Weekend Box Office (November 21 - 23, 2008)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The vampire love story Twilight stunned the film industry with an explosive opening leading the overall marketplace to one of the biggest November weekends in box office history. Disney went the other way with its new animated entry Bolt which debuted below expectations in third place. Along with some strong holdovers, the box office posted its best performance in four months.

Girlpower rocked the charts like never before as Twilight made off with $69.6M this weekend, according to final figures, fueled by a scorching opening day on Friday which accounted for half of the entire weekend gross. Summit Entertainment gave birth to its first blockbuster franchise with the PG-13 film which averaged a sizzling $20,368 from 3,419 locations. Based on the best-selling novel by Stephanie Meyer, Twilight generated the fifth biggest November opening ever trailing three Harry Potter installments and The Incredibles, and the fourth largest bow of 2008 after The Dark Knight ($158.4M), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($100.1M), and Iron Man ($98.6M). It was also the second best opening ever for a non-studio film after just The Passion of the Christ ($83.8M).

Even more impressive was the fact that Twilight had no stars and was budgeted at just $37M. The book's young female fan base was the core audience but a brilliant marketing campaign made this into an event film for others too. According to opening weekend research, females made up 75% of the audience and 55% was under 25. The Cullen clan of immortals launched on Friday with a stunning $35.9M which included over $7M from Thursday night midnight sales from hardcore fans that just had to be the first to see it. To put that into perspective, it virtually matched the opening day gross of Iron Man in May despite lacking major stars, a known director, a huge budget for special effects, and a property loved for decades. But that upfront demand led to a steep 41% tumble on Saturday to $21M with Sunday estimated to decline by 35% to $13.7M.

Even with most of the ticket buyers coming out on Friday, Twilight still stands to race past the $100M mark over the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday weekend and could possibly surpass the $150M mark even with huge dropoffs in the weeks ahead. Summit utilized this weekend to also announce that the next book in the series of four novels New Moon will be made into a movie as well. The four books have sold over 17 million copies worldwide.

With the start of the holiday movie season, November has long been one of the busiest months at the box office. This weekend marked the fourth largest November frame in history with the Top 20 grossing $161M. Top 20 takes for the only bigger sessions this month has ever seen include $177M for November 18-20 in 2005 when Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire bowed to $102.3M, $173.1M for November 24-26 in 2000 when How the Grinch Stole Christmas led the Thanksgiving frame with $52.1M in its sophomore session, and $167.5M for November 15-17 in 2002 when Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets bowed to $88.4M. With a variety of films all connecting with paying customers, the marketplace is in good shape heading into this week's holiday break.

Dropping one position to second place was the James Bond adventure Quantum of Solace which took a big hit falling 60% to $26.7M in its sophomore frame. With $108.8M in ten days, and the busy Thanksgiving holiday still to come, Daniel Craig's second turn as Agent 007 still has a shot at surpassing the $167M of Casino Royale to become the top-grossing Bond flick ever. That installment banked $94.1M in its first ten days which included the turkey holiday. Overseas, Quantum hauled in another $40.6M to boost the international cume to $308.5M and the worldwide total to a stunning $417M. The half-billion mark could be shattered next weekend.

Disney's big offering for the holiday season Bolt opened in third with sales that were a bit disappointing. The PG-rated animated flick took in $26.2M from 3,651 theaters for a $7,182 average. The debut came in well below what other November toons in recent years have opened to - 2005's Chicken Little, 2006's Happy Feet, and last year's Bee Movie all bowed in the $38-42M range. Like Bolt, these films were non-sequels and did not have Thanksgiving to provide a boost. The canine flick even screened in 980 3D theaters and featured the voices of John Travolta and Miley Cyrus, but that did little to spark excitement. However with kids getting out of school for the holiday this week, sales could stay strong in the days ahead giving the Mouse House a respectable ten-day start. According to studio research, 52% of the audience was female and 60% was under 25. Disney scored big last month with the G-rated hits Beverly Hills Chihuahua and High School Musical 3 and was hoping for the trifecta with its new toon.

The marketplace showed exceptional breadth over the frame. For only the second time all year, three films grossed north of $25M on the same weekend. The last time this occurred was the weekend of June 13-15 with The Incredible Hulk ($55.4M), Kung Fu Panda ($33.6M), and The Happening ($30.5M). Plus this was the third consecutive weekend with a $60M+ opener as Twilight followed Quantum of Solace's $67.5M last week and the $63.1M of the previous frame's Madagascar: Escape to Africa. This streak last happened in the summer of 2004 with Shrek 2 ($108M), The Day After Tomorrow ($68.7M), and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban ($93.7M) debuting over successive weekends.

Toon hit Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa fell a steep 55% in its third session to $15.7M and boosted its 17-day cume to $137.1M. Ben Stiller and company are running 7% ahead of the pace of the first Madagascar which banked $128.4M at the same point in its run in 2005, but 7% behind the 2006 animated sequel Ice Age: The Meltdown which stood at $147.2M after the same number of days. Those pics ended with $193.2M and $195.3M, respectively. Escape 2 Africa is hoping to capitalize on Thanksgiving to keep its run going and stands to gross a solid amount during the next week.

The Seann William Scott-Paul Rudd comedy Role Models is turning out to be a long-lasting hit for Universal posting the smallest drop in the top ten. The R-rated film dipped 34% to $7.3M in its third turn and pushed the sturdy total to $48.1M. This is the studio's third hit comedy of the year after April's dynamic duo Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Baby Mama which grossed $62.9M and $60.3M, respectively, not counting the global musical smash Mamma Mia! which has hauled in over $566M worldwide and counting. Role Models could wind up north of $70M.

Clint Eastwood's Changeling fell 37% to $2.7M for a cume of $31.7M to date for Universal. Tumbling 64% to seventh place was Disney's High School Musical 3 which grossed $2M pushing its stellar total to $86.9M.

The Holocaust drama The Boy in the Striped Pajamas witnessed a successful expansion widening from 38 to 406 theaters for $1.6M putting it in eighth place nationwide. Averaging a decent $4,058, Miramax's World War II pic has upped its cume to $2.6M.

The Kevin Smith comedy Zack and Miri Make a Porno dropped 49% to $1.6M in its fourth frame giving The Weinstein Co. $29.3M thus far. Fox Searchlight's The Secret Life of Bees fell 46% to $1.3M for a $35.6M sum.

Right below in eleventh place, the distributor saw its current awards contender Slumdog Millionaire expand from 10 to 32 locations and collect $947,795 for a potent $29,619 average - tops among all films in release for the second straight weekend. With a cume of $1.6M, the Danny Boyle film adds a dozen more theaters on Wednesday for the long holiday weekend.

The top ten films grossed $154.8M which was up 11% from last year when Enchanted opened in the top spot over Thanksgiving weekend with $34.4M; and up 10% from 2006 when Happy Feet remained at number one over the turkey frame with $37M in its second weekend.

Compared to projections, Twilight flew higher than my $60M forecast while Bolt opened well below my $42M prediction.

For a NEW review of Twilight visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Wednesday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend's Thanksgiving holiday weekend when Four Christmases, Australia, and Transporter 3 all open for the long five-day frame.

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

# Title Nov 21 - 23 Nov 14 - 16 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Twilight $ 69,637,740 3,419 1 $ 20,368 $ 69,637,740 Summit
2 Quantum of Solace 26,707,945 67,528,882 -60.4 3,458 2 7,724 108,790,786 Sony
3 Bolt 26,223,128 3,651 1 7,182 26,223,128 Buena Vista
4 Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa 15,661,936 35,017,301 -55.3 4,007 3 3,909 137,109,390 Paramount
5 Role Models 7,324,445 11,150,030 -34.3 2,733 3 2,680 48,133,020 Universal
6 Changeling 2,695,450 4,254,080 -36.6 1,739 5 1,550 31,665,332 Universal
7 High School Musical 3: Senior Year 2,049,144 5,656,162 -63.8 2,361 5 868 86,864,082 Buena Vista
8 The Boy in the Striped Pajamas 1,647,514 474,390 247.3 406 3 4,058 2,628,053 Miramax
9 Zack and Miri Make a Porno 1,605,579 3,146,312 -49.0 1,222 4 1,314 29,256,029 Weinstein Co.
10 The Secret Life of Bees 1,264,991 2,338,279 -45.9 1,095 6 1,155 35,638,795 Fox Searchlight
11 Slumdog Millionaire 947,795 360,018 163.3 32 2 29,619 1,570,240 Fox Searchlight
12 Soul Men 912,269 2,350,141 -61.2 814 3 1,121 10,900,509 MGM
13 Fireproof 909,404 1,255,877 -27.6 823 9 1,105 31,514,538 Samuel Goldwyn
14 Rachel Getting Married 751,611 1,051,365 -28.5 281 8 2,675 8,003,380 Sony Classics
15 Eagle Eye 667,605 1,463,140 -54.4 757 9 882 99,740,445 Paramount
16 Beverly Hills Chihuahua 468,078 1,579,080 -70.4 788 8 594 91,614,153 Buena Vista
17 Saw V 459,081 1,767,405 -74.0 694 5 662 56,383,962 Lionsgate
18 The Haunting of Molly Hartley 385,013 1,438,561 -73.2 614 4 627 13,180,859 Freestyle
19 The Dark Knight 370,449 502,334 -26.3 345 19 1,074 529,696,290 Warner Bros.
20 Happy-Go-Lucky 338,071 370,651 -8.8 202 7 1,674 2,213,147 Miramax
Top 5 $ 145,555,194 $ 123,606,455 17.8
Top 10 154,817,872 134,787,672 14.9
Top 20 161,027,248 143,368,293 12.3
Top 20 vs. 2007 161,027,248 156,801,538 2.7

Last Updated: November 24, 2008 at 6:30PM ET