It wasn’t new and it wasn’t in first place, but all eyes were on “The Blind Side” this weekend.
Alcon Entertainment’s uplifting football drama starring Sandra Bullock pulled off the rare feat of increasing ticket sales on its second weekend in wide release, nearly pulling off an upset and eclipsing “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” to become No. 1.
It was an unusual weekend all around at the box office, as none of the three new nationwide motion pictures -- “Old Dogs,” “Ninja Assassin” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox” -- proved particularly successful and “New Moon” plummeted 70% from its spectacular opening, but overall receipts nonetheless set a new record.
Ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada totaled an estimated $275 million from Wednesday through Sunday, beating the previous Thanksgiving mark set in 2000 by 12.5%, according to Hollywood.com. Although no single movie was huge, nine pictures collected more than $7 million, the first time that has happened since January.
“There were something compelling for anybody and everybody -- that’s what makes for a healthy marketplace and that’s what we’re seeing right now,” said Chris Aronson, executive vice president of distribution at 20th Century Fox.
Despite the economic slowdown, box-office revenue is up 8.4% this year. Attendance is up 4.3%.
“We’re headed as an industry for $10 billion [at the] box office, which we’ve never seen before,” said Dan Fellman, domestic distribution president at Warner Bros.
The 18% rise in receipts to a studio-estimated $40.1 million for “The Blind Side” was driven by sensational word of mouth that seems to be expanding its audience beyond adult women who came out for its opening to include more families. The movie, which cost Alcon $35 million to produce, has collected $100.3 million and will undoubtedly top $200 million by the end of the year.
Studios typically keep about half a movie’s domestic ticket sales. Even after marketing costs and Warner Bros.’ distribution fee, “The Blind Side” is sure to be hugely profitable for Alcon.
“I usually pride myself on being articulate but I’m quite out of adjectives,” Alcon co-Chief Executive Andrew Kosove said.
The football drama nearly outshined “New Moon,” which fell 70% to $42.5 million. The original “Twilight” dropped 62% on Thanksgiving weekend last year, so the huge decline wasn’t unexpected, but it is a clear sign that interest in the movie was heavily front-loaded and its box-office life will be relatively brief.
Nonetheless, domestic ticket sales for “New Moon” have hit $230.7 million; overseas they total $243 million. The movie cost about $50 million to produce, making it, like “The Blind Side,” a hugely profitable release for a small independent studio.
Disney’s comedy “Old Dogs” opened to a soft $16.8 million for the weekend and $24.1 million over five days. The very similar “Wild Hogs,” which also starred John Travolta and was directed by Walt Becker, started with a much stronger $39.7 million over just three days in March 2007.
Chuck Viane, president of domestic distribution for Disney, noted that moviegoers gave “Old Dogs” a solid grade of B-plus, according to market research firm CinemaScore, and said he was hopeful it would decline slowly with no other comedies hitting theaters soon.
Martial arts flick “Ninja Assassin,” financed by Dark Castle Entertainment and Legendary Pictures and distributed by Warner Bros., took in $13.1 million for the weekend and $21 million over five days, a decent start given its cost of just under $50 million.
The stop-motion animated movie “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” from 20th Century Fox, grossed a weak $7 million for the weekend and $9.5 million since Wednesday.
Fox is hoping the movie will find a bigger family audience after initially drawing more adult fans of director Wes Anderson. In two weeks, however, it will go up against the nationwide release of “The Princess and the Frog.”
Disney opened that movie, its first hand-drawn animated feature in five years, at two theaters in Los Angeles and New York. It grossed a sensational $1.1 million over five days, selling out nearly all its show times despite ticket prices that went as high as $50 for an experience that included numerous activities beyond the film.
Weinstein Co. opened “The Road,” financed by 2929 Entertainment for $25 million, to a solid $2 million at 111 theaters over five days.
Overseas, Sony’s “2012" remains extraordinarily strong. It collected $61.6 million on its third weekend, bringing its foreign total to $455.8 million.