It's a new holiday pageant: a Thanksgiving feast where the Indians are werewolves and the white settlers don't even eat. During a weekend with three highly touted new family films, the family that a plurality of moviegoers chose to visit was the undead Cullen clan of 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1.' In its second weekend, the vampire romance easily held onto the top spot at the box office, while 'The Muppets' won the three-way battle for family film supremacy.
According to studio estimates, 'Breaking Dawn' earned another $62.3 million over the five-day holiday, or $42.0 million from Friday to Sunday. That's a sharp decline of 70 percent from last week's debut, but it's still on a par with the performance of earlier installment 'New Moon.' The film is playing in more venues than any other (4,066 screens) and is doing a smashing $10,330 per screen over the three-day weekend. In 10 days, it's earned $221.3 million.
Debuting in second place, 'The Muppets' made off with an estimated $29.5 million over the three-day weekend. Most pundits had expected a weekend haul above $30 million, given the multi-generational appeal of the fuzzy felt folks and the year-long parade of hype for the feature. Still, 'The Muppets' has earned a total of $42.0 million since Wednesday's debut, which is more in five days than every previous Muppet film except the first one earned throughout its entire theatrical run. (Of course, that's not adjusting for inflation; the $65.2 million take from 1979's 'The Muppet Movie' would amount to $210.1 million at today's ticket prices.) Besides positive reviews and strong word-of-mouth, 'The Muppets' also earned $8.576 per screen for the weekend, so the movie seems popular enough that it'll show some legs, even if the filmed-from-the-waist-up characters seldom do.
Including the two family films already playing, there are five movies in wide release vying for that same market; given that, it's no wonder that 'Happy Feet Two' slid 37 percent this weekend to an estimated $13.4 million. The penguin sequel, which opened weakly last weekend, has the weakest reviews of any of the current family releases. Still, it managed to finish in third place this weekend and has earned $43.8 million to date.
Opening at No. 4, 'Arthur Christmas' faced a few tough breaks. Besides competing with all the other family movies, it also had to open in 3,376 venues while fighting against four other wide-release movies for 3D screens. So while pundits expected it to open between $14 and $19 million, 'Arthur' settled for a three-day opening estimated at $12.7 million, for a total of $17.0 million over the five-day holiday. Sony issued a statement saying it expected the film to hold up well over the next few weeks because it's the only seasonal-themed family movie in the bunch, but a per-screen average of $3,762 (nearly identical to 'Happy Feet Two''s $3,711, after 10 days) doesn't bode well.
Conversely, 'Hugo' opened much better than its modest expectations. While critics adoredMartin Scorsese's first stab at kiddie fare, some observers thought that a movie that's largely an homage to silent-film pioneer Georges Méliès might play above kids' heads. Predictions for the movie, which opened on just 1,277 screens, were in the $8 to $10 million range for the weekend. Yet the film earned an estimated $11.4 million from Friday to Sunday, for a five-day total of $15.4 million and a fifth-place finish. Its per-screen average of $8,888 is even higher than that of 'The Muppets,' meaning 'Hugo' could ride out the holiday season if it expands to a wider release.
On the indie front, three new movies did very well in limited release. 'My Week with Marilyn,' featuring Michelle Williams' much-buzzed-about performance as Marilyn Monroe, earned $1.8 million on 244 screens, with a respectable $7,266 per-screen average that suggests the movie will hold up well through awards season. Opening on just four screens each were silent-film tribute 'The Artist' and David Cronenberg's psychosexual period drama 'A Dangerous Method.' 'Artist' pulled in $210,414 (a whopping $52,604 per screen), while 'Method' did nearly as well with $181,852 ($45,463 per screen). Watch for these to become awards-season standouts at the box office as well.
The full top 10:
1. 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1,' $42.0 million (4,066 screens), $221.3 million total
2. 'The Muppets,' $29.5 million (3,440), $42.0 million
3. 'Happy Feet Two,' $13.4 million (3,606), $43.8 million
4. 'Arthur Christmas,' $12.7 million (3,376), $17.0 million
5. 'Hugo,' $11.4 million (1,277) $15.4 million
6. 'Jack and Jill,' $10.3 million (3,029), $57.4 million
7. 'Immortals,' $8.8 million (2,677), $68.6 million
8. 'Puss in Boots,' $7.5 million (3,005), $135.4 million
9. 'Tower Heist,' $7.3 million (2.474), $65.4 million
10. 'The Descendants,' $7.2 million (433), $10.7 million
[Photos: Disney ('The Muppets'), Paramount ('Hugo')]
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