By Brian Fuson | Thompson on Hollywood December 4, 2011 at 1:15PM
A post-Thanksgiving hangover held sway at the sluggish weekend box office as most films saw steep percentage drops. The total gross for all films was an estimated $82 million, down some 5% from the comparable frame last year, when Disney’s “Tangled” topped the charts with $21.6 million in its second week. Summit’s “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1” clung to the top slot for the third consecutive weekend, taking in an estimated $16.9 million, down 59%, bringing the total to date for the vampire-romancer to an impressive $247.3 million. It's the first time a "Twilight" pic held onto number one for three weeks.
Still fighting for the family crowd were four PG-rated films, all hoping to stay alive through the Christmas holidays. They won't face more competition until the December 16 opening of Fox’s “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked," and the following Wednesday release of Paramount’s “The Adventures of Tin Tin."
For now, Disney’s low-budget comedy-musical “The Muppets” stayed put in the second spot with an estimated $11.2 million, slipping 62% from its debut and bringing the total to date to roughly $56.1 million. This revival of the Muppet characters created by Jim Henson has already out-performed every Muppet movie released in the last three decades. Aside from the original 1979 Muppet movie ($65.2 million), the highest-grossing Muppet movie was Disney’s “Muppet Treasure Island” with $34.3 million in 1996.
The movie that did not slump --by crossing over to adults--placed fifth last week and vaulted into the third slot this weekend: Martin Scorsese's “Hugo” (Paramount). “Hugo” debuted a week ago in 1,277 theaters with $11.4 million, and now totals $15.4 million. With that opening and a budget from $150-$170 million, it looked tough to climb out of its cost-to-return hole –but the movie may post some respectable numbers. The family adventure was in nearly one-third the theaters of the three family films above it, had the highest per-theater average of those films, and grossed nearly the same.
Thanks to Scorsese's cred, popular source material, mostly favorable reviews and critics group attention, “Hugo” added theaters this weekend to bring the count to 1,840 locations, and grossed an estimated $7.63 million, down a slim 33% from a week earlier, to move up into third place. With a total boxoffice of around $25.2 million, the film still has a long way to go to be profitable, but international markets hold promise and family fare plays better on DVD than any other genre.
With the second best hold of the weekend, Sony’s “Arthur Christmas,” the latest animated picture from Aardman Studios, held the same position as last week, taking in an estimated $7.35 million and slipping a stingy 39% from its opening frame. “Arthur” scored 92% on the Tomatometer and has collected an estimated $25.3 million to date.
In its third week, Warner Bros.’ “Happy Feet Two” dropped two notches and moved into the fifth spot with an estimated $6 million under its wing. The animated sequel was off 55% from a week earlier, has picked up around $51.8 million so far and has been in release a week longer than the other family pictures in the marketplace.
Making some noise among the top wide releases was Fox Searchlight’s expansion of R-rated “The Descendants,” starring George Clooney and helmed by Alexander Payne, which added 141 theaters to 574, and grossed around $5.2 million to move up into the seventh spot from ninth place. The comedy-drama is drawing awards attention and has picked up an estimated $18.1 million to date.
In the world of limited releases, Fox Searchlight’s “Shame” opened in 10 theaters and grossed an estimated $361,181, averaging a sturdy $36,118 per theater. Steve McQueen's well-reviewed drama carries the NC-17 rating which makes the film a bit more difficult to market. Indiewire's indie box office report is here.