‘Breaking Dawn’ wins box office, ‘Muppets’ has respectable take


LOS ANGELES — The good news for studios was that
overall, people liked what they saw in theaters over the long
Thanksgiving holiday. The bad news was that there were a lot fewer of
them than in years past.

In fact, despite some
well-received new movies, it was the slowest Thanksgiving movie-going
weekend in the past four years. Ticket sales were down roughly 11
percent compared with the same period last year. So far this year,
attendance is off about 5 percent and box office receipts are down about
4 percent.

“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn —
Part 1” was easily the No. 1 film, taking 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
vampire romance franchise has collected $221.3 million.

three well-reviewed PG-rated films fought for young moviegoers at the
multiplex with varying degrees of success. “The Muppets,” the latest
film incarnation of 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 “Hugo,” a lavish 3-D family story about the
early days of filmmaking, grossed $15.4 million — almost as much as
“Arthur” despite playing on about 2,000 fewer screens.

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.

Those who saw “The Muppets” over the
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 kids, but
also to adults nostalgic for the 1970s television program “The Muppets
Show.” About 54 percent of the audience was younger than 25.

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.”

“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, and so far the results are not
promising, at least in the U.S.

This weekend, the
film resonated most with a surprisingly older audience: Roughly 69
percent of the audience was older. Those who saw the picture about
Santa’s son on a mission to deliver Christmas presents enjoyed it,
assigning it an average grade of A-minus.

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
the latest Alvin and the Chipmunks adventure — open around Christmas.
Despite the increasing competition, Sony’s distribution president, Rory
Bruer, said he was confident the picture would “hold in like a rock”
through Christmas.

“We’ll definitely have a marketing campaign throughout the holiday season,” he said.

Christmas,” which cost Sony about $100 million to produce, has sold
more tickets 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.

“Hugo,” an
adaptation of the best-selling children’s book “The Invention of Hugo
Cabret,” had an even larger budget than “Arthur Christmas.” 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.

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.”

was promising news for another critical favorite over Thanksgiving:
“The Descendants.” The Alexander Payne drama, which stars George
Clooney, took in a strong $9.2 million over the five-day period as it
expanded to more than 400 theaters. The film, a likely Oscar contender,
will get a push all through awards season.


©2011 the Los Angeles Times

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