2011 Box Office Drama: Six Weeks Left to Stem Losses

2:36 PM PST 11/21/2011 by Pamela McClintock
Andrew Cooper/SMPSP/DreamWorks II Distribution Co. LLC

"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn's" massive opening helped the industry come out of its slump, but opinion is divided over whether domestic numbers will reach a new high this year.

This article first appeared in the Dec. 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Hollywood has spent most of 2011 trailing last year's numbers at the domestic box office. But with a big boost from a vampire wedding and six weeks of highly anticipated movies about to hit theaters, there's a real chance of beating 2010's record take of $10.6 billion.

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The $139.5 million opening of Summit Entertainment's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1 over the Nov. 18-20 weekend helped the industry pull within 3 percent of 2010 levels. That's quite a feat considering revenue was pacing down as much as 20 percent earlier in the year, due in part to a significant drop-off in younger moviegoers. Breaking Dawn became only the second film of the year after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 to open north of $100 million. The snarky joke around town is that $20 million is the new $100 million opening.

"I think the gap will close" says Richie Fay, Summit's president of domestic distribution. "Look at what's coming in -- there's something for everyone, and the cocktail mix is good for moviegoing."

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The holiday season brings new installments in the Alvin and the Chipmunks, Mission: Impossible and Sherlock Holmes franchises, the original tentpole We Bought a Zoo and a double dose of Steven Spielberg with The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse. There's also the English-language remake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the Jonah Hill comedy The Sitter, plus a slew of specialty awards contenders hoping to mimic last year's The King's Speech, which rode its Oscar buzz to a whopping $414.2 million worldwide gross.

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Internationally, the major studios will have no trouble soaring past the $12.7 billion they collectively earned in 2011. Back home is a different story: Opinion is divided over whether domestic numbers will reach a new high, but many remain optimistic.

"I think we'll close the gap, or come very close," Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution Dan Fellman says. "This weekend was up 14 percent, and Christmas looks a lot stronger than last year."

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