Box office: 'Breaking Dawn' feasts on ticket sales over holiday [Updated]
"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1" raked in $62.3 million Wednesday to Sunday, according to an estimate from distributor Summit Entertainment. Since the film's release last weekend, the fourth installment in the franchise about vampires and werewolves has collected a whopping $221.3 million.
Meanwhile, three well-reviewed PG-rated films fought for young moviegoers at the multiplex. "The Muppets," starring Jim Henson's popular felt puppets, came out on top with a respectable $42 million over the five-day period. "Arthur Christmas," an animated 3-D holiday tale, took in a lackluster $17 million. Martin Scorsese's 3-D family drama "Hugo" grossed $15.4 million — almost as much as "Arthur" despite playing on about 2,000 fewer screens.
"The Muppets," which stars and was co-written by Jason Segel, performed far better than previous feature films featuring Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog. In 1999, "Muppets from Space" mustered only $22 million by the end of its run, while the better-reviewed "The Muppets Take Manhattan" collected $25 million.
Those who saw "The Muppets" this weekend loved it, giving it an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore. The movie — which cost Walt Disney Studios about $45 million to produce — appealed not only to but also to adults nostalgic for the 1970s television program "The Muppets Show." About 54% of the audience was under the age of 25. The movie attracted females and males in roughly equal measure.
"We played like a family film during the day, and as the evening business came on we continued to add dollars to the per-screen average with adults," said Dave Hollis, Disney’s executive vice president of distribution. "It was reminiscent of the re-release of 'The Lion King,' where we saw the nostalgia of something really generating interest across the board."
"The Muppets" also opened overseas in Mexico and India this weekend, where it collected a total of $1.6 million.
"Arthur Christmas" marks the first collaboration between Sony Pictures Animation and the British animation house Aardman Animations, the company known for creating the popular Wallace and Gromit characters.
This weekend, the film resonated most with a surprisingly older audience: Roughly 69% of the crowd was over the age of 25. Those who saw the picture about Santa’s son on a mission to deliver Christmas presents liked it, assigning it an average grade of A-.
Sony hopes strong word of mouth will propel the film to success in the coming weeks, as new family films — including "The Adventures of Tintin" and "Alvin and the Chipmunks" — open around Christmas. The film cost the studio about $100 million to produce.
"Hugo," an adaptation of the best-selling children's book "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," had a even larger budget. Financier Graham King said the movie cost less than $150 million to make, but another person familiar with the film's budget — who did not want to be identified so as not to damage business relationships — said it cost about $170 million. Paramount is releasing the picture for a fee and paying for the film's prints and advertising.
Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore acknowledged that the way "Hugo" was being released was unusual for a big-budget movie, but said he felt confident the strategy would pay off.
“Most expensive movies take the approach of spending as much as possible on opening weekend — people aren’t willing to let the movie be their biggest sales pitch,” he said. “We had exceptional reviews, so we reallocated marketing dollars and looked at Thanksgiving as the start of our release and spent a fraction of what we would normally spend on advertising.”
Scorsese's first family picture played best on Thanksgiving day, said Moore, when both parents and their children showed up to see the film. About 75% of those who saw the movie in its first five days of release opted to purchase a pricier 3-D ticket. Moore said a CinemaScore was not yet available for the film, because it debuted in a limited number of theaters.
"Hugo," about an orphan living in a 1930s Paris train station, will expand to more than 2,000 theaters Dec. 9.
[Updated at 12:26 p.m., Nov. 27: "Arthur Christmas" has sold more overseas than it has domestically. The film played in 24 foreign markets this weekend and raked in $11.9 million, bringing its international total to $39.3 million. The film has been performing well in Britain, where it opened last weekend, as well as in France and Australia.
Also faring better outside the U.S. is "A Dangerous Method," the David Cronenberg-directed drama starring Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen. The film about Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud opened in limited release stateside this weekend and has so far collected $240,944. But overseas — where Universal Pictures is distributing the film in four foreign countries — it has made $1.3 million. The film resonated most with audiences in Spain and Germany.
Here are the top 10 movies in the U.S. and Canada, based on their five-day grosses. Percentage drops are based on three-day grosses. International grosses are through Sunday only.
2. "The Muppets" (Disney): Opened to $42 million. $1.6 million overseas in two foreign markets.
3. "Happy Feet Two" (Warner Bros./Village Roadshow): $18.4 million on its second weekend, down 37%. $10 million overseas in 27 foreign markets. Domestic total: $43.8 million. International total: $14 million.
4. "Arthur Christmas" (Sony): Opened to $17 million. $11.9 million overseas in 24 foreign markets. International total: $22.3 million.
5. "Hugo" (Paramount/GK Films): Opened to $15.4 million.
6. "Jack and Jill" (Sony): $14.1 million on its third weekend, down 12%. $1.3 million overseas in 10 foreign markets. Domestic total: $57.4 million. International total: $8 million.
7. "Immortals" (Relativity): $12.5 million on its third weekend, down 29%. Domestic total: $68.6 million.
8. "Puss in Boots" (Paramount/DreamWorks Animation): $10.4 million on its fifth weekend, down 31%. $9 million overseas in 13 foreign markets. Domestic total: $135.4 million. International total: $62 million.
9. "Tower Heist" (Universal/Relativity): $10.2 million on its fourth weekend, up 3%. $7.3 million overseas in 46 foreign markets. Domestic total: $65.4 million. International total: $36.1 million.
10. "The Descendants" (Fox Searchlight): $9.2 million on its second weekend. Domestic total: $10.7 million.]
— Amy Kaufman
Photo: Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart star in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1." Credit: Summit Entertainment