Weekend Box Office (December 7 - 9, 2012)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND In his fifth round of play, James Bond powered back into the number one spot as Skyfall topped the North American box office for the first time since its debut. With only one weak new film opening wide, the session saw a fight between holdovers driven by which had the lowest declines. With The Hobbit waiting in the wings ready to attack over 4,000 theaters this Friday, the marketplace saw a slowdown with most studios opting not to release anything new that was worthwhile.

Sony reclaimed number one with the spy blockbuster Skyfall which has been enjoying glowing word-of-mouth for over a month now. The 007 smash slipped only 35% to $10.8M which was enough to top all competing films, according to final studio figures. It was the oldest movie of the year to occupy the number one spot beating the weekend of April 13-15 which was led by the fourth weekend of The Hunger Games. With an incredible $261.4M to date, Skyfall is one day away from surpassing The Amazing Spider-Man to become the fifth highest-grossing film of 2012 domestically. Getting up to at least $285M should be possible even with a Middle Earth juggernaut about to crush all foes.

Overseas, the 23rd Bond adventure grossed an estimated $20.3M upping the international total to a staggering $656.6M surpassing The Dark Knight Rises to become the second biggest live-action hit of 2012 internationally after The Avengers. Skyfall's worldwide cume rose to $918M making it the top grosser ever for Sony Pictures beating the $890M of 2007's Spider-Man 3. Some key market cumes include $154.5M in the U.K., $74.7M in Germany, $56.5M in France, and $33.5M in Australia. Audiences around the world have been loving Skyfall which should have no problem smashing the $1 billion mark this winter. Sony has not yet secured a date for China where part of the movie is set, but a release sometime in January is expected. Daniel Craig's three Bond films have now amassed an eye-popping $2.1 billion.

Thanks to its holiday theme, Rise of the Guardians enjoyed the lowest decline among all wide releases and climbed up one notch to second place with $10.4M. Off just 22%, the DreamWorks Animation 3D pic raised its 19-day total to $61.8M which was still far from what the studio normally sees from its pricey kidpics. By comparison, past totals after the third weekend for toons released at this time of year were $108M for last year's Puss in Boots, $109.3M for 2010's Megamind, and $93.6M for 2007's Bee Movie.

But with Guardians having relevant characters for the month of December like Santa Claus and Jack Frost, it should continue to hold up well. The Hobbit will take away some older children next weekend but smaller ones will still have few PG-rated options for the rest of the holiday season. International results were encouraging as Rise took in an estimated $26M making it the number one choice at the overseas box office this weekend. The offshore figure is now up to $90.5M with the worldwide take sitting at $152M.

After its three-week reign atop the box office, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 fell down a couple of notches to third place with $9.2M dropping by a reasonable 47%. That beats out the fourth weekend of Breaking Dawn Part 1 from a year ago which grossed $7.8M after a larger 53% fall. The final Bella pic has taken in $268.7M which stands 4% better than the $259.4M of its predecessor at the same point in its release.

Close behind in fourth but with a lower 33% decline was the Daniel Day-Lewis hit Lincoln with $8.9M boosting the cume to $97.1M and within striking distance of the century club. The Disney release is the highest-grossing film ever in the actor's career and still has more fuel in the tank as the holiday and awards seasons play on.

Also holding up well was the 3D adventure Life of Pi which slipped by 31% to $8.3M in its third weekend giving Fox $60.9M after 19 days. Ang Lee's pricey effects-driven film has performed well in Asia with China outgrossing all of North America in the same three weeks with an astounding $68.3M on its way to $100M+. Pi has already grossed more there than The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man while in India, it has beaten Skyfall. For the weekend, Life of Pi grossed $23.8M from just 11 markets for an international tally of $105.7M and a global take of $167M with most of Europe and the rest of the world still to open later this winter.

For the second time in three months, audiences rejected Gerard Butler who anchored back-to-back flops with Playing for Keeps which bowed to $5.8M this weekend in sixth place. The PG-13 soccer dad flick averaged a poor $2,027 from 2,837 locations and failed to generate any real excitement among moviegoers. Critics and audiences felt differently about the FilmDistrict release, however. Reviews slammed Keeps across the board while those paying ticket buyers polled by CinemaScore gave a B+ which is a respectable grade.

Audience research indicated that 58% was female and 74% was 25 or older. Adult women are generally less available in early December due to holiday shopping and other end-of-year activities - unless a film comes from a powerful brand. Butler's Chasing Mavericks was also dead on arrival in October when it bowed in 2,000+ theaters but failed to make the top ten with a wimpy $2.3M opening weekend.

The hit video game toon Wreck-It Ralph enjoyed another good weekend grossing $4.9M in its sixth round, down only 30%, for a cume to date of $164.4M. Disney has taken in an additional $51.1M overseas from 26 territories for a global tally of $215.5M with many international markets still to open closer to Christmas school holidays. FilmDistrict's invasion remake Red Dawn fell 35% to $4.2M putting the take at $37.2M so far.

The pilot drama Flight followed with $3.1M, off 30%, giving Paramount a sturdy $86.2M to date. Following its dismal opening, Brad Pitt's gangster pic Killing Them Softly collapsed in its second weekend tumbling 59% to $2.8M for a ten-day cume of only $11.8M for The Weinstein Co.

Awards hopefuls fighting for nominations and trophies saw plenty of action below the top ten. Focus witnessed a disappointing platform launch for its Bill Murray pic Hyde Park on Hudson which opened to $81,362 from four locations for a $20,341 average. That's an underwhelming starting point for a prestige pic hoping to expand into several new markets over the weeks ahead. Specialty films platforming like this often do double or triple the average. Critics clobbered the FDR-hosts-the-royals film making it a tough sell to sophisticated moviegoers who pay plenty of attention to reviews. Murray has also been mostly absent from the Best Actor conversation. Hyde Park expands to a dozen new markets on Friday and six more the following frame where it will test its pull outside of New York and Los Angeles.

A pair of films expanded into wider release this weekend and were met with mild results. Keira Knightley's Anna Karenina went from 384 to 422 sites and grossed $1.5M for a lukewarm $3,661 average. Focus has taken in $6.6M to date and has earned mixed reviews. The Anthony Hopkins-Helen Mirren pic Hitchcock expanded from 50 to 183 locations and took in $712,544 for a mild $3,894 average. The Fox Searchlight release has banked just $1.7M and will widen to more than 500 theaters on Friday.

For the third weekend in a row, The Weinstein Co. kept its Oscar hopeful Silver Linings Playbook in the 370-theater range opting not to use a mostly open weekend to expand further. The acclaimed Bradley Cooper-Jennifer Lawrence film grossed $2.2M, off 30%, and lifted its sum to $14M. The distributor plans to expand during Christmas week when it will also open its Quentin Tarantino epic Django Unchained which hopes to be in the Best Picture conversation too. Argo, a film that has been towards the top of the Oscar buzz list since it was released over two months ago, had another good frame in its ninth round grossing $1.5M. Warner Bros. has seen $103.2M so far.

The top ten films grossed $68.4M which was up 7% from last year when New Year's Eve opened at number one with $13M; but down 16% from 2010 when The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader debuted in the top spot with $24M.

Compared to projections, Playing for Keeps opened on target with my $6M forecast.

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

Watch the trailer for Oz the Great and Powerful. For a review of Breaking Dawn Part 2 visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Hobbit arrives.

# Title Dec 7 - 9 Nov 30 - Dec 2 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Skyfall $ 10,780,201 $ 16,555,894 -34.9 3,401 5 $ 3,170 $ 261,400,281 Sony
2 Rise of the Guardians 10,400,618 13,388,852 -22.3 3,639 3 2,858 61,774,192 Paramount
3 Twilight: Breaking Dawn Pt. 2 9,156,265 17,416,362 -47.4 3,646 4 2,511 268,691,029 Summit
4 Lincoln 8,916,813 13,376,696 -33.3 2,014 5 4,427 97,137,447 Disney
5 Life of Pi 8,330,764 12,151,853 -31.4 2,946 3 2,828 60,948,293 Fox
6 Playing for Keeps 5,750,288 2,837 1 2,027 5,750,288 FilmDistrict
7 Wreck-It Ralph 4,859,368 6,948,550 -30.1 2,746 6 1,770 164,402,934 Disney
8 Red Dawn 4,236,105 6,500,245 -34.8 2,754 3 1,538 37,240,920 FilmDistrict
9 Flight 3,130,305 4,479,067 -30.1 2,431 6 1,288 86,202,541 Paramount
10 Killing Them Softly 2,806,901 6,812,900 -58.8 2,424 2 1,158 11,830,638 Weinstein Co.
11 Silver Linings Playbook 2,171,662 3,090,131 -29.7 371 4 5,854 13,964,405 Weinstein Co.
12 Anna Karenina 1,544,859 2,245,570 -31.2 422 4 3,661 6,603,042 Focus
13 The Collection 1,487,655 3,104,269 -52.1 1,403 2 1,060 5,455,328 LD
14 Argo 1,482,345 2,010,349 -26.3 944 9 1,570 103,160,015 Warner Bros.
15 End of Watch 751,623 22,715 1,249 12 602 39,989,766 Open Road
16 Hitchcock 712,544 408,692 74.3 183 3 3,894 1,661,670 Fox Searchlight
17 Talaash 478,559 1,638,706 -70.8 161 2 2,972 2,428,919 Reliance Ent.
18 Taken 2 387,227 467,975 -17.3 430 10 901 137,700,304 Fox
19 Pitch Perfect 305,765 387,070 -21.0 387 11 790 63,517,408 Universal
20 The Sessions 218,973 333,315 -34.3 197 8 1,112 4,948,342 Fox Searchlight
Top 5 $ 47,584,661 $ 72,889,657 -34.7
Top 10 68,367,628 100,734,688 -32.1
Top 20 77,908,840 111,784,631 -30.3
Top 20 vs. 2011 77,908,840 71,823,908 8.5

Last Updated: December 10, 2012 at 4:15PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Thursday at 6:40pm ET.