Weekend Box Office (November 20 - 22, 2009)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Multiplex cash registers were overflowing as the hotly-anticipated vampire sequel The Twilight Saga: New Moon opened to gargantuan numbers generating the third largest opening in box office history and led the overall marketplace to the second biggest weekend tally of all-time. Debuting far back in second, but also surging past industry expectations, was Sandra Bullock's new football pic The Blind Side which got off to a fantastic start. The two new female-driven films attracted an eye-popping $177M in combined ticket sales leading the top ten to soar to a jaw-dropping $247M.

Audiences wanted monster love as The Twilight Saga: New Moon stunned the film industry by beating what were already sky-high expectations opening to $142.8M over the Friday-to-Sunday period, according to final studio figures. That gave Summit the third best opening weekend ever trailing the super hero duo of The Dark Knight ($158.4M in July 2008) and Spider-Man 3 ($151.1M in May 2007). However, New Moon did break the all-time records for highest post-midnight grosses on the night before opening day with $26.3M and the best opening day with $72.7M. The records were formerly held by Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and The Dark Knight with $22.2M and $67.2M, respectively. The Twilight sequel cost only $50M to produce while the others cost well over $200M each.

The Bella Swan love story grossed more in its first day than its predecessor Twilight did in its entire opening weekend. That film bowed this weekend with $69.6M on its way to $191.5M from North America and $384M worldwide. Following New Moon's record opening day, the PG-13 film tumbled 42% to $42.3M on Saturday and another 34% to $27.8M on Sunday. The Friday-to-Saturday decline was nearly identical to Twilight's 41% which is quite remarkable given how the new installment had much more fan hysteria surrounding it and 605 more theaters leading one to think it would absorb more of its total business upfront on the first day. Both installments earned 51-52% of the total weekend gross on Friday.

Other records set include best November bow and best non-summer opening surpassing the $102.3M of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire which had set both of those milestones four years ago this very weekend. Young women have been the driving force behind the Cullen franchise since the publication of the popular books, but mature women have also made up a sizable portion of the fan base. Studio research showed that 80% of the audience this weekend was female with those over and under age 21 evenly split. That translates to females under the age of 21 spending about $56M this weekend to see Kristin Stewart choose between Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner.

As if the domestic performance was not impressive enough, New Moon attacked 25 foreign markets this weekend too and hauled in $132.1M making for a staggering global debut of $275M. Summit has worldwide rights but has assorted distributors doing the releases across the globe. The company has already filmed the third pic in the series, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, which will be ready for a June 30 release when students will be out of school and ready for more from the vampire-werewolf teen tale. The date is the Wednesday before the long Independence Day holiday frame.

Led by Twilight, the overall marketplace surged to the second highest total in box office history trailing only the July 18-20 frame last year when The Dark Knight had its record bow and Mamma Mia debuted well in second. The Top 20 that frame pulled in $257.6M while this weekend's came very close with $255.3M. Also amazing this weekend was that despite the sheer domination of New Moon, moviegoers still found time to spend another $104M on the rest of the films in the top ten. That bodes well for the upcoming five-day Thanksgiving holiday session which kicks off on Wednesday.

Five months after breaking her career opening weekend record, Sandra Bullock did it again with the football drama The Blind Side which performed much better than expected with a $34.1M debut. The figure edged out the $33.6M bow of her hit summer comedy The Proposal which gave America's favorite bus driver her previous best mark. Opening in 3,110 locations, the Warner Bros. release averaged a sturdy $10,971 per site. Reviews were generally good and football movies often draw large crowds. Based on a true story, Blind Side tells of a homeless black youth taken in by a rich white family that helps him launch a successful football career.

The PG-13 film was expected to collect about half as much since its older female audience would be distracted by Twilight which has a large fan base of moms. But the marketplace expanded and had plenty of room for both. The blonde Bullock's film skewed 59% female and 75% to those 25 or older, according to studio research. The road ahead looks bright with the actress set to score her second $100M blockbuster of the year after nearly a decade without any.

After a huge top spot debut last weekend, the doomsday actioner 2012 plunged 60% to $26.4M and ranked third for the frame. The pricey $200M film has grossed $108.1M in ten days in North America and looks to reach the vicinity of $160M domestically. Overseas, the global disaster pic remained a red hot performer grossing an additional $100.5M to boost its international tally to $341.1M and the worldwide haul to a stunning $449M. 2012 is already the seventh biggest global blockbuster of the year and in another week it will shatter the half-billion mark and leap into the top five.

Sony didn't fare too well with the animated comedy Planet 51 which bowed in fourth with a lukewarm $12.3M. The PG-rated toon landed in 3,035 theaters and averaged a mild $4,048 per site. Produced by Spain's Ilion Animation Studios, the pic features Dwayne Johnson voicing a U.S. astronaut that touches down on a planet he thinks is barren only to discover a civilization of green beings that resembles 1950s America. Reviews were bad and the 2D look just wasn't what kids were looking for in a world now dominated by 3D animation. Sony is hoping to pick up some more families over the coming holiday weekend, although that audience will get fragmented since Disney launches the Robin Williams-John Travolta starrer Old Dogs and Fox goes nationwide with its animated film Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Disney's A Christmas Carol fell 45% to $12.3M in its third round pushing the total to $79.8M. The expensive Jim Carrey-starrer will try to crack the $100M mark over the long Thanksgiving holiday when yuletide movies often see their weekend grosses rise.

In its third weekend, Lionsgate's awards contender Precious expanded into moderate national release and nearly doubled its weekend gross with $10.9M. Widening from 174 locations in ten markets to 629 theaters in over 100 cities, the R-rated hit averaged a fantastic $17,300 per location and lifted its total to $21.3M. By comparison, Oscar winner No Country For Old Men expanded nationally this same weekend in 2007 from 148 to 860 theaters while also in its third session and grossed $7.8M for a weaker $9,043 average. Its 17-day cume was $16.3M representing just 22% of its eventual $74.3M final domestic tally. Precious will add more venues on Wednesday for the holiday weekend.

Little cash was left for the rest of the films in the marketplace. Overture's George Clooney military pic The Men Who Stare at Goats finished in seventh place with $2.8M, down 52%, for a $27.7M total for Overture after 17 days. Universal's hit comedy Couples Retreat followed dropping 53% to $1.9M boosting the cume to $105M. The studio saw a larger 62% tumble for its supernatural thriller The Fourth Kind with $1.7M and $23.4M sum. Sony ranked tenth with its concert pic This Is It with an estimated $1.6M, off 68%, for a solid $70.3M cume.

The top ten films soared to dizzying heights grossing an estimated $246.9M which was up a stellar 60% from last year when Twilight opened in the top spot with $69.6M; and up a remarkable 77% from 2007 when Enchanted debuted at number one with $34.4M.

Compared to projections, New Moon and The Blind Side both flew much higher than my respective forecasts of $102M and $15M. Planet 51 and Precious were on target with my $13M and $11M predictions.

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

Check the UPDATED charts for the Top All-Time Opening Weekends, Top All-Time Opening Days, and Top November Openings.

For NEW reviews of The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Planet 51, and Fantastic Mr. Fox visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Wednesday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Old Dogs, Ninja Assassin, and The Road all open for the extended Thanksgiving holiday frame.

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

# Title Nov 20 - 22 Nov 13 - 15 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Twilight Saga: New Moon $ 142,839,137 4,024 1 $ 35,497 $ 142,839,137 Summit
2 The Blind Side 34,119,372 3,110 1 10,971 34,119,372 Warner Bros.
3 2012 26,410,206 65,237,614 -59.5 3,408 2 7,749 108,131,263 Sony
4 Planet 51 12,286,129 3,035 1 4,048 12,286,129 Sony
5 A Christmas Carol 12,275,024 22,308,913 -45.0 3,578 3 3,431 79,836,002 Buena Vista
6 Precious 10,881,772 5,874,628 85.2 629 3 17,300 21,277,521 Lionsgate
7 The Men Who Stare At Goats 2,829,031 5,861,753 -51.7 2,056 3 1,376 27,680,089 Overture
8 Couples Retreat 1,943,075 4,164,940 -53.3 1,712 7 1,135 104,992,030 Universal
9 The Fourth Kind 1,747,085 4,605,365 -62.1 1,648 3 1,060 23,359,890 Universal
10 This Is It 1,617,417 5,078,920 -68.2 1,640 4 986 70,258,545 Sony
11 Law Abiding Citizen 1,606,053 3,796,327 -57.7 1,327 6 1,210 70,018,193 Overture
12 Pirate Radio 1,460,592 2,904,380 -49.7 883 2 1,654 5,184,068 Focus
13 Paranormal Activity 1,401,112 4,043,417 -65.3 1,902 9 737 106,082,922 Paramount
14 An Education 826,755 661,901 24.9 303 7 2,729 4,268,905 Sony Classics
15 Where the Wild Things Are 688,060 2,418,140 -71.5 1,010 6 681 74,665,359 Warner Bros.
16 Boondock Saints II 599,257 1,033,639 -42.0 204 4 2,938 3,552,730 Apparition
17 The Box 494,345 3,158,368 -84.3 965 3 512 14,503,106 Warner Bros.
18 A Serious Man 444,008 657,125 -32.4 198 8 2,242 7,476,004 Focus
19 Astro Boy 406,074 1,702,946 -76.2 724 5 561 18,621,561 Summit
20 Kurbaan 403,678 83 1 4,864 403,678 UTV
Top 5 $ 227,929,868 $ 104,361,828 118.4
Top 10 246,948,248 124,130,245 98.9
Top 20 255,278,182 136,193,124 87.4
Top 20 vs. 2008 255,278,182 161,027,248 58.5

Last Updated: November 23, 2009 at 10:40PM ET