While it fell short of breaking a series record, there is no diminishing the continued success of The Twilight Saga. The penultimate chapter in Summit Entertainment’s astoundingly popular franchise, Breaking Dawn Part 1 posted this year’s second highest weekend total (and the fifth highest of all time) with an estimated $139.5 million from 4,061 locations.
|1||Breaking Dawn Part 1||$139,500,000||$139.5|
|2||Happy Feet Two||$22,025,000||$22|
|4||Jack and Jill||$12,000,000||$41|
|5||Puss In Boots||$10,725,000||$122.3|
|8||Harold and Kumar 3D||$2,900,000||$28.3|
It was this week three years ago that Twilight caught a lot of people off guard with its nearly $70 million box office debut. If you were not a teenage girl (or hadn’t paid attention to the news from 2008’s Comic Con) it felt like this tale of teen-vamp-love came out of nowhere to change the pop culture universe. Within months the film had earned $192.7 million in domestic ticket sales, the studio had greenlit three sequels and the title Twilight had been changed to the more franchise-worthy The Twilight Saga.
But screw the history lesson. I’m guessing that if you read this far you are either a box office geek or a Twilight fan. In either case, you don’t need a blow by blow of where the series went from there… records smashed, girls screamed and the total domestic gross for each new release climbed a little bit higher than the last. So, even with 20011’s bad box office climate, it was clear that Twilight Four was going to be big. What was less clear was whether Breaking Dawn Part 1 would only look big in relation to recent box office numbers or whether it would measure up to the series’ storied past.
I am here to tell you that Breaking Dawn Part 1 is big by any measure. No records were broken this time around, though the fact that film came so close to matching New Moon should be sign enough that the franchise hasn’t lost any luster. Breaking Dawn Part 1 earned the second-highest opening day in series’ history and the third highest of all time, behind New Moon and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. The latter title also claimed the all-time weekend record with $169.1 million last July, though it had a little help from its 3D price premium. Breaking Dawn Part 1’s current estimate means that two of the five best weekends and three of the five best opening days in history now belong to The Twilight Saga. That’s about as impressive as it gets.
The weekend’s other franchise title was a bit less impressive. Happy Feet Two opened to $22 million from 3,606 locations. That is more than 45% off of Happy Feet’s $41.5 million launch in November of 2006. When you consider the fact that the sequel was released in 3D, the discrepancy becomes even more glaring.
Fox Searchlight made it into the top ten with their limited release The Descendants. The dramedy starring George Clooney opened in five locations on Wednesday and expanded to 29 two days later. So far, the film’s estimated weekend take of $1.2 million bodes well for its expansion into 425 theatres on the day before Thanksgiving.
Of course, by Thanksgiving things are going to get a little crowded with family fare. Both Disney’s The Muppets and Sony’s 3D Arthur Christmas are opening in 3,300 locations, while Martin Scorsese’s 3D Hugo plays to a more modest 1,200. With Breaking Dawn in the mix it looks like this year’s holiday box office could improve over 2010’s Thanksgiving frame… as long as The Muppets deliver for Disney the way that Tangled did last year.