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Weekend Box Office Topped by Sony Record-Breaker 'Skyfall' and Thanksgiving Leftovers as Butler Flops Again

Photo of Tom Brueggemann By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood December 9, 2012 at 1:14PM

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.

4. "Lincoln" (Buena Vista) Week 5 - Last weekend #3

$9,115,000 (-32%) in 2,014 theaters (-4); PSA: $4,526; Cumulative: $97,300,000

Another modest falloff, still high on the top TEN with hundreds fewer theaters than its rivals. This continues to perform better than could have been expected, with big boosts from awards bounty just beginning.

What comes next: Having kept the theater count below normal, these strong grosses guarantee that the film will play well through the holidays buttressed by the usual attendance uptick. And then come the inevitable Oscar deluge and an even wider break. $200 milliion remains a real possibility.

5. "Life of Pi" (20th Century Fox) Week 3 - Last weekend #5

$8,300,000 (-32%) in 2,946 theaters (+18); PSA: $2,817; Cumulative: $60,918,000

Another film holding well and maintaining position. While this is far from home free compared to its CGI-driven $120-million budget, Fox has to be relieved by the film's strong domestic and initial international performance--especially in China--with more territories still to come.

What comes next: This is more vulnerable to losing theaters over the holidays - grosses will continue to have a normal decline over the next two weekends right as screen space becomes. Fox will be able to maintain some presence at the better grossing ones, then have something of a comeback with expected nominations. So $100 million domestic still seems reasonable.

6. "Playing for Keeps" (FilmDistrict) NEW - Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic score: 30

$6,000,000  in 2,837 theaters; PSA: $2,115; Cumulative: $6,000,000

Coming on the heels of the surprisingly decent "Red Dawn," FilmDistrict took on another indie production, this time from Millennium, with less felicitous results.

Gerard Butler headed a sprawling cast (Jessica Biel, Dennis Quaid, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Uma Thurman and Jane Greer) in this rom-com so the failure is not his alone, although it comes only six weeks after his "Chasing Mavericks" managed only a $5.8 million total despite opening in 2000+ theaters. At least this one made the top ten. What's worse is that this a film he produced with veteran director Jonathan Mostow ("Terminator 3"), so the failure is even more acute.

"PLaying for Keeps" was directed by Gabrielle Muccino, the most successful Italian filmmaker commercially in the US (and probably worldwide) in the last decade. After his arthouse film "The Last Kiss" attracted Will Smith's attention, the two collaborated on "The Pursuit of Happyness" and "Seven Pounds" to close to $250 million total gross. This is his first film since, and marks a huge falloff for him.

What comes next: This will eke out a second week, then disappear.

7. "Wreck-It Ralph" (Buena Vista) Week 6 - Last weekend #6

$4,904,000 (-29%) in 2,746 theaters (-341); PSA: $1,786; Cumulative: $164,400,000

An impressive hold, more so with the loss of theaters and now relying mainly on matinees.

What comes next: This late-year success is now a sleeper candidate for the Best Animated Feature Oscar. It won the National Board of Review this week, while the New York Film Critics went with Tim Burton's "Frankenweenie."

8. "Red Dawn" (FilmDistrict) Week 3 - Last weekend #8

$4,261,000 (-34%) in 2,754 theaters (-27); PSA:; Cumulative: $37,625,000

Still the only wide release primarily aimed at younger males, this held position with a normal drop.

What comes next: This will keep going in enough theaters to easily pass $40 million, a better than expected recovery for a film that was held in MGM bankruptcy limbo for several years.

9. "Flight" (Paramount) Week 6 - Last weekend #9

$3,130,000 (-30%) in 2,431 theaters (-172); PSA: $1,288; Cumulative: $86,202,000

Another minor drop as this long-running Denzel Washington-starrer holds better than most of his films, even if it still has a lower than average total. However, with a $35 million budget, this is already a solid hit.

What comes next: Paramount will have to fight to hold most of their theaters much longer, but they are poised for a post-nomination relaunch.

10. "Killing Them Softly" (Weinstein) Week 2 - Last weekend #7

$2,748,000 (-60%) in 2,424 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $1.134; Cumulative: $11,772,000

A big drop for this Brad Pitt-starring ensemble crime film that earned an F Cinemascore--which suggests a dissonance between marketing and actual content--but still enough for tenth place.

What comes next: This is just about played out.

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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.