Weekend Box Office: Breaking Dawn Sucks The Life Out Of Competition With $139.5 Million Weekend

Perhaps those devoted to the Twilight series are bypassing Breaking Dawn – Part 1 in favor of Part 2 next November. That could explain why the film failed to “eclipse” New Moon‘s $142.8 million opening from 2009. The $139.5 million is a studio estimate, so when the actuals are finally calculated the release would dethrone the second installment in Stephenie Meyer’s infamous vampire novel series. But I wouldn’t count on it.

We saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows do the same stunt earlier, by breaking the final novel into two parts. Part One of the Deathly Hallows earned $125 million in its opening weekend, while Part Two nabbed $169 million. Expect to see similar increases, and unlike Deathly Hallows Part 2, Breaking Dawn‘s finale won’t have the added surcharge of 3D. It will be a big first weekend hit to be sure, but like its predecessors will have softer legs in its following weeks. What’s more, Twilight is doing serious business overseas, as it has already grossed $144 million. That’s just a sick total right there. So sick that Steven Soderbergh made a movie about it called Contagion.

Now I don’t know what Warner Bros. was thinking when it dropped its latest CGI cartoon against what is the last “event” movie release of 2011. They may have been thinking counter-programming, or wanted to get a leg up on the competition a week prior to the Thanksgiving holidays. But Happy Feet Two could have easily been an early December release and opened to $40 million easy. December 2nd would have been an easy date to pencil in. The date is dominated by lower-rung studios and distribution outlets; not a single major label is releasing that weekend. What, is that one of the few weekends of the year where Hollywood decides it doesn’t want to release anything?

Happy Feet Two‘s $22 million was far under the first film’s $41.5 million opening, and this number also includes inflated 3D prices. Now it’s not outside the realm of possibility to see that opening figure increase over Thanksgiving weekend, but it also has to contend with The Muppets, Arthur Christmas and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. What do you think Warners? That Dec. 2 release date is looking pretty good right about now.

The other CG toon in release, Puss in Boots, finished its fourth weekend with a double-digit figure ($10.7 million). After opening below expectations, the Shrek spin-off has earned $122 million.

Last week’s number one, Immortals had a Herculean fall from grace. Relativity’s Clash of the Titans/300 fantasy mash-up dropped 62% in earnings. But with foreign pre-sales, and likely a big seller on the home market, it’s still a win for Relativity.

Wishing I had taken a cyanide pill instead, Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill joins select company in being one of the few comedies of his that dropped more than 50% in its second weekend. Word of mouth is all kinds of bad, and it seems that Sandler isn’t playing to his fanbase like he has in years past. Feeling more like one of the fake movie trailers in front of Tropic Thunder or one of the fake comedies shown in Funny People, Jack and Jill should level off in the next few weeks and be one of Sandler’s rare misfires and not earn more than $100 million domestically.

Both Tower Heist and J. Edgar look to flop, but Tower Heist is the bigger one of the two. Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial effort has gotten a critical drubbing, but as one of the few films at the moment targeting older audiences it is succeeding. Harold and Kumar and Justin Timberlake are fishing for viewers at the bottom of the Top 10 barrel, though both will be gone from the top 10 this time next week.

Sneaking into tenth position despite its limited release was Fox Searchlight’s The Descendants. Alexander Payne’s first film since Sideways in 2007 is riding a wave of Oscar buzz and positive press. The comedy-drama opened at 29 locations an collected $1.1 million for a $38k per-screen average. Searchlight is banking on Descendants as the major-minor studio’s Oscar frontrunner for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, and Adapted Screenplay. It’s too early to tell if this Searchlight release will strike box office gold (unlike its March release Win Win), or if it will wind up being the typical George Clooney $30-$40 million earner.

Turning to the arthouse, Another Happy Day earned $9.2k on two screens. Then you have holdovers like Like Crazy becoming an indie hit with $525k at 108 theaters to bring its four-week total to $1.7 million. Don’t look know, but Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris is still playing on screens after 27 weeks. As for its performance worldwide, the comedy has made an astonishing $133 million.

Tune in next week as we see if audiences were receptive to The Muppets return and see if Martin Scorsese’s first foray into 3D and family films was a success. All this, plus notes on the small roll out releases of The Artist, My Week with Marilyn and A Dangerous Method.

1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1- $283.5 million worldwide

2. Happy Feet Two- $22 million

3. Immortals – $12.3 million ($53 million)

4. Jack and Jill – $12 million ($41 million)

5. Puss-In-Boots – $10.7 million ($122.3 million)

6. Tower Heist – $7 million ($53.4 million)

7. J. Edgar – $5.9 million ($20.7 million)

8. A Very Harold And Kumar 3D Christmas – $2.9 million ($28.3 million)

9. In Time – $1.6 million ($33.4 million)

10. The Descendants – $1.1 million

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