When you combine the elements of popular movie comedian Jimmy Carrey, blockbuster and Oscar-winning director Robert Zemeckis, the appeal of 3-D CG animation, Charles Dickens' popular tale "A Christmas Carol" and the Disney brand together in one package you should have a big hit on your hands.  Most of America would have agreed as "Walt Disney's A Christmas Carol" was polling from anywhere to a $40-50 million debut weekend. After Friday's $9 million opening, that's going to be quite a difficult trick to pull off.

No one can say yet why "Carol" didn't have a bigger Friday, perhaps adults were scared off by the mediocre reviews or buzz that the picture was too dark for kids, but even though it will win the 3-day, "Carol" is only looking at a $30-35 million opening at best.  That's a bit more than "Beowulf's "$27 million two years ago or "The Polar Express'" $23 million opening in 2004, but "Carol" was expected to do far much better.  Perhaps moviegoers aren't in the holiday spirit yet?  Both Zemeckis' Imageworks and Disney will have to hope for a long run through the holidays to make up for lost ground.

Arriving in second place, was "The Fourth Kind."  The alien/Sci-Fi pseudo documentary found $5 million for what should be a $12-13 million weekend.  The film didn't cost very much, but Universal is no doubt relieved that the picture turned around from some dreadful tracking less than a few weeks ago.  

In third place was George Clooney's "The Men Who Stare At Goats." The comedy grossed $4.7 million in only 2,443 theaters for what could be a $12-13 million opening frame.  Overture Films is no doubt happy considering they bought U.S. rights for only $5 million, but the picture appeared to have a shot at $15-18 million opening at one point. Why interest faded is unclear, but the mini-major will hope for good word of mouth in the weeks ahead.

Another setback for the career of filmmaker Richard Kelly, Warner Bros. "The Box" found a paltry $3 million on Friday for what should only be a $7.5-9 million weekend.  The film's picture got of to a rough start at Comic-Con when star Cameron Diaz mistakenly gave away the film's big secret and neither she nor James Marsden were around to promote the flick again.  Reviews were mostly negative and judging from the studio's enthusiasm regarding the picture, they seemed to know what they had on their hands.



Dropping less than expected was last weekend's champ "Michael Jackson's This Is It." The rehearsal documentary fell only 47% from last Friday for a $4.1 million gross and a possible $10-12 million weekend. It seems the thrill isn't over yet.

In limited release, potential Oscar contender "Precious: Based on Push a Novel by Sapphire" found a rousing $585,000 in only 18 theaters for a $32,500 average just on Friday.  The Lionsgate acquisition should do an eye-popping $1.7 million for the weekend.  How quickly the studio plans on expanding the acclaimed drama is still unclear, but the fact it has played so well in both upscale and urban markets must be making the mini-Lion giddy.

Look for complete weekend box office estimates Sunday on HitFix.