Weekend Box Office – BREAKING DAWN PART 1 Wins Holiday Crown with $42 Million Weekend and $221 Million Domestic Total

     November 27, 2011

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It may not have topped last year’s holiday in terms of totals, but Thanksgiving 2011 did prove bountiful for a handful of films.  Topping the list is Breaking Dawn Part 1 and its sophomore weekend estimate of $42 million and five-day holiday total of $62.3 million.  Meanwhile, The Muppets proved they still got game with a five-day total of $42 million.

Title Weekend 5-day Total
1 Breaking Dawn Part 1 $42,000,000 $62.3 $221.3
2 The Muppets $29,500,000 $42 $42
3 Happy Feet Two $13,400,000 $18.3 $43.7
4 Arthur Christmas $12,700,000 $16.9 $16.9
5 Hugo $11,400,000 $15.3 $15.3
6 Jack and Jill $10,300,000 $14.1 $57.4
7 Immortals $8,800,000 $12.5 $67.6
8 Puss In Boots $7,450,000 $19.4 $135.3
9 Tower Heist $7,320,000 $10.2 $65.4
10 The Descendants $7,200,000 $9.2 $10.7

twilight-saga-breaking-dawn-part-1-movie-poster-finalLast week the news was all about Breaking Dawn Part 1: the screaming crowds at midnight, the fifth biggest weekend of all time and, for balance, lots of references to New Moon and its superior domestic performance.  It’s been such a crappy year you would think we could all just applaud the film that, after only eight days, was already the sixth biggest title of 2011.  But no.  We need an angle. And with franchise films the best angle is always to compare, contrast and, when possible, deride.  In that spirit, I am required to report that Breaking Dawn Part 1 continued to trail New Moon’s grosses going into its second weekend and is now expected to end its domestic run short of that film’s $296 million total as well.

But there is some good news for Twi-hards.  International estimates for Breaking Dawn Part 1 prove that the penultimate Twilight is the strongest release of the series overseas.  With over $225 million from 54 territories, BD1 has a new worldwide cume of $489 million in ten days.  It’s too early to tell if that will translate into a series-best worldwide total (once again, New Moon holds that honor with $712.6 million) but it’s something to watch.

One more thing to watch with The Twilight Saga is budget.  Part of the reason that the first film was such a monster was that it cost just $37 million to make.  Since then the series’ budgets have inched up with every release until this year when Eclipse’s $68 million price tag was, um, eclipsed by BD1’s $110 million.  That’s pretty standard with franchise films, but it makes the issue of diminishing grosses a little more real for the studio.

The-Muppets-poster-finalBy Twilight Saga standards, the budget for the holiday’s number two film is downright retro.  Disney’s The Muppets cost $45 million – or about what the family film took in over the Thanksgiving frame. From 3,440 locations The Muppets earned an estimated $42 million in five days.  That is not close to the $68.7 million the studio’s Tangled saw at this time last year, but that may not be a fair comparison.  Unlike Tangled, The Muppets is a live-action film without a third dimension to boost grosses.  A more direct comp is Enchanted, which earned $49 million in five days over Thanksgiving 2007.  On the other hand, unlike either of those earlier Disney pics, The Muppets is a beloved brand with a long history.  Personally, I would have expected fans of the classic The Muppet Show to push the film closer to $60 million… but I’m wrong a lot.

Sadly, I was not wrong about Arthur Christmas. As soon as I saw that the Aardman Animation film was sharing a release date with The Muppets, I thought the family film was in for a rough holiday. Even with a 3D price premium, the 3D title only commanded $12.7 million from 3,376 locations over the three-day weekend.  That is significantly less than the studio’s prior releases, including Chicken Run ($17.5 million in 2000) and Flushed Away ($18.8 million in 2006).  Arthur Christmas could grow stronger as the holiday season progresses, but with the film’s high production costs and this weekend’s disappointment in mind, it will have to realize big numbers overseas to pull out a win.

hugo-movie-image-ben-kingsley-asa-butterfield-01Another family film with a price issue to overcome is Martin Scorsese’s Hugo.  The 3D title surprised a lot of people by nearly matching the stats of the wider-released Arthur Christmas.  Paramount chose to open Hugo in just 1,277 locations last Wednesday and, so far, it seems to be paying off.  Hugo was the only film that saw a jump in sales on Thanksgiving Day and closed its five-day start with $15.3 million.  The studio will be expanding Hugo’s run in hopes that it will prove a long-distance holiday performer.

Finally, ‘tis the season for specialty releases.  You may recall that Alexander Payne’s The Descendants made it into the top ten last weekend from just a handful of locations.  This week the George Clooney title held its number ten berth with $7.2 million from an expanded 433 locations for an excellent per-screen average of $16,620.  The best holiday average, however, goes to The Weinstein’s The Artist.  The festival-favorite debuted in four theatres this week, earning $210,414.  Meanwhile, TWC’s other Oscar-hopeful, My Week with Marilyn brought an estimated $1.77 million this weekend from 244 dates.  And the race is on.

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