SUNDAY 3:45 AM, 6TH UPDATE: (Saturday/Weekend/Holiday #s below)
What is there to say other than this 5-day Thanksgiving Holiday was a monster at the weekend box office. Best of all, audiences came out in droves for an overwhelming majority of original films as well as popular sequels. Hollywood today is giving thanks this is now the biggest-ever moviegoing T-Day holiday: $288M for the 5 days of domestic box office, smashing 2009′s record of $258.6M. It also beat the previous all-time 5-day moviegoing record set in 2009 of $270.5M. I don’t wanna hear these studios plead poverty to the Hollywood community for at least several months. (“We have no complaints,” agreed one studio bigwig.) In sharp contrast to Wednesday and Thanksgiving Day grosses, domestic box office went into overdrive on Friday by posting double- and triple-digit increases. Saturday stayed relatively flat, with only one film up in the Top 10.
Among holdovers, this will be another great #1 weekend for Summit Entertainment’s Twilight Saga finale Breaking Dawn Part 2. It’s worldwide estimate is now $577.7M after making another $161.4M around the globe this weekend. Domestic, its $43.07M represents the largest 2nd weekend gross for the Twilight Saga franchise. Internationally the film grossed $97.4M this weekend from 73 territories, bringing the film’s overseas cume to date to $350.8M. BD2 remained virtually #1 in all territories with the exception of Australia that debuted Skyfall and had the best-ever franchise opening in Germany ($15.2M) as well as strong debuts in Austria ($1.8M) and German Switzerland ($1.5M). With this weekend’s estimates, parent company’s Lionsgate International has crossed the $1 billion mark at the box office – the first time in the studio’s history. Its worldwide take for 2012 is now over the $2 billion mark, also a first. Actuals so far are domestic $1.18 billion, and international $1.005 billion.
#2 was Eon Productions/MGM/Sony Pictures’ James Bond #23 Skyfall which crossed $200M domestic over the weekend - the first 007 film ever to cross $200 million or more domestically. Skyfall‘s overall international cume is at least $568.4M and worldwide more than $790.1M. Australia and New Zealand came in as the biggest Bond openings ever and ranked among the top openings of the year, both #1 and both commanding 65% of the market this weekend. Australia bowed with $12.5 ($21k per screen). Despite the onslaught of the Twilight Saga finale, Skyfall‘s holdover stayed strong. On IMAX, pic made $7.5 mil domestic gross while its global cume to date on IMAX will be $49M.
#3 was Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln from DreamWorks/Fox/Disney. That biopic continues to find an audience – amazingly – in both red and blue states.
Unfortunately, among newcomers, #4 DreamWorks Animation’s Rise Of The Guardians 3D distributed by Paramount disappointed in its 3,653 locations (including 2,900 3D or IMAX presentations). Based on a series of best-selling books, toon fell -22% from Wednesday to Thursday, then came back very strong Friday – +149% - but dropped -3% Saturday. Overall, this Avengers-like team of fantasy characters from Santa Claus to the Easter Bunny to the Tooth Fairy and Despicable Me minion-like elves really underperformed and shockingly couldn’t even make it to $33M for the 5-day holiday. These days successful toons open to at least $40+M regular weekends and most Christmas-themed movies for kids are in demand this time of year, especially when there’s no pure family fare this holiday season. By contrast How To Train Your Dragon posted one of the slowest openings in DWA history and still eked out $43.7M for its 3-day non-holiday weekend. There’s still the chance Guardians might build momentum the same way Dragon did as its coveted ‘A’ CinemaScore helps word of mouth. It’s hard to pinpoint what went wrong in this quirky pic directed by Peter Ramsey as his feature film debut, scripted by David Lindsay-Abaire, produced by Guillermo del Toro, and featuring the voices of Hugh Jackman, Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Jude Law, Isla Fisher. Except some felt the pic was unextraordinary, unfunny, and its message about fame powering the world off-putting to parents. Others suggest its unique animation style makes it a tougher sell. It certainly didn’t perform for lack of marketing, which was omnipresent as usual.
DWA/Paramount even boasted that Rise Of The Guardians “is, by far, our most impactful and widest DWA online media campaign to date reaching over 200 million uniques with highly visible social, video, and gaming stunts. YouTube played a vital role”. In addition to, we partnered with Machinima, the largest male 13-34 gaming/entertainment video destination on the web (139MM worldwide uniques), to present an extended first look at the film. The trailer launched in April on Titanic 3D but also with other toons like Madagascar 3, Ice Age 4, Hotel Transylvania, and Wreck it Ralph. There also were a variety of custom ROTG in-theatre spots running on over 11,000 movie screens in the domestic market – all films, all ratings. The adult campaign kicked off October 7th with a blitz on ABC’s Once Upon A Time. There was no election campaigning for 36 hours “to stay out of the noise” but the toon jumped on Halloween, Thanksgiving and early Christmas TV programming. There was exclusive 3D footage presented at CinemaCon in April and Cannes in May. Facebook and Twitter were used as usual to amplify engagement with content launches and to drive purchase intent on release day. There also was the highest ‘Kids & Family’ reach of any DWA film “with the highest level of engagements we’ve seen to date”, I’m told. My last word is that this is going to be a headscratcher for months to come if Guardians can’t get its act together.
Twentieth Century Fox reports that Life Of Pi opened with $47.7M worldwide gross from just 4 international day and date territories - Taiwan, Hong Kong, India, China - and the US/Canada market. Additionally, pic debuted on IMAX in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Total was $3M on 97 IMAX screens for a per screen average of $30+K. Domestic, the studio was thrilled its #5 fantasy adventure pic with Avatar-like 3D climbed a massive +24% from Wednesday to Thursday - up more than any other top film in the marketplace. Then it went up +97% Friday, prompting a studio exec to gush, “The good news keeps coming at you like a hungry Richard Parker!” It dropped -7% on Saturday. This PG pic received an ‘A-’ CinemaScore which is keeping it overperforming. Before it opened, the studio told me it would rejoice if director Ang Lee’s Oscar-buzzed pet project opened over $20M – and it accomplished that. But at a costly $120M because of all that CGI. Exit polling showed it playing to a broad cross-section of moviegoers: 54% male and 46% female, 23% under age 18 and 38% under 25. Subject matter was far and away the primary driver for interest. The first footage debuted at Cinemacon on April 26th after which Life Of Pi was the opening night film at the New York Film Festival. Now the studio has launched its Oscar campaign. I give Fox high marks for a compelling marketing campaign despite a hard-to-describe faith-based storyline. For weeks before the picture opened, Fox tried to tamp down box office expectations, telling me how Life Of Pi was “a truly unique film that studios get criticized for not taking risks to make anymore. And, like any unique original film, it takes time to seep into the broader cultural awareness. And we feel this is a steady, gradual release that will grow as acclaim comes in and word of mouth spreads. This was a bestselling book that no one thought could be made into a feature film. We took the creative risk and backed a top filmmaker’s vision to go on a journey previously thought unfilmable.” As for its faith-based campaign, Fox says it made the film for a worldwide spiritual audience. ”The thing that is different from traditional ‘faith’ campaigns is that we have reached out to all denominations of religious backgrounds - Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, etc - and these leaders and organizations have really taken to the film. They like the storyline that Pi as a teenager has a rabid curiosity about faith and the differences (and similarities) that impact him spiritually and allow him to survive by embracing it.” Of course, Fox is still all about the bucks and its marketing promotions included Life Of Pi ‘inspired by’ merchandise like Christmas ornaments and mango black teas.
Besides spiritualists, the overall marketing focused on book lovers and film lovers. Written by David Magee based upon Yann Martel’s novel which has sold more than 9 million copies, pic was produced by Gil Netter, David Womark, and Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) who spent 4 years trying to get the project to the screen while the book was in development for 10 years. But it probably needed to wait because that’s some CGI Bengal tiger! (Out of more than 165 shots of Richard Parker, only 24 were of real tigers.) Unlike most Hollywood movies these days, Lee worked with only the one screenwriter, Magee, the entire time in development. He shot the films in 3 countries – India, Taiwan and Canada — with the multinational cast Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Tabu, Rafe Spall, and Gérard Depardieu. Suraj became the focus of the media campaign because of his backstory: he beat out 3,000 kids for the part and only attended the Delhi auditions because his brother was trying for the role and promised him a Subway sandwich if he came along. Suraj did not know how to swim when cast and had to learn along with perform all his own stunts.
Finishing only #7, FilmDistrict’s Red Dawn (2,724 theaters) dropped -22% from Wednesday to Thursday but recovered +88% Friday then dropped -10% Saturday. Not helping was that this action remake received only a so-so ‘B’ CinemaScore. But, heck, it’s a minor miracle that this pic is finally releasing since it was trapped for so long in MGM’s bankruptcy. Chris Hemsworth was still an unknown when cast back in 2008 but pic now benefits from his career trajectory into a big action star. Also unknown castmembers better known now are Josh Hutcherson and Adrianne Palicki. Directed by Dan Bradley, produced by Beau Flynn and Tripp Vinson, with credited screenwriters Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore, the plot is more or less the same as the 1984 Red Dawn: America is invaded (this time, not by Russians but by Koreans – changed from Chinese) and a group of good-looking guerrilla fighters claw back control of their town. FilmDistrict merely obtained distribution rights in September 2011 to this remake which MGM financed and put into production in 2009 (back when then studio head Mary Parent was crossing her fingers and hoping for the best). Once completed, the film was then shelved due to MGM’s financial mess. Pre-release tracking indicated the film could post a 5-day holiday in the very high teens with a 3-day weekend in the low teens. Given that, FilmDistrict’s biggest obstacle was how to market the movie for next to nothing. The trailer launched in August, and Red Dawnwas closed Fantastic Fest in Austin in September to start fanboy hype, followed by a heavy word-of-mouth screening program on over 100 military bases and college campuses. With the media focused on core M12-34 and P12-34 audiences, the campaign was heavy on sports TV channels, Comedy Central, Spike, WWE/UFC, BET, and the like. Digital integrated promotion of the new film with recognition of the original through contests for hometown screenings via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr. The film wound up playing best across the South, especially in Texas and surrounding states. It also played best in markets with larger military installations. Exit polling showed the audience was 62% male vs. 38% female, and 52% age 25 and older, and 20% under age 18 and older.
The Weinstein Co’s Oscar-buzzed Silver Linings Playbook is still on a slow rollout after Harvey changed the release strategy and didn’t go wide right away. Its gross went up +162% Friday and it eaned the distinction of being the only Top 10 movie to increase grosses (+3%) on Saturday. Still its per screen average needs to strengthen. Clearly the pic’s R rating puts off Jennifer Lawrence’s younger female fans who are still Twilight Saga-obsessed. And Bradley Cooper is by no means a box office sure thing. This adult comedy’s ability to earn big still has a big question mark.
Fox Searchlight’s much anticipated Oscar candidate Hitchcock starring Tony Hopkins and Hellen Mirren opened Friday in 17 theaters, earning $112K with a per screen average of $6,954. Again, I thought this PG13 AFI Fest opener would start stronger. It’s expected to platform this weekend to $312K. Shot entirely in LA this past May, this project from Tom Pollock and Ivan Reitman’s Montecito Picture Company came to Fox Searchlight with Sacha Gervasi already attached as the director. Pic’s classic Hollywood storytelling by screenwriter John J. McLaughlin and Stephen Rebello who wrote the book, as well as the performances, have merited an awards campaign, but it wasn’t helped by Hopkins’ recent attack on the whole campaigning process. With both Hopkins and Mirren working in London, now, the studio has been doing satellite Q&As for voters and media alike in advance of Hitchcock’s Academy premiere. Fox Searchlight will continue with a platform release over a four-week period, and then head into a limited national release into about 500 theaters for December 14th.
Also opening in limited release was Sony Pictures Classics’ Rust And Bone in 2 theaters. The R-rated drama made $9K and is expected to end the weekend with $24K. SPC was eager to work with French producer Pascal Chaucheteux again following Jacques Audiard‘s previous project, A Prophet. Here the company received an early draft of Rust And Bone with one of France’s biggest stars already committed – Marion Cotillard – further sparking interest. Audiard directed and also co-wrote with Thomas Bidegain and Craig Davidson. SPC picked up North American rights in addition to a few other territories. Consistent with the company’s release strategy, it has a platform rollout to put it into the zeitgeist. Pic opened Friday only in New York; Los Angeles follows on December 7th. The Friday before Christmas, it will open in 12 additional cities. At the end of January, it’ll go wider. SPC is hoping Rust And Bone receives awards consideration
And finally, Focus Features’ holdover Anna Karenina playing in 66 theaters grossed $307K Friday for what should be $807K for the 3-day weekend and $1M for the 5-day holiday. Cume for this R-rated adaptation directed by Joe Wright and starring Keira Knightly should be $1.4M.
Here’s the Top 10 based on 3-day weekend estimates. Check back for refined numbers.
1. Breaking Dawn Part 2 (Summit/Lionsgate) Week 2 [Runs 4,070] PG13
Wednesday $12.9M, Thursday $8.0M, Friday $17.4M, Saturday $16.8M (-9%)
3-day Weekend $43.0M (-69%), 5-day Holiday $64.0M, Cume $226.9M
2. Skyfall (Eon/MGM/Sony) Week 3 [Runs 3,526] PG13
Wednesday $7.4M, Thursday $7.7M, Friday $14.7M, Saturday $14.0M (-4%)
3-Day Weekend $36.0M, 5-Day Holiday $51.0M, Cume $221.7M
3. Lincoln (DreamWorks/Fox/Disney) Week 3 [Runs 2,018] PG13
Wednesday $4.2M, Thursday $4.8M, Friday $9.9M, Saturday $9.8M (-2%)
3-Day Weekend $25.0M, 5-Day Holiday $34.0M, Cume $62.1M
4. Rise Of The Guardians 3D (DreamWorks Anim/Par) NEW [Runs 3,653] PG
Wednesday $4.8M, Thursday $3.7M, Friday $9.2M, Saturday $9.1M (-3%)
3-day Weekend $24.0M, 5-Day Holiday $32.6M
5. Life Of Pi 3D (Fox) NEW [Runs 2,927] PG
Wednesday $3.6M, Thursday $4.4M, Friday $8.8M, Saturday $8.4M (-5%)
3-Day Weekend $22.0M, 5-Day Weekend $30.1M
6. Wreck-It Ralph 3D (Disney) Week 4 [Runs 3,259] PG
Wednesday $3.7M, Thursday $2.5M, Friday $6.7M, Saturday $6.5M (-3%)
3-Day Weekend $16.7M, 5-Day Holiday $23.0M, Cume $149.5M
7. Red Dawn (Film District) NEW [Runs 2,724] PG13
Wednesday $4.2M, Thursday $3.2M, Friday $6.0M, Saturday $5.4M (-10%)
3-Day Weekend $14.6M, 5-Day Holiday $22.0M