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'New Moon' drives second-biggest weekend ever for movie industry

November 22, 2009 | 11:13 am

"Twilight: New Moon"

Summit Entertainment had the kind of opening studio executives dream about this weekend, but it's hard to find anyone in the movie business who's not smiling.

Although Summit's "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" opened to a massive $140.7 million in the U.S. and Canada, according to studio estimates, it wasn't the only film to perform well. "The Blind Side," which Warner Bros. distributed for financier Alcon Entertainment, opened to $34.5 million, very strong for a modestly budgeted drama. Festival and critics' favorite "Precious" more than tripled its theater count and kept up its winning ways, grossing $11 million at 629 locations.

With one huge hit, numerous strong performers and no real flops, total box-office receipts expanded to nearly $260 million, according to several studio executives and Hollywood.com. That's the second-biggest nonholiday weekend ever, behind only the one in July 2008 when "The Dark Knight" launched and movie theaters collected just over $260 million.

"It's a really good sign for the industry," said Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros. "It just goes to show you that good movies can expand the marketplace."

Several movies are well positioned to keep playing strongly throughout the holidays, most notably "The Blind Side," which garnered an average grade of A-plus from moviegoers, according to market research firm CinemaScore. It's only the second film this year to get a perfect grade, along with "Up." It could easily collect more than $150 million by the end of the year, making it very profitable for Alcon and Warner Bros., which receives a distribution fee.

"New Moon" is sure to drop significantly after its massive debut. The first "Twilight" fell 62% from its opening on Thanksgiving weekend and the sequel will probably do the same. Nonetheless, if it follows the path of its predecessor, "New Moon" will end up grossing more than $300 million domestically and the same amount overseas, making it one of the most profitable pictures of the year. Summit spent only $50 million to produce its second teen vampire flick based on the bestselling novels.

Overseas, "2012" continues to perform extremely well. It grossed $100.5 million overseas, down 37% from its international debut last weekend. That was helped by a huge $7-million launch in Japan, the biggest for any nonlocal movie this year. Domestically, "2012" dropped 59%. The worldwide total gross for Sony's disaster flick from director Roland Emmerich, which cost $200 million to produce, is a very strong $449.8 million.

"Broken Embraces" Two films performed extremely well in limited release in the U.S. and Canada. Sony Pictures Classics opened the Pedro Almodovar picture "Broken Embraces," starring Penelope Cruz, to $107,597 at just two theaters. On its second weekend, Fox's stop-motion animated picture "Fantastic Mr. Fox" collected $199,200 from four theaters, down just 25%. It starts playing nationwide Wednesday.

First Look Pictures opened the new Nicolas Cage crime drama "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans," directed by Werner Herzog, to a so-so $257,267 at 27 locations.

Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office, according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com:

1. "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" (Summit): Opened to $140.7 million domestically and $118.1 million overseas.

2. "The Blind Side" (Warner Bros./Alcon): Debuted to a very healthy $34.5 million.

3. "2012" (Sony): Fell 59% on its second weekend to $26.5 million. Overseas it grossed $100.5 million, down 37%. Total domestic ticket sales are $108.2 million. Total foreign ticket sales are $341.1 million.

4. "Planet 51" (Sony/Ilion): The animated family film opened to a decent $12.6 million.

5. "A Christmas Carol" (Disney): Fell 45% on its third weekend, a much bigger drop than its second weekend, to $12.2 million. Domestic total: $79.8 million.

6. "Precious" (Lionsgate): $11 million on its third weekend as it expanded to 629 theaters. Domestic total: $21.4 million.

7. "The Men Who Stare at Goats" (Overture/BBC/Winchester Capital): $2.8 million, down 53% on its third weekend. $27.6 million domestic total so far.

8. "Couples Retreat" (Universal/Relativity): Fell 53% on its seventh weekend to $2 million. Domestic total is now $105 million. Foreign total: $37.7 million.

9. "The Fourth Kind" (Universal/Gold Circle): Down 62% on its third weekend to $1.7 million. $23.3 million domestic total.

10. "Law Abiding Citizen" (Overture/Film Department): Declined 57% to $1.6 million on its sixth weekend, bringing its U.S. and Canadian total to $70 million.

-- Ben Fritz

Top photo: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner in "The Twilight Saga: New Moon." Credit: Kimberley French / Summit Entertainment.

Bottom photo: Penelope Cruz and Lluis Homar in "Broken Embraces." Credit: Emilio Pereda / Paola Ardizzoni / Sony Pictures Classics.

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