Five Lessons Learned From the 'Marley and Me' Box-Office Windfall

The Monday Morning Box Office looks basically the same as it did on Friday, with Marley and Me shocking everyone with a $51 million holiday frame. But what does its surprising success really mean?

1. Jennifer Aniston is done with your questions about Brad Pitt. (For now.) Outperforming The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by more than $12 million — and setting a Christmas-release record in the process — confirms Aniston's box-office ownage over her ex-husband and should establish some self-sustained breathing room going forward. Until Pitt and Angelina Jolie both earn Oscar nominations next month, naturally, and the cycle begins anew. Enjoy it while you can, Jen.

2. Owen Wilson may never have to promote a film again. Already softball-averse in his first interviews since attempting suicide in 2007, Wilson can simply follow the Marley Model of letting his co-stars do the heavy-lifting / disrobing / cute-puppy thing while he retires to reclusive leading-mandom.

3. David Frankel is for real. The son of a former executive editor of the NYT, director Frankel has done nothing but make money for Fox since his feature debut The Devil Wears Prada. His formula: Adapt sources efficiently, cast intelligently, and let the principals do the rest — even the kids and dogs. It's a lot harder than it looks. Next up: The baseball procedural Moneyball, adapted from another best-seller and rumored to feature Pitt in the lead.

4. Fox is the hottest studio in town. After a year-long string of embarrassing flops and underachievers — including the recent, devastating one-two punch of Australia and Day the Earth Stood Still — the studio heads into 2009 with a likely repeater at #1 and a Watchmen judgment that could net it upwards of $50 million next spring. Without doing anything. If luck is the residue of design, then Fox's engineers are entitled to a raise.

5. The dog dies. Who knew? Oh.