Weekend Box Office: Breaking Dawn #1 For Third Consecutive Week, The Muppets Still Singing A Happy Song

Pop quiz, hotshot. You are looking to surpass the total earnings of last year’s record-setting year at the box office, what do you do? The correct answer would be to have a major new release the weekend of Dec. 2 – Dec. 4. Unfortunately, Hollywood didn’t answer in the affirmative and decided to take a week off. Studios did the same thing last year. The thought was films like The Muppets, Hugo, and Arthur Christmas would be enough family fare to sustain viewership while the rest of the industry takes a break from unleashing new releases the first weekend of December. But when you have The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 as the last major event film of 2011 that will make most of its money before the year is out, you are left with one of weakest box office weekends of the year.

To its credit, Breaking Dawn, while a top-heavy release, is doing better in its third week compared to the last release in the series, Eclipse. But Eclipse arrived at the end of June 2010 and had to contend with Despicable Me and Inception the following weeks. Breaking Dawn hasn’t had nearly the level of competition.

Looks like I misjudged the pull of Team Edward and Team Jacob. I figured The Muppets would easily take the sparkling vampire and Mr. Six-Pack Abs in a straight-up fight. The word of mouth has been strong for the Kermit and Miss Piggy, but it had no effect in this weekend’s seeding. It took quite a hit this weekend losing nearing 62% of its first weekend gross. Actually, every film in the top ten suffered losses of some kind, even third place finisher Hugo which added 563 locations.

The added theaters helped give Martin Scorsese’s family release an okay hold for its second weekend, but it has a long way to go if it is to have a shot of recouping the estimated $120 million to $170 million that went to produce. But considering Paramount’s big success with Transformers: Dark of the Moon and hits Thor, Super 8 and Kung Pu Panda 2 / Puss in Boots, they probably won’t pull the trigger and fire a staff of workers, unlike Warner Bros. and its Happy Feet Two debacle.

Arthur Christmas, released as families were stuffing their mouths with Thanksgiving turkey, is the only Christmas-themed release in the marketplace and yet audiences aren’t really in the mood for their Hollys to be jolly. It’s somewhat sad, because Christmas is perfectly acceptable family entertainment and it’s a feature that could definitely worm its way into the rotation of films you’ll playing in your house around the holidays for years to come. The Aardman film did just enough to stay above Happy Feet Two, an animated title that is proving once was definitely enough. If March of Penguins started a trend then Happy Feet Two officially killed it.

So what’s left on the list. Jack & Jill is somehow still occupying space in theaters. At $64 million after four weeks, the comedy is still below Adam Sandler’s typical $100 million grossers. And how his comedies cost at minimum $80 million I’ll never understand. Unlike last year’s Grown Ups, which was Sandler’s biggest hit since the back-to-back $160 million hits The Waterboy and Big Daddy, J&J will be lucky if it finishes with $80 million domestic.

Alexander Payne’s The Descendants is showing that the arthouse can play at the local multiplex if you have George Clooney as the lead. It adds another $5.2 million to bring its total to $18 million. Expanding to more locations helped and the film should continue to do steady business well into December as both Clooney and Shailene Woodley are likely to get nominated for their performances, and are already getting notices from national critics groups. Meanwhile, both Immortals and Tower Heist look to finish their runs while Puss in Boots looks to finish around $150 million domestic.

The big story in limited release is the performance of Shame. As an NC-17 film, it played at ten locations to average a $36k per theater, with $380k earned overall. In its second weekend The Weinstein Company saw its Oscar hopefuls My Week with Marilyn and The Artist have varying degrees of success. Marilyn earned $1.1 million from 244 locations, but The Artist collected $205k at six locations. Having watched The Artist twice now, look for the silent film homage to mirror the roll out The King’s Speech. By Christmas it should be on 700 screens. Other new releases in the arthouse of note include Lionsgate’s Pastorela which played on 55 screens and earned $73k. Sleeping Beauty starring Emily Browning debuted on two screens but could only net $10.4k.

Next week, New Year’s Eve looks to kill brain cells and make tons of money, because, like, Ashton Kutcher is trending hot right now or something.

1. The Twilight Saga: The Precursor to Breaking Dawn Part 2 – $16.9 million ($558 million worldwide)

2. Forgetting Miss Piggy – $11.2 million ($60 million overall)

3. Hugo – $7.6 million ($25.2 million)

4. Professor X Christmas – $7.4 million ($25.3 million)

5. Cold Feet Two – $6 million ($51.8 million)

6. Jack and Jill, Fell Down the Hill – $5.5 million ($64 million)

7. The Descendants – $5.2 million ($18 million)

8. Immortals – $4.3 million ($76 million)

9. Hotel Robbery – $4.1 million ($70 million)

10. Zorro Gato – $3 million ($139 million)

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