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Summit Entertainment’s The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn–Part 1 had the sharpest bite at the Thanksgiving box office, winning the extended holiday with $62.3 million and pushing its worldwide cume to nearly $500 million.
Breaking Dawn’s domestic cume through Sunday is an estimated $221.3 million, while it earned another $71.5 million at the international box office this weekend for a foreign cume of $268 million and worldwide total of $489.3 million. Domestically, the film continues to pace slightly behind The Twilight Saga: New Moon, which had earned $230 million at the same point.
Disney also scored a notable Thanksgiving victory with The Muppets. The family film, produced for a modest $45 million, beat a number of competitors to gross $42 million for the Wednesday-Sunday stretch, good enough to restore luster to the iconic brand, which has been off the bigscreen for more than a decade.
However, the holiday box office was down 12 percent from Thanksgiving 2010 amid the continuing slump in moviegoing. Last year, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 grossed $75 million and Disney’s Tangled opened to $68.7 million over the holiday.
Part of the reason for the dip could be a glut of family friendly titles, fragmenting the audience. Opening opposite The Muppets were Sony and Aardman’s Arthur Christmas and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, all of which had to compete with Happy Feet Two, which opened Nov. 18.
Muppets easily did more than double the business of its competitors, although its production budget was far less. For Walt Disney Studios chairman Rich Ross, the movie was the first step in reviving the brand across all platforms, including television and consumer products.
“The entire goal was to bring back the Muppets, and this great opening signifies that we’ve done just that,” said Dave Hollis, Disney’s executive vice president of worldwide distribution.
Produced by Sony and Aardman Entertainment, Arthur Christmas opened to $17 million, not enough to topple Warner Bros. holdover Happy Feet Two, which came in No. 3 and grossed $18.4 million. Generally speaking, Happy Feet Two has been a dissapointment, and it’s 10-day domestic cume of $43.8 million is not much more than the first Happy Feet grossed in its first weekend.
Sony–and even other studio rivals–believe Arthur Christmas will have strong legs because of its holiday theme. And like Muppets and Hugo, Arthur Christmas received glowing reviews. Audiences followed in suit, bestowing Muppets with an A CinemaScore and Arthur Christmas with an A-.
Arthur Christmas cost $95 million to produce, and is already a hit in the U.K., home of Aardman. The film grossed a total $11.9 million at the international box office this weekend from 24 markets for a foreign total of $22.3 million, and worldwide cume of $39.3 million. It has earned $12.7 million in the U.K., where it was up again this weekend in its third frame.
Sony president of worldwide distribution Rory Bruer believes Arthur Christmas will have have the same sustainability in North America. “It’s a Christmas story that will resonate more and more as we near the holiday,” he said.
Hugo–the filmmaker’s first foray into the 3D family market–didn’t receive a CinemaScore since it opened on only 1,277 screens, grossinng a better-than-expected $15.4 million. Paramount decided to roll the film out slowly, hoping to ride the wave of awards attention and good word of mouth.
Scorsese’s film is playing older than a usual family movie, and to more sophisticated audiences. To boot, 75 percent of the earnings came from 3D screens, bucking the overall downturn in 3D attendance and highlighting Paramount’s push to emphasis the 3D factor.
“Not only were we on a fraction of the screens of our competitors, the marketing spend was managed carefully as we expand the film,” said Paramount president of domestic marketing and distribution Megan Colligan, adding that Hugo will move into a couple of more hundred theaters next weekend.
Still, Hugo could be problematic for Graham King’s GK Films, since its budget was north of $150 million. GK Films fully financed the film.
Another Thanksgiving player turned out to be Cameron Crowe’s Matt Damon–Scarlett Johansson Christmas film We Bought a Zoo, which 20th Century Fox snuck on Saturday in more than 800 theaters across the country. Fox is reporting sell-out shows on both coasts and in America’s heartland.
“The audience was multi-generational, family and non-family alike. The exit polls were phenomenal, from New York to Minneapolis, from Kansas City to Los Angeles,” Fox senior vice president of distribution Chris Aronson said.
At the specialty box office, a trio of awards contenders opened to strong numbers, while Fox Searchlight’s The Descendants racked up significant grosses in its second weekend.
Among the new offerings, the black-and-white, silent film The Artist scored one of the top openings of the year for a limited release, grossing $210,414 for the Weinstein Co. after opening Friday in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a location average of $52,604–the third best weekend average of 2011.
Likewise, David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method impressed, grossing $240,944 after opening Wednesday in four theaters in Los Angeles and New York for an impressive five-day location average of $60,236. Sony Pictures Classics is distributing the film.
The Weinstein Co. also began rolling out Michelle Williams starrer My Week with Marilyn, which grossed a pleasing $2.1 million after opening on Wednesday. The film was up 13 percent from Friday to Saturday, the most of any movie, and earned an A- CinemaScore.
“Younger females in particular just loved this movie,” said Erik Lomis, president of distribution for the Weinstein Co.
There was still plenty of love left over for Alexander Payne’s George Clooney starrer The Descendants, which made a major push over the holiday, expanding to 433 theaters and grossing $9.2 million for a stellar cume of $10.7 million. The Fox Searchlight film came in No. 10.
Thanksgiving Box Office Nov. 23-Nov. 27 (five days)
Title/Weeks in Release/Studio/Theater Count/Five-Day Total/Cume
1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn–Part 1 (2), Summit/4,066, $62.3 million, $221.3
2. The Muppets (1), Disney/3,440, $42 million
3. Happy Feet Two (2), Warner Bros./3,611, $18.4 million, $43.8 million
4. Arthur Christmas (1), Sony/3,376, $17 million
5. Hugo (1), Paramount/1,277, $15.4 million
6. Jack and Jill (3), Sony/3,029, $14.1 million, $57.4 million
7. Immortals (3), Relativity Media/2,677, $12.5 million, $68.6 million
8. Puss in Boots (5), Paramount/DreamWorks Animation/3,005, $10.4 million, $135.4 million
9. Tower Heist (4), Universal/2,474, $10.2 million, $65.4 million
10. The Descendants (2), Fox Searchlight/433, $9.2 million, $10.7 million
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