Box Office Report: 'Muppets' Are Back With Projected $40 Mil Debut

The Muppets - Movie Still: Muppets on Stage - H - 2011
Scott Garfield/Disney Enterprises

Among other family films, "Happy Feet Two" leads over "Arthur Christmas," which is in close race with Martin Scorsese's "Hugo"; George Clooney starrer "Descendants" doing big business.

In a notable victory for Disney, The Muppets continues to rule over other family films at the Thanksgiving box office, grossing $12.3 million on Friday for a three-day cume of $24.8 million.

The pic, which cost a modest $45 million to produce, is now projected to post a Wednesday-Sunday debut of at least $40 million, putting it behind only The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn--Part 1, which grossed $16.9 million on Friday for a cume of roughly $195 million (the pic will jump the $200 million mark sometime on Saturday).

PHOTOS: 'The Muppets' Premiere Red Carpet Arrivals

Walt Disney Studios chairman Rich Ross has been a persistent advocate of reviving the classic brand since Disney bought the rights to Jim Henson's iconic characters in 2004. The film stars Jason Segel and Amy Adams.

Muppets opened on Wednesday opposite two other PG films--Sony and Aardman Entertainment's 3D pic Arthur Christmas and Martin Scorsese's Hugo.

Arthur Christmas and Hugo, distributed by Paramount, are in a dead heat, even though Hugo's theater count is nearly a third of Arthur's.

On Friday, Arthur Christmas grossed $4.6 million, compared to $4.5 million for Hugo. The two films came in No. 4 and No. 5, respectively, with the No. 3 spot going to Warner Bros. holdover Happy Feet Two, which grossed $5.1 million for cume of $35.5 million.

Projections show Happy Feet Two staying at No. 3 with a five-day gross in the $16 million range, followed closely by Arthur Christmas and Hugo.

PHOTOS: 'The Muppets' Spoofs 'Twilight: Breaking Dawn' in New Posters

One unique attribute: Muppets, Arthur Christmas and Hugo all received rave reviews from critics, which could protend strong legs. Sony believes Arthur Christmas will have great playability into December because of its holiday theme.

And since Hugo is playing older than a conventional family film, Paramount decided to open on a smaller number of screens, and then expand on strong word of mouth.

Among specialty films vying for awards attention, Alexander Payne's The Descendants continued to expand nicely, coming in No. 10 and grossing $2.7 million from only 433 theaters for an 10-day cume of $6.2 million. It's among the best showings of the year for a platform release.

Opening Friday in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles, The Artist grossed $75,456 for a per location average of $18,864. Like other adult-skewing films, the black-and-white silent film should see a healthy uptick on Saturday.

The Weinstein Co. is having a busy Thanksgiving between The Artist and Michelle Williams starrer My Week with Marilyn, which opened Wednesday in more than 100 theaters and expanded on Friday into a total 244 locations. The film grossed $607,000 on Friday for a three-day cume of $918,000.