Box Office Guru

Box Office Guru: Breaking Dawn Threepeats Over Weak Frame

by | December 5, 2011 | Comments

The annual post-turkey blues smacked the North American box office as The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 topped a sluggish frame that saw no new films open in wide release. The rest of the top ten featured the same Thanksgiving leftovers although in different positions thanks to some awards contenders that expanded into more theaters. Overall, ticket sales slumped to their second lowest level of 2011 beating only the weekend after Labor Day which often is the worst session of the entire year. Hollywood is hoping this was the calm before the storm as the final wave of new movies for the holiday season begins this Friday.

Breaking Dawn became the first Twilight movie to ever rule the box office for three weeks in a row with its $16.9M frame, according to estimates. The Summit blockbuster fell 60% from its Friday-to-Sunday take over the Thanksgiving holiday which represented a better hold than 2009’s New Moon which fell by 64% in the exact same situation. With $247.3M in 17 days, Dawn is running 3% behind its predecessors Eclipse and Moon which each had just over $255M in the bank in the same number of days despite being released in different seasons of the year. The Bella-and-Edward wedding flick now ranks as the fourth biggest grosser of the year trailing fellow sequels Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ($381M), Transformers: Dark of the Moon ($352.4M), and The Hangover Part 2 ($254.5M). A final North American gross of roughly $290M seems likely.

The fourth Twilight installment was still a big player at the overseas box office taking in another $40.2M in its third weekend. That boosted the international total to a stellar $341M while the worldwide tally climbed up to $588.3M. The four films in the franchise have now grossed a combined $2.4 billion globally averaging an amazing $600M per film.

Staying put in the runner-up spot was Disney’s The Muppets which tumbled 62% to an estimated $11.2M bumping the cume to $56.1M after 12 days. The Kermit-and-Piggy pic suffered the worst fall of any film in the top ten despite winning a solid A grade from CinemaScore last week. The well-known brand and the Black Friday school holiday contributed to a very strong showing upfront and now business is fading away. Muppets should stabilize next weekend since no new kidpics are opening and find its way to a final gross in the $80-90M range.

Martin Scorsese’s big-budget 3D film Hugo rose two spots to third place thanks to a wider expansion plus strong word-of-mouth and reviews. The PG-rated film went from 1,277 locations to 1,840 and grossed an estimated $7.6M for an average of $4,144. The director’s acclaimed use of the 3D format continued to find audiences as 76% of the weekend’s gross came from 3D screens – the highest rate for any film in the format currently. Hugo upped its profile in the Oscar race on Thursday when it was named the best picture of 2011 by the National Board of Review with Scorsese taking the director prize too. If it earns top nominations next week from the Golden Globes, the Paramount release can continue to stay in the game at the box office at least until the next wave of family films arrives with Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked on December 16 and Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin on December 21. But with $25.2M in 12 days, Hugo should be able to cross the $50M domestic mark.

Enjoying the smallest decline in the top ten for a film not expanding, Sony’s holiday toon Arthur Christmas placed fourth with an estimated $7.4M in its second weekend dipping only 39%. The 3D kidpic has taken in a modest $25.3M in its first 12 days but its yuletide theme should allow it to have good legs for a few more weeks. Both of next weekend’s new wide releases – New Year’s Day and The Sitter – will play to adults and not hurt the family marketplace too much. A final domestic take in the neighborhood of $50M seems likely. Overseas, where Arthur Christmas has been playing longer, the weekend saw a haul of an estimated $11.4M putting the international sum at $45.3M and the worldwide figure at $70.6M.

Warner Bros. saw an estimated $6M for its expensive animated sequel Happy Feet Two which collected an estimated $6M in its third round. With $51.8M in 17 days, the 3D toon is running a disturbing 57% behind the pace of its predecessor which held the number one spot during all three of its first weekends. The domestic final should reach about $65M and the studio will hope for much better results from international markets where 3D animation can deliver much stronger results. This weekend, the penguin pic opened in Russia, the U.K., Germany, and Spain and collected an estimated $16.3M from 40 markets for an international total of $34M and a worldwide take of only $85.8M.

Finishing in sixth place was Adam Sandler’s latest Razzie hopeful Jack and Jill which made an estimated $5.5M, down 45%, for a cume to date of $64.3M. The Sony release looks to end with $75-80M making it one of the actor’s worst-performing broad comedies.

George Clooney’s dysfunctional family saga The Descendants continued to score big points with ticket buyers in moderate release rising two spots to number seven with an estimated $5.2M. For the third weekend in a row, the Fox Searchlight release posted the best per-theater average in the top ten with a sturdy $9,059 from 574 locations, up 141 from last weekend. All other films in the top ten averaged between $1,100 and $4,200. The Hawaii-set film earned a handful of nominations from the Independent Spirit Awards this past week including best picture and director and will continue to add new theaters throughout December. Descendants saw its gross dip by only 29% and its average fall by 47% thanks to the expansion. The current cume of $18.1M is sure to double by the end of the month.

Dropping 51% in its fourth attack was the 3D actioner Immortals which collected an estimated $4.4M pushing the Relativity Media film’s domestic gross past its $75M budget to $75.6M. Overseas, the Greek mythology adventure has taken in north of $100M. Look for the North American figure to end up at around the $85M mark.

The Ben Stiller-Eddie Murphy action-comedy Tower Heist held up surprisingly well sliding only 42% to an estimated $4.1M. Universal has banked $70.8M so far and could be headed for a $80M finish. Rounding out the top ten was the 3D animated pic Puss in Boots which tumbled 59% to an estimated $3.1M and $139.5M total. The second highest grossing film since Labor Day after Twilight, the Paramount release will end up in the $145-150M range putting it in the same company as last year’s November offering from DreamWorks, Megamind, which grossed $148.4M. Puss grabbed an estimated $23M overseas this weekend to raise the international sum to $89.2M and the global tally to $228.7M.

Platforming in just 10 theaters in six top markets and generating plenty of heat was Fox Searchlight’s Shame which debuted to an estimated $361,000 for a potent $36,100 average. The NC-17 film starring Michael Fassbender as a New York bachelor addicted to sex has won positive reviews as well as universal praise for its leading man who is currently one of the favorites in the competitive Best Actor Oscar race. Shame will take a slow and steady approach to its roll-out expanding to nine more theaters on Friday in such markets as Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, and Philadelphia.

Awards hopefuls in limited release continued to reach out to arthouse crowds with mixed results. Fassbender saw encouraging results from his other indie release, David Cronenberg’s Sigmund Freud pic A Dangerous Method co-starring Viggo Mortensen and Keira Knightley, which collected an estimated $123,000 from four sites for a solid $30,750 average for Sony Classics. The Weinstein Company’s silent film The Artist, which last week won best picture and director honors from the New York Film Critics Circle, widened slightly in its second weekend from four to six houses and grossed an estimated $206,000 for a strong $34,333 average. Cumes are $416,000 and $496,000, respectively.

The biopic My Week with Marilyn saw a more subdued response from audiences grossing an estimated $1.2M from 244 theaters for a mild $4,836 average. The Weinstein Co. has taken in $3.9M to date for the Michelle Williams film which should earn the actress plenty of nominations in the coming months from various awards givers.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $71.4M which was down 5% from last year when Tangled rose to the top spot with $21.6M; and down 17% from 2009 when The Blind Side climbed into number one with $20M.

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