Box office report: Audiences gobble up 'Breaking Dawn,' 'Skyfall,' and 'Lincoln' over record Thanksgiving weekend

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Image Credit: Andrew Cooper

Hollywood has reason to give thanks this year. Boosted by a trio of new releases and a veritable cornucopia of well-performing holdovers, the Thanksgiving box office reached an all-time high this year. Theaters sold an estimated $295 million worth of tickets in five days, outdoing the Thanksgiving record of $273 million set in 2009.

As expected, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 led the way with $43.1 million over the regular weekend frame (a 70 percent drop from its $141.1 million debut), and a huge $64.0 million over the Wednesday-to-Sunday period. After ten days, Breaking Dawn – Part 2 has earned $227.0 million — slightly more than the $220.8 million that Breaking Dawn – Part 1 had earned at the same point in its run, but slightly behind New Moon‘s $230.9 million take at the 10-day mark. Internationally, Breaking Dawn – Part 2 has already earned $350.8 million, which brings its worldwide total to $577.7 million. Like its predecessor, the $120 million Summit production should finish just below $300 million domestically and between $700 and $800 million worldwide when all is said and done. 

Skyfall held in second place, dropping just 12 percent to $36.0 million in its third weekend. Over the five-day period, Skyfall managed an astounding $51.1 million, and it now boasts a domestic total of $221.7 million. Mind you, no other Bond film has ever crossed the $200 million threshold domestically (not adjusting for inflation). The previous high-point for the Bond franchise was 2008’s Quantum of Solace, which grossed $168.4 million, so it’s safe to say that Sony’s $200 million action tentpole is performing remarkably. In fact, the film should blaze past the $250 million mark in the next few weeks. Overseas, the story is even better. Thanks to another $41.3 million this weekend, the film’s international total now sits at $494 million, and its worldwide cume stands at $790.1 million. Could Skyfall become the first billion-dollar-Bond? That seems unlikely, but a finish above $900 million appears well within reach.

The best hold of the weekend belongs to Disney’s $65 million Oscar contender Lincoln, which actually increased 19 percent over the three-day weekend to $25 million and took in a whopping $34.1 million over the five-day Thanksgiving frame.The Steven Spielberg-directed drama did boost its theater count from 1,775 to 2,018 this weekend, but that can’t completely account for the major box office bump — only glowing word-of-mouth can create that sort of groundswell. After 10 days, Lincoln has emancipated $62.2 million worth of tickets from moviegoers, and it’s set to easily become the 15th $100 million-plus earner in Spielberg’s storied career.

In fourth place, Rise of the Guardians badly missed expectations, with $24.0 million in its first three days and $32.4 million over five. DreamWorks Animation’s $145 million film (distributed by Paramount), which united Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Jack Frost became the studio’s worst animated opening since 2006’s Flushed Away, a collaboration with Aardman Animation. Supporters of the 3-D film have already pointed out that Guardians opened in the same range as 2004’s The Polar Express, which began with a soft $23.3 million but chugged along as it neared Christmas and eventually found $162.8 million. Still, Polar Express opened two weekends before Thanksgiving, not on the lucrative weekend. Rise of the Guardians, out in 3,653 theaters, was poised for a much better debut, yet it earned less in five days than recent DreamWorks Animation tales like Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted ($60.3 million debut) and Puss in Boots ($34.1 million) earned in three. Paramount will no doubt hope that the film’s “A” CinemaScore grade will lead to strong word-of-mouth in coming weeks.

While Guardians finished below expectations, the week’s two other new releases, Life of Pi and Red Dawn, both finished at the high end of pre-release projections.

In fifth, Fox’s Life of Pi sailed away with $22.0 million over the three-day weekend and a solid $30.2 over the five-day frame. Considering the $120 million Fox film was expected to earn just over $20 million during the Wednesday-to-Sunday period, this is pretty much a best-case-scenario. (And the sudden gust of Oscar buzz doesn’t hurt, either.) The well-reviewed Ang Lee tale started off bigger than last year’s Thanksgiving release Hugo — another artistic, big-budget 3-D fantasy-drama that was based on a popular book and geared toward families. Hugo earned a soft $15.4 million in its five-day debut, albeit from 1,277 theaters (as opposed to Life of Pi‘s 2,902 locations), on the way to $73.9 million total. Fox is counting on word-of-mouth (Life of Pi earned an “A-” CinemaScore) to carry the expensive aquatic tale much further. According to exit surveys, 69 percent of audience members listed “subject matter” as their top reason for seeing the film, which either means that Hollywood has long underestimated America’s desire for films about tigers on boats, or (more likely) that much of the opening weekend audience was familiar with the source novel.

Wreck-It Ralph dropped only 10 percent against Rise of the Guardians, down to $16.8 million ($23.0 million over five days), which brings its total to $149.5 million after four weekends. Disney’s $165 million family film could finish its run close to $200 million.

One spot further down was Red Dawn, which managed to do rather well for itself despite a troubled history. The remake took in $14.6 million over the traditional weekend and $22.0 million over the Wednesday-to-Sunday period. Distributor FilmDistrict was expecting a five-day opening in the teens. Red Dawn was shot in 2009 for about $70 million by MGM, but following the studio’s much-publicized financial woes, it got shelved indefinitely. After an edit that saw the Chinese villains of the film digitally altered into North Koreans, FilmDistrict picked up distribution rights (for an undisclosed price) and set the release date. Audiences, who gave the film a tepid “B” CinemaScore grade, were 62 percent male and very diverse in age, which suggests that while some patrons bought tickets because of their attachment to the original thriller, other crowds were lured in by new A-list stars Chris Hemsworth (a.k.a. Thor) and Josh Hutcherson (a.k.a. Peeta) — 44 percent of polled moviegoers listed “Actor in a lead role” as their reason for attending the film. FilmDistrict says that the film played best in the South, especially in Texas and surrounding states.

1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 – $43.1 million ($64.0 million in five days)
2. Skyfall – $36.0 million ($51.1 million)
3. Lincoln – $25.0 million ($34.1 million)
4. Rise of the Guardians – $24.0 million ($32.6 million)
5. Life of Pi – $22.0 million ($30.2 million)
6. Wreck-It Ralph – $16.8 million ($23.0 million)
7. Red Dawn – $14.6 million ($22.0 million)

In limited release, Silver Linings Playbook demonstrated legitimate box office vitality in 367 theaters. The film, which opened last weekend with an alright $443,000 from 16 theaters (resulting in a $27,688 per theater average), grossed $4.3 million over the three-day period, and, significantly, maintained a sturdy $12,597 average, which merits further expansions in the weeks to come. Playbook took in $5.9 million over the five day frame and has now grossed $6.5 million total. It appears that positive word-of-mouth and awards season buzz is already working in the film’s favor.

Anna Karenina isn’t getting quite the same boost, but it’s expanding much more slowly. The film expanded from 16 theaters into 66 locations and grossed $832,00 over three days ($1.1 million over five), which gave it a $12,606 average. The fact that Silver Linings Playbook earned a similar average in over five times as many theaters is a testament to that film’s growing prospects. (Even more impressive, though, is the fact that Lincoln maintained a $12,398 average in 2,018 theaters.) Anna Karenina has earned $1.5 million total.

Two other notable openings: Fox Searchlight’s Hitchcock debuted in 17 theaters and earned $301,000, giving it a lukewarm $17,706 average. Meanwhile, Sony Pictures Classics’ Marion Cotillard vehicle Rust & Bone found just $30,200 from two theaters for a $15,100 average. Both will need to post substantially better numbers in future weeks if they hope to become more than low-grossing awards season fare.

Check back next week for full box office coverage of The Collection and Killing Them Softly, and follow me on Twitter for up-to-the-minute updates and additional box office musing.

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