"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1" took in $42 million domestically over the three-day weekend and $62.3 million in the five-day Thanksgiving boom time from Wednesday to Sunday. That raised its domestic total to $221.3 million, while the Summit Entertainment release added $71.5 million overseas to lift the international total to $268 million and the worldwide take to $489.3 million.
Debuting at No. 2 was Disney's family flick "The Muppets," with $29.5 million for the three-day weekend and $42 million over the five-day holiday haul.
Three other family films rounded out the top-five: the Warner Bros. sequel "Happy Feet Two" at No. 3 with a three-day total of $13.4 million and $18.4 million for five days; Sony's animated comedy "Arthur Christmas" at No. 4 with $12.7 million for three days and $17 million for five days; and Paramount's epic adventure "Hugo" at No. 5 with $11.4 million for three days and $15.4 million for five days.
Between "Breaking Dawn" and the blitz of family films, analysts thought Hollywood had a shot at record revenue over Thanksgiving, one of the year's busiest weekends at movie theaters. But viewers did not come in anywhere close to record numbers.
"I was pretty surprised by this. I just thought this was the perfect combination of films in the marketplace," said Paul Dergarabedian, analyst for box-office tracker Hollywood.com. "Maybe there was just too much out there."
Domestic revenue totaled $234 million from Wednesday to Sunday, well below the $273 million record set two years ago, when "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" led the Thanksgiving weekend, according to Hollywood.com. Receipts also fell short of last Thanksgiving's $264 million haul, when "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" finished on top.
Studio executives concede it's growing harder to lure fans into theaters given all the portable games, devices and other electronics people have to fill up their entertainment time. A so-so Thanksgiving on a weekend with such a good variety of movies could be a sign that Hollywood simply has to live with diminished expectations.
"I don't know that choice is ever a bad thing, and in terms of a weekend for families, this is one of the best," said Dave Hollis, head of distribution for Disney, which brought "The Muppets" back to the big-screen after a 12-year absence. "The challenge is breaking through and being relevant and meaningful and fresh enough to take the more finicky customers and have them choose you."
Disney reported that "The Muppets" drew a good mix of families and couples without children who fondly remember Kermit, Miss Piggy and the rest of the gang on "The Muppet Show." The film stars Jason Segel and Amy Adams as fans helping to reunite the Muppets for a telethon to save their decaying studio.
"Breaking Dawn" was holding close to the pattern set by "New Moon" two years ago, though domestic revenues were off slightly. Factoring in higher ticket prices since "New Moon," the audience shrank even further for "Breaking Dawn."
"I think the audience has changed a bit. Everybody's grown a little older, and I guess we lose a few of our patrons to age," said Richie Fay, head of distribution for Summit.
With no big new releases coming next weekend, though, "Breaking Dawn" has a shot at making up some ground, Fay said.
"Happy Feet Two" has failed to live up to its Academy Award-winning predecessor, a blockbuster that took in nearly $200 million domestically. The sequel about dancing penguins has managed just $43.8 million since opening Nov. 18, a 10-day total that barely matches the opening-weekend gross of the 2006 original.
"Arthur Christmas," from the British animation unit Aardman that made "Chicken Run" and the "Wallace and Gromit" films, has long-haul potential because of its good reviews and holiday story line. The voice cast includes James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie and Jim Broadbent in a Christmas Eve romp about a child's present that falls through the cracks in Santa Claus' high-tech delivery operation.
"To have the one picture that really is kind of carrying the torch as a Christmas picture really bodes well for the future," said Rory Bruer, head of distribution for Sony.
Distributor Paramount has similar long-term hopes for Martin Scorsese's "Hugo," which also has great reviews. Based on a children's book, "Hugo" follows the adventures of an orphan boy who tends the clocks in a Paris train station and becomes caught up in unraveling a mystery that connects a surly old man (Ben Kingsley) and a mechanical automaton the youth is trying to repair.
Paramount scaled back "Hugo" from a full wide release over Thanksgiving, opening it in 1,277 theaters, about a third the number for most other top movies. The studio plans to roll the film out more gradually, spreading its marketing budget over the coming weeks to capitalize on the critical word of mouth and potential awards buzz leading up to the Jan. 24 Oscar nominations.
Critics have praised "Hugo" for Scorsese's dazzling use of 3-D. Unlike 3-D fatigue that set in for some other recent movies, whose 3-D business dipped below half of total revenues, "Hugo" audiences have been willing to pay an extra few dollars to see it in three dimensions. About 75 percent of the film's revenue came from 3-D screenings, according to Paramount.
"People are reading the reviews that say, `You've got to see it in 3-D,' and they're going out and voting with their dollars," said Don Harris, head of distribution at Paramount.
In narrower release, the Marilyn Monroe drama "My Week with Marilyn" opened solidly with a $1.8 million weekend and $2.1 million since opening Wednesday. The Weinstein Co. release stars Michelle Williams as Monroe during her tumultuous time filming Laurence Olivier's "The Prince and the Showgirl."
Playing in 244 theaters, "My Week with Marilyn" had a weekend average of $7,266 a cinema, compared with a $10,330 average in 4,066 locations for "Breaking Dawn."
Another Weinstein release, the black-and-white silent film "The Artist," had a big opening in limited release with a three-day haul of $210,414 in just four New York City and Los Angeles theaters. That gave the film an average of $52,604 a theater.
"The Artist" traces the fall of a silent-film star (Jean Dujardin) and the rise of a new screen sensation (Berenice Bejo) as talking pictures take over in the 1920s and `30s. The acclaimed film gradually expands to nationwide release during the buildup to the Oscar nominations.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1," $42 million
($71.5 million international).
2. "The Muppets," $29.5 million ($1.6 million international).
3. "Happy Feet Two," $13.4 million.
4. "Arthur Christmas," $12.7 million ($11.9 million international).
5. "Hugo," $11.4 million.
6. "Jack and Jill," $10.3 million.
7. "Immortals," $8.8 million.
8. "Puss in Boots," $7.5 million ($9 million international).
9. "Tower Heist," $7.3 million ($7.3 million international).
10. "The Descendants," $7.2 million.
Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.