Weekend Box Office (December 2 - 4, 2011)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The annual post-turkey blues smacked the North American box office as The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 topped a sluggish frame that saw no new films open in wide release. The rest of the top ten featured the same Thanksgiving leftovers although in different positions thanks to some awards contenders that expanded into more theaters. Overall, ticket sales slumped to their second lowest level of 2011 beating only the weekend after Labor Day which often is the worst session of the entire year. Hollywood is hoping this was the calm before the storm as the final wave of new movies for the holiday season begins this Friday.

Breaking Dawn became the first Twilight movie to ever rule the box office for three weeks in a row with its $16.5M frame, according to final studio figures. The Summit blockbuster fell 60% from its Friday-to-Sunday take over the Thanksgiving holiday which represented a better hold than 2009's New Moon which fell by 64% in the exact same situation. With $246.9M in 17 days, Dawn is running 3% behind its predecessors Eclipse and Moon which each had just over $255M in the bank in the same number of days despite being released in different seasons of the year. The Bella-and-Edward wedding flick now ranks as the fourth biggest grosser of the year trailing fellow sequels Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ($381M), Transformers: Dark of the Moon ($352.4M), and The Hangover Part 2 ($254.5M). A final North American gross of roughly $290M seems likely.

The fourth Twilight installment was still a big player at the overseas box office taking in another $40.2M in its third weekend. That boosted the international total to a stellar $341M while the worldwide tally climbed up to $588M. The four films in the franchise have now grossed a combined $2.4 billion globally averaging an amazing $600M per film.

Staying put in the runner-up spot was Disney's The Muppets which tumbled 62% to $11.1M bumping the cume to $56.4M after 12 days. The Kermit-and-Piggy pic suffered the worst fall of any film in the top ten despite winning a solid A grade from CinemaScore last week. The well-known brand and the Black Friday school holiday contributed to a very strong showing upfront and now business is fading away. Muppets should stabilize next weekend since no new kidpics are opening and find its way to a final gross in the $80-90M range.

Martin Scorsese's big-budget 3D film Hugo rose two spots to third place thanks to a wider expansion plus strong word-of-mouth and reviews. The PG-rated film went from 1,277 locations to 1,840 and grossed $7.6M for an average of $4,107. The director's acclaimed use of the 3D format continued to find audiences as 76% of the weekend's gross came from 3D screens - the highest rate for any film in the format currently. Hugo upped its profile in the Oscar race on Thursday when it was named the best picture of 2011 by the National Board of Review with Scorsese taking the director prize too. If it earns top nominations next week from the Golden Globes, the Paramount release can continue to stay in the game at the box office at least until the next wave of family films arrives with Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked on December 16 and Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin on December 21. But with $25.1M in 12 days, Hugo should be able to cross the $50M domestic mark.

Enjoying the smallest decline in the top ten for a film not expanding, Sony's holiday toon Arthur Christmas placed fourth with $7.4M in its second weekend dipping only 39%. The 3D kidpic has taken in a modest $25.3M in its first 12 days but its yuletide theme should allow it to have good legs for a few more weeks. Both of next weekend's new wide releases - New Year's Day and The Sitter - will play to adults and not hurt the family marketplace too much. A final domestic take in the neighborhood of $50M seems likely. Overseas, where Arthur Christmas has been playing longer, the weekend saw a haul of an estimated $11.4M putting the international sum at $45.3M and the worldwide figure at $70.6M.

Warner Bros. saw $5.9M for its expensive animated sequel Happy Feet Two in its third round. With $51.7M in 17 days, the 3D toon is running a disturbing 57% behind the pace of its predecessor which held the number one spot during all three of its first weekends. The domestic final should reach about $65M and the studio will hope for much better results from international markets where 3D animation can deliver much stronger results. This weekend, the penguin pic opened in Russia, the U.K., Germany, and Spain and collected $15.6M from 40 markets for an international total of $33.3M and a worldwide take of only $85M.

Finishing in sixth place was Adam Sandler's latest Razzie hopeful Jack and Jill which made $5.4M, down 46%, for a cume to date of $64.2M. The Sony release looks to end with $75-80M making it one of the actor's worst-performing broad comedies.

George Clooney's dysfunctional family saga The Descendants continued to score big points with ticket buyers in moderate release rising two spots to number seven with $4.8M. For the third weekend in a row, the Fox Searchlight release posted the best per-theater average in the top ten with a sturdy $8,344 from 574 locations, up 141 from last weekend. All other films in the top ten averaged between $1,100 and $4,200. The Hawaii-set film earned a handful of nominations from the Independent Spirit Awards this past week including best picture and director and will continue to add new theaters throughout December. Descendants saw its gross dip by 35% and its average fall by 51% thanks to the expansion. The current cume of $17.7M is sure to double by the end of the month.

Dropping 50% in its fourth attack was the 3D actioner Immortals which collected $4.5M pushing the Relativity Media film's domestic gross past its $75M budget to $75.7M. Overseas, the Greek mythology adventure has taken in north of $100M. Look for the North American figure to end up at around the $85M mark.

The Ben Stiller-Eddie Murphy action-comedy Tower Heist held up surprisingly well sliding only 45% to $4M. Universal has banked $70.6M so far and could be headed for a $80M finish. Rounding out the top ten was the 3D animated pic Puss in Boots which tumbled 60% to $3M and $139.5M total. The second highest grossing film since Labor Day after Twilight, the Paramount release will end up in the $145-150M range putting it in the same company as last year's November offering from DreamWorks, Megamind, which grossed $148.4M. Puss grabbed $23M overseas this weekend to raise the international sum to $89.2M and the global tally to $228.7M.

Platforming in just 10 theaters in six top markets and generating plenty of heat was Fox Searchlight's Shame which debuted to $349,519 for a potent $34,952 average. The NC-17 film starring Michael Fassbender as a New York bachelor addicted to sex has won positive reviews as well as universal praise for its leading man who is currently one of the favorites in the competitive Best Actor Oscar race. Shame will take a slow and steady approach to its roll-out expanding to nine more theaters on Friday in such markets as Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, and Philadelphia.

Awards hopefuls in limited release continued to reach out to arthouse crowds with mixed results. Fassbender saw encouraging results from his other indie release, David Cronenberg's Sigmund Freud pic A Dangerous Method co-starring Viggo Mortensen and Keira Knightley, which collected $119,574 from four sites for a solid $30,750 average for Sony Classics. The Weinstein Company's silent film The Artist, which last week won best picture and director honors from the New York Film Critics Circle, widened slightly in its second weekend from four to six houses and grossed $211,265 for a strong $35,211 average. Cumes are $412,937 and $501,624, respectively.

The biopic My Week with Marilyn saw a more subdued response from audiences grossing $1.2M from 244 theaters for a mild $4,834 average. The Weinstein Co. has taken in $3.9M to date for the Michelle Williams film which should earn the actress plenty of nominations in the coming months from various awards givers.

The top ten films grossed $70.1M which was down 7% from last year when Tangled rose to the top spot with $21.6M; and down 19% from 2009 when The Blind Side climbed into number one with $20M.

Compared to projections, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 finished ahead of my $14.5M forecast while The Muppets and Hugo both came in below my respective predictions of $13M and $9M.

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

Watch the trailer for Titanic 3D. For a review of Breaking Dawn Part 1 visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when New Year's Day and The Sitter both open.

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

# Title Dec 2 - 4 Nov 25 - 27 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Pt. 1 $ 16,535,465 $ 41,683,574 -60.3 4,046 3 $ 4,087 $ 246,926,409 Summit
2 The Muppets 11,082,755 29,239,026 -62.1 3,440 2 3,222 56,357,170 Disney
3 Hugo 7,557,709 11,364,505 -33.5 1,840 2 4,107 25,121,185 Paramount
4 Arthur Christmas 7,401,736 12,068,931 -38.7 3,376 2 2,192 25,343,487 Sony
5 Happy Feet Two 5,919,390 13,397,346 -55.8 3,536 3 1,674 51,704,566 Warner Bros.
6 Jack and Jill 5,356,973 10,000,142 -46.4 3,049 4 1,757 64,165,454 Sony
7 The Descendants 4,789,741 7,345,720 -34.8 574 3 8,344 17,677,071 Fox Searchlight
8 Immortals 4,464,889 8,875,905 -49.7 2,627 4 1,700 75,659,174 Relativity
9 Tower Heist 3,953,925 7,174,615 -44.9 2,404 5 1,645 70,598,755 Universal
10 Puss in Boots 3,042,241 7,511,036 -59.5 2,750 6 1,106 139,514,442 Paramount
11 J. Edgar 2,308,411 4,975,172 -53.6 1,985 4 1,163 32,569,492 Warner Bros.
12 My Week With Marilyn 1,179,545 1,750,507 -32.6 244 2 4,834 3,860,751 Weinstein Co.
13 A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas 985,378 1,594,054 -38.2 710 5 1,388 33,085,345 Warner Bros.
14 Moneyball 570,147 285,687 99.6 1,004 11 568 73,787,485 Sony
15 In Time 555,102 775,107 -28.4 421 6 1,319 35,850,495 Fox
16 The Ides of March 515,897 254,648 102.6 1,016 9 508 40,123,590 Sony
17 Shame 349,519 10 1 34,952 349,519 Fox Searchlight
18 Dolphin Tale 315,278 185,854 69.6 410 11 769 70,714,876 Warner Bros.
19 Melancholia 270,335 329,622 -18.0 129 4 2,096 1,601,918 Magnolia
20 Like Crazy 257,767 425,116 -39.4 152 5 1,696 2,874,373 Paramount
Top 5 $ 48,497,055 $ 107,753,382 -55.0
Top 10 70,104,824 148,660,800 -52.8
Top 20 77,412,203 159,726,305 -51.5
Top 20 vs. 2010 77,412,203 83,337,713 -7.1

Last Updated: December 5, 2011 at 5:15PM ET

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