Box Office Report: 'New Year's Eve' Leads Worst Weekend Since 2008 With $13.7 Million

 Warner Bros.

Garry Marshall's star-studded ensemble pic New Year's Eve stumbled in its box office debut, grossing a tepid $13.7 million as overall box office revenues fell to their lowest levels in more than three years.

Early and mid-December are always sluggish because of holiday preparations, but Warner Bros. and New Line still expected New Year's Eve to earn $20 million or more in its opening. The pic's cast includes Michelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, Ashton Kutcher, Katherine Heigl, Lea Michele, Robert De Niro, Josh Duhamel, Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Hilary Swank and Seth Meyers.

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"The box office was just in really bad shape," Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution Dan Fellman said. "While we had the No. 1 movie, we were No. 1 in a very soft market."

Overall box revenues for the weekend reached an estimated $78 million, the lowest number since early September 2008, when revenues only reached $68 million over the Sept. 5-7 weekend. This weekend was down 15 percent from the same frame a year ago and 4 percent from last weekend in a sobering reminder of the downturn that has gripped the domestic box office for much of 2011.

"There weren't enough moviegoers," said Fellman, "and the only thing you can hope for is that the big Christmas films, which start to kick in next weekend, help to pick up the pace.

Overseas, New Year's Eve grossed $12.9 million as it opened in 36 markets, including $2.4 million both in the U.K. and Australia, for a total worldwide bow of $26.6 million.

In the U.S., New Year's Eve even scored better exits than Marshall's Valentine's Day, which opened to a massive $72 million over the four-day Valentine's Day/President's Day weekened in 2010. And New Year's Eve received a B+ CinemaScore, compared to a B for Valentine's Day. As expected, the ensemble romantic comedy played heavily to females, who made up 70 percent of the audience.

Opening to No. 2 after New Year's Eve was 20th Century Fox's R-rated comedy The Sitter, headlining Jonah Hill in his first starring vehicle. The film debuted to $10 million, in line with pre-weekend tracking.

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The Sitter cost less than $25 million, while New Year's Eve's production budget is pegged at $56 million.

The comedy, produced by Michael De Luca, played evenly to males and females, with 47 percent of the audience under the age of 25. In the film--which received only a C+ CinemaScore--Hill plays a college student on suspension who is prodded into babysitting the kids next door. Things go askew when he takes them for a wild ride across New York City after being promised sex with his girlfriend.

"We opened in line with our pre-release expectations, and we'll continue to play as the college crowd finishes up finals," said Chris Aronson, Fox's senior vice president of domestic distribution.

Among holdovers, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn--Part 1 fell to No. 3 after ruling the top spot for three consecutive weekends. The pic grossed $7.9 million for a domestic cume of $259.6 million.

Sony and Aardman's Arthur Christmas fell only 11 percent from last weekend, the best hold of any nationwide release, grossing $6.6 million for a cume of $33.5 million. Overseas, the holiday pic racked up another $14.3 million from 63 territories for a foreign total of $57.5 million for a world cume of $91 million.

Martin Scorsese's 3D family friendly film Hugo, distributed by Paramount, fell a narrow 19 percent at the domestic box office as it upped its theater count from roughly 1,800 to 2,608, grossing $6.1 million for a domestic cume of $33.5 million in its third weekend.

Paramount believes that Hugo, which received a B+ CInemaScore as it expanded, will remain a player throughout the holidays, since it is appealing to a multi-generational audience. However, whether Graham King's GK Films, which fully financed the movie, can recoup its costs is a question mark, since Hugo cost well north of $100 million to produce.

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Hugo--named best film of the year by the National Board of Review--is among a slew of movies positioning themselves as awards season heats up and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association prepares to announce Golden Globe nominations on Dec. 15.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy scored the third best opening of the year for a limited release, grossing $300,737 from four theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a location average of $75,184. The only films to score a higher theater average this year were Midnight in Paris ($99,834) and The Tree of Life ($93,000).

Tinker Tailor--starring Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and Tom Hardy--was produced by Working Title. Focus Features is distributing the British espionage pic in the U.S.

Jason Reitman's Charlize Theron starrer Young Adult also opened to strong numbers, grossing $320,000 from eight theaters in five cities for a location average of $40,000. The movie reteams Reitman with Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody, and moves into a total of 1,000 theaters on Dec. 16.

Domestic Box Office Dec. 9-Dec. 11

Title/Weeks in Release/Studio/Theater Count/Weekend Total/Cume

1. New Year's Eve (1), Warner Bros./New Line/3,505, $13.7 million

2. The Sitter (1), 20th Century Fox/2,850, $10 million

3. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn--Part 1 (4), Summit/4,406, $7.9 million, $259.6 million

4. The Muppets (3), Disney/3,328, $7.1 million, $65.8 million

5. Arthur Christmas (3), Sony/3,272, $6.6 million, $33.5 million

6. Hugo (3), Paramount/2,608, $6.1 million, $33.5 million

7. The Descendants (4), Fox Searchlight/876, $4.4 million, $23.6 million

8. Happy Feet Two (4), Warner Bros./2,840, $3.8 million, $56.9 million

9. Jack and Jill (5), Sony/2,787, $3.2 million, $68.6 million

10. Immortals (5), Relativity Media/2,286, $2.4 million, $79.8 million

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