Weekend Box Office (December 10 - 12, 2010)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Two big-budget new releases topped the North American box office but moviegoers were not too enthusiastic about either one. Debuting at number one was the fantasy sequel The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader while the Johnny Depp-Angelina Jolie spy flick The Tourist opened in second place. The overall marketplace remained sluggish as ticket buyers continued to wait for that one blockbuster that truly excites them.

The third installment in the Narnia franchise opened at number one with $24M, according to final studio figures, but failed to reach even half of the debut weekend grosses of its two predecessors. Released by Fox and presented in 3D, the new chapter averaged $6,752 from 3,555 locations. Openings for the first two 2D films, which were distributed by Disney, were $65.6M for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe from this same weekend in 2005 and $55M for Prince Caspian from May 2008. Dawn Treader even opened below the $25.8M of 2007's The Golden Compass, another effects-heavy fantasy adventure debuting in early December. That pic failed to triple its opening weekend and ended its domestic run with $70.1M.

December films tend to have better legs than those released in the other eleven months since holiday shopping makes moviegoing a lower priority earlier in the month and the Christmas holidays boost attendance in the final week. But sequels and films with built-in audiences tend to have weaker legs. Fox reported that the audience for Dawn Treader was broad with 51% being female and 52% being under 25. The CinemaScore was a good A-. Overseas markets saw much better results with an estimated $81M since last week for a healthy global total of $105M. The production cost was an estimated $150M.

Opening in second place was the Johnny Depp-Angelina Jolie vehicle The Tourist which collected $16.5M from a more narrow release in 2,756 theaters for a $5,977 average. Boasting more starpower than what should be allowed by law in Hollywood, the PG-13 pic tells of an American math teacher visiting Venice who is lured into a dangerous world by a seductive British agent. The Sony release earned lackluster reviews and instead was sold on the star wattage of the leads who are undoubtedly among the world's most popular superstars.

But with a generic story that wasn't properly explained in the trailers, audiences hesitated. The debut for the $100M-budgeted pic fell a little short of the star-driven spy pic Knight & Day from this past summer which bowed to $20.1M and a $6,501 average on its way to $76.4M. Tourist also debuted with less than half of the $36M that Jolie's last film Salt opened to in July. A weak B CinemaScore indicates a shaky road ahead. Exit polls showed that the crowd was 55% female and 53% over 30.

Rapunzel dropped from first place but the 3D toon Tangled held up well sliding only 34% to $14.3M in its third weekend. Disney has grossed $115.4M to date with its hit princess pic and the road may lead to about $175M after the holidays.

Dropping 50% in its fourth round was the wizard hit Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 which took in $8.5M lifting the 24-day cume to $257.7M. It was the lowest fourth-weekend gross for any film in the long-lasting franchise despite the fact that it enjoyed the highest ticket prices. The last film Half-Blood Prince did $8.9M in August 2009 while the last holiday season chapter Goblet of Fire managed $10.3M in December 2005 which coincidentally also featured the top spot debut of a Narnia film. The first 24 days accounted for 84% of Goblet's $290M total and 89% of Prince's $302M final. Even with the Christmas and New Year's holiday boosts around the corner, Deathly Hallows still looks on course to finish its domestic run at or just shy of the $300M mark.

Denzel Washington's leggy action hit Unstoppable dipped 38% in its fifth frame to $3.7M with Fox's sum rising to $74.2M.

Fox Searchlight orchestrated a wildly successful expansion of its awards contender Black Swan by widening from 18 to 90 theaters and jumping up to number six. Films with so few theaters almost never get this high on the charts. The Natalie Portman ballet thriller grossed $3.3M for an incredible $36,726 average becoming only the second film of the last two years to crack the national top ten while playing in less than 100 theaters. Cyrus, the distributor's indie comedy hit from July, was the other. With more cities to come this Friday, and with Portman likely to score awards and nominations from various industry groups in the days and weeks ahead, look for Swan to remain a major box office force in the long-term. So far, it has beaten the numbers of last December's Up in the Air which was released in a similar manner over the same weeks with better averages on the first weekend ($80,212 vs $78,763) and second ($36,726 vs $33,255).

Sony's musical Burlesque followed with $3.2M, down 48%, for a $32.5M tally to date. Fox's comedy Love and Other Drugs grossed $3M, down 47%, and put its total at $27.6M.

Comedies rounded out the top ten with the Robert Downey Jr. film Due Date taking in $2.6M, down 38%, for a $94.9M cume and the 3D toon Megamind dropping 49% to $2.5M raising Paramount's total to $140.2M.

Paramount generated an explosive platform debut for its Oscar hopeful The Fighter starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale which grossed $300,010 from just four theaters in three markets for a scorching $75,003 average. Based on a true story of half-brothers that were both boxers, the R-rated film played in New York and Los Angeles plus Boston and Lowell, Massachusetts which is where the brothers are from. Reviews have been very positive and Bale is already being touted as the front-runner to win all the Best Supporting Actor trophies this awards season. Rather than expand the film gradually and let word-of-mouth build over time, the studio is quickly going nationwide on Friday into more than 2,200 theaters over a very competitive frame that will see rival films Tron: Legacy, How Do You Know, and Yogi Bear all entering the ring. The Fighter is hoping for some Golden Globe nominations this week as it goes into its wide break.

Disney platformed Miramax's Helen Mirren-led The Tempest in five theaters and bowed to $42,436 for a solid $8,487 average. The Julie Taymor-directed film met with weak reviews and expands to 20 locations on Friday.

The top ten films grossed $81.6M which was off 1% from last year when The Princess and the Frog expanded nationwide and hit the top spot with $24.2M; but up 4% from 2008 when The Day the Earth Stood Still opened at number one with $30.5M.

Compared to projections, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader opened below my $36M forecast while The Tourist was close to my $18M prediction.

Check the box office chart for the Top December Openings. Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

For a NEW review of The Fighter visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Tron: Legacy, Yogi Bear, and How Do You Know all open.

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

# Title Dec 10 - 12 Dec 3 - 5 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage... $ 24,005,069 3,555 1 $ 6,752 $ 24,005,069 Fox
2 The Tourist 16,472,458 2,756 1 5,977 16,472,458 Sony
3 Tangled 14,331,687 21,608,891 -33.7 3,565 3 4,020 115,395,560 Buena Vista
4 Harry Potter/Deathly Hallows Part 1 8,484,316 17,018,475 -50.1 3,577 4 2,372 257,672,721 Warner Bros.
5 Unstoppable 3,705,966 5,970,194 -37.9 2,967 5 1,249 74,227,908 Fox
6 Black Swan 3,305,368 1,443,809 128.9 90 2 36,726 5,584,542 Fox Searchlight
7 Burlesque 3,166,613 6,130,061 -48.3 2,876 3 1,101 32,540,780 Sony
8 Love and Other Drugs 2,981,509 5,652,810 -47.3 2,240 3 1,331 27,629,936 Fox
9 Due Date 2,581,147 4,133,286 -37.6 1,990 6 1,297 94,919,650 Warner Bros.
10 Megamind 2,526,824 4,936,851 -48.8 2,425 6 1,042 140,218,962 Paramount
11 Faster 1,731,840 3,934,600 -56.0 2,106 3 822 21,336,961 CBS
12 The Next Three Days 1,025,033 2,570,908 -60.1 1,426 4 719 20,300,979 Lionsgate
13 127 Hours 1,008,858 1,619,138 -37.7 416 5 2,425 8,250,856 Fox Searchlight
14 The Warrior's Way 975,541 3,048,665 -68.0 1,622 2 601 4,952,347 Relativity
15 The King's Speech 591,818 324,515 82.4 19 3 31,148 1,524,123 Weinstein Co.
16 Fair Game 555,618 970,358 -42.7 436 5 1,274 8,207,297 Summit
17 Morning Glory 503,249 1,681,759 -70.1 1,004 4 501 30,200,831 Paramount
18 Red 431,047 750,940 -42.6 564 9 764 87,896,725 Summit
19 The Fighter 300,010 4 1 75,003 300,010 Paramount
20 The Social Network 285,193 404,456 -29.5 227 11 1,256 91,396,420 Sony
Top 5 $ 66,999,496 $ 56,380,431 18.8
Top 10 81,560,957 75,004,741 8.7
Top 20 88,969,164 83,337,713 6.8
Top 20 vs. 2009 88,969,164 94,306,374 -5.7

Last Updated: December 13, 2010 at 4:30PM ET

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