Nothing says Thanksgiving like turkey, football, and Michael Sheen’s wildly inappropriate laughter. Minor anomalies amidst the numbers suggest there is a chance we’re looking at the biggest 'Twilight' film thus far, as “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2“ dominated the marketplace once again to lead the biggest Thanksgiving weekend in box office history. Its pace remains slightly below series best 'New Moon,' but it looks like it should finish ahead of the other films in the franchise. If superfans eager to suck on the teat of Stephenie Meyer’s ridiculousness one more time fill theaters over the coming holiday season, the series could (temporarily?) conclude with a financial bang for Lionsgate, which is completing their first ever billion-dollar year as they absorb Summit.
The sky did not fall for “Skyfall,” which sailed past $200 million domestic, the first Bond effort to do so. Inflation plays a part, no doubt, but it’s impossible to ignore that this film is enticing those who would not normally be Bond fans. Given that the series has always been something of an institution, there’s reason to believe many needed to be swayed by the strong reviews this time out, though aesthetically this certainly did look more enticing than “Quantum of Solace” or the pictures of the Brosnan era, particularly given an Oscar-winning director (Sam Mendes) attached. Upscale Bond might be the new norm, so with this gross swelling, it’s less likely the Broccolis spring for a Roger Spottiswoode or Lee Tamahori-type again, and more likely they start enlisting the Tom Hoopers of the world.
Decidedly underwhelming returns for “Rise of the Guardians,” which some thought had an outside shot at the top spot headed into the weekend. This kiddie pic just could not burst from the CGI-animated pack, and simply looked a bit too generic -- using “Rise” and “Guardians” in your title, two of the most overdramatic and overused words in movie title history, probably had something to do with this. There was a celebrity voice cast, but no one that adults would rush out to hear, and the “edgy” characterizations of icons like Santa (burly Euro tough guy) and the Easter Bunny (sneering bunny ninja) reeked of market-testing nightmares. Given that it’s a Christmas-themed film, expect the picture to have legs throughout December and probably pass $100 million, but that’s far less than what DreamWorks would prefer.
There’s a very strong likelihood that families with much older parents saw only one option this Thanksgiving weekend. At slightly over two thousand locations, “Lincoln” has a third weekend stronger than its second. The historical drama is playing much stronger than Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse” from last year, and is yet another in a line of films for adults that have been powering the multiplex in addition to “Flight” and “Argo.” Then again, maybe people are just crazy for one-word titles.
Expectations were tempered for “Life of Pi,” which had the pedigree of a best-selling book, albeit one a bit brainy for the usual kiddie film template. Even with a $120 million budget, this was being viewed as a boutique item similar to last year’s “Hugo.” While this is similarly designed for Oscar glory, it cost less and should make more, particularly as this opening is stronger than “Hugo,” though that film platformed from a semi-wide release last year. There’s no shortage of family film alternatives this holiday season, but this one skews a bit older, so it will be interesting to see how Fox can leverage the critical response and word-of-mouth (the Cinemascore was a strong A-) in the coming weeks.
“Wreck-It Ralph” weathered the storm of losing a thousand screens, a huge chunk of its kid demographic as well as its 3D screens -- an impressive showing for the Disney ‘toon, which could finish up at $190 million or more domestically as its international rollout is slowly beginning. Even after opening at the beginning of the month, it seems clear that some fans waited until the holiday weekend to finally see this, and this weekend saw the video game-based family comedy perform admirably alongside a group of newcomers. Disney knows very well how to utilize their catalog characters, so if they can’t squeeze a sequel out of this property, you’re guaranteed to at least see a successful television series.
Adequate results for FilmDistrict’s “Red Dawn,” though anything they can get for a film released after three years in a post-production gulag is a plus. “Red Dawn” likely would have came and gone quietly if it were dumped in a fall or spring period, so kudos to FilmDistrict for minimizing MGM’s loss and getting this picture out in a diverse holiday weekend that ensures maximum exposure. With this and “Cabin In the Woods,” Chris Hemsworth is becoming the go-to guy for ensuring the genre retread sitting on your shelf for three years can still generate some modest profits.
Meanwhile, adults! There are no shortage of films for older, more discerning audiences out currently, and three of them dotted the bottom portion of the top ten. “Flight” continues to play strongly, and it should finish just short of nine digits, an impressive achievement for a dark, modest studio film about alcoholism that never once reached 3,000 screens (or even 2,800). With awards buzz, it’s likely “Flight” will remain in the public eye for a while, ensuring even further success given that Denzel Washington is one of those stars who’s guaranteed cheddar on the big screen, but a stone cold killer on the home video market.
This was the weekend that The Weinstein Company was meant to push “Silver Linings Playbook” into wide release, but chose to platform the picture instead to build around the strong critical notices. It's the only movie in the top ten to have actually increased its grosses on Saturday, and not only that, it earned the best per screen average of the weekend. It suggests the approach by the Weinsteins was savvy, and they could build this into a sleeper hit.
“Argo” hung on for its sixth week in the top ten, losing almost none of its audience from last weekend and should coast over $100 million very soon. The film stayed above a lively arthouse scene that greeted the arrival of “Hitchcock.” The biopic collected $312k at 17 locations, and it will expand to 500 engagements on December 14th. Sixty-six theaters greeted week two of “Anna Karenina,” which collected $807k, cracking the $1 million mark, while Sony Pictures Classics' “Rust And Bone” debuted at two NYC locations for $24k. Support your local arthouse theaters, boys and girls.
1. The Highlight Saga: Tasting Prawn Part 2 (Lionsgate) - $43 million ($226.9 mil.)
2. Skyfall (Sony) - $35 million ($221.7 mil.)
3. The Sixteenth President (No Googling) (Disney/Dreamworks) - $25 million ($62.1 mil.)
4. That Animated Movie That Sounds A Lot Like That Owl Thing, But Probably Isn’t (Dreamworks) - $24 million ($32.6 mil.)
5. Life Of Pumpkin Pi (Fox) - $22 million ($30.1 mil.)
6. Collateral Damage Ralph (Disney) - $16.7 million ($149.5 mil.)
7. North Korea’s Improbably Convincing Invasion (FilmDistrict) - $14.6 million ($22 mil.)
8. That’s One Wacky Pilot! (Paramount) - $8.2 million ($74.8 mil.)
9. The Silver Bullet Playbook (The Weinstein Company) - $4.6 million ($6.4 mil.)
10. Argo (WB) - $3.8 million ($98 mil.)