November 20, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Metcalf
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Three Muppets at a Rehearsal

Thanksgiving weekend brings three well-reviewed family/ holiday entries and a mild expansion for a comedic-drama with Oscar hopes.  Total box office volume should be around $161 million for the three-day portion of the weekend, down about 6% from the same weekend last year when Tangled and Burlesque opened and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 continued very solidly in its second weekend.  Last year the top two films grossed almost $50 million each, while this year the top two will be closer to $40 million each.        

Opening at 3,440 theaters in North America by Disney, The Muppets should average a very good $10,250 per theater during the traditional three-day weekend (for $35.0 million for Friday-Sunday and $49 million from Wednesday-Sunday) .  (All films the last two years have averaged $5,525 per theater in their opening weekend.)  Early reviews are terrific: 98% positive at RottenTomatoes.  The film should finish domestically with about $140 million.   

Opening at 3,376 theaters, Arthur Christmas from Sony should average a very mediocre $4,960 per theater (for $17.0 million Friday-Sunday and $23 million Wednesday-Sunday).  The animated family holiday film is 94% positive at RottenTomatoes, but the audience does not seem attracted to it based on tracking studies — the animation quality does look pretty poor in TV commercials, particularly the renderings of human faces.  Arthur Christmas is headed for around $90 million domestically, if it’s lucky.

With a fairly limited release (1,277 theaters), Hugo from Paramount and Martin Scorcese should average a just okay $6,070 per theater during the three-day weekend ($8.0 million Friday-Sunday and $11 million Wednesday-Sunday).  Continuing the trend of quality this weekend, Hugo has received a stellar 96% positive reviews at RottenTomatoes so far.  If word of mouth is great and builds just as the theater count expands toward Christmas, Hugo could surprise.  But right now it is looking like a $40 million picture domestically.

Who would have thought the next movie from Sideways director Alexander Payne would have the lowest positive review score of the films opening or expanding significantly this weekend?  The Descendants (starring George Clooney and filled with Oscar buzz) has 91% positive at RottenTomatoes — a very good score but lower than the three openers.  Moving from 29 to around 500 theaters, The Descendants should average around $8,300 per theater this weekend ($4.2 million from Friday-Sunday and over $7 million since its opening).      

New Films                        Critics    Opening  Domestic
November 25-27                   Positive   Weekend   Total*

The Muppets             Dis  PG    98%      $35.0     $140
Arthur Christmas       Sony  PG    94%      $17.0     $ 90
Hugo                    Par  PG    96%      $ 8.0     $ 40
The Descendants         Fox  R     91%      $ 4.5     $ 26

Note: Although critic reviews are not related to the size of the opening weekend, they are significantly correlated with the size of the declines in the opening weeks of a movie.
* The Domestic Total is a very early ShowBuzzDaily projection of the total North American gross, based on the Weekend Forecasts.

Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 will plummet over 70% this weekend (typical for a very front-loaded Twilight film) but still should have enough in the tank to hold off those annoying Muppets.  It should be an interesting race for the top spot — the Muppets certainly have intense fans but we shall see how wide the base is.   

Major Returning Films            Change     This    Domestic
November 25-27                  vs wknd 1  Weekend   Total*

Twilight Breaking Dawn 1Sum       -71%      $39.5     $310
Happy Feet Two          WB        -11%      $19.0     $135

Immortals              Rel        -38%      $ 7.7     $ 91
Puss in Boots       DW/Par        -17%      $ 9.0     $177
Jack and Jill         Sony        -28%      $ 8.5     $ 75

Tower Heist            Uni        -27%      $ 5.2     $ 76
J. Edgar                WB        -28%      $ 4.3     $ 33

Box Office Volume

For the past four years, the top 12 films in the comparable weekend have averaged $144 million total, ranking 15th of 52 weeks.  Last year this weekend’s total was $171 million, and the same weekend in 2009 was $175 million.  This Friday-Sunday is looking like $161 million, down 6% from this weekend last year and up 11% from the four-year average for this weekend.       

This Weekend Last Two Years

 Tangled DIS PG   
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $31  Actual: $49
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $147  Actual: $201
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $390
 Burlesque SONY PG13 Christina Aguilera Cher 
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $12  Actual: $12
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $40  Actual: $39
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $50
 Love and Other Drugs FOX R Jake Gyllenhaal Anne Hathaway 
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $10  Actual: $10
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $36  Actual: $32
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $70
 Faster CBS R Billy Bob Thornton Maggie Grace 
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $12  Actual: $9
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $27  Actual: $23
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $12
 Old Dogs DIS PG John Travolta Robin Williams  
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $23  Actual: $17
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $43  Actual: $49
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $47
 Ninja Assassin WB R   
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $13  Actual: $13
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $39  Actual: $38
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $24
 The Fantastic Mr Fox FOX PG   
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $11  Actual: $7
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $25  Actual: $21
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $25

Come back throughout the long holiday weekend to see how the movies actually perform.  Thursday through Saturday mornings we will have an early look at how the pre-weekend and weekend are shaping up as a whole, on Sunday we will have initial studio estimates (based on Friday and Saturday actuals), and Monday we will have the final weekend numbers.

About the Author

Mitch Metcalf
MITCH METCALF has been tracking every US film release of over 500 screens (over 2300 movies and counting) since the storied weekend of May 20, 1994, when Maverick and Beverly Hills Cop 3 inspired countless aficionados to devote their lives to the art of cinema. Prior to that, he studied Politics and Economics at Princeton in order to prepare for his dream of working in television. He has been Head of West Coast Research at ABC, then moved to NBC in 2000 and became Head of Scheduling for 11 years.