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Weekend Box-Office Analysis (November 16-18, 2012)

Boosted by the monumental opening of the final installment in the Twilight franchise the weekend Top 12 rose 48.6% compared to the last weekend for a $242.3 million cume making it the second-biggest weekend of the year, the second-biggest November weekend of all-time and the 6th-highest aggregated weekend total of all time. Compared to the same weekend last year when the first part of the two-part Twilight finale came out on top, the box-office was up 12.7%. The overall gap between 2012 and 2011 widened to 6.5%, compared to 2009, the biggest year in box-office ever, the gap went up to 5.8%. The overall 2012 box-office is currently just shy of $9.5 billion. This year might become the first year ever, in which the yearly box-office will reach $11 billion. That would represent an increase of more than 8% over last year. Of course, in order for that to happen, several of the upcoming movies will need to overperform.


The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 handily took the top spot of the box-office with the huge, yet expected $141.3 million from 4,070 venues, averaging $34,717 per theatre. Even though Breaking Dawn Part 2 didn’t set any records, it is still an extremely impressive opening for the closing chapter of this incredibly successful franchise. On the yearly level, it is the 4th-biggest opening of 2012, only behind The Avengers ($207.4 million), The Dark Knight Rises ($160.9 million) and The Hunger Games ($152.5 million). At the same time, it’s the 8th-biggest opening weekend of all-time which just goes on to show how strong openings have been in 2012. New Moon, the second movie in the Twilight series, delivered a higher opening with $142.8 million it grossed back in November 2009. Last year, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 opened on the same weekend to $138.1 million, before heading for a final gross of $281.3 million.

All these figures go on to show how strong the Twilight franchise has become, bringing it to pretty much the same level domestically as Harry Potter. The beginnings were much humbler when the first Twilight opened to $69.6 million back in 2008 and went on to gross $192.8 million, displaying very solid legs after initial frontloading. Of course, with its $37 million production budget, it was still a huge success. It wasn’t until the second film, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, that the series really exploded, though. Released just a year after the first film, New Moon opened to a gigantic $142.8 million, making it the 3rd-biggest opener ever back then and went on to gross $296.6 million. Released the following summer, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse topped even that by becoming the first (and so far only) Twilight movie to cross the $300 million mark. It wound up with $300.5 million at the domestic box-office. Last year’s Breaking Dawn Part 1 couldn’t measure up to that. It opened lower than New Moon and finished with less than its two predecessors. On the whole, however, the first four Twilight movies have grossed an average $267.8 million which shows incredible consistency in its fanbase. Three spots of the Top 10 biggest opening weekends of all-time are occupied by Twilight sequels. No other franchise is represented this often in the Top 10. This underlines the strength of the series, but also its tendency to be extremely frontloaded. Breaking Dawn Part 1 and New Moon barely broke the multiplier of 2 after its opening weekend (Eclipse opened on a Wednesday, so comparisons are more difficult in its case).

The second part of Breaking Dawn opened strongly on Friday with $30.4 million delivered from midnight showings, setting the franchise record for midnight grosses and the 3rd-biggest midnights number ever, behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ($43.5 million) and The Dark Knight Rises ($30.6 million). During its entire first day, the film took in $71.9 million for the 5th-biggest opening day of all-time and just behind New Moon’s $72.7 million. As usual,  the film dropped like a rock on Saturday, albeit its 41.9% drop was better than the first part’s 44.1% decline. In contrast to its opening day, though, its Saturday was “only” the 15th-biggest Saturday ever. As expected, the film skewed heavily female, with 79% of its audiences being women. The age, however, was split evenly between those above and those below 25 years. The film has scored an “A”-CinemaScore, with the younger moviegoers (below 25) even awarding it an “A+”. However, it shouldn’t mean particularly good legs for the film as by now the film has its target audiences who’ll see and love these films no matter what. It won’t change the fact that it’ll be very frontloaded. At this point, it’s fair to expect a similar kind of legs as the last Twilight movie achieve which would put the film’s total gross somewhere in the vicinity of $285 million. The “final movie”-status might help repeat viewings a little, though, so I’ll put the projected range at $285-300 million. I’s an undeniably huge number, yet it feels a little bit underwhelming given that this is the series’ big finale. Final movies in other comparably big franchise (Harry Potter, the new Star Wars Trilogy, The Lord of the Rings) managed significant increases with their final installment, which won’t be the case here, at least not in North America. Overseas, on the other hand, where it has already earned almost $200 million in its opening is an entirely different story.


Last weekend’s big winner Skyfall had to relinquish the top spot in its sophomore frame and declined 53% to $41.5 million. After ten days the 23rd installment in the 50-year old James Bond-franchise stands at $161.3 million, making it the third-biggest James Bond movie ever already. Needless to say, that it also had the biggest 2nd weekend of all James Bond-films. In fact, its second weekend alone is bigger than the opening weekends of all James Bond-flicks except for Quantum of Solace and Die Another Day. Admittedly, the 50+% drop is higher than some have hoped for with the film’s huge hype and terrific word-of-mouth, but it is still much better than Quantum of Solace’s 60.4% second-weekend drop. After ten days (and an additional day of IMAX showings only), Skyfall is already tracking $52.5 million ahead of Quantum of Solace and around $67 million ahead of Casino Royale and that while coming off a much bigger second weekend. Thanksgiving should help it greatly next week. Quantum of Solace dropped just 29.5% over the Thanksgiving three-day weekend, whereas Casino Royale dipped just 24.6%. Undoubtedly, Lincoln’s strong showing this weekend cut into Skyfall’s adult audiences. I expect Skyfall to fully recover over the next few weeks and play well into January. It still remains the must-see blockbuster movie in theatres until the release of The Hobbit (since Twilight’s audiences, while large are limited at the same time). At this point, Skyfall still seems to be a no-brainer for a finish north of $250 million. In fact, it should be at over $210 million by the end of the Thanksgiving weekend. Losing IMAX screens to Rise of the Guardians and later to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will hurt its longevity, but what will help it, is that the two weekends after Thanksgiving are rather empty at this point, with only three low-profile releases scheduled for these weekends. Skyfall is currently headed towards a $280-290 million total. However, if it manages one or two surprisingly good holds along the road, $300 million will become entirely possible. It is already insane that this will finish more than $100 million higher the franchise’s previous highest-grossing movie.


The third spot of the box-office went to what I consider the weekend’s true winner – Lincoln. Steven Spielberg’s drama about the final months in the life of one of the most famous US-presidents of all-time expanded into 1,775 theatres this weekend and grossed an incredible $21 million for a per-theatre-average of $11,831. Including its limited 11-theatres run last week, its total gross currently amounts to $22.4 million. As expected, the film skewed mostly older, with 67% of its weekend audiences being above 35. Lincoln presented very good counter-programming to the strongly female-focused Breaking Dawn Part 2. The opening is even moreso impressive, considering that we’re dealing with a dialogue-heavy 145-minute movie. It just goes on to show that older moviegoers should never be underestimated (they also pushed Flight, Argo and Skyfall to their great numbers afterall) and that Steven Spielberg’s pull is as strong as ever. In fact, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull aside, Lincoln is set to become Spielberg’s highest-grossing movie since War of the Worlds in 2005 which made $234.3 million. Steven Spielberg has directed 14 $100+ million-grossing movies over the course of his career, more than any other filmmaker in history. Seven of his films even passed the $200 million-barrier. It looks very likely that Lincoln will become the director’s 15th $100 million-grosser. Its opening is comparable to awards candidates such as Walk the Line ($22.4 million) and The Social Network ($22.4 million). The two, however, opened in far more theatres than Lincoln. They went on to gross $115.9 million and $97 million respectively. However, Lincoln has an advantage over both of these films. It skews older than The Social Network and it opened closer to the holidays, giving it a big boost early in its run. Moreover, it should have far more awards buzz than Walk the Line which didn’t even wind up getting nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, whereas Lincoln should at the very least be the clear frontrunner to win the big award. It was also awarded terrific “A”-CinemaScore. There is no reason why it shouldn’t end up with $120-140 million in the bank, even without a Best Picture win. If it does win, though, I fully expect it to go above $150 million.


The animated hit Wreck-It Ralph eased 44.5% and two spots in its third weekend. The three-day period saw it gross another $18.3 million for a 17-day total of $121.5 million. It is still tracking well ahead of other non-Pixar Disney CG-animated features such as Tangled (by $17 million) and Chicken Little (by $22.5 million). Rise of the Guardians performance after its opening this upcoming Wednesday will decide whether it’ll be able to keep this lead over Tangled and reach $200 million or fall short of the number. So far the film’s legs have been good, but nothing extraordinary. It certainly doesn’t look to reach the heights of this year’s Brave, Dr. Seuss’ the Lorax or Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, but should at least top the latest Ice Age installment. I see it leaving the theatres with $180-190 million in its pockets.


Despite having added another 565 theatres and bringing its total theatre count above 2,600, Flight still dropped another 41.7% to #5 and $8.6 million over the weekend as it faced heavy competition for adult audiences from Lincoln. The movie stands at $61.3 million after 17 days on release, having become the 19th R-rated movie of 2012 to gross more than $50 million at the box-office. The studio’s strategy to release the film in fewer-than-expected theatres at first and then prolong its run by adding more theatres in its second and third weekend doesn’t seem to pay off in its case. Had Paramount put the film into more than 2,500 locations right away, they would have had a $30+ million opener on their hands. Now the expansion seems to come a little too late in the game, as Flight continues to suffer under direct competition courtesy of Skyfall and Lincoln, two movies with a higher profile and a bigger must-see factor. It would have had the adult audiences mostly to itself in its opening weekend, but now there are more attractive choices in the marketplace and the expansion isn’t helping much. It is still tracking $1 million ahead of another Washington-led November release, Unstoppable, but it really needs to stabilize now, otherwise it’ll miss its chance at crossing $100 million. It will now have to rely on strong Oscar buzz for its leading man to make it to the mark. Right now its chances are 50/50 as I see it landing in the $95-105 million range.


Argo, on the other hand, continued to thrive thanks to its terrific WoM. In its 6th weekend, the thriller had the weekend’s best hold as it dropped merely 38.5% to $4.1 million and the 6th spot of the box-office. Its running total stands at $92 million and therefore less than $200,000 from passing The Town’s domestic total. It still has the entire awards season ahead of itself and I am certain that it will wind up as one of the year’s biggest contenders, not least thanks to the film’s terrific commercial success. Depending on how strong the buzz will be and how many nominations and actual wins it will be able to land, I see a final cume somewhere around $115-120 million, making it one of the year’s biggest R-rated releases. The fact that this film will probably wind up with an opening-to-total multiplier of 6 is simply incredible, given that its opening weekend PTA wasn’t even particularly strong.


The seemingly unstoppable Taken 2 occupied the 7th spot of the charts as it dipped 47.7% to $2.1 million, bringing its running total to $134.6 million. The film has displayed far better legs than anyone has expected and deserves a lot of credit for its performance. Worldwide things are looking even brighter as it has already passed $350 million. Taken 2 is still tracking almost $8 million ahead of its predecessor in North America and it will stay ahead for at least another two weeks. I project a total gross of $139 million.


Finally faced with competition for female audiences, Pitch Perfect slid 51%, yet managed to remain at #8 in its 8th weekend. After a $1.3 million three-day cume, its running total stands at $62 million, an admirable figure for the $17 million-feature. It doesn’t have much gas left in the tank, but could still crawl to $65 million before all is said and done.


At #9, Here Comes the Boom dropped 52.4% to $1.2 million and brought its cumulative total to $41 million. The Kevin James-led comedy also won’t stick around for much longer, looking at a $43 million finish.


Thanks to the weak holdovers and only few new releases over the past weeks, a Bollywood production made it into the Top 10 over the weekend. Jab Tak Hai Jaan grossed $1.15 million from 161 venues over the weekend for a PTA of $7,143. The movie has grossed $1.9 million since its Tuesday opening. The film is the widest release ever for its distributor Yash Raj Films and after just six days it has already become their 9th-biggest film. Usually, these films tend to be very frontloaded and drop off the face of the earth after their openings. Even then, it could pass $3.3 million and become the distributor’s biggest US-hit to date.


Outside of the Top 10, three movies battled for the remaining two spots in the Top 12, all ending up with the same estimated weekend gross - $0.9 million. One is Cloud Atlas, the Wachowskis/Tom Tykwer collaboration that brought its total to $24.9 million after losing more than 1,100 theatres and 66.1% of its audiences. At this point, it’ll be lucky to make it to $27 million. The Sessions, on the other hand, added 388 theatres and rose 65%. It has made $2.8 million so far. With strong awards buzz for John Hawkes and Helen Hunt, it might end up grossing close to $8-9 million, though its current PTA of $1,744 is hardly encouraging. At last, Hotel Transylvania eased 62.5% and brought its total to $142.5 million. It should wind up with $145 million in the bag.


Two high-profile limited releases hit the screens with mixed results over the weekend. The winner of the People’s Choice Award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, Silver Linings Playbook, bowed to $458,000 from 16 venues for a solid, if unspectacular $28,625. The movie is set to expand to around 420 theatres on Wednesday. Joe Wright’s third collaboration with star Keira Knightley, Anna Karenina, did worse. It opened to more mixed reviews and garnered $315,000 from 16 locations. It averaged $19,688 per theatre.

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