Weekend Box Office (November 18 - 20, 2011)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The wedding of the year attracted Bella and Edward fans around the world as the highly anticipated vampire sequel The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Pt. 1 crushed the competition across the globe debuting at number one. Not as warmly received in their return were the animated penguins of Happy Feet Two which opened in second place with only half the debut of its predecessor ahead of what will be a very competitive holiday season for kidpics. George Clooney's The Decendants rocked the specialty box office and even made it into the top ten despite playing in very few theaters. Overall, Twilight led the marketplace to a healthy improvement over last year which is quite a statement given that a new Harry Potter film launched at that time.

Delivering the second biggest opening of the year, and the fifth best of all-time, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Pt. 1 triumphed at the box office grossing $138.1M over the Friday-to-Sunday period, according to final studio figures. The fourth film in the lucrative Summit series averaged a stunning $34,012 from 4,061 locations despite having no help from 3D or IMAX which have boosted grosses for many of the largest debuts of all-time. The bow was just 3% behind the $142.8M of New Moon from two years ago this same weekend. Both films played to the Twilight faithful, were only in 2D, and were released in just over 4,000 locations. The new pic, though, carried a much higher budget of $110M.

Breaking Dawn Pt. 1 now sits at the number five spot on the list of the biggest opening weekends ever trailing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ($169.2M), The Dark Knight ($158.4M), Spider-Man 3 ($151.1M), and New Moon. The weekend began with a $71.6M opening day which included $30.3M from Thursday night's post-midnight shows. That was the second best post-midnight ever after Deathly Hallows 2 ($43.5M) and the third highest opening day after Hallows 2 ($91.1M) and New Moon ($72.7M). Breaking Dawn's Saturday suffered an understandable 44% plunge to $40M while a 34% decline hit Sunday putting it at $26.5M. New Moon, which had the exact same type of calendar, fell a nearly identical 42% Saturday and then 34% on Sunday. Given the rise in 2D ticket prices over the last two years, it seems that the Twilight audience has declined by 8-10% between New Moon and Breaking Dawn.

As with previous films in the series, women dominated the audience. Studio research showed that a whopping 80% of the crowd was female which was in line with New Moon's 80% and the first Twilight's 75%. The only summer title in the franchise - last year's Eclipse which released in late June - had a broader audience that was 65% female. It was also the only pic released in IMAX and still stands as the top-grossing installment with $300.5M. The series will conclude this weekend next year with the launch of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Pt. 2 which opens on November 16, 2012.

Sales were red hot overseas too this weekend. The roll-out into 54 international territories resulted in an estimated $144M from 9,950 venues since mid-week bows in certain markets putting the global debut at a stellar $282M. Top markets included the U.K. ($22M), Russia ($15M), France ($14.5M), Australia ($12.2M), Italy ($12M), Spain ($11.6M), and Brazil ($10.2M). With Breaking Dawn Part 1, the Twilight franchise this weekend shattered the $2 billion global box office mark.

The animated penguin sequel Happy Feet Two finished the weekend in second place as expected but generated sales that were below expectations. The PG-rated film bowed to $21.2M from 3,606 theaters (including a super-wide 293 IMAX 3D venues) averaging a moderate $5,889 and came in at roughly half the level of the $41.5M debut of the first Feet from this same very weekend five years ago. That film topped the charts for three weeks in a row on its way to $198M. Reviews for the followup were mostly bad.

The Feet debut was also well below those of other big studio toon offerings this year like Rio ($39.2M), Puss in Boots ($34.1M), Gnomeo & Juliet ($25.4M), The Lion King 3D ($30.2M) as well as sequels like Kung Fu Panda 2 ($47.7M) and Cars 2 ($66.1M). Parents have spent heavily on 3D toons this year and Happy Feet Two may have been too little, too late. 49% of the penguin gross came from the 3D screens which was about even with the 51% of Puss a few weeks ago. Warner Bros. will try to catch up with kids and families over the coming Thanksgiving week, however there will be stiff competition for this audience with studios unwisely launching three more PG-rated films aimed at families on Wednesday - Disney's The Muppets, Paramount's Hugo, and Sony's Arthur Christmas.

Last week's top film Immortals fell sharply in its second weekend grossing $12.4M, down 62%. Most holdovers suffered larger than usual declines as last Friday was the Veterans Day holiday when most schools closed. The Relativity Media release has collected $53.1M in ten days and looks headed for the $75M vicinity.

Adam Sandler's latest helping of immature humor lost the usual half of its audience in the second weekend coming in fourth place. Jack and Jill fell 53% to $11.7M and has laughed up $40.8M in ten days heading to what should be a final gross in the neighborhood of $70M for Sony.

The leggy toon Puss in Boots took a tumble in its fourth round thanks in part to the arrival of Happy Feet Two and dropped a steep 56% to $10.8M for a cume to date of $122.4M. Previous declines were only 3% for the sophomore session and 25% for the third weekend which included Veterans Day. Paramount and DreamWorks Animation were widely criticized for moving the release date earlier from November 4 to October 28, but the move paid off with a stellar $111.6M banked before the penguin pic arrived in the marketplace.

Universal's action-comedy Tower Heist followed with $7.1M, down 44%, giving the Ben Stiller-Eddie Murphy project $53.5M to date. Clint Eastwood's political biopic J. Edgar did not hold up well in its second weekend falling 47% to $5.9M raising the cume to only $20.7M for Warner Bros. Clint pics used to show strong legs at the box office thanks to good word-of-mouth and an older audience. But recent projects have earned mixed feelings from critics and audiences alike with second weekend drops being 47% for last year's Hereafter and 51% for 2009's Invictus.

Dropping 51% in its third try was the stoner sequel A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas which grossed $2.9M with $28.3M in 17 days so far. Fox's sci-fi pic In Time fell apart crumbling 58% to $1.7M and $33.5M overall.

George Clooney's critically-acclaimed film The Descendants became the year's smallest release to reach the top ten. The Fox Searchlight pic bowed in just 29 locations but grossed $1.2M for a hefty $41,038 average putting the awards contender into the number ten spot. Only one other film this year made the top ten by playing in fewer than 500 theaters - Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris which jumped up to number six in its second frame while in 58 playdates over Memorial Day weekend. Descendants, a likely Oscar contender in picture, actor, and other races, will quickly expand to most major markets on Wednesday when it reaches over 425 theaters for the long five-day Thanksgiving frame as an alternative option for adult audiences at a time when kidpics will be flooding the marketplace.

The top ten films grossed $213.1M which was up a healthy 16% from last year when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 opened in the top spot with $125M; but down 14% from 2009 when The Twilight Saga: New Moon opened at number one with $142.8M.

Compared to projections, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Pt. 1 opened below my $148M forecast while Happy Feet Two debuted below my $37M prediction.

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

Check the UPDATED chart for the Top Opening Weekends of All-Time.

Watch the NEW trailer for Titanic 3D.

For a NEW review of Breaking Dawn Part 1 visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Wednesday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Muppet Movie, Hugo, and Arthur Christmas all debut.

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

# Title Nov 18 - 20 Nov 11 - 13 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Pt. 1 $ 138,122,261 4,061 1 $ 34,012 $ 138,122,261 Summit
2 Happy Feet Two 21,237,068 3,606 1 5,889 21,237,068 Warner Bros.
3 Immortals 12,351,959 32,206,425 -61.6 3,120 2 3,959 53,079,889 Relativity
4 Jack and Jill 11,738,573 25,003,575 -53.1 3,438 2 3,414 40,766,479 Sony
5 Puss in Boots 10,804,311 24,726,193 -56.3 3,415 4 3,164 122,391,873 Paramount
6 Tower Heist 7,105,045 12,773,765 -44.4 2,942 3 2,415 53,538,820 Universal
7 J. Edgar 5,928,120 11,217,324 -47.2 1,947 2 3,045 20,722,814 Warner Bros.
8 A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas 2,902,434 5,915,143 -50.9 1,808 3 1,605 28,335,280 Warner Bros.
9 In Time 1,710,692 4,081,881 -58.1 1,367 4 1,251 33,454,533 Fox
10 The Descendants 1,190,096 29 1 41,038 1,290,096 Fox Searchlight
11 Paranormal Activity 3 1,000,518 3,611,283 -72.3 1,402 5 714 102,619,195 Paramount
12 Footloose 861,189 2,726,736 -68.4 1,218 6 707 50,166,869 Paramount
13 Real Steel 553,871 1,864,688 -70.3 702 7 789 82,557,917 Disney
14 Like Crazy 522,352 504,512 3.5 109 3 4,792 1,767,358 Paramount
15 Moneyball 512,387 1,066,267 -51.9 409 8 1,253 72,641,291 Sony
16 The Ides of March 460,272 944,292 -51.3 298 6 1,545 39,100,143 Sony
17 Courageous 430,493 1,012,220 -57.5 517 7 833 32,338,471 Sony
18 Margin Call 423,554 545,521 -22.4 173 4 2,448 3,915,791 Roadside Attr.
19 Martha Marcy May Marlene 384,642 481,474 -20.1 180 5 2,137 2,258,429 Fox Searchlight
20 Melancholia 337,530 257,174 31.2 57 2 5,922 709,212 Magnolia
Top 5 $ 194,254,172 $ 105,927,282 83.4
Top 10 213,090,559 124,127,013 71.7
Top 20 218,577,367 131,283,502 66.5
Top 20 vs. 2010 218,577,367 191,519,271 14.1

Last Updated: November 21, 2011 at 10:45PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Thursday at 7:40pm ET.