Weekend Wrap-Up
Post-Thanksgiving Doldrums Fail To Wipe Out Box Office
By John Hamann
December 2, 2012

That's good acting right there.

With movies on fire over the Thanksgiving Day frame last weekend, this weekend feels like a hangover, and not the Todd Phillips $277 million kind. In reality though, this is a holiday season that keeps on giving.

The post-Thanksgiving weekend has always been a very slow moviegoing period. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are in the rearview mirror, Christmas shopping starts to take people’s lives over and the movies usually take a weekend off. The good news this time out is that we are coming off the biggest Thanksgiving weekend ever (by a country mile), so, despite only having Brad Pitt’s Killing Me Softly opening (and softly it is), the sheer largeness of the last frame is propping this weekend up.

Last year over the post Turkey frame, with Breaking Dawn Part 1 on top, the top 12 films at the box office took in $73.6 million. This year, we are 28% higher, due to better films peppered throughout the top 12. The average weekend-to-weekend drop is staggering for almost every film, but the overall, it is still the best post-Thanksgiving Day weekend ever.

Unfortunately, our number one film for the third weekend in a row is The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, repeating on top again this weekend. After a three-day turkey holiday gross of $43.6 million (and a drop of 69% compared to its debut), Breaking Dawn Part 2 earned $17.4 million this weekend, and fell 60%. Once again, the comparison to Part 1 is the most apt, as on Part 1’s third Friday, it grossed $5.5 million, while Part 2 grossed $5.6 million. After three weekends, Part 1 had earned $246.9 million. Part 2 has earned $254.6 million domestically. Both of these films lag behind The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, which had pulled in $264.8 million and cost about half as much to produce ($120 million for Breaking Dawn Part 2 vs. $68 million for Eclipse). The good news now is that the fall of the House of Twilight begins, as it should be out of the top ten after only two more weekends. Drinks are on me at that point.

Skyfall brings balance to the force of the top 10, as the James Bond film continues to sizzle, holding strong in the top two for the fourth straight weekend. Last weekend, the mightiest of Bond films earned $35.5 million over three days (and $50 million over five days, or $10 million a day), and was so strong that I thought the bottom might really fall out this weekend, possibly matching Twilight's 60% drop. Thankfully, the news is better than that, as Skyfall earned another $17 million and dropped an okay-for-the-frame 52%. In Quantum of Solace’s post-turkey frame, it earned only $6.7 million, and did the Twilight plunge at 64%.

The question now is whether or not Skyfall can be a $300 million film. There is another opportunity for it to hold well again next weekend, as only a rom-com opens (all films fear The Hobbit). Then, it should play well as counter-programming against the Peter Jackson behemoth. Following that, the daily Christmas box office begins to take over and Skyfall could do quite well over what has become two solid weeks of moviegoing, from about December 17th to January 1st. Skyfall will have tough row to hoe to get to $300 million, but it is possible. Currently it has $246 million in the bank domestically and is approaching $600 million overseas.

Third spot for the third straight weekend is Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, another out-and-out hit. Last weekend, Lincoln earned a powerful $25.7 million over three days; this weekend, on the same 2,018 venues it had last weekend, the historical drama earned $13.5 million, and dropped 47%. While the drop for Lincoln may seem high, keep in mind that The Blind Side dropped 50% over the post-Thanksgiving Day frame, which shows that no film is impenetrable to the post Turkey blues. The thing that Lincoln really has going for it is that lower venue count, as it can still expand in the weeks ahead should the market warrant it. Lincoln had a budget of only $65 million. It has already reached $83.7 million in domestic box office, and should get to at least $125 million.

Like last weekend, the duel between Life of Pi and Rise of the Guardians continues to play on. Last weekend, the two films were in a virtual tie, with the Guardians holding a slight lead over three days, as it earned $23.8 million versus Pi’s $22.5 million. This weekend, the race was still just as tight. Still at number four is Rise of the Guardians, which earned $13.5 million, while number five is Life of Pi, which took in $12 million. In the percentage drop category, Rise of the Guardians wins with a 43% decline, where Life of Pi fell 47%.

While the two films are very close in terms of box office dollars, their fates are different. Rise of the Guardians was supposed to be the big holiday movie, and it’s turning into a bit of a turd. Life of Pi was filled with risk, and was supposed to be the much lesser film, but remains neck and neck with the animated flick, and is still playing above its supposed weight. Guardians on the other hand, is playing even worse than The Polar Express did, as that film managed four weekends above the $10 million mark, on its way to $165 million. Rise of the Guardians is looking like it will only have two weekends above $10 million. Kids aren’t out of school for another two weeks, so daily box office figures won’t improve for Rise of the Guardians for a long time to come.

The DreamWorks animated film cost $145 million to make, and with only three moviegoing weekends to come before Santa arrives, it’s going to end up below its budget figure, and will have to hope that foreign box office saves it. Life of Pi, on the other hand, does not have that countdown to Christmas, and does not have the expectations that Rise of the Guardians had. It also has award attention where Guardians does not. At this point, I see Life of Pi, which cost $25 million less to make than Guardians, having a better month ahead of it than the animated flick, and also a much better opportunity away from domestic shores. At this point, Rise of the Guardians has earned $48.9 million and Life of Pi has pulled in $48.4 million. This race may be the one to watch over the next few weekends.

Wreck-It Ralph stays in sixth place after a truly fantastic Thanksgiving holiday. Last weekend, it earned $16.6 million and dropped only 11% from the previous frame, despite being in its fourth weekend. This weekend, reality came calling, as Ralph earned only $7 million and fell 58%, one of the bigger drops in the top ten. Wreck-It Ralph cost $165 million to produce, and has earned $158.3 million domestically. It is still just getting started overseas, but has already brought in $50 million.

Brad Pitt’s Killing Them Softly opens in seventh this weekend, as the critically acclaimed hit man movie can’t find an audience. Killing Them Softly debuted to only $7 million from a forgettable 2,424 venues. It had a per location average of $2,888. A year ago, this type of debut would have landed it in top four or five, but with the power in this weekend’s top ten, it misses the top five. That’s hard for a film like this one, as it won’t get picked up in the Monday conversations about box office. If it does, it will be labeled a failure instead of a middling success. Killing Them Softly is 79% fresh at RottenTomatoes, but its legs are likely gone as it somehow earned a rare F Cinemascore from audiences. Pitt’s Plan B productions won’t be hurt by this one, though, as it cost only $15 million to make.

Red Dawn finishes eighth this weekend, and even its post-turkey hangover isn’t that bad. Red Dawn earned $6.6 million in this frame after getting started last weekend with a $14.3 million take. It dropped 55%, and its gross remains well off of the $65 million it took to get it to the screen. So far, the logic-challenged release has brought in $31.3 million.

Ninth goes to Flight, which hangs on to a top ten spot despite being in its fifth weekend. The Denzel Washington flick earned another $4.5 million but dropped a serious 46% compared to last weekend’s holiday inflated session. Flight, which cost only $31 million to make, has now brought in $81.5 million domestically.

Tenth is The Collection, a sequel to the little-known horror movie The Collector from 2009. The gruesome flick earned $3.4 million, enough to put it just slightly ahead of Silver Linings Playbook's $3.3 million. The Collection came from LD Distribution, which somehow managed to secure 1,403 venues for the unwanted movie. Its budget was just $10 million, so while it probably won't break even, video revenues will probably make it worthwhile.

Overall this weekend, the box office stays quite hot despite the high percentage drops littered throughout the top 12 films. As I said at the top of this column, the top 12 films last year brought in $73.6 million, this year, the top 12 brought in $94 million. Next weekend, studios fear The Hobbit, so only one film opens, Playing For Keeps. Thus, Skyfall could be the number one film despite being in its fifth weekend.