SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM WRITETHRU: It’s the start of the Holiday Moviegoing Season, so celebrate! The box office sure is, because this wound up a record first weekend in November for North America with the $155+ million total of all the movies (not corrected for inflation or ticket prices) passing the Industry record of $153M set in 2003. But with all 3 big newcomers meeting their opening weekend expectations, where’s the fun for cynical me? Meanwhile, Sony Pictures had a great summer, Warner Bros led with a successful early fall, and now Paramount Pictures is showing strength: In the last 4 weeks, the studio has released 3 different films all at #1 and all opening over $40 million in 3 different genres. Here are what my sources say are Friday’s and Saturday’s Top Ten grosses with weekend and cume numbers:    

1. Megamind (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) NEW [3,944 Runs]
Friday $12.5M, Saturday $20.6M, Weekend $47.6M   

DreamWorks Animation toons, like Pixar’s, do reliably strong box office, even on Date Night, with a big Saturday kiddie matinee bounce. So there was considerable surprise among rival studios starting midday Friday when newcomer Megamind 3D‘s grosses looked underperforming despite its “A-” CinemaScore, usually successful formula of hip pop culture references, a typically aggressive marketing push, and a giant release into 3,944 theaters with 2,634 of them 3D-equipped. It was as if life were imitating art, since Megamind is the most brilliant supervillain the world has ever known — and the least successful. But the problem, it turned out, wasn’t the movie. Instead, I learned that AMC theaters was experiencing computing problems and had no grosses in the system, according to distributor Paramount. The studio knew the actual number would go higher: “There are no kids out of school. Looks like mid- to high-40′s, right where everyone expected,” a Paramount exec reassured me. And it has. It opened just ahead of the first 3-day weekend of the original Madagascar ($47.2M) which was only 2D and therefore had lower ticket prices, but also ahead of How to Train Your Dragon 3D which was regarded as weak because of its summer weekend gross of $43.7M. Megamind starring the voices of Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, and Brad Pitt turns the superhero genre on its head so, naturally, the promotional campaign kicked off with a giant superhero event at LA Live where the record was set for the most superheroes ever gathered in one location. There also was a big tie-in with the World Series that featured Ferrell disguised as a character that looked remarkably like Marlon Brando’s Jor-El from 1978′s Superman. There also was an outreach on MTV for under age 25 moviegoers with Megamind auto tunes.   

2. Due Date (Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros) NEW [3,355 Runs]
Friday $12.2M, Saturday $13M, Estimated Weekend $33.5M   

Warner Bros’ Due Date, an unofficial reboot of John Hughes’ Planes Trains & Automobiles, opened this weekend almost exactly on target with what Hollywood expected from its wide release into 3,355 theaters. Audiences gave it a “B-” CinemaScore. The comedy starring Robert Downer Jr and Zach Galifianakis, who reteamed with his The Hangover director Todd Phillips, had been tracking on the high side of what an “R”-rated buddy comedy will do, and indeed Due Date fared almost exactly the same as The Other Guys starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg did in this genre over the summer. As usual, Warner Bros’ marketing czarina Sue Kroll promo’ed the heck out of the pic, with three different trailers and TV ads. The teaser trailer was launched with Inception in July, and the studio had a main trailer playing from September through release. WB capitalized on early opportunities with TV season premieres in September, and longer format media stunts (Downey singing “Looks Like We Made It”) that included heavy network, cable, NFL, Baseball/World Series, etc. There also was a strong WOM program that included military bases, college campuses, traditional radio, and national talk shows. As a result, Due Date generated well-balanced male and female support, capturing strong date crowd business, with its primary audience 17 and older. It also was one of those few R-rated comedy marketing that didn’t try to insult or gross out women. “The campaign sought to always capture the humor, but also ensure the tone was warm, likeable, even sweet at times — but always with outrageous comedy,’ a WB exec tells me. In the online/social media world, the studio used its existing Facebook Hangover fan page (8 million followers) to push Due Date content “giving us a much wider reach than we otherwise would have had to a perfectly targeted audience for the material,” the exec noted.   

3. For Colored Girls (Lionsgate) NEW [2,127 Runs]
Friday $7.4M, Saturday $7.9M, Weekend $20.1M

Lionsgate’s For Colored Girls at first looked like the R-rated drama was wildly overperforming Friday for an estimated $28M from 2,127 theaters when the Tyler Perry-directed film was only expected to gross $20M, the equivalent of its budget. Then again, it receiced an “A” CinemaScore from audiences. ”It’s performing more on a par with Tyler’s other films,” an excited Lionsgate exec prematurely gushed to me that afternoon. But the weekend grosses were not the phenom first thought. Still, they met expectations and, ”between Tyler’s loyal female following and the cross cultural and multi generational appeal of the work, the opening weekend is feeling like we made this an event, going beyond the core African-American audience,” an insider tells me. With actresses including Thandie Newton, Whoopi Goldberg, Kimberly Elise, Phylicia Rashad, Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine, Anika Noni Rose, and Kerry Washington, Perry gave each the poetic monologues dealing with love, abandonment, rape, abortion, and such from original playwright Ntozake Shange. Lionsgate plans to push the women for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories, and for the Screen Actors Guild’s Best Ensemble Cast. This is the 10th Lionsgate/Tyler Perry collaboration, but the first production to be released by Tyler Perry Studio’s art house label 34th Street Films. Tolerate his racial stereotyping or not, Perry’s normal fare is a money machine for Lionsgate especially when his films star his female alter ego Madea. But not even Tyler’s close pal Oprah Winfrey wanted him to make the film version of 1975′s iconic For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf. And her first reaction echoed the outrage of many black females along the lines of, “How dare you!” because the storyline is profoundly their story, not any man’s, and especially not his. I was told that, despite her horror, Oprah gave Perry “huge feedback” on the script, and that Winfrey and her gal pal Gayle King both gave Perry big props when they saw the rough cut. (Yes, but was Winfrey simply admiring her own handiwork or his?)

4. Red (Summit) Week 4 [3,229 Runs]
Friday $2.5M, Saturday $4M, Weekend $8.9M, Cume $71.9M   

5. Saw 3D (Lionsgate) Week 2 [2,808 Runs]
Friday $2.6M Saturday $3.4M, Weekend $8.2M (-66%), Cume $38.8M   

6. Paranormal Activity 2 (Paramount) Week 3 [3,168 Runs]
Friday $2.3M, Saturday $3.1M, Weekend $7.2M,  Cume $77.2M   

7. Jackass 3D (MTV Films/Paramount) Week 4 [2,165 Runs]
Friday $1.6M, Saturday $2.2M, Weekend $5M, Cume $110.8M   

8. Secretariat (Disney) Week 5 [2,614 Runs]
Friday $1.2M, Saturday $1.9M, Weekend $4M, Cume $51M   

9. Hereafter (Warner Bros) Week 4 [2,365 Runs]
Friday $1.1M, Saturday $1.8M, Weekend $4M, Cume $28.7M   

10. The Social Network (Sony Pictures) Week 6 [1,860 Runs]
Friday $1M, Saturday $1.6M, Weekend $3.6M, Cume $85M   

UPDATE: Fox Searchlight reported to me that director Danny Boyle’s Oscar-touted 127 Hours starring James Franco “had massive crowds and long lines all day to sell-out results this weekend playing in 4 theatres in NY and LA.” The film grossed over $265K, its theater average $66,481. This is the 2nd best opening average of 2010 behind The Kids Are All Right in 7 theatres, average $70,282. This is also exceeding Fox Searchlight’s expectations and it’s a great start for the first film from Boyle since his Best Picture Oscar-winner Slumdog Millionaire and helps his and Franco’s awards chances.    

And Summit Entertainment’s Fair Game starring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts in the Valerie Plame/CIA leak scandal opened with $700K playing at 46 theaters for a per theater average of $15,217. It earned $200K Friday and $300K Saturday and will add 130 theaters to next weekend’s release pattern. Receiving an “a-” CinemaScore, the film skewed older while attendance was evenly split between men and women.

Fox Searchlight’s Conviction starring Hilary Swank continues to fail to catch on, just as I’d predicted. (Why Is Fox Searchlight Still In Swank Biz? Especially after last year’s Amelia was such a total loser for it at the box office.) Playing in 672 locations during its 4th week in release, it made only $1.5M this weekend for just a $4.7M cume.

Paramount Vantage, Participant Media, and Walden Media updated the grosses for their education documentary, Waiting for Superman at 242 locations now after 7 weeks in slow release. Its weekend estimate is $386K and its new cume is a very respectable $5.3M.

For more estimates listed by title, see box office results here...

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