Weekend Forecast for November 16-18, 2012
By Reagen Sulewski
November 16, 2012

Of *course* there is an arm-wrestling match in this movie. Why wouldn't there be?

One of history's greatest heroes goes up against history's greatest monster this weekend at the box office. You have your decision to make, people.

This weekend brings to the end one of the most ridiculous film franchises ever to make over a billion dollars cumulatively, with The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2. The life of this franchise got extended by about a year when the decision was made to notice that Harry Potter doubled the box office for the last book by splitting it into two movies. “Hey,” said Summit Entertainment, “we have absolutely nothing else coming down the pipe, so we might as well keep this going as long as we can.” And so here we are, with a fifth, and one supposes, final film of this ridiculous vampire opera about passive-aggressive relationships and keeping the wimmenfolk in their place (Of course, we still have The Host and the inevitable 50 Shades of Grey movie so to come, so we're not in the clear just yet).

When last we left this story, Bella had just been transformed into a vampire after dying during childbirth and a werewolf imprinted on her newborn baby because it's his soulmate and... wait. What the hell? I mean, Jesus. That's screwed up. Apparently this is worth a $138 million opening weekend. Anyway, moving on... Apparently, this results in the start of some sort of vampire civil war, or maybe they're just as squicked out as the rest of us by those turns of events. Cue big climactic battle scene and then OMG! No more Bella and Edward! The important thing is that we got one more manufactured tabloid story about the totally-real-no-I'm-serious-stop-looking-at-my-P.R.-agent real-life “relationship” between Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. And hey, it's only a couple more months before we can all start forgetting we knew what a Taylor Lautner was!

After the initial entry in the series, which was in a bit of a feeling out process, the Twilight films have settled in to around $300 million final domestic total, with the opening weekends a little harder to gauge, what with Eclipse opening over the July 4th weekend versus the mid-November openings of all the rest. There's good reason to expect this to follow what seems to be a forming pattern that these series-enders get a few million boost in their opening weekend from fans bidding them goodbye, which means that the around $135 million of Breaking Dawn Part 1 gets to be around $150 million here, as it opens at around 4,000 venues. Now, teenagers. Go find something better to occupy your time.

This weekend's movie for grown-ups is Lincoln, the Steven Spielberg directed biography of Andrew Jacks... no wait, I think I've got that wrong. Daniel Day-Lewis plays the title character during a crucial period of his presidency and the Civil War, surrounding the passage of the 13th Amendment, freeing the slaves, and the march on the South. This looks a bit like Important Speeches: The Movie, as we see the political wrangling that was necessary to win votes to end slavery in a country that wasn't really certain how free it wanted black people to be just yet. It does appear to shocking gloss over the vampire issue, but you've got to save something for the sequel, I guess.

It's a legitimate question to ask how excited audiences are for a film that's innately political right at this moment, coming so closely after the bitterest election in recent memory. Then again, it's about a political process that ultimately accomplished something great, and about one of the more universally admired political figures in American history. There's also the matter of what looks to be one of the best performances of the year by Day-Lewis, who may very well be a wizard channeling Lincoln.

This being Spielberg, he's got no problem attracting a top flight cast for supporting actors, including Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Straitharn, James Spader, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tim Blake Nelson... I could go on. Expect to see a few of these names discussed at Oscar time.

Lincoln debuted on 11 screens last weekend, nearly cracking a million dollars, showing that there's undoubtedly a high amount of anticipation for this story, and the combination of director, subject and cast seems perfect. I don't know that Daniel Day-Lewis has people busting down the doors, but stranger things have happened. The expansion this weekend isn't a full one, as it hits around 1,700 venues, but with the past weekend's performance used for context, I think we're looking at a double application of the Rule of Thirds, and an opening weekend of around $17 million.

With an opening weekend of $88 million, Skyfall is well on its way to becoming the highest grossing Bond film – surprisingly, no Bond film has to date broken $175 million domestically, though of course we are talking about a 50 year old franchise. To put this in perspective, it beat the entire domestic run of The Living Daylights by about three minutes into the first screening on Saturday. It's also about to hit $600 million worldwide thanks to its release strategy overseas, again a record.

The two Daniel Craig Bonds so far have had wildly different performances after their opening weekends. Casino Royale was a refresher on the Bond formula after Brosnan's got stale and campy again, while Quantum of Solace threatened to wipe all of that out in just one film. As a consequence, one fell 205 in its second weekend and the other fell 60%. While Skyfall is getting some of the best reviews of the entire series, as well as some of its strongest word-of-mouth, I don't think it can match the performance of Royale thanks in large part to just how big it opened – it's tough to follow huge opening weekend with strong second ones just out of sheer numbers. We could still see a relatively strong second weekend of around $52 million, though.

Wreck-it-Ralph continues to cruise along, dropping just a third last weekend to push its total to almost $100 million in two weekends. The video-game themed film is definitely capturing the family audience, and solid word-of-mouth is pushing it to a possible $200 million finish, if it can last through Thanksgiving in a significant position. For this weekend, add about $20 million.

Flight, starring Denzel Washington, was third last weekend with $14 million, following a surprisingly strong $24 million start on less than 2,000 theaters. Actually something of a clever trick on moviegoers, it's a “perils-of-alcoholism” movie disguised as a disaster film, but hasn't seemed to pay the price films usually do for playing fast and loose with genre. It's no giant hit, but has done decently well for that. Add about $8 million this weekend.