There were three fresh offerings at the box office over the Thanksgiving holiday, but moviegoers opted for leftovers instead.
For the second consecutive weekend, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2" claimed the No. 1 position. After debuting with a mammoth $141.1 million, the fifth and final installment in the vampire franchise took in an additional $64 million from Wednesday to Sunday, according to an estimate from distributor Summit Entertainment. The film starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson has now grossed $227 million domestically, slightly ahead of the $220.8 million “Breaking Dawn — Part 1" made during the same time frame last November.
Other holdovers also fared well over the five-day holiday. “Skyfall,” starring Daniel Craig as James Bond, was the runner-up with $51 million, raising its overall North American total to $221.7 million. “Lincoln,” in which the 16th U.S. president is played by Daniel Day-Lewis, came in third with $34.1 million. The film has now sold $62.2 million worth of tickets.
As a result of the brisk business, it was the biggest Thanksgiving at the box office ever — not adjusting for inflation, of course. Ticket sales between Wednesday and Sunday totaled $290 million, far exceeding the the previous Thanksgiving record of $273 million in 2009.
The weekend’s newcomers had more trouble attracting crowds. Of the three new movies that hit theaters last Wednesday, the animated 3-D family film “Rise of the Guardians” fared best. However, the DreamWorks Animation picture’s $32.6 million five-day take is the worst opening for the studio since its 2006 bomb “Flushed Away.”
“Life of Pi,” Ang Lee’s well-reviewed 3-D adaptation of Yann Martel’s bestselling 2001 book, also had a soft debut of $30.2 million. While the film handily beat industry expectations that projected the movie would only gross $20 million during its first five days, the big-budget production will need to benefit from exceptionally strong word-of-mouth in the next few weeks to become a financial winner for 20th Century Fox.
As for the remake of 1984’s Cold War action flick “Red Dawn,” the movie only launched with $22 million. However, the film starring Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson is in better shape than “Guardians” or “Pi,” since it was acquired by distributor FilmDistrict for a minimal cost.
Of the three new movies, audiences seemed to like “Guardians” the best. Those who saw the movie — 57% of whom were female — assigned it an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore. The film is about a group of folk heroes including the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus who band together to protect children from an evil foe.
After the film’s disappointing opening weekend, “Guardians” could end up being one of the biggest misses ever for Jeffrey Katzenberg’s company. The animation studio, which has found massive global success in comedic franchises such as “Shrek” and “Kung Fu Panda,” has only had a handful of films underperform at the box office. Two of those titles, “Flushed Away” and 2005’s “Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” were co-productions with Aardman Animations — a United Kingdom-based animation house whose films have often had trouble translating with American audiences.
Meanwhile, “Life of Pi” earned better reviews than any of the weekend’s other debuts, and audiences assigned the film an average A- grade. That’s good news for Fox, which is banking on positive buzz to turn the $120-million production into a hit.
Executives at Fox know that the film about a young boy stranded in the middle of the ocean with four wild animals faces a number of challenges. Not only does it star an unknown Indian actor, but it is not based on the kind of popular brand which typically warrants such a big budget. Roughly 70% of those who saw the movie on opening weekend — 60% of whom were over the age of 25 — said they attended the film because of its subject matter, indicating many may have been familiar with Martel’s book.
The movie could also make up some ground overseas, where it grossed $17.5 million from just four foreign countries this weekend. The film performed best in China, though it also took the No. 1 spot in Hong Kong, Taiwan and India.
After years of challenges, “Red Dawn” finally got a bit of a break. The movie, shot in 2009, saw its release date delayed numerous times when its financial backer, MGM, entered bankruptcy. Though the film cost MGM about $65 million to make, FilmDistrict acquired its distribution rights last year for a nominal fee, meaning its opening is solid for the independent distributor.
This weekend, the movie about a band of young fighters battling against a foreign enemy appealed to a more male audience. About 62% of the crowd were men, and moviegoers gave the film an average grade of B.
FilmDistrict marketed the film aggressively to military communities, an effort that seemed to pay off this weekend as the film overperformed in cities like El Paso, Albuquerque and Wichita, Kan.