Sunday, December 4, 2011

Weekend Box Office (12/04/11): With no new wide-releases, Twilight tops, Muppets drop, and smaller films (Shame, Descendants, Artist) take center stage.

As is sometimes the case with the post-Thanksgiving weekend, studios did not offer up a single new wide release.  While that's understandable considering the customary huge drops that the holdovers take this weekend, it's frustrating this year considering the sheer amount of product being released over the last ten days of the year (does Summit really expect The Darkest Hour to strike huge over Christmas weekend?).  Anyway, to the surprise of some (including me), a larger-than-expected drop for The Muppets allowed Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn part I to top the box office for the third weekend in a row.  The fourth film in the saga grossed $16.9 million, for a drop of 60% and a cume of $247 million.  While it's still trailing the respective end-of-third weekend totals of New Moon ($267 million) and Eclipse ($255 million), it had the largest third weekend of the franchise and a slightly smaller drop than New Moon (which tumbled 64% in weekend three for a $15 million weekend).  So while it still may end up trailing the last two pictures, it has a fighting chance to end up awfully close to the $295-300 million range of the prior sequels.  It's also just ahead of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I, which had $244 million at this point and eventually crawled to $295 million.

In second place was The Muppets, which took a (in my opinion) sharper second-weekend dive than was expected.  The critically-acclaimed and audience-pleasing franchise revival grossed $11.2 million in its second weekend, which was a 61% drop.  The film now has $56 million, meaning that getting to $100 million is no longer a sure thing.  Still, Disney smartly spent just $40 million on the picture, and I can only imagine how well it will perform on DVD/Blu Ray.  So while it's still a big win, it may not be the cultural event that die-hards were hoping for.  Oh well, the movie is great and it's going to make a tidy profit, which should be enough for the fans.  Doing better with a larger expansion was Martin Scorsese's Hugo.  The surprise National Board of Review winner went into 500 new theaters this weekend, which buffered what could have been a big drop into a mere 36% drop.  The terrific picture grossed $7.6 million for a twelve-day cume of $25 million.  Paramount is hoping that word-of-mouth and awards-season love allows this one to play long-ball.  But with a price-tag of around $140 million, they will need a big overseas total as well if they hope to actually make money on this obvious labor of love.

Sony's Aardman Christmas adventure Arthur Christmas also had a surprisingly small drop, losing just 39% over this post-Thanksgiving weekend.  The perfectly charming and mostly pleasant family film has grossed $25 million, and it too is hoping to stick around until its titular holiday.  Again, this one cost $85 million, so it will need strong legs and a tidy overseas haul (especially in Europe) to make a profit.  One family film that won't be seeing black anytime soon is Happy Feet Two.  The $120 million sequel just passed $50 million after three weekends and is falling fast.  Unless overseas numbers really save the day (no sign of it yet), this will be a major loss for Warner Bros.  In other holdover news, Brett Ratner's Tower Heist crossed the $70 million mark.  The underrated Ben Stiller/Eddie Murphy/Alan Alda dramedy already surpassed $100 million worldwide and would have on-track for profitability had it cost less than $75 million.  George Clooney's overrated political drama The Ides of March passed $40 million this weekend, while Immortals just passed $75 million and Puss In Boots sits just under $140 million.  Finally, in wide-release holdover news, Adam Sandler's Jack and Jill sits with $64 million, meaning that it will be his first Happy Madison production not to cross $100 million since Little Nicky back in 2000.

The real action this weekend was in the arthouse circuit.  The big limited debut was the ten-screen release of the Michael Fassbender/Carey Mulligan sex-addiction drama Shame.  The film earned $36,100 per screen, which is quite solid.  In fact, it's the third-biggest per-screen average for an NC-17 film, behind Bad Education and Lust Caution (both of which were playing on three or fewer screens). But, due to the film's NC-17 rating, there isn't nearly as much room for expansion as other Oscar bait films.  It will be interesting to see how it holds up against the flood of adult product over the rest of the year, as it will have to compete with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, We Have to Talk About Kevin, Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody's Young Adult, Roman Polanski's Carnage, Angelina Jolie's The Land of Blood and Honey, and the wide-release of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  Less successful was the two-screen debut of Sleeping Beauty, as the mediocre art-house version of Sucker Punch grossed around $10,400.

Expanding to 574 screens in its third weekend, The Descendants continued to gain strength.  The George Clooney drama has now amassed $18 million, putting it well on course for the $71 million total for Alexander Payne's Sideways (which needed ten weekends of limited play before reaching $18 million) if not the $83 million total of Jason Reitman's Up in the Air (which had $24 million after going mostly wide in its fourth weekend).  The Artist is at $496,000 and A Dangerous Method sits with $416,000 in their respective second weekends of limited release, although the silent film homage increased its per-screen average even while adding two whole screens.  The Michelle Williams-as-Marilyn Monroe vehicle My Week With Marilyn dropped 32% in its second weekend of slightly-wide (244 screens) release, giving the film $2 million after twelve days.  Finally, Margin Call sits with $4.3 million, despite already having earned at least as much as a Video On Demand title.  It appears that 'The Matrix of Video on Demand' (the breakout movie that popularized a new technology, in that case DVD) is was not Kevin Smith's Red State, but rather the superb Margin Call.

That's it for this weekend.  Join us next weekend as the wide release of New Year's Eve (IE - Gary Marshall cashes in even more favors before he dies) opens against Jonah Hill's first test of stand-alone box office might with David Gordon Green's The Sitter.  But the real action is in limited release, as two dynamite films (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Young Adult) square off against the one-week qualifying run of We Have to Talk About Kevin (supposed to be great, haven't seen it yet).   Till then, take care.

Scott Mendelson

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