Right about now, Hollywood has the sinking feeling it forgot to do something. Split Breaking Dawn Part 2 into two more movies? Nope. Greenlight a Family Matters movie? That's not it. Oh wait, it's to release a movie at all.
Weekend Forecast for December 2-4, 2011
By Reagen Sulewski
December 2, 2011
They can sort of be forgiven for punting on this weekend, as the one following Thanksgiving has traditionally been where box office goes to die, with the theory being that people are too stuffed full of turkey and burned out on films from Thanksgiving weekend to make room for anything new. This has become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as studios avoid putting anything with any promise out on the weekend, instead giving us Punisher reboots and Robert DeNiro's slow decent into irrelevancy. Occasionally there's been something like The Last Samurai in this slot, but that's eight years ago now. Eventually something like this year was bound to happen, where studios didn't even have anything worthwhile to burn off in this weekend.
It's not as if Thanksgiving 2011 was an incredibly lucrative weekend either. Twilight: Vampirus Interruptus won as a holdover with $41.6 million, falling the expected two-thirds from the disturbingly large opening weekend, and pushing its total over $220 million (with $230 million passed on Thursday). If we're looking at past performances, things don't get any prettier from here, as every previous Twilight film has continued to drop prodigiously. There's no cachet in waiting for three weeks to see Twilight, it would appear. There might be some hope that with no new choices, the drop won't be as bad, but some random terrible film that was going to open to $6 million wasn't going to change anything anyway. Breaking Dawn Part 1 should earn a little over $15 million in its third weekend.
Of course, everything falls a lot after Thanksgiving, particularly family films, since that's a high priority for viewing over the holiday. This isn't great news for the three returning films, led by The Muppets. I suppose in the long view, a Muppets film being a big deal at all is good news, and opening to $29 million isn't anything to sniff at for a franchise that's been moribund for over a decade. But in terms of lasting long enough to cash in on the upcoming Christmas bonanza, that's not all that promising. Rapturous reviews should help a little, but it should still drop to around $14 million this weekend, knocking out a big portion of its staying power.
Following that, we've got the three-headed family beast of Happy Feet Two, Arthur Christmas and Hugo, though the last of that trio is getting a significant expansion. If I may tackle these films slightly out of order in terms of this weekend – Happy Feet Two had a decent Thanksgiving, but there's still the problem of its underwhelming opening weekend and it's likely to end up under $90 million total, or less than half of the original. Give it $7 million for the weekend.
Arthur Christmas failed to captivate like previous Aardman Animation efforts, perhaps being a bit too English, perhaps lacking a big name in the voice cast for people to latch on to, or maybe just falling victim to the animation glut of late, where nothing outside of Pixar, Shrek and Ice Age really connects. At any rate, it's likely to fall to around $5 million this weekend.
Hugo jumps to around 1,800 venues after a smaller start, and that should arrest its fall somewhat. The live-action Scorsese love-letter to early cinema had one of the stronger per screen numbers for the weekend, and the perception of legs is always a canny marketing strategy. Some early awards support doesn't hurt either, and it should hold a little better to around $6 million.
Meanwhile, in other expansions, The Descendants jumps to around 600 venues following a $7 million weekend. Clearly one of the early Oscar favorites, it's following the standard “Clooney-award hopeful”/”Alexander Payne” path to box office success, and could very well improve on last weekend's take. I'd bet on closer to holding steady with around $7 million, though.
Below these films, we bid farewell to some of the flotsam and jetsam of late fall, with Jack and Jill, The Immortals, Tower Heist and Puss in Boots all making unceremonious exits from box office relevancy.