November 19, 2011



BREAKING DAWN PART 1:  Christmas comes but once a year, and for Summit that day is the 24 hours after a Twilight movie opens.  (A little credit to the studio, too, for not fudging the numbers, which would have been easy enough to do since they’re so close, in order to claim a franchise record for Friday.)  The $72M Breaking Dawn earned was a bit more front-loaded from Thursday midnight screenings than New Moon‘s $72.7M had been in 2009 (42% compared to 36%), and the same may well apply to Friday’s chunk of the 3-day weekend total.  New Moon‘s Friday was just about 51% of its $142.8M weekend, so Breaking Dawn 1 might end up around $135M, which would make it the 5th or 6th highest opening weekend ever (Pirates of the Caribbean 2 is at $135.8M).

HAPPY FEET 2:  The original Happy Feet, somewhat unusually these days for an animated film, made more in the US than overseas ($198M vs $187M).  If that holds for the sequel, it’ll be bad news for Warners, since Happy 2 is headed for an opening only half as big as its predecessor’s.  Even worse, while the Thanksgiving weekend competition in 2006 only featured one weak family movie (Deck the Halls), this year Happy 2 has a tidal wave heading straight for it, with The Muppets, Arthur Christmas and Hugo all arriving on Wednesday.  That may well mean a less healthy multiple, and the possibility that the film could very unhappily fail to reach $100M in the US.
THE DESCENDANTS:  A strong but not overwhelming opening for  a presumed Oscar front-runner, with what should be around a $40K average in each of 26 theatres.  That’s considerably less than Black Swan‘s $80K average at 18 last year, although it compares well with The King’s Speech‘s $31K at 19.  But we’ll know more about the boxoffice prospects of Descendants quickly, because it’s expanding into 500+ theatres on Wednesday.
Holdovers:  Not a pretty picture.  IMMORTALS will dive by 60%, which is no surprise.  But awful word of mouth has quickly caught up with JACK AND JILL, which will drop from its weak opening by at least 50%.  It’s unlikely to get past $75M, which will make it Adam Sandler’s lowest-grossing comedy vehicle since Little Nicky in 2000 (which made less but also cost a lot less than J&J‘s $80M budget).  Audiences were similarly unimpressed with J. EDGAR, which is looking at a 50% drop for the weekend, worse than Hereafter had last year.  The picture seems unlikely to make more than $30-35M in total, meaning some respectful nominations but no real Oscar momentum. PUSS IN BOOTS took a big hit for the first time in its run, and should drop 50% this weekend.
Indies:  No big titles wanted to get in the way of The Descendants this weekend.  But LIKE CRAZY expanded to 108 theatres and should do a nice $5K in each.  And sadly, the excellent but difficult to watch TYRANNOSAUR (which is not about dinosaurs) failed to get the reviews it desperately needed, especially in the NY Times, and may not even manage $2K in each of its 5 theatres.
Next Weekend:  As noted above, an avalanche of family entertainment invades for the holiday, with The Muppets, Arthur Christmas and Hugo fighting it out.  Also, some major award hopefuls will make their appearances:  David Cronenberg’s A DANGEROUS METHOD and Michelle Williams’ awards express MY WEEK WITH MARILYN arrive on Wednesday (the latter in a semi-wide run of a few hundred theatres), while THE ARTIST opens on Friday. 

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."