Weekend Box Office (November 13 - 15, 2009)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Audiences were warned - by Mayans and film critics alike - but moviegoers around the world still flooded the multiplexes to see Roland Emmerich's latest disaster epic 2012 which generated an explosive global debut. Last weekend's top film A Christmas Carol held up well in its second weekend taking the runner-up spot while the awards hopeful Precious expanded moderately but raced all the way up to number three despite playing in fewer than 200 theaters. Overall ticket sales were slightly behind last year's levels, but well ahead of 2007.

Blasting past expectations, Sony scored its best opening of 2009 with 2012 which grossed $65.2M this weekend from North America alone, according to final studio figures. As big as it was, that amount represented just 28% of the global haul which soared to $230.4M thanks to a stunning $165.2M from 105 international territories. The doomsday thriller cost at least $200M to produce and was backed with an expensive worldwide marketing push which paid off.

The PG-13 pic opened domestically in 3,404 theaters and averaged a sensational $19,165. Sony reported that opening weekend sales hit $23.6M on Friday, inched up 5% to $24.8M on Saturday, and dropped by a slim 32% to $16.8M on Sunday. 2012 had the seventh largest November debut ever. The disaster pic played to a broad audience as studio research showed that males made up 52% of the crowd and 55% were 25 or older. Critics slammed the movie with negative reviews taking major aim at its script.

Overseas, 2012 delivered the fifth largest international opening of all-time and the largest ever for a non-sequel. Emmerich's previous disaster films have played especially well around the world so his newest one was always expected to be a global performer. Even with large declines in the weeks ahead, the worldwide gross may soar north of $500M by the end of its run.

After a soft opening at number one last weekend, Disney's 3D holiday offering A Christmas Carol displayed good legs dipping only 26% in its sophomore outing to $22.3M. The expensive Jim Carrey vehicle has taken in $63.3M in ten days and is playing out like the studio's 2002 holiday pic The Santa Clause 2 which also was released on the first weekend of November. Carol and Clause had similar openings of $30.1M and $29M, respectively, and the Tim Allen sequel bagged another $24.7M in its second weekend pushing its ten-day score to $60M. The only major difference was the drop as Clause 2 eased by just 15%. The latest motion capture project from Robert Zemeckis could finish up with around $130M depending on how it holds up over the lucrative Thanksgiving session.

Climbing impressively to third place was Lionsgate's awards contender Precious which rocketed up the charts thanks to an expansion from 18 to 174 locations delivering $5.87M for the weekend and a dazzling $33,762 average per theater. Reaching the top ten usually requires at least 1,000 theaters, but to hit the top five with under 200 venues is virtually unheard of. In fact, Paranormal Activity is the only other film this entire decade to do it.

Backed by promotional clout from executive producers Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, the R-rated tale of an abused pregnant teen from Harlem continued to show remarkable strength proving it wasn't just some one-week wonder. Precious opened in new markets such as San Francisco, Houston, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. plus expanded into more theaters in its initial markets of New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Chicago.

Cume is $8.7M which is just the tip of the iceberg as the well-reviewed film will expand nationally this month plus it has awards season ahead of it when nominations and wins could keep it going all the way to March 7 when Oscars are handed out. This Friday, Lionsgate will widen Precious into roughly 600 theaters across more than 100 markets throughout North America and will add more playdates for Thanksgiving.

George Clooney's The Men Who Stare At Goats fell 54% in its second weekend to $5.86M and was a hair behind in fourth place with a cume of $23M in ten days. Overture may find its way to $35-40M by the end of its run.

Michael Jackson's This Is It stumbled in its third round falling 61% to $5.1M boosting the 19-day take to $67.2M. Sony continued to see bigger numbers overseas as the international take for the weekend was $11.5M. The collection of concert rehearsal footage has now grossed $155.4M overseas and a stellar $222.6M worldwide. A whopping 70% of the tally to date has come from outside of North America.

Universal's alien abduction chiller The Fourth Kind took a tumble in its second frame falling 62% to $4.6M lifting the ten-day tally to $20.4M. A $27-29M final seems likely. The studio has fared much better with its relationship comedy Couples Retreat which broke the $100M mark in its sixth weekend grossing $4.2M. Down just 32%, the Vince Vaughn vehicle has displayed great legs this fall and has upped its cume to $102M giving the actor his seventh hit to join the century club. The former swinger has also headlined $100M+ grossers in five of the last six years.

Also breaking nine digits was the indie thriller Paranormal Activity which scared up $4M, off 51%, for a $103.7M sum for Paramount. Overture's top-grossing film ever Law Abiding Citizen followed by dipping 37% to $3.8M for a $67.2M total. The Cameron Diaz flop The Box rounded out the top ten with $3.2M, down a sharp 58%, raising the cume to a measly $13.2M after ten days. Look for a $17-19M final for Warner Bros.

The British pic Pirate Radio was lost at sea and failed to find its way into the top ten during its opening weekend. Focus bowed the Philip Seymour Hoffman film in 882 locations and attracted just $2.9M worth of business averaging a poor $3,293. Mixed reviews and a lack of starpower hurt the 1966-set tale of rebel radio DJs.

But Fox enjoyed spectacular results for its stop-motion animated film from director Wes Anderson, Fantastic Mr. Fox, which debuted in only four theaters but grossed $265,900 for a stunning $66,475 average. That was similar to the $67,469 average of the filmmaker's last entry The Darjeeling Limited although that one opened on a Saturday so its figures were for two days instead of three. The PG-rated Fox, which features the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, and Bill Murray, will expand into more than 2,000 theaters on Wednesday, November 25 for the Thanksgiving frame. The studio is hoping that loyal Anderson fans in New York and Los Angeles will help spread the word allowing it to find broad appeal by the long holiday session.

The top ten films grossed $124.1M which was down 8% from last year when Quantum of Solace opened in the top spot with $67.5M; but up a healthy 37% from 2007 when Beowulf debuted at number one with $27.5M.

Compared to projections, 2012 soared higher than my $48M forecast while Pirate Radio and Precious were both close to my respective predictions of $4M and $6M.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

Check the UPDATED chart for the Top 20 November Openings. For a NEW review of 2012 visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Twilight Saga: New Moon invades multiplexes along with Planet 51 and The Blind Side.

Marketplace - Shop for DVDs, electronics, books, and posters at discounted prices:

# Title Nov 13 - 15 Nov 6 - 8 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 2012 $ 65,237,614 3,404 1 $ 19,165 $ 65,237,614 Sony
2 A Christmas Carol 22,308,913 30,051,075 -25.8 3,683 2 6,057 63,272,757 Buena Vista
3 Precious 5,874,628 1,872,458 213.7 174 2 33,762 8,699,180 Lionsgate
4 The Men Who Stare At Goats 5,861,753 12,706,654 -53.9 2,453 2 2,390 23,038,050 Overture
5 This Is It 5,078,920 13,157,944 -61.4 3,037 3 1,672 67,190,296 Sony
6 The Fourth Kind 4,605,365 12,231,160 -62.3 2,530 2 1,820 20,449,660 Universal
7 Couples Retreat 4,164,940 6,129,045 -32.0 2,509 6 1,660 102,045,330 Universal
8 Paranormal Activity 4,043,417 8,278,605 -51.2 2,712 8 1,491 103,690,184 Paramount
9 Law Abiding Citizen 3,796,327 6,003,737 -36.8 2,071 5 1,833 67,190,452 Overture
10 The Box 3,158,368 7,571,417 -58.3 2,635 2 1,199 13,179,622 Warner Bros.
11 Pirate Radio 2,904,380 882 1 3,293 2,904,380 Focus
12 Where the Wild Things Are 2,418,140 4,177,249 -42.1 2,090 5 1,157 73,440,413 Warner Bros.
13 Astro Boy 1,702,946 2,626,103 -35.2 1,354 4 1,258 17,965,336 Summit
14 Boondock Saints II 1,033,639 427,919 141.6 251 3 4,118 2,495,119 Apparition
15 Amelia 923,785 1,806,626 -48.9 830 4 1,113 13,143,512 Fox Searchlight
16 The Stepfather 836,327 1,800,133 -53.5 858 5 975 28,802,131 Sony
17 An Education 661,901 592,407 11.7 120 6 5,516 3,218,225 Sony Classics
18 A Serious Man 657,125 863,750 -23.9 240 7 2,738 6,834,722 Focus
19 Zombieland 475,124 1,295,685 -63.3 511 7 930 74,542,128 Sony
20 Saw VI 449,512 2,031,944 -77.9 777 4 579 27,445,118 Lionsgate
Top 5 $ 104,361,828 $ 76,425,438 36.6
Top 10 124,130,245 102,932,989 20.6
Top 20 136,193,124 116,201,875 17.2
Top 20 vs. 2008 136,193,124 143,368,293 -5.0

Last Updated: November 16, 2009 at 9:30PM ET