Welcome to another edition of IP Movies’ Weekend Box Office Report. With it being Monday, allow me to be the first to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. Yes, I know Thanksgiving was last week, but other than friends, family, the common stranger, I’m sure you didn’t hear Happy Thanksgiving nearly enough times. Because when Black Friday rolled around it was feast or famine when it came to trampling over people to get a $150 HDTV to pair with a five-dollar toaster, and I’m sure people weren’t giving thanks that day.
Beyond clogged shopping malls and brick-and-mortar stores, movies were the big winner over the weekend – and I’m not just talking about my haul of purchases. I tend to go a little nuts with my shopping habits around this time of year. The deals are just too good to ignore. And as long as you got the money then it’s no harm done.
So let’s start with what finished number one: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2. In its first full week in release, the last installment in the infamous/successful franchise dominated on his way to lead the biggest Thanksgiving weekend in box office history. At its current pace, Breaking Dawn Part 2 should finish below New Moon (the best performer in the series), but it will finish above the rest of the series. This is good news for Lionsgate who absorbed Summit Entertainment this year. The combination of the final Twilight installment and the first in The Hunger Games series has helped the studio net its first ever billion dollar year.
Finishing second for the second consecutive week is Skyfall. Cresting north of $200 million domestic over the holiday, it is the first James Bond film to do so. The skyrocketing cost of tickets since the series began fifty years ago is one of the reasons why, but director Sam Mendes and star Daniel Craig did their damnedest to ensure that this twenty third James Bond adventure was a must-see even for those who could give two martini shakes in their interest of watching it. Buoyed by strong reviews and word-of-mouth advertising by exiting crowds and while milling around the watercooler, Skyfall has been one of the “event” films of the fall. And its hard to argue with its $790 million worldwide earnings. Now the question remains is who will fill the director’s chair next? Could it possibly be Mendes again? Or Martin Campbell? After its greatest success thus far, I’m sure producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson will be looking for someone big as opposed to Roger Spottiswoode (no offense to the Spottiswoode fans out there – personally I dug Turner & Hooch as a kid).
Among the newcomers at the cineplex, Rise of the Guardians was the top grosser. The animated offering, which was executively produced by Guillermo Del Toro, had underwhelming returns $24 million in gross receipts. I hope audiences weren’t confused by the title in thinking it was a sequel to Zack Snyder’s Legend of the Guardians from a few years ago. Also, as a Thanksgiving release and featuring magical characters from Christmas and Easter, Guardians seemed to go for the family dollar but its timing could have been better if DreamWorks Animation waited a week and released it during a weekend where it wasn’t as crowded (say November 30th against Killing Them Softly and The Collection, or December 7th against Playing for Keeps).
Rise of the Guardians finished just behind Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. For visiting families, specifically older parents, aunts and uncles, this was the one to see over the Thanksgiving holidays. Adding 243 more screens, the historical drama had a much stronger third weekend than its second. And compared to Spielberg’s War Horse, Lincoln is playing stronger. It helps to have a protagonist that speaks as opposed to one that neighs, snorts, grunts, and nickers. Though I’m sure there were moments in Lincoln where our sixteenth president made similar sounds. But because it was Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln everything came out like beautiful poetry.
The success of Lincoln and films like Flight and Argo are proof that adults like to go to the movies, too. Either that or one-word titles are easy to remember than Abraham Lincoln: A Republican’s Republican, Flying While Intoxicated and America: You’ve Got a Friend In Me (Signed Canada).
Most of the press for Ang Lee’s Life of Pi seems to be directed to the visual majesty on display. Based on Yann Martel’s best-selling book, the film isn’t your typical kiddie fare. Budgeted around $120 million, in some ways Pi rates up there with Hugo in terms of family viewing. While it will surely be a frontrunner for visual awards during next year’s Oscar telecast, it should end up performing better than Martin Scorsese’s love letter to cinema. But the questions remains if its religious subject matter will turn off potential viewers. Critical response is good but let’s see how well Fox can do with campaigning in the coming weeks to champion viewers that are skeptical to venture into seeing another “See it 3D” release.
The other animated release looking for your loose change (preferably in quarters) was Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph. Having to deal with a slew of new releases, the movie lost over 360 screens including a number of 3D venues. Surprisingly, its attendance only waned 10%. It has an outside shot of making $200 million domestic. Overseas it could do double that, which will help its bottom line – a bottom line that includes a $165 million production budget and probably another $100 million (at least) in combined print and advertising costs.
Red Dawn, which had been collecting dust as long as The Cabin in the Woods due to MGM bankruptcy woes, performed well enough for FilmDistrict. To put its release in perspective, at the time Chris Hemsworth was training for his upcoming role as Thor. Rather than just drop it in an off month like August or January, FilmDistrict positioned right between Veterans Day and the 71st anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. And with Hemsworth as the heir apparent as the next go-to action star might as well maximize his star potential.
Taking care of the kids and teens, we now turn our attention back to the adults. And the bottom three of the top 10 is devoted to them specifically. Flight starring Denzel Washington is well removed from the tarmac and should finish near or at $100 million. This is a small achievement considering it is a restricted-rated drama that cost a fraction of what it would have cost had director Robert Zemeckis and Washington not waived their normal fee. And with Denzel Washington’s performance being pegged for an Oscar nomination it should hang around until the end of December as critics and film societies name their picks for best of the year accolades.
The Weinstein Company have a minor victory to celebrate this Thanksgiving weekend as its platform release strategy of Silver Linings Playbook had the best per-screen average of any film in the top 10. It has the potential of being this year’s Little Miss Sunshine or Juno of the awards season. But people have to do their part and spread the word. Especially about Jennifer Lawrence’s knockout performance.
Argo rounds out the top ten, hanging on to the distinguished list one last time. It had a strong run, as it was part of the top ten discussion talk for six weeks. By the weekend it should cross $100 million.
There were three new releases in the arthouse scene. Fox Searchlight’s Hitchcock collected $312k at 17 locations and will see at mid-major expansion on December 14th. Sony Pictures Classics’ Rust and Bone debuted at two locations for $30k while IFC’s The Central Park Five played at three NYC locations for $34k. Remember to venture beyond the cineplex and find your nearest arthouse. You might just walk away surprised.
Tags: Argo, box office, box office report, Flight, Hitchcock, Life of Pi, lincoln, Red Dawn, Rise of the Guardians, Rust and Bone, Silver Linings Playbook, Skyfall, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2, weekend box office, weekend box office report, Wreck-It Ralph