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Weekend Box-Office Analysis (November 23-25, 2012)

This year’s Thanksgiving weekend has been extremely generous to all movies. Even though the Top 12 cume dropped 17.3% to $200.4 million, as there was no huge new release to the market, it was still up a tremendous 29% from last year when Breaking Dawn Part 1 led the charts for the second weekend in a row. The cume also easily became the highest Thanksgiving weekend Top 12-total ever, beating 2009’s $175.2 million Thanksgiving cume. On top of that, several other feats were accomplished this weekend. It was the first time in eight (!) years that five movies have topped $20 million over the three-day period. Moreover, for the first time since December 2009/January 2010 the Top 12 reached $200 million on two consecutive weekends. Even though the weekend saw three potent openers, the Top 3 remained unchanged. Thanks to this tremendous weekend, 2012 built its lead over 2011 up to 6.7% and to 5.3% over 2009 (the current biggest box-office year ever).


The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 easily defended the top spot, but as we have come to expect from the franchise, it still dropped like a rock in its sophomore frame. Down 69.1%, it held slightly better than the previous two Twilight November-openers, New Moon (-70%) and Breaking Dawn Part 1 (-69.8%). Its $43.6 million second weekend narrowly edged out New Moon for the title of the franchise’s biggest second weekend, even though it lost the opening weekend battle. In merely ten days, Breaking Dawn Part 2 has accumulated $227.4 million, putting around $6.5 million ahead of its immediate predecessor, but still $3.5 million behind New Moon. It has also managed the 11th-biggest 10-day gross ever, ahead of Toy Story 3, but right behind New Moon. The drop might have been ever so slightly better than expected despite fierce competition, but still nothing suggests a significantly leggier run that that of its predecessors. It might benefit from the utter lack of competition over the next two weeks, but usually the Twilight movies don’t react to competition in the same way as most other movies. They have their stable, dedicated (and fairly large) fanbase, but they also never go beyond that. Therefore, it is fair to assume that while it will most likely top Breaking Dawn Part 1 ($281.3 million) at the domestic box-office, it will probably still fail to reach $300 million or even New Moon’s total gross. Right now I see a final cume in the $285-295 million range. In one of the most surprising turns in recent box-office history, it looks pretty likely that Skyfall will end up outdoing it at the North American box-office.


Speaking of which, Skyfall stunned everyone again not just by firmly holding on to #2 of the charts, but also dipping just 13.6% in face of fierce competition. Its $35.5 million third weekend is the 7th-biggest of all-time and right behind The Dark Knight Rises’ $35.7 million third frame. With an incredible $221.1 million in the bag after 17 days on release, Skyfall has not just handily topped the unadjusted totals of all James Bond-releases ever, but is also the 4th-biggest James Bond-movie in North America adjusted for inflation! Only Thunderball, Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice did better and Skyfall still has a great shot at topping the latter’s adjusted total. Additionally, Skyfall is already this year’s 7th-biggest movie. Skyfall is tracking around $80 million ahead of Quantum of Solace which had a much worse Thanksgiving weekend-drop in its third frame (-29.5%). At this point, Skyfall’s run is no longer fit for comparison with other James Bond-movies, but much rather with other hugely acclaimed blockbusters of recent years. It is currently almost $28 million ahead of Inception n the same time frame and an incredible $36.5 million ahead of 2009’s Star Trek. In fact, it is just $2 million behind the first Iron Man flick which went on to finish with $318.4 million.

Right now, it’s safe to say that Skyfall is a lock for $280 million with a great probability of hitting $300 million. It has two weekends with very little competition ahead and that should be enough to put it in the comfort zone before The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will hit it hard. It will lose most of its IMAX screens to The Hobbit, but direct competition will be a major factor as well. I expect it to recover over Christmas, though. Even if it will be on track to “just” $295 million (which I think might happen), there is little doubt that Sony will do anything in their power, to ensure that the 50th anniversary of the franchise can be celebrated with the series’ first $300+ million hit. Therefore, I expect it to end up with $300-305 million in the bag, making it the year’s 5th-biggest movie (assuming The Hobbit will outgross it).


Like the week before, Lincoln might not have entered the Top 2, but it is still the weekend’s big winner. Steven Spielberg’s movie about the final months of the US’ 16th President had its theatre count bumped up by 243 new venues for a total count of 2,018. With the help of these new theatres, its amazing word-of-mouth (“A”-CinemaScore) and its status as a heavy awards contender, Lincoln increased a terrific 22% over the weekend for a three-day total of $25.7 million. Even though its theatre count increased, the movie’s per-theatre-average actually increased from last weekend as well! With $12,724 it averaged more per theatre than any other movie in the Top 10. Lincoln’s running total amounts to $62.8 million after ten days in wide release. It is now mere $17 million away from outgrossing Spielberg’s last year’s Best Picture nominee War Horse. With little competition in sight and potential for further theatre count expansion, Lincoln has a decent shot at topping the weekend box-office next weekend or the weekend after. A long run is assured for the film as its awards buzz will just keep getting stronger as the awards season will progress. Moreover, the film is genuinely enjoyed by audiences and critics alike. It should remain the top choice drama for adult audiences for weeks to come. Right now, any total gross below $150 million would be outright surprising. If it wins Best Picture, it’ll become the first movie to win the big prize since Return of the King that passed $150 million at the domestic box-office. However, I also believe that if it wins Best Picture, it will go much further than that. In fact, it could even pass Gladiator’s $187.7 million and become the 5th-biggest Best Picture winner ever unadjusted for inflation. Currently, I see it finding its way to $175-185 million, though the awards will paint a better picture over the upcoming few weeks.


The fourth spot of the weekend went to Rise of the Guardians. Even though the film’s $23.8 million weekend take from 3,653 venues (for a PTA of $6,508) is decent and comparable with Bolt’s $26.2 million opening four years ago, it is still very underwhelming by the studio standards. Only two CG-animated movies by DreamsWorks Animation has ever opened lower (Flushed Away which bowed to $18.8 million back in 2006 and Antz which opened to $17.2 million 14 years ago). The start is particularly underwhelming, considering the film’s Christmas-related theme and the natural Thanksgiving weekend boost. Since its opening on Wednesday, Rise of the Guardians took in $32.3 million (which would is still lower than the three-day opening cumes of all other CG-animated DreamWorks animated flicks save for Antz and Flushed Away).The movie is also a prime example of the audiences’ rejection of 3D in movies, for which they deem 3D rather unnecessary. Only 35% of the film’s weekend box-office came from 3D-showings. With its hefty $145 million price tag, Rise of the Guardians has an extremely long way to go to recoup its budget and might even struggle to $100 million domestically. Strong word-of-mouth will help, though as the film earned a terrific “A”-CinemaScore. With Tangled’s legs, Rise of the Guardians would be on track to $95 million. However, I believe that the Christmas affiliation will inflate its legs until Christmas, leading to a decent, if unremarkable $100-105 million total.


On the opposite, Ang Lee’s bestseller adaptation Life of Pi surprised with an extremely potent opening, as it bowed to $22.5 million from 2,927 locations.  It averaged $7,670 per theatre. Its five-day cume is $30.6 million. Unlike Rise of the Guardians, the majority of the audiences desired to see the film in its (well-marketed and hyped) 3D-version. Around 68% of its opening weekend audience saw the stereoscopic version. Even though the PG-rated Life of Pi has also been marketed as a family movie, the fanbase of the book also showed up as 60% of the audiences were 25 or older. The movie earned a respectable “A-“-CinemaScore and should stick around for a while. Last year, a similar acclaimed, family-oriented Oscars contender Hugo got out of the gate with $11.4 million from less than half of Life of Pi’s theatres. With Hugo’s legs, Life of Pi would go on to gross around $150 million. However, unlike Hugo, there is little room for expansion for Life of Pi and I also don’t see becoming an Oscars contender as big as Hugo was. However, with pretty much zero competition over the next two weeks, it should be able to garner steam and impress with good legs. I see a $115-125 million total for it, with a slight chance of topping Hulk’s $132.2 million and thus becoming Ang Lee’s highest-grossing movie unadjusted for inflation. With first promising results from overseas markets, this is poised to become a bona fide success for Fox.


Wreck-It Ralph dropped two spots to #6, but withstood the harsh 3D-competition for family audiences from Rise of the Guardians and Life of Pi. Down just 10.8%, Wreck-It Ralph added another $16.6 million in its fourth weekend for a total of $149.3 million. It has now passed Hotel Transylvania and is currently the 5th-biggest animated film of 2012. It has also become the 2nd-biggest non-Pixar Disney CG-animated film with only Tangled still ahead of it. Currently it is tracking around $28 million ahead of Tangled at the same point of its run, however the gap will narrow quickly soon. Luckily for Ralph, Rise of the Guardians didn’t perform very well and Life of Pi is apparently skewing quite a bit older. This way, it will remain one of the two top picks for families with younger children throughout the holiday season. It will, however, need a couple of terrific holds in its future, in order to have a shot at $200 million. Right now, I see it barely missing the mark with a $190-195 million total, “suffering” the same fate as the first two Ice Age-sequels, Monsters vs. Aliens and Happy Feet. However, the next two weekends are entirely devoid of any direct competition, so the family flicks can thrive and maybe Wreck-It Ralph can play well into January to reach the mark late in its run afterall. Keep in mind, it took Tangled 26 weeks and a small push by the studio to finally cross the $200 million-barrier.


After a year-long delay due to MGM’s financial woes, Red Dawn, the remake of the 1984 movie with Patrick Swayze, finally hit the screens (distributed by FilmDistrict) with surprisingly good results. The film grossed $14.3 million over the three-day frame for FilmDistrict’s biggest opening to date, averaging $5,241 per theatre at 2,724 locations. In five days the $65 million production has made $21.7 million which is certainly well above expectations for the long-delayed and terribly reviewed movie. After just five days, it has become the studio’s 4th-biggest film. FD’s track record so far has been shaky. They hit it big last year with their very first release, Insidious. The well-received horror flick made $54 million domestically on a $1.3 million budget. Later that year, Drive made a solid $35.1 million despite mixed WoM. However genre movies like Lockout ($14.3 million) and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark ($24 million) disappointed. While Red Dawn’s opening is better than expected, it still has a long way to go to recoup its budget. The opening might have been helped by the presence of the stars of this year’s two huge hits – Chris Hemsworth (The Avengers) and Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games). Unsurprisingly the film played best in the South and military areas as FilmDistrict has disclosed. With a “B”-CinemaScore and some obvious frontloading, it should leave the theatres rather quickly. I project a total around $40-45 million.


The Denzel Washington/Robert Zemeckis hit Flight captured the 8th spot of the charts in its 4th weekend. It dropped a mere 4% to $8.5 million, bringing its total to $74.7 million, while adding another 26 theatres. At this point Flight has still never played as widely as the Washington’s big hits and yet it is going to outgross most of them. The film is around $6 million ahead of Unstoppable in the same time frame, but coming off a much bigger weekend. Unstoppable went on to finish with $81.6 million, making anything less than $90 million seem unlikely. However, the jury’s still out, on whether it has the chops to pass the $100 million mark. The empty two weekends ahead will help it, but the question is still, how long it will be able to hold on to its theatres and screens. I don’t really see any significant expansions coming. Still, I believe that Denzel Washington’s Oscar buzz will be strong enough to carry the movie just above the $100 million edge.


The Weinsteins’ big Oscars candidate Silver Linings Playbook experienced a healthy expansion as it went from 16 theatres to 367. It made around $4.4 million from Friday to Sunday and occupied the 9th slot of the box-office. Since its release last weekend, the film has made around $6.2 million. With the huge awards buzz waiting to kick in, Silver Linings Playbook should see several expansions throughout December. It is impossible to pinpoint the film’s likely total now, but it seems entirely possible that it will follow in the footsteps of The Descendants, Little Miss Sunshine and Up in the Air and finish with more than $50 million which isn’t bad for the movie that was made for $21 million.


The 10th spot at the box-office went to the long-burner Argo. In spite of losing more than 950 theatres, the film dropped just 4.5% over the weekend and reached a $98.1 million total. It’s very likely that the $100 million barrier will fall next weekend. Currently the film’s $10.5 million ahead of The Town and it has finally reached an opening-to-total multiplier of 5. Depending on its awards performance, it looks to finish somewhere in the range of $115-120 million.


Taken 2 dropped out of the Top 10 as it lost 1,300 theatres. The actioner decreased 55.3% to $0.95 million and currently stands at $136.5 million, almost $8.5 million behind the first film’s total. It’s pretty unbelievable that the film will finish with more than 95% of the first film’s total. It’s looking good for $139 million.


Anna Karenina didn’t go as wide as Silver Linings Playbook. The flick went from 16 venues to 66, with its average still at a solid $13,580. It’s hard t tell where this one is heading to, but a $20+ million total seems entirely possible for Keira Knightley’s new film.


In other news – Hitchcock opened to just $288,000 from 17 theatres for a $16,924 average per theatre. The oversupply of adult dramas is clearly hurting this one. A sub-$20,000 PTA in less than 20 theatres for a movie with such a topic and cast is inexcusable under any circumstances.

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