In a year-end box office showdown pitting a lion against a giant ape, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” managed to wrestle the No. 1 spot back from “King Kong” as Hollywood brought the curtain down on a disappointing year at the multiplex to continue a three-year trend. “It’s the battle of the blockbusters at the top of the charts duking it out, much to the benefit of the overall box office,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations Co. “This is a great way to start 2006.” “Narnia” and “Kong” have ruled during a crowded holiday season and propelled the New Year’s weekend box office to tally an impressive 5 percent gain over last year, with the top 12 movies grossing just over $130 million, according to studio estimates Monday. But that was not enough to alter the bigger picture, as the domestic box office is expected to finish about 5 percent behind 2004 with ticket sales of just under $9 billion – the third down year in a row for the movie industry in terms of revenue from ticket sales. Final 2005 numbers will be released today. Close behind in fourth place was the family comedy “Cheaper By The Dozen 2” starring Steve Martin. The sequel, released by 20th Century Fox, has not performed nearly at the same level as the original 2003 hit while taking in an estimated $19.3 million over the four days. But the film’s grosses were up 26 percent from last weekend and it has earned a respectable $55.1 million so far. “It’s just moving along very nicely,” said Bruce Snyder, Fox’s president of distribution. Rounding out the top five was the Jennifer Aniston comedy-drama “Rumor Has It,” also starring Kevin Costner, Mark Ruffalo and Shirley MacLaine. “Rumor,” released by Warner Bros., had estimated four-day ticket sales of $11.6 million and has taken in $26.7 million since its Dec. 25 release. For films not yet in wide release, a high per-screen average is an indication of their early buzz and word-of-mouth potential. Universal’s “Munich,” directed by Steven Spielberg, finished in 10th place despite being in just 532 theaters. The film, which will expand into about 1,800 locations Friday, earned $6.1 million over the four days, averaging a sensational $11,515 per theater. It has earned $15.6 million to date. Focus Features’ “Brokeback Mountain” continued its strong performance in limited release and once again posted the highest per-screen average of any movie in the top 15. Playing in 269 locations, it earned an average of $17,702 per screen for a four-day total of $4.8 million. It goes into wider release Friday and has grossed $15 million to date. DreamWorks’ “Match Point,” written and directed by Woody Allen, opened Wednesday in just eight locations in New York and Los Angeles, and had a stunning per-screen average of $64,625 and has grossed $720,000 in six days. It will expand to 300 more theaters in eight additional markets Friday. “This is beyond anything we were guessing,” said Don Harris, DreamWorks’ head of domestic sales. “People are liking this movie, and it bodes well for its expansion.” There were also strong averages for Disney’s “Casanova” in 37 locations ($15,243 per screen and a weekend gross of $560,000) and The Weinstein Co.’s “The Matador,” which averaged $23,100 in four locations in New York and Los Angeles for a total of $92,000. It expands nationwide Jan. 20. Greg Hernandez, (818) 713-3758 [email protected] Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday in U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations. Final figures will be released Tuesday. 1. “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” Buena Vista, $32.8 million. 2. “King Kong,” Universal, $31.6 million. 3. “Fun With Dick and Jane,” Sony, $21 million. 4. “Cheaper by the Dozen 2,” Fox, $19.3 million. 5. “Rumor Has It,” Warner Bros., $11.6 million. 6. “The Family Stone,” Fox, $10.2 million. 7. “Memoirs of a Geisha,” Sony, $10 million. 8. “The Ringer,” Fox Searchlight, $8 million. 9. “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” Warner Bros., $7.5 million. 10. “Munich,” Universal, $6.1 million. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson “Narnia,” based on the popular C.S. Lewis novel, has taken just three weekends to place itself as the fourth-highest-grossing film released in 2005, behind only “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith,” “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and “War of the Worlds.” The Disney hit had an estimated four-day gross of $32.8 million and has earned a whopping $224.8 million since its release. “Kong,” released by Universal Pictures, had spent two weekends at No. 1 but had to settle for a near photo-finish for second place this time around with estimated four-day ticket sales of $31.6 million. The three-hour epic, directed by Peter Jackson, has grossed $174.3 million since its Dec. 14 release and crossed the $400 million mark worldwide. “The first ‘Lord of the Rings’ was sitting at $164 million on Dec. 31, so we hope we’re in that company,” said Nikki Rocco, Universal’s president of distribution. “This was not a film that had a built-in franchise, but it is a great film and I think it’s going to have legs.” The Jim Carrey comedy “Fun With Dick and Jane” is shaping up to be a solid hit with a third-place finish and an estimated four-day gross of $21 million. The Sony Pictures Entertainment release has taken in $64.5 million since its Dec. 21 opening and propelled Sony past the $1 billion in domestic grosses for 2005. “It remains the No. 1 comedy in America and is headed in the right direction,” said Rory Bruer, Sony’s president of domestic distribution.