Moviegoers across North America stampeded into theaters driving the box office up to a record-breaking Thanksgiving holiday frame led by a mix of commercial hits, family films, and Oscar hopefuls. It was a true team effort as no one film broke through $45M over the Friday-to-Sunday weekend period. However, the top ten did see seven movies in double-digit millions, five over $20M, and four pictures averaging more than $10,000 each. Almost every dish on the turkey menu connected with audiences with the five-day Wednesday-to-Sunday span witnessing a jaw-dropping $290M in consumer spending, not counting the overpriced popcorn.
Staying put at number one for a second time was the final chapter of the vampire soap opera The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 with an estimated $43.1M dropping 70%, exactly like Part 1 did one year ago last Thanksgiving. The Summit film has banked an impressive $227M after ten days (up 3% vs. Part 1’s $220.8M at the same point) on its way to a final of about $290M from the domestic market. The five-day Wednesday-to-Sunday tally was an incredible $64M.
Overseas, Bella and Bella Junior grossed a stellar $97.4M from 73 territories boosting the international sum to $350.8M and the worldwide haul to $577.7M allowing the five-film franchise to smash the $3 billion mark in cumulative grosses. Part 2 will become the highest-grossing installment in the series with possibly $800M or more from around the world. Four of the five Twilight films were released on the lucrative weekend before Thanksgiving and Summit’s new owner Lionsgate has already planted flags on those frames over the next three years for its remaining Hunger Games films.
Another fan of mid-November is James Bond (6 of his last 7 pics launched then) and the secret agent found himself in second place once again with Skyfall grossing an estimated $36M for an encouraging decline of just 12%. That was a better Thanksgiving weekend hold than for past pics. Quantum of Solace fell by 30% (also in its third round) while Daniel Craig’s first outing in Casino Royale saw a 25% dip in its sophomore frame. Audiences are liking Skyfall and it’s the only action movie on a grand scale that is in the marketplace right now. Releasing it everywhere else in the world before America hasn’t stopped it from becoming a megahit here. With a stellar $51M over the long five-day holiday session, the 007 pic raised its domestic total to an amazing $221.7M becoming the first Bond film to crush the double-century mark. It should now be able to surpass $275M and even has an outside chance at hitting $300M.
Sony’s international markets grossed an estimated $41.3M on Skyfall this weekend while MGM’s distribution partners did not have updates as of Sunday. Australia generated a hefty $12.5M debut this weekend while the United Kingdom’s cume surged to $144.5M after its fifth round. That put the global gross at over $790M with Japan set to open on Saturday. Craig’s three-pack of Bond films have collectively grossed just under $2 billion.
Posting an incredible take for a two-and-a-half-hour historical drama in its second weekend of wide release, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln followed with an estimated $25M over three days and $34.1M across five from only 2,018 playdates. The Daniel Day-Lewis presidential pic rose a healthy 19% from last weekend’s wide break. Part of that was due to the addition of 243 locations but even the per-theater average of $12,398 inched up 5% from a week ago signaling strength with its audience and sustained interest. Lincoln has collected $62.2M to date and Disney should expect a trip to the $100M club, the 15th for Spielberg as a director. With lots of Oscar talk and Day-Lewis seen as the frontrunner to win Best Actor (some industry insiders call him a lock), the sturdy legs should continue into December.
A trio of PG-rated 3D films followed. Leading the way among the holiday weekend’s new releases was the DreamWorks Animation offering Rise of the Guardians which came in below expectations with an estimated $24M over the Friday-to-Sunday period and $32.6M over five days. Playing in 3,653 sites, the comedic adventure pic about Santa Claus, Jack Frost, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and Sandman all teaming up to fight the Boogey Man from hurting kids averaged a mediocre $6,577 per theater. The five-day holiday opening came in below the three-day non-holiday debuts of past DreamWorks films like Puss in Boots, Bee Movie, Over the Hedge, and How to Train Your Dragon. In fact, Guardians suffered the worst opening for a DreamWorks Animation production since the $10.1M five-day holiday launch of the 2003 bomb Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas.
With Christmas ahead and Rise having a winter and holiday theme to it, the $145M production could certainly display legs for the rest of the year. But 3D animated movies from the industry’s mightiest players with huge marketing pushes and coveted holiday release slots always do better. Reviews were generally positive and good enough for what these types of family films require. But competition may have been a factor with the next two films on the charts, Life of Pi and the resilient Wreck-It Ralph, taking away some of Guardian’s audience. The animation giant’s distribution deal with Paramount ends this year with Fox taking over the releasing duties in the spring.
A glowing A CinemaScore grade bodes well for the future as the toon hopes to benefit from solid recommendations from those who did come out this long weekend. Only 35% of the business was from 3D screens. Rise opened in China last week, Russia this weekend (at the top spot) and invades 50 international markets next weekend for its major overseas push. 3D animated films tend to do significantly more business outside of North America.
Opening in fifth place was Ang Lee’s 3D adventure drama Life of Pi which captured an estimated $22M over the weekend from 2,927 theaters and a robust $30.2M over the five-day holiday. Averaging a solid $7,516 over three days, the PG-rated film about a teen from India stranded in the Pacific on a boat with a tiger has earned strong reviews from critics and plenty of Oscar talk in the Best Picture race. A high 68% of the gross came from 3D which was widely praised in reviews.
The opening was on par with how Martin Scorsese’s Academy Award-winning Hugo did this same weekend a year ago. Both films were from Oscar-winning directors using 3D for the first time, based on best-selling books, had adolescent protagonists, great reviews, awards chatter, and were set outside of the U.S. The major difference was that Hugo was released in less than half the number of theaters. It bowed in fifth place over the turkey frame as well to the tune of $11.4M from 1,277 theaters for a $8,899 three-day average and $15.4M five-day debut. Given how the more narrow release packs more people into the available showtimes, the difference in averages between Pi and Hugo was not too significant. The Scorsese picture did go on to expand out to 2,600+ locations during December and then re-expand in late January when Oscar nominations were announced while Life of Pi is already very wide and so has less room to widen in future weeks. But the road ahead looks bright since word-of-mouth is good and critics lists and awards nominations can keep momentum going. The CinemaScore grade was an A-, good but not amazing.
Studio research showed that Pi skewed 52% male and 60% 25 and older. The film was never an easy sell given that it had no major stars, no American connection, plus the marketplace had no shortage of high-profile options for those looking for a powerful drama or something for the whole family. Overseas, Pi launched in four markets with $17.5M led by $10.5M from China on 4,500 3D screens and $3.4M from India in 697 locations. It rolls out around the world over the weeks ahead with many launching right before Christmas.
Still pulling in strong business in its fourth round of play, Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph took in an estimated $16.8M representing a slim 10% slide from last weekend. That was an impressive hold especially with Guardians and Pi both coming into the marketplace as last Thanksgiving’s holdover toons dropped 31-37% each. It was also the best gross all year for any toon in its fourth frame beating out hits like The Lorax and Brave. With a hefty $23M in business across the five-day turkey span, Ralph has now smashed up $149.5M and has plenty more to go as it entertains kids as well as older nostalgia-loving gamers. 19 international territories have added $41.2M so far for a global gross of $190.7M to date.
Posting a respectable opening in seventh place was the long-delayed remake Red Dawn with an estimated $14.6M over three days and $22M across the long five-day frame. Produced by MGM and released by FilmDistrict, the PG-13 film starring Chris Hemsworth (Thor) averaged a decent $5,358 over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Males overwhelmingly led the way making up 62% of the audience for the tale of a group of American teens that must defend a small town from an invasion by the North Korean military. 52% were 25 and older. The 1984 original led by Patrick Swayze featured Soviet baddies. With weak reviews and a lukewarm B CinemaScore grade, the road ahead looks bleak.
Films in the thick of the race for a Best Picture Oscar nomination rounded out the top ten. Denzel Washington’s Flight held up incredibly well grossing an estimated $8.6M, off a scant 2%, boosting Paramount’s cume to $74.9M. The Weinstein Co. successfully expanded the latest of its handful of awards contenders, the critically-acclaimed Silver Linings Playbook, into wider play and nabbed ninth place with an estimated $4.6M from just 367 locations for a terrific $12,597 average. The Bradley Cooper-Jennifer Lawrence indie comedy has collected $6.5M to date and will continue to expand in December.
Rounding out the top ten in its seventh weekend on the list was the Oscar player Argo with an estimated $3.9M, down 4%, giving Warner Bros. $98.1M to date. Ben Affleck’s hostage crisis drama is a week away from breaking into the century club. Overseas, Argo has taken in an additional $50M to date with most of awards season still ahead.
The period costume drama Anna Karenina expanded modestly in its sophomore round taking in an estimated $832,000 from 66 locations (up from 16) for a $12,606 average. The figure was solid, but should get diluted down as it rolls out into second-tier markets in the weeks ahead. Fox Searchlight debuted its Anthony Hopkins-Helen Mirren pic Hitchcock on Friday in 17 locations and grossed an estimated $301,000 for a $17,706 average. Reviews have been mixed and not at the level of top awards contenders, although the lead actors have gotten good marks.
The top ten films surged to an estimated $198.6M which was up a hearty 34% from last year when The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 held at number one with $41.7M; and up 18% from 2010 when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 stayed on top with $49.1M.