Here's your five-day holiday box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2 - $17.4 million
2. Skyfall - $17.0 million
3. Lincoln - $13.509 million
4. Rise of the Guardians - $13.5 million
5. Life of Pi - $12.0 million
6. Wreck-It Ralph - $7.02 million
7. Killing Them Softly - $7.0 million
8. Red Dawn - $6.5 million
9. Flight - $4.5 million
10 . The Collection - $3.4 million
The Big Stories
Welcome to each year's most notable dumping ground. It's the week just after Thanksgiving, where new releases generally come to die. With a few minor exceptions, studios have rarely tried to open anything much of note making one wonder if there really is a stigma to this particular weekend, or maybe nobody has really tried. The Weinstein Co. gave it its best shot with a Brad Pitt starrer, Killing Them Softly. While critics seemed to be mostly in favor of Andrew Dominik's gangster drama (79% at Rotten Tomatoes), surveyed audiences at Cinemascore gave it the rare "F" grade.
One of Brad Pitt's Worst Ever?
The Brad Pitt film marks only the eighth time in the survey company's history that a title got the failing mark, but also the third this year after The Devil Inside and Silent House. Amongst those eight films, there was so no love lost for Devil Inside or the Anna Paquin horror film, Darkness, each of which got less than 10% at Rotten Tomatoes. True "F" grades if there ever were. From there, though, the numbers go up significantly. While hardly stellar, critics were not nearly as harsh (in order) with Silent House (41%), The Box (45%) and Wolf Creek (53%), and were actually slightly favorable on William Friedkin's Bug (61%) and Steven Soderbergh's remake of Solaris (65%).
Not counting the holiday release patterns of Wolf Creek and Darkness (yes, they were released over Christmas), the other films on the list averaged a drop of 65.6% in their second weekends. Kind of makes that first weekend awareness pretty important, right? Killing Them Softly actually marks the worst wide-release opening of Brad Pitt's career (2400+ theaters) in which he was advertised as the leading man. The 79% approval came before the "F" grade of audiences. Does that tell you more about the quality of the film or how familiar people were with it?
These are the top 10 openers on the post-Thanksgiving weekend since 2000:
The Last Samurai ($24.2 million), Behind Enemy Lines ($18.7), Honey ($12.8), Aeon Flux ($12.6), Analyze That ($11.03), Brothers ($9.5), The Nativity Story ($7.8), Closer ($7.7), Killing Them Softly ($7.0), Armored ($6.5)
You can see Killing Them Softly ranks just behind Closer, a film which opened in a mere 476 theaters. How about a further trip down Dumping Ground Lane and see how many of them you remember.
Empire ($6.2 million), Awake ($5.8), Punisher: War Zone ($4.2), Everybody's Fine ($3.8), Turistas ($3.5), Cadillac Records ($3.44), The Collection ($3.40), The Warrior's Way ($3.04), National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj ($2.3), Nobel Son ($333,912), Transylmania ($263,941)
Those were just the wide releases, too, and you will notice that this weekend's other major release, the horror sequel The Collection, just barely beat the Van Wilder sequel without Van Wilder.
Everybody Else Doing Just Fine (with one exception)
Breaking Dawn -- Part 2's third weekend at number one continues to keep the film on pace to do at least $281 million. Skyfall is over $800 million worldwide and is likely to reclaim the number-one spot in the U.S. this week. It already claimed the number-one spot on this unique list.
Skyfall ($17.0 million), The Santa Clause ($11.3), Aladdin ($10.9), The Polar Express ($10.7), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets ($10.08), Dances with Wolves ($7.02), 2012 ($6.77), Quantum of Solace ($6.75), Unstoppable ($5.9), Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls ($5.7)
That is the list going back to 1990 of films on the post-Thanksgiving weekend on their fourth week of releaase. It's not even close. Lincoln would be number two except its first weekend was a limited release. Spielberg's film could hold on enough to take the number-two slot next weekend as Twilight drops. Lincoln will also be very close to passing the $100 million mark (probably by Monday or Tuesday of next week).
Ben Affleck's Argo reached the milestone this week to become the 24th film to hit nine digits in 2012. 2011 had 28 films reach that mark by the year's end. With only Lincoln and The Hobbit pretty much guaranteed to hit that by year's end, 2012 will only have 26, but big deal as the box office is still right on the verge of beating 2009's record.
It's going to need some help though. Rise of the Guardians has quickly turned into this year's Happy Feet Two in terms of box office, and without some hefty overseas numbers it's going to turn into the biggest disappointment for Paramount and Dreamworks in 2012. Life of Pi and Red Dawn are having no problems reaching their target grosses (based on films from 2011 - Hugo and J. Edgar), but Guardians is likely to leave at least $40 million on the table that needs to be made up by releases in the second half of December.
That is a lot of pressure on films in a very short amount of time, particularly The Hobbit which is already looking to pick up about $170 million of the remaining debt by year's end, so to speak. The U.S. box office will hit $10 billion for the fourth straight year this week. Whether or not it can pass $10.595 billion depends not just on the audience, but likely the strength of quality in the films as well.
Erik Childress can be seen each Thursday morning on WCIU-TV's First Business breaking down the box office on the Movies & Money segment.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]