Weekend Box Office: Breaking Dawn Tops Thanksgiving Holiday, While The Muppets Lead Family Features

Judging by my local theater, Thanksgiving has got to be the best day to go to the movies. Venturing out in the late afternoon hours I was stunned to see a small turnout for what is probably the biggest release week for family features. It’s not like going to the theaters on Christmas Eve, where incoming relatives are looking for something to do prior to the festivities the next day. It’s either stay home and watch Home Alone for the millionth time (because who doesn’t like seeing Joe Pesci’s head set on fire with a blowtorch?) or go to the movies. But this season it appears the best escape from carving turkeys was done by teens (and some moms) who wanted to see seconds of Edward, Bella and Shirtless Guy as Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 took the top spot for a second consecutive week with another $62.3 million from Wednesday through Sunday. Showing that the series is long in the fang by now, it’s massive first week gross last week was enough to offset its 70% drop from Friday-Sunday. Still, with no major competition this weekend upcoming, look for it to have one more strong weekend, though it’s likely to be leap-frogged by The Muppets which finished in second place with $42 million.

Seeing as how the family feature only cost $45 million to produce and Disney forking over lots for advertising – those parody trailers still cost money to produce – it will need another solid weekend before Disney can even begin to start talking sequel. Considering its strong “A” CinemaScore rating, I fully expect this to play like crazy over the holiday season.

While a Muppets sequel isn’t outside the realm of possibility, we shouldn’t expect Happy Feet Tres. Warner Bros. is already planning to lay people off and is none too pleased that George Miller’s follow-up to the Animated Oscar-winning penguin musical went $50 million over budget. Like I stated last week, why the studio chose to release it a week prior to Thanksgiving rather than wait until Dec. 2, a day which sees no major studio release is incomprehensible. While $18 million isn’t horrible, and its 38% weekend drop was enough to keep it above the likes of Arthur Christmas and Hugo, the real trick will be to make it worthwhile for families to want to see in in theaters, let alone in 3-D.

As for Arthur Christmas, audiences aren’t quite ready to get into the Christmas spirit. Debuting in fourth position with $17 million over five days is a fine start for Sony Pictures and Aardman Animation. But that’s with the 3D surcharge factored in. It’s still too early to call it a bust, as it should pick up business as we inch closer and closer to Christmas. And it will definitely be a holiday staple in the coming years on home video and replayed on televisions. New holiday classic? It makes a strong case, as its closest competition is A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.

The final new release in the top 10 geared for families is Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. And while it’s easy to label it a bomb because of its fifth place finish and $15.4 million in earnings, not too fast. It was the smallest major platform release in the top 10, appearing on just 1,277 screens. Compare that to The Muppets and Arthur Christmas which opened on more than 3,300 screens each. Its $150 million budget is a hard, bitter pill to swallow for Paramount Pictures, which also released Rango to good, but not earth-shattering numbers back in March. Scorsese’s name on the project will make it more accessible to adults looking for something that on the surface looks just for kids but will probably be more agreeable to their own tastes in film. Whatever the case, I am of the belief that when paired with The Artist you have a great one-two punch of a double feature.

Proving that audiences still love Adam Sandler even if his comedies are creatively or mentally bankrupt, Jack & Jill did $14 million over the extended holiday weekend. Where before he could sleepwalk his way to $100 million grossers, it looks like J&J will top out at $75 million domestically. That’s nearly $5 million short of the reported $80 million budget. International grosses and DVD sales will help overall, but it will remain Sandler’s worst mainstream comedy since Little Nicky.

While the trailer for Tarsem Singh’s next film Mirror Mirror makes me cringe or roll my eyes whenever it pops up on screen, it appears that his film currently in theatrical release, Immortals, is nearing $70 million domestically, and should do similar numbers overseas. This pleases Relativity Media, the studio also distributing Singh’s Snow White tale next March. DreamWorks Animation’s Puss in Boots has made close to $200 million worldwide since its debut back in late October. Still to play in many more foreign territories, look for the wide-eyed gato to finish between in the $250 to $280 million range.

Universal’s Tower Heist continues to bomb, and it’s not all on account of the bad press Brett Ratner has received. It was just a bad comedy and a worse heist film. Eddie Murphy collected his paycheck, and Ben Stiller will probably gravitate to something involving spending more nights at a museum.

Finally, the best success story for the top ten has to be the arthouse breaking into the discussion with The Descendants‘ tenth place finish. Expanding this weekend to 433 theaters, George Clooney was packing in audiences at the tune of $21,328 per location. Viable Oscar contender Michelle Williams’ My Week with Marilyn played on 244 screens earning $1.7 million. Both A Dangerous Method and the Cannes Film Festival favorite The Artist played on four screens each and had very good showings that are likely to only get better once Sony Pictures Classics and The Weinstein Company begin to ramp up their release strategy as awards season starts to heat up.

Coming next week, see how the box office fares with no major new releases. Plus, Fox Searchlight rolls the NC-17 rated Shame into 9 theaters, far from the mainstream as you can get.

5-Day Figures

1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 – $62.3 million ($221.3 million)

2. The Muppets – $42 million

3. Happy Feet Two – $18.3 million ($43.8 million)

4. Arthur Christmas – $17 million

5. Hugo – $15.4 million

6. Jack & Jill – $14.1 million ($57.4 million)

7. Immortals – $12.6 million ($68.6 million)

8. Puss In Boots – $10.3 million ($135.3 million)

9. Tower Heist – $10.2 million ($65.3 million)

10. The Descendants – $9.2 million ($10.7 million)

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