Weekend Box Office: Audiences Decided To Stay Home This New Year’s Eve

Bon Jo-Glee? Say it ain’t so.

Shopping for presents – it’s got to be. That’s why people weren’t going to movies this weekend. They were shopping. It had nothing to do with what was new to theaters. Because for weeks everyone I know was talking about wanting to see New Year’s Eve and The Sitter. And by “everyone I know” I mean the voices in my head. The voices are big fans of Katherine Heigl and pudgy Jonah. When the voices first found out that they had new movies coming out they wouldn’t stop talking about it. Then I told them that Heigl was going to play Stephanie Plum and Jonah Hill almost went Christian Bale Machinist for next year’s 21 Jump Street. That seemed to stop the voices…for now.

This concludes the comic relief opening segment.

So how bad was this weekend, really? It was so bad that the top twenty films at the box office had a cumulative total of $73.2 million, making it the worst weekend of 2011. This comes after the previous weekend which had no new wide releases! Get that, Hollywood? You can only stack piles of crap so high until it eventually topples over.

New Year’s Eve, Warner Bros.’ surefire hit after last year’s Valentine’s Day, turned out to be a miss. Winning the weekend with $13.7 million (not even $15 million – come on!), the big star-studded ensemble (I’m using the term “star-studded” loosely) romantic comedy anthology fell prey to a soft December opening and not having the advantage of opening near the actual New Year’s Eve. And you can’t really fault the studio. Had it released on December 30th it would be just a few days after War Horse, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Summit Entertainment’s counter-programming The Darkest Hour. Because nothing says Happy Holidays like an alien invasion movie set in Russia where victims are but dust in the wind. The comedy could still rebound in the coming weeks, but is most likely to be saddled with a third place finish against the likes of Sherlock Holmes 2 and Alvin and the Chipmunks (this is the third one, I think), this coming week and slowly move down the top 10 over the next few weeks.

The Sitter was the other major release new to theaters and still no one wanted to see a restricted comedy that was basically Adventures in How Not to Babysit. For Jonah Hill this is first time flying solo in the lead and that’s how the comedy was sold. And what we witnessed is that Hill as the single lead isn’t the best idea. What I’m wondering is if Sam Rockwell lost a bet to be in this thing. To think, he was just in Iron Man 2 and was defended by Super Lawyer Hilary Swank in Conviction. Director David Gordon Green isn’t really having a great 2011. After the success of Pineapple Express, he’s done two more studio comedies – this and Your Highness. And with the exception of Pineapple, audiences have rejected his last two comedies. Now that he’s worked the studio game, will he go back to making indies that nobody will pay to see, or make another bad comedy that nobody will pay to see?

Yawn. Another week in the top five means more money for the Twilight guys. Don’t think it will have the fangs to suck $300 million domestic from viewers, but with $600 million earned globally already, Summit is enjoying how much the franchise has made for the studio – that will probably be acquired by Lionsgate any day now.

Hey, hey, it’s The Muppets, and they’re still seeing green. How it didn’t leap-Kermit over the sparkling and hairy lost boys is baffling. Disney went wild on marketing but will need to get the most it can out of viewers before The Adventures of Tintin hits theaters. Right below them is Arthur Christmas had a small drop. Apparently it’s Christmas holiday theme is starting to mean something to those who avoided its release on Thanksgiving! Arthur and the rest of the elves did just enough to stay ahead of Hugo. Martin Scorsese’s 3D family film (or 3D film preservation family film, to be specific) added 768 screens, but general audiences are late the party I’m afraid. It’s best bet is to get a ton of exposure from Golden Globes nominations later this week, then maybe audiences will make an effort to see it on the big screen, and maybe in 3D, too.

Picking up steam is Fox Searchlight’s The Descendants. Adding 302 locations, bringing its new total to 876, allowed the comedy the highest per-screen average in the top ten. Giving it a slow burn, Searchlight knows the drill in letting it heat up slowly. With the upcoming SAG and Globes nominations expect the George Clooney film to reach 1500 screens across the nation. Alexander Payne’s first film since 2004 stayed above the dreck that is Jack and Jill and Immortals, plus Happy Feet Two.

In limited release, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy played on four screens in New York and LA and collected $301k. Strong performance so far, hopefully it gets some expansion so that audiences will have more to see in late December/early January than just a movie about boy and his horse and a girl with her dragon tattoo. The Jason Reitman-Diablo Cody dark comedy, Young Adult, didn’t fair nearly as well, only $320k from eight screens. Surefire Oscar contender The Artist went from ten to sixteen screens to bring in $290k and raise its three week total to $886k. Still impressive is the NC-17 rated Shame, earning $275k at twenty-one locations.

Up next week, look for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows to dominate while the next generation is forever damned with yet another Alvin and the Chipmunks release.

1. New Year’s Evil – $13.7 million

2. The Sitter That’s Superbad – $10 million

3. Breaking Yawn – $7.9 million ($633.5 million worldwide)

4. The Muppets – $7 million ($65.8 million)

5. King Arthur Christmas – $6.6 million ($33.4 million)

6. Hugo – $6.1 million ($33.4 million)

7. George Clooney Running In Flip-Flops – $4.3 million ($23.6 million)

8. Happy Feet 2 Unemployment – $3.7 million ($56.8 million)

9. Jack and Jill – $3.2 million ($68.4 million)

10. Immortals – $2.4 million ($181.8 million worldwide)

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