By Gabe Toro | The Playlist December 4, 2011 at 12:10PM
The first weekend of December is historically slow, and like last year, the major studios didn’t even bother to release a single film. Most hoped that the rich crop of family selections released over Thanksgiving would use this to their advantage, stretch out a little bit and overcome their tepid openings. These prognosticators clearly weren’t either Team Edward or Jacob, as “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part One” enjoyed its third weekend on top in what final numbers may reveal to be the quietest box office weekend of the year.
This third “Twilight” effort should probably gross in the vicinity of the last two, though, unsurprisingly, the film was fairly top-heavy, and should be a theatrical afterthought by Christmas. Given that this is a popular time for families to get together, let’s consider this: entire families are going to see “Breaking Dawn” together. There is just no positive way to spin that, particularly with the film approaching $600 million worldwide within less than a month after release.
Most figured positive word of mouth would propel “The Muppets” over the sparkling vampires. Silly mortals, positive word of mouth has no effect on “Twilight,” indirectly or otherwise. Kermit and company took a steep second weekend drop, suddenly calling into question the viability of this long-dormant franchise after all. The opening weekend receipts were superb, but this was the rare “kid’s movie” that was going to play equally to adults and Generation X’ers, so it makes sense there would be a massive first weekend audience. This sharp drop suggests maybe the kids weren’t exactly banging the doors down to catch this one. Maybe they wanted to see “Twilight.” Who knows? Children have terrible taste.
“Hugo” had a somewhat respectable hold in its second weekend. But that’s illusory, of course, since “Hugo” was also the only film in the marketplace to add five hundred more locations. It didn’t help matters much, keeping the film's per-screen average fairly measly for a 3D holiday kids’ film. There’s no real way to sugarcoat this: “Hugo” is a tremendous money loser, with a budget that some suggest is between $120 million and $170 million, and an ad campaign that expensively tried to convince kids that film preservation was as fun as the Q-Box 260, or whatever it is kids do these days.
“Arthur Christmas” is currently suffering a similar fate. While the Aardman offering is expected to pick up some slack overseas, it’s already playing to empty audiences in America, weeks before Christmas. It was only barely able to stay above “Happy Feet Two,” itself doing nightmarish business, less than half of the original, which itself was considered a slow starter. This is bad news for director George Miller, who is currently trying to get a couple of “Mad Max” movies off the ground. Penguins: it was a fad.
Considering how absurdly painful it looked to even some of Adam Sandler’s hardcore fans, the current box office take for “Jack And Jill” isn’t too bad. The problem lies in Sandler’s price-tag. Each time out, it’s been a minimum $80 million budget for films that take place within something like a forty foot radius, with a few locations found at recognizable restaurant franchises. “Grown Ups” was one of Sandler’s biggest hits ever last year, but “Jack And Jill” looks like it won’t even gross half as much. Congratulations, audiences. As far as Adam Sandler, it only took you a decade or so to wise up.
“The Descendants” continued to crawl up the list in semi-limited release. The Alexander Payne film is expected to keep expanding as anticipated awards attention increases, and will probably pop up in the top five by next weekend. Payne’s last two efforts, “About Schmidt” and “Sideways,” grossed $65 million and $71 million, and there’s no reason to think “Descendants” can’t match those stats. Meanwhile, “Immortals” and “Tower Heist” round down their serviceable wide releases, and “Puss In Boots” looks to be making one last stab at $150 million domestic, and possibly $250-$300 million worldwide.
In limited release, “Shame” was the biggest earner. At only ten locations, the Fox Searchlight drama overcame its NC-17 rating to average a decent $36k/per theater for a $380k total, already double what the previous McQueen/Fassbender teamup "Hunger" took in. Meanwhile, in weekend two, Oscar hopefuls “The Artist” and “My Week With Marilyn” had varying degrees of success. 'Marilyn' only grabbed $1.1 million at 244 locations, but “The Artist” faired a bit better in its second weekend. The Weinstein Company release was only available at six locations and it still posted $205k, and is certainly a candidate for a much larger holiday season expansion. Another indie hit this season is "A Dangerous Method," which averaged $30k on four screens for $123k on its second weekend. However, on two screens, the debuting "Sleeping Beauty" could only muster a $10k debut. Support your local arthouse theaters, boys and girls.
1. The Twilight Saga: Time To Imprint The Babies! (Summit) - $16.9 million ($247 mil.)
2. A Very Desperate Muppets Reboot (Disney) - $11.2 million ($56.1 mil.)
3. Hugo (Paramount) - $7.6 million ($25.2 mil.)
4. Arturo De Navidad (Sony) - $7.4 million ($25.3 mil.)
5. Happy Feet Two (Warner Bros.) - $6 million ($51.8 mil.)
6. Jack And Jill: A Youth's Guide To Masturbation (Sony) - $5.5 million ($64 mil.)
7. The Descendants (Fox Searchlight) - $5.2 million ($18 mil.)
8. Immortals (Relativity) - $4.3 million ($76 mil.)
9. Tower Heist (Universal) - $4.1 million ($70 mil.)
10. Put-On-Boots (Paramount/Dreamworks) - $3 million ($139 mil.)