Skyfall, Bardem

Lacking an early release of a Christmas blockbuster, this weekend boasted just one low-grossing new release (Millennium's Gerard Butler-starrer "Playing for Keeps"), while last year had two newbies topping the top ten list. But this is traditionally one of the weakest weekends of the year. With only a single (soft) new film in play, the surprise is that strong holdovers led by Sony's record-breaking global blockbuster "Skyfall" as well as several awards contenders, managed to actually improve grosses about 5% from last year. But the total is low -- around $68 million.

Next weekend starts the holiday deluge, with "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" leading the charge. Significantly, a number of fall and Thanksgiving films are vying for bookings through the holidays, despite all the new films to open and the lack of screens in many locations. This will make interactions between studios and theaters intense for the next few weeks, but for the business overall, this is finally a good thing.

Not yet going wide, Weinstein's "Silver Linings Playbook" once again just missed the top ten, ranking eleven with only a minor drop-- still hanging in only 371 theaters.

1. "Skyfall" (Sony) Week 5 - Last weekend #2

$11,000,000  (-34%) in 3,401 theaters (-62); PSA (per screen average): $3,234; Cumulative: $261,620,000

Although it comes on a normally weak weekend, and marks a low gross for a number one film, it is still no small achievement that "Skyfall" has climbed back up to #1. This is not a surprise for anyone monitoring the film's performance -- it has held extremely well every week, and "Breaking Dawn" was due for a bigger drop. All it needed was no competition from new releases, and that is exactly what played out.

This is the first film to be number one in its fifth week of release since "Avatar," and the first to return to number one after falling below in over a decade (the last one was "Signs"). Not a bad way to celebrate a 50th anniversary. "Skyfall" is the highest worldwide grosser in Sony Pictures history, $918 million worldwide- - beating "Spider-Man 3" ($890 million).

What comes next: The next weeks will be intense as several successful Thanksgiving releases fight for screens and audience attention, but "Skyfall" will get more holiday playthrough dates than the last two Bonds. All of this should easily boost the film past $300 million domestic, nearly double what "Quantum of Solace" did.

2. "Rise of the Guardians" (Paramount) Week 3 - Last weekend #4

$10,540,000 (-21%) in 3,639 theaters (-33); PSA: $2,896; Cumulative: $86,202,000

This is the best time of year to be the newest kids/animated film on the market, as kids get dropped off at theaters as parents go holiday shopping. That explains the uptick in position and tiny drop for this so far underperforming Dreamworks Animation production. But it also indicates positive audience response despite the initial resistance. Clearly, marketing didn't get the movie's message across--word-of-mouth had to do the job. But family films often grow audiences over time.

What comes next:  This now is positioned to hold --with help from matinees-- through the holidays at many theaters, where a bounty of further potential business awaits.

3. "Breaking Dawn - Part 2" (Lionsgate) Week 4 - Last weekend #1

$9,200,000 (-47%) in 3,646 theaters (-362); PSA: $2,523; Cumulative: $268,735,000

Though dropping two places, this still continues to outperform "Part 1" - last year, also fourth weekend, the earlier film grossed $7.8 milllion for a total of $259 million. Very impressive.

What comes next: "The Hobbit" will bring it down to earth next weekend, but this is not finished yet.