The Sony Pictures action saga tells the story of a scramble to save remnants of humanity aboard giant arks as the earth's crust shifts and flood waters pour over most of the planet. With a cast led by John Cusack, Danny Glover and Chiwetel Ejiofor, "2012" was directed by doomsday specialist Roland Emmerich ("Independence Day," "The Day After Tomorrow").
Overseas, "2012" did $17.2 million in France, $15.3 million in Russia, $9.9 million in South Korea and $8.1 million in Spain. Domestically, "2012" came in just shy of the $68.7 million opening weekend for "The Day After Tomorrow." But Sony reported that its global total was the best ever for an original movie not based on an established franchise, brand or best-selling novel.
"Roland is that type of filmmaker that casts his net really wide," said Rory Bruer, head of distribution for Sony. "The story is something people could really relate to. It's a story of the survival of humanity."
"Disney's A Christmas Carol" slipped to No. 2 with $22.3 million, down only 26 percent from its No. 1 opening gross a weekend earlier. The Jim Carrey holiday adventure raised its 10-day total to $63.3 million.
Big films typically can drop 50 percent or more in the second weekend, but the strong hold for "A Christmas Carol" indicates it could have a long shelf life through the holidays. Lionsgate's acclaimed drama "Precious: Based on the Novel `Push' by Sapphire" broke into the top-10 as it expanded to more theaters after a huge debut in limited release the previous weekend.
Finishing at No. 4, "Precious" took in $6.1 million in 174 theaters, averaging $35,000 a cinema and raising its 10-day total to $8.9 million. That compared to a $19,095 average in 3,404 theaters for "2012."
With a cast that includes Mo'Nique, Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz, "Precious" stars newcomer Gabourey Sidibe as a Harlem teen pulling herself out of an abyss of illiteracy, incest and domestic abuse.
"Michael Jackson's "This Is It" added $5.1 million domestically to raise its total to $67.2 million. The Sony release became the all-time top-grossing music documentary, passing the $65.3 million total of last year's "Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert."
The weekend's other new wide release, Focus Features' rock 'n' roll comedy "Pirate Radio," opened a weak No. 11 with $2.9 million in 882 theaters, averaging $3,253 a cinema.
The ensemble cast of "Pirate Radio" features Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy and Kenneth Branagh in a story about 1960s disc jockeys blasting illicit rock music into stodgy Britain from an offshore radio station aboard a tanker.
Starting in limited release, Fox Searchlight's animated comedy "Fantastic Mr. Fox" drew big audiences with $260,000 in four theaters, for a whopping average of $65,000 a cinema. The film expands to nationwide release the day before Thanksgiving.
George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Bill Murray lead the voice cast of "Fantastic Mr. Fox," adapted by director Wes Anderson from the Roald Dahl children's book about a poultry-thieving fox and three evil farmers.
Paramount's micro-budgeted horror flick "Paranormal Activity" pulled in $4.2 million to cross the $100 million mark. Shot for just $15,000, the supernatural tale rode a surge of online buzz to become a horror sensation, with a domestic gross now standing at $103.8 million.
Despite the big opening for "2012," Hollywood business dipped. Overall revenues came in at $140 million, down 6 percent from the same weekend a year ago, when the James Bond adventure "Quantum of Solace" led with $67.5 million.
Still, "2012" was a strong prelude as Hollywood gears up for Thanksgiving, one of the busiest weekends at movie theaters. "It feels totally like summer," said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com. "This proves that if you put a summer movie anywhere in the release schedule, you can sometimes get summer numbers."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "2012," $65 million. 2. "Disney's A Christmas Carol," $22.3 million. 3. "The Men Who Stare at Goats," $6.2 million. 4. "Precious: Based on the Novel `Push' by Sapphire," $6.1 million. 5. "Michael Jackson's This Is It," $5.1 million. 6. "The Fourth Kind," $4.7 million. 7. "Couples Retreat," $4.3 million. 8. "Paranormal Activity," $4.2 million. 9. "Law Abiding Citizen," $3.9 million. 10. "The Box," $3.2 million. ---
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Universal Pictures and Focus Features are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of General Electric Co.; Sony Pictures, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount and Paramount Vantage are divisions of Viacom Inc.; Disney's parent is The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is a division of The Walt Disney Co.; 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Fox Atomic are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a consortium of Providence Equity Partners, Texas Pacific Group, Sony Corp., Comcast Corp., DLJ Merchant Banking Partners and Quadrangle Group; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC Films is owned by Rainbow Media Holdings, a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems Corp.; Rogue Pictures is owned by Relativity Media LLC; Overture Films is a subsidiary of Liberty Media Corp.