By Brian Fuson | Thompson on Hollywood December 11, 2011 at 1:13PM
The pre-Christmas blues continued at the boxoffice this weekend as two new arrivals failed to ignite a spark with audiences. Overall revenues were down a steep 15% from the comparable frame last year. The projected total for all films this weekend is a dismal $78 million – the lowest grossing weekend since September 2008.
Studios are hanging on hopes that the holidays will kick into gear next weekend with Warner Bros.'s sequel “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” and Twentieth Century Fox’s “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked."
This weekend Garry Marshall's $55-million romantic ensemble “New Year’s Eve” was expected to open at $19 million or more, but took the top spot with an estimated $13.7 million. By Hollywood standards “New Year’s Eve”-- set in New York and starring Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Jon Bon Jovi, Ashton Kutcher, Halle Berry, Michelle Pfeiffer, Hillary Swank, and Katherine Heigl--was modestly budgeted; the Christmas and New Years play period is still ahead. The venerable Marshall's last film “Valentine’s Day,” another sprawling romantic-comedy, opened last February with $56.3 million and finished its domestic run with $110.5 million.
it was a rough weekend for the business overall, as audiences are out holiday shopping. “It was definitely a soft weekend, I was hoping to get a better number,” said Warners distribution chief Dan Fellman. With better exit polls than “Valentine’s Day,” Fellman added, “I’m looking for a good hold and a solid multiple as the holiday playtime approaches.” But “New Year’s Eve” earned a CinemaScore of B+; females comprised 70% of attendees.
Fox's bawdy R-rated counterprogrammer “The Sitter” starring Jonah Hill, took the second spot with 2,750 locations, tapping just an estimated $10 million. David Gordon Green's $25-million comedy was projected to take in $12 to $16 million. Neither “New Year’s Eve” nor “The Sitter” was liked by the critics, drawing rotten Tomatometer ratings of 6% and 22%, respectively.
Finally, after three consecutive weekends atop the box office, Summit’s “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1” was bumped to third place. The blockbuster vampire romancer grossed an estimated $7.9 million this weekend and has taken in a staggering $259.5 million to date.
Disney’s “Muppets” brought up the fourth spot with an estimated $7.1 million in its third week in release, slipping a slim 36% from last week. The live-action “Muppet” musical-comedy has revived the franchise with a total of some $65.8 million. The latest Muppet film is now the highest-grossing Muppet film of all-time, topping the $65.2 million generated by the original “Muppet” movie back in 1979.
Sony’s “Arthur Christmas” generated the best hold any of the top films in wide release this weekend as the Aardman Animation-produced family film was off a miniscule 11% in its third weekend in theaters. “Arthur” took in an estimated $6.6 million to place fifth and has grossed around $33.5 million to date. The international cume is around $57.5 million, bringing the worldwide total to $91 million so far.
Marking time in the sixth slot this weekend was Paramount’s “Hugo,” which continues to build audience awareness and expand, adding 768 theaters. Martin Scorsese's family adventure took in an estimated $6.1 million from 2,608 theaters and was off 19% from a week earlier, while moving the cume to date to about $33.5 million.
Fox Searchlight’s “The Descendants” continues a solid run at the boxoffice. The distributor added 302 locations this weekend, taking the count to 876. The George Clooney-starrer had the highest per-theater average in the top 10 this weekend with $5,006, as the drama landed in the seventh slot with an estimated gross of $23.6 million, taking the total to around $23.6 million. Fox Searchlight will keep the film in roughly in the same number of theaters for the next few weeks, and then will go wide on January 27.
There were some bright spots in limited release this weekend: Focus Features’ “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," starring Gary Oldman, debuted in four theaters and grossed an estimated $300,737 – averaging a stunning $75,184 per theater. Paramount’s “Young Adult” opened in eight locations and took in an estimated $320,000. The R-rated comedy-drama averaged a promising $40,000 per theater. And Fox Searchlight’s NC-17 rated “Shame” added 11 theaters, bringing the count to 21, grossing an estimated $276,068 this weekend, a per theater average of $13,143 and a total $774,154. Next Friday “Shame” expands to ten additional cities and 45-50 theaters.