Weekend Box Office: SKYFALL Tops Holdovers on Quiet Frame; PLAYING FOR KEEPS Settles for Sixth

     December 9, 2012


With only days remaining before its much-anticipated return to Middle Earth, the box office was a relatively quiet place. Once again, holdovers ruled and grosses were small. In fact, the only real surprise was which of the week’s seasoned veterans came out on top. That would be Skyfall: the James Bond blockbuster that last held the top spot four weeks ago.

Title Weekend Total
1. Skyfall $11,000,000 $261.6
2. Rise of the Guardians $10,540,000 $61.9
3. Breaking Dawn Part 2 $9,200,000 $268.7
4. Lincoln $9,115,000 $97.3
5. Life of Pi $8,300,000 $60.9
6. Playing for Keeps $6,000,000 $6
7. Wreck-It Ralph $4,900,000 $164.4
8. Red Dawn $4,200,000 $37.2
9. Flight $3,130,000 $86.2
10. Killing Them Softly $2,748,000 $11.7

Though it’s not completely unprecedented for a film to recapture first place weeks after its debut, it’s at least rare enough to give us something to talk about. Or we could just rehash the monstrous success of Breaking Dawn Part 2. There must be some facet of its success that was overlooked during the three weeks the film spent at number one, right?

playing-for-keeps-posterThe final chapter in The Twilight Saga earned a fourth weekend estimate of $9.2 million and has now amassed a domestic total of $268.7 million in 24 days. In terms of previous Twilight features, only Eclipse had a higher total ($274.9 million) at the same point. That means that there is still a chance that Breaking Dawn could reach its predecessor’s final gross of $300.5 million. Then again, with a certain Hobbit waiting in the wings, it’s likely that Bella and Edward will see their percentage drop drastically by Friday.

We should probably get our discussion of the weekend’s only new release out of the way, as well. Knowing that any film opening the week before The Hobbit would have almost no chance of a decent hold in its sophomore frame, only the indie rom-com Playing for Keeps rolled the dice this weekend. Distributed by FilmDistrict, the Gerard Butler-led ensemble opened in 2,837 locations and earned an estimated $6 million. That is bad by any measure but – considering Butler’s last star-turn in Chasing Mavericks grossed just $5.8 million in total – it could have been worse.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way… how about that Skyfall? Earlier this week, the 23rd entry in the James Bond franchise became the UK’s all-time highest-grossing film when it exceeded Avatar’s £94 million. Here in the US, Skyfall has now earned a total of $261.6 million – by far the highest total for a spy-related thriller. But the real Skyfall story is its miraculous rebirth as the number one film in America.

skyfall-uk-posterNow in his fifth weekend in release, 007 last held the top spot on his debut frame. The only other film in recent memory to reclaim first place after so many weeks out of the spotlight was 2010’s How to Train Your Dragon. Like Skyfall, the animated hit opened at number one and then spent three weeks waiting before rising again on week five. Outside of that single example, however, I am hard-pressed to name another recent film that played for second (or third) for weeks and then came back to top the box office. It took Jerry Maguire four weeks to bounce back to first after its debut in 1996… but I’d hardly call that recent.

In our age of outsized opening weekends – when a film’s success is decided in its first three days – it is increasingly rare to see a feature land non-consecutive number one finishes. Plenty of films open in second and then climb to first (Argo) and plenty of films spend multiple weeks in first (Avatar), but few recapture the top spot weeks after once losing it. Of course, being able to claim box office bragging rights is ultimately not as important as the number attached to the win. From that perspective, Skyfall’s victory this weekend is nothing to celebrate. In fact, it represents 2012’s lowest first-place finish since that disastrous September frame when The Possession won with less than $10 million.

But, by next Friday, the past two weeks and their low grosses should all be forgotten. I’m not sure if you heard, but the first installment in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy is hitting 4,000 locations next weekend and it is expected to be kind of an event…


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