Here's your weekend box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. Skyfall - $87.8 million
2. Wreck-It Ralph - $33.0 million
3. Flight - $15.1 million
4. Argo - $6.7 million
5. Taken 2 - $4.0 million
6. Here Comes the Boom - $2.55 million
7. Cloud Atlas - $2.52 million
8. Pitch Perfect - $2.50 million
9. The Man with the Iron Fists - $2.49 million
10. Hotel Transylvania - $2.35 million
The Big Stories
Whether you were the biggest release of the week or the smallest, you had a pretty solid weekend. Two worldly icons opened films and both exceeded expectations. The 23rd entry in the James Bond franchise posted its biggest numbers to date. Over $20 million higher than any opening weekend in its history and is easily on pace to cross $200 million and be the biggest film in the series. It is already more than halfway to the $160+ million posted by each of the three previous films. Meanwhile, Steven Spielberg's Lincoln started its preview run in extraordinary fashion, adding promise that the next seven-and-a-half weeks could add up to the biggest domestic box office year of all time.
"Bond like you've never seen him before." - Peter Travers
Well he still looks like Daniel Craig, drinks martinis, kicks ass and beds down women (even if they're emotionally damaged from the sex trade as a youth), so we're not sure what the hell Travers is talking about. Box office, on the other hand, is another story. Quantum of Solace took a pretty steep fall in 2008, grossing just $27 million after the five-day Thanksgiving weekend. That was its third weekend in release and it will be the same for Skyfall. Quantum's December competition in '08 was hardly inspiring either. Between the two holidays that year it had to face off against Punisher: War Zone, The Day the Earth Stood Still remake, Yes Man, Seven Pounds and The Tale of Despereaux and it still shrunk down to the 10th spot with the lowest multiplier the Bond series had ever seen. Yet, it remains the highest-grossing Bond film ever at $168.3 million. Skyfall will have passed that by the end of Thanksgiving weekend. Maybe even the beginning.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon ($142.83 million), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 ($138.1), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 ($125.0), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ($102.6), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone ($90.2), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets ($88.3), Skyfall ($87.0), The Incredibles ($70.4), Twilight ($69.6), Quantum of Solace ($67.5)
What we know is this: November has now been co-opted by three major franchises. Nine of the top 10 November openings belong to Twilight, Harry Potter and James Bond. The idiotic Twilight series will come to a close next week, taking the number-one slot and reducing Bond's presence on that list to a single title. It is unlikely that Silver Linings Playbook, Life of Pi or Red Dawn can overtake it over the holiday (as word of mouth will be very strong) leaving it to be third behind Twilight and Rise of the Guardians. The next two weeks after that its challengers will be a Brad Pitt film that the Weinsteins have all but written off (Killing Me Softly), a sequel to a horror film that about eight people have seen (The Collection) and a film with Gerard Butler (Playing for Keeps). Funny how those descriptions could be interchangeable. There is little chance Skyfall will fall out of the top three until The Hobbit comes along on December 14. Of the 42 films to open to more than $75 million, only one (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) failed to gross $200 million. If Skyfall takes to the average multiplier of the Bond series since Pierce Brosnan took over it would find itself with over $330 million. Though only 59% (25-of-42) films in that range have mustered that magic number.
How Many Scores In a Single Year?
Lincoln only opened in 11 theaters this weekend, prompting even many in big cities like Chicago (where it played at one) to wonder where they could see it. Apparently those able to find these phantom playhouses flooded it with attendance. Per-screen average is a pretty meaningless statistic in this regard. Remember all the fuss made over The Master's $147,262 back in September? Not even $16 million later and another Weinstein film is practically forgotten about. Lincoln's per-screen is about half that in twice as many screens. Supply, demand and roughly the same percentage of extrapolated patrons.
Pocahontas ($2,689,714), The Lion King ($1,586,753), Lincoln ($900,000), The Princess and the Frog ($786,190), The Master ($736,311), Memoirs of a Geisha ($682,504), Mystic River ($640,815), Midnight In Paris ($599,003), Dances with Wolves ($598,257), Brokeback Mountain ($547,425), Moonrise Kingdom ($522,996), A History of Violence ($515,992), Annie ($510,632)
Those are the highest grosses for openings on less than 15 screens and Lincoln clearly rose to the occasion. Only one of those films failed to gross $30 million. (Guess which one.) And only three failed to hit at least $55 million. When Lincoln begins a real release pattern on November 16 chances are it is going to have a very successful run as it makes a play to be Argo's biggest challenger for the Best Picture Oscar.
Chances of a Record-Breaking Year Increases
We have been promising a breakdown of this for the past few weeks now and it is time to start delivering. 2012 hit the $9 billion mark this week and is in no danger of hitting 10 for the fourth straight year. 2009 currently owns the highest calendar year on record. That is registered grosses from January 1-December 31 which means that $466 of Avatar's $749 million was actually grossed in 2010 (and it still came up $30 million short of '09's record.) So looking at that we have to consider what is possible between now and New Year's Eve. Basically that comes down to 23 films on this year's calendar compared to 24 released at the same time from last year. Why last year and not 2009? Work with me here.
As of last weekend the box office needed approximately $1.658 billion to overtake 2009. Making assumptions about the final grosses of Wreck-It Ralph, Flight and Argo that would put us only $1.442 billion without even factoring in every other film in the top 10 and beyond from last week. The 24 films we have our eye on from last year (from the second weekend of November on) grossed about $1.394 billion. That's only a $48 million difference from our goal and at least half of that should be made up by the stragglers we have not even considered yet.
Matching up genres, comparable titles and release patterns we can take to matching up Skyfall with last year's Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. The latter opened up far later and only had 16 days to make its $122 million, so we know Bond will have at least that much by next Friday. MI-4 was the third-highest-grossing film of the holiday season (up to December 31) of 2011. Second place by less than $2 million was the Sherlock Holmes sequel. The highest was Breaking Dawn -- Part I, which ended the year with $274.8 million. The finale should have no problem matching that and thus the box office should already be ahead of the game. If Lincoln can manage to unite the country into outgrossing 2011's already forgotten Immortals to the tune of $82.6 million or more, then watch out because 2012 could be the new gold standard for the box office to reach. Stay tuned right here for further analysis as it will start to get trickier as we get closer to the end of the year.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]
Erik Childress can be seen each Thursday morning on WCIU-TV's First Business breaking down the box office on the Movies & Money segment.