Moviegoers were about as tight-fisted at the box office over the weekend as Ebenezer Scrooge was at the grindstone in his day. The top film, Disney's A Christmas Carol , which stars Jim Carrey as Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, opened with an estimated $31 million, far below analysts' expectations of about $40-45 million -- and less than half what Madagascar Escape 2 Africa earned when it opened with $63.1 million during the comparable weekend a year ago. But while most critics called the performance of the movie disappointing, particularly for a movie that was said to have cost close to $200 million, others pointed out that it took in more than Robert Zemeckis's previous motion-capture animation films, including The Polar Express , which opened with $23 million, and Beowulf, with $28 million. Besides, Disney apparently intends to milk it for another seven weekends before Christmas. "You know you're in for a marathon rather than a dash," Chuck Viane, Disney's president of domestic theatrical distribution, told Reuters. Slipping to second place was the Michael Jackson concert documentary This Is It , which dropped a moderate 39.7 percent to $14 million. (It continued to perform strongly overseas, however.) The comedy The Men Who Stare at Goats opened in third place with a better-than-expected $13.3 million. Another new film, The Fourth Kind, followed with $12.5 million. Rounding out the top five was Paranormal Activity , which fell 48 percent to $8.6 million. Nevertheless, the $15,000 film's total gross has now risen to $97 million, putting it on track to pass the $100-million mark before next weekend. Meanwhile the critically praised Precious opened in just 18 theaters with $1.8 million -- or a staggering $100,000 per theater.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Box Office Mojo 1. Disney's A Christmas Carol, $31 million; 2. Michael Jackson's This Is It, $14 million; 3. The Men Who Stare at Goats, $13.3 million; 4. The Fourth Kind, $12.5 million; 5. Paranormal Activity , $8.6 million; 6. The Box , $7.9 million; 7. Couples Retreat, $6.4 million; 8. Law Abiding Citizen , $6.2 million; 9. Where the Wild Things Are, $4.2 million; 10. Astro Boy, $2.6 million.