It’s not a surprise to see two of the year’s mildest weekends following each other. It is, however, a bit of a departure to see them at the beginning of December. The top twenty films at the box office brought a cumulative $73.2 million, the worst weekend of 2011. That's right, even worse than last weekend which had no new wide releases. You can keep filling up the theaters with crap Hollywood, just don't expect anyone to go.
"New Year's Eve" led the weak crop, debuting with $13.7 million, a figure Warner Bros. is likely viewing as a big, big miss. “Valentine’s Day,” featuring the same star-studded premise from the same creative team, opened to a startling $56 million and powered it's way to over $200 million worldwide. There are ways to spin this: “Valentine’s Day” opened on V-Day weekend, capitilizing on the love in the air. Meanwhile December is not only a more competitive frame, people are shopping and preparing for Christmas, so the New Year's celebrations are weeks away, and probably out of sight, out of mind. It may show some legs in the lead to the year end holiday, and yet, the truth has to be acknowledged: this is a massively weak debut. 'NYE' had the weekend all to itself basically, and with zero wide releases the previous week, this thing just belly flopped. Don’t cross your fingers for Garry Marshall’s “Arbor Day” anytime soon.
“The Sitter” also opened to a little more than half what was expected. Again, it was a dry marketplace, and an R-rated comedy could have been positioned to do well this weekend. For Jonah Hill, it's his first effort being sold entirely on his name, right in his usual R-rated comedy wheelhouse. And while he's earning deserved praised for his dramatic turn in “Moneyball," it seems audiences aren't quite ready to see him do funny business on his own outside his Apatow gang of cohorts. This is also the second straight bomb this year for director David Gordon Green. While “The Sitter” wasn’t as pricey as “Your Highness,” Green has done three major studio comedies in a row, and audiences have soundly rejected the last two. Has he cashed all his chips? Not necessarily, as “The Sitter” was a cheap mulligan for Fox, and Green has proven he can work on miniscule budgets. However, with a C+ Cinemascore, Green may have to go indie for his next effort, which for his fans longing for a return to his earlier work, may not be a bad thing at all.
The vampires of 'Breaking Dawn' keep motoring along. The film is behind the pace of the other entries in the series thus far, and it probably won’t have the giddyup to get to $300 million domestic. But while it lags behind the $700 million the last two pictures averaged globally, it still crosses $600 million this weekend, and considering what Summit paid for these movies (with a final hurrah on the horizon), it’s a major win. That is a whole lot of people with low standards for entertainment.
“The Muppets” stayed afloat in the top five, though somehow Disney’s aggressive marketing push has failed to help the picture leapfrog 'Twilight,' itself bleeding viewers after a mammoth opening. The drop was more respectable compared to weekend two’s drop, but you don’t go whole hog on marketing like Disney did with 'Muppets' and then register satisfaction with a domestic take below $100 million. 'Muppets' will have to hustle to get to $90 million, though looking at previous 'Muppet' film grosses through the lens of inflation, that sounds about right.
Taking a rather quiet drop was “Arthur Christmas,” which might yet benefit from the approaching holidays. It’s still not close to redeeming that feeble opening, but the bet is that 'Arthur' plays into the new year, and does even better overseas. It was able to stay ahead of “Hugo” though that’s mostly due to the presence of six hundred more engagements. “Hugo” again expanded aggressively, adding 768 screens, but the film simply isn’t catching with general audiences, as its drop in gross was close to 20% during this frame. That’s the last major expansion the film was going to get, most likely, giving Paramount the distinction of releasing 2011’s most expensive film to never see 3000 screens.
Fox Searchlight added 302 locations for “The Descendants” this weekend, bringing the total to 876 and giving the film the highest per-screen average in the top ten. It’s still not exactly busting blocks, but Searchlight is smart enough to know the heat’s only beginning to collect. Once the awards’ heat picks up, expect the George Clooney film to be selling out in a solid thousand theaters nationwide. It stayed above “Happy Feet Two,” “Jack And Jill” and “Immortals,” all of which are just begging for a box office mercy killing.
In limited release, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” was the big winner, selling out on both coasts for a four screen total of a staggering $301k (good work people!). It’s uncertain if the film has crossover potential (we’d say probably not), but this was by far the hottest ticket at the movies this weekend, and an ongoing expansion should continue as the film generates awards chatter. The numbers for “Young Adult” were slightly less impressive. On eight screens, the film took in $320k, a decent start though it's still unknown if it can match the breakout success of Jason Reitman's previous efforts.
Like everyone else, Canada got “The Adventures Of Tintin” before America, and while that film launches in a couple of weeks, it pulled in $1.3 million at seventy Canadian locations. Meanwhile, an aggressive launch for Bollywood comedy “Ladies Vs. Ricky Bahl” helped that picture score $215k on only eighty screens. Not all was promising for some openers: two screens greeted “I Melt With You” to a meager $3k gross.
Standout holdovers were plenty. “The Artist” moved from ten to sixteen engagements and averaged $18k for a $290k total and a three week cume of $886k. Meanwhile, “My Life With Marilyn” hit $750k and passed the $5 million threshold, though its per-screen suggests its on the way out. “Shame” continues to do solid NC-17 business, with $275k at twenty one locations, while “A Dangerous Method” finished week three at four theaters (typical Sony Classics’ slow expansion) collecting $122k. Support your local arthouse theaters, boys and girls.
1. Dancing With The Stars, The Movie (Warner Bros.) – $13.7 million
2. The Sitter (Fox) – $10 million
3. Time To Imprint The Vampire Baby! (Summit) – $7.9 million ($259.5 mil.)
4. The Muppets (Disney) – $7 million ($65.8 mil.)
5. Arthur Christmas (Sony) – $6.6 million ($33.4 mil.)
6. Hugo (Paramount) – $6.1 million ($33.4 mil.)
7. The Descendants (Fox Searchlight) – $4.3 million ($23.6 mil.)
8. Step Up 2 Tha Happy Feet (Warner Bros.) – $3.7 million ($56.8 mil.)
9. Jack And Jill (Sony) – $3.2 million ($68.4 mil.)
10. Immortals (Relativity) – $2.4 million ($79.8 mil.)