Retreat actually did not see a drop in its fifth weekend, hanging around in 7th place and nearing $100 million.

1 - A Christmas Carol (Disney) - $31.00 ($8,417) - $31.00
2 - Michael Jackson's This is It (Sony) - $14.00 ($4,022) - $57.86
3 - The Man Who Stare at Goats (Overture) - $13.31 ($5,448) - $13.31
4 - The Fourth Kind (Universal) - $12.52 ($4,955) - $12.52
5 - Paranormal Activity (Paramount) - $8.60 ($3,362) - $97.43
6 - The Box (Warner Bros.) - $7.86 ($2,981) - $7.86
7 - Couples Retreat (Universal) - $6.43 ($2,250) - $95.98
8 - Law Abiding Citizen (Overture) - $6.17 ($2,495) - $60.87
9 - Where the Wild Things Are (Warner Bros.) - $4.23 ($1,533) - $69.27
10 - Astro Boy (Summit) - $2.59 ($1,349) - $15.07

Next weekend: 2012 has the weekend pretty much to itself, with Focus's Pirate Radio being the only other opener on 900 screens.