Christmas arrived early this year at the box office as Summit’s “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part One” racked up the fifth biggest opening weekend in boxoffice history with an estimated $139.5 million. On Friday alone the total was some $72 million, marking the third biggest single-day gross of all-time, after Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2” ($91.1 million) and “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” ($72.7 million).
Helmed by Bill Condon, "Breaking Dawn-Part One" marks the second-best debut for a film adapted from the popular Stephenie Meyer "Twilight" vampire-romance series, behind the $142.8 million conjured up by “New Moon” in November of 2009. “Breaking Dawn” debuted in 4,061 theaters and had a staggering per theater average of $34,351. See Top Ten Boxc Offic Chart below.
Prior to the release of the “BD1,” the “Twilight” franchise had amassed a total worldwide theatrical gross of around $1.8 billion. Summit released “BD1” internationally on Wednesday, and grossed an estimated $144 million from 54 markets this weekend, bringing the worldwide cume to $283.5 million. By the end of the weekend the worldwide total will crest the $2 billion mark, placing the franchise in rarified strata among the elite performers of the industry. Only nine film franchises in history have a total worldwide boxoffice gross of more than $2 billion.
Thanks to the stellar receipts from “BD1,” the estimated total gross for all films in North America this weekend was up about 14% from the comparable session last year, with $222 million vs. $194.4 million, respectively, which bodes qwell for the upcoming Thanskgiving holiday. Needless to say Summit is bullish on the “BD1” opening: “It’s a good indication of where the picture may end up worldwide," said Richie Fay, President of Distribution for Summit. "It looks great going into the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. It’s really good for the industry. If you get people back into the habit of going to the movies – they’ll keep coming."
The only other film opening in wide release this weekend was Warner Bros. “Happy Feet Two,” a PG-rated animated feature aimed at the family audience which arrived with a disappointing estimate of $22 million to take the second spot. The opening for “Happy Feet Two” was significantly less than the stout $41.5 million of the original “Happy Feet” back in 2007, but the original film didn't face such fierce competition for the female audience as its sequel.
Relativity’s “Immortals” slipped into the third slot in its sophomore session, generating an estimated $12.3 million. The mythological-actioner slipped a steep 62% this weekend as it’s cume to date moved to $52.3 million. Even with the sharp second weekend drop, the Tarsem Singh directed picture has a shot at maintaining a moderate profile in the marketplace as there will be a dearth of actioners in theaters around the holidays.
“Immortals” was performing strongly in international markets as the total to date for the Henry Cavill-Mickey Rourke starrer crossed the $100 million mark this weekend, bringing the estimated worldwide tally to around $153 million.
Moving into fourth place was Sony’s “Jack and Jill” with an estimated $12 million, off a less than moderate 52% from its debut. The Adam Sandler comedy has picked up an estimated $41 million in its first 10 days. Sandler comedies tend to stick around for a while; the Thanksgiving Day holiday session will be a better indicator of how the gender laugher ultimately plays out in theaters.
In the battle of the midnight shows, “BD1” racked up a franchise best with an estimated $30.25 million from 3,521 locations, close to the $30.1 million posted by “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” and better than the $26.3 million that “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” generated. Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” still holds the midnight record with a stunning $43.5 million; however that film was boosted by higher-priced 3-D tickets and its status as the franchise finale.
The audience for “BD1,” which had a reported a budget of around $110 million, was overwhelmingly female (80%), and 60% were over 21, with a solid B+ CinemaScore. Fay noted that the final film in the series, “Breaking Dawn – Part 2” (November 16, 2012) may draw more males as there will be more action scenes between the vampires and werewolves.
As for “Happy Feet Two": “We had hoped to get to $30 million this weekend, but we ran into a very competitive marketplace for female-driven films,” said Dan Fellman, President of Domestic Distribution for Warner Bros., referring to “BD1,” “Jack and Jill,” and “Puss In Boots.” I expect to play catch up over the next few weeks as the holiday playtime approaches.” Fellman noted “Happy Feet Two” had strong exit polls and generated an impressive A+ CinemaScore among females, which comprised a large 60% of the audience.
The original “Happy Feet” opened in the top spot with $41.5 million during the summer of 2007, and went on to gross a stellar $198 million domestically (with a worldwide total of $384.3 million). Word-of-mouth could yield an impressive final number for the sequel, but “Happy Feet Two” only has five days in the marketplace without much competition for the family audience, other than four-week-old “Puss In Boots.” Come the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, three major wide releases aimed squarely at the family audience open wide -- Disney’s “The Muppets,” Sony’s “Arthur Christmas,” and Paramount’s “Hugo.” Will the market expand to accommodate all of them? With so many family films hitting theaters at once, it was smart to release “Puss In Boots” and “Happy Feet Two” before the Thanksgiving frame.
Fox Searchlight’s $20 million “The Descendants,” a dramedy starring George Clooney and helmed by Alexander Payne, made an impressive debut this weekend as it took in an estimated $1.22 million from just 29 theaters-- and still placed in the top 10. The R-rated picture opened Wednesday in five locales and expanded on Friday to 29 theaters. The per-theater average was a staggering $42,069 for the Oscar contender, which has gleaned an estimated $1.3 million since it’s Wednesday release. “There just wasn’t that much out there for adult audiences right now, and this is a quality comedy-drama,” said Sheila Deloach, EVP Distribution for Fox Searchlight. IW's indie box office report is here.
The cat with more lives than anticipated moved into the fifth spot with an estimated $10.7 million. DreamWorks Animation’s “Puss In Boots,” distributed by Paramount, has taken in a solid $122.3 million to date.
AMong holdovers, Universal’s “Tower Heist” was in the sixth slot with an estimated $7 million, down 45% on its third weekend in release. The Ben Stiller-Eddie Murphy starrer from director Brett Ratner has bailed out some $53.4 million so far. The second weekend of Warner Bros.’ “J. Edgar” was not uplifting as the Clint Eastwood-helmed drama grossed an estimated $5.9 million from 2,591 theaters to spy the seventh slot, slipping a lukewarm 47% from its debut. The Leonardo DiCaprio starrer has picked up roughly $20.7 million to date. “Descendants” looks more likely than “J. Edgar” to capitalize on strong word-of-mouth during awards season, when films seek to stay in theaters through the holidays and beyond.