For years on end, the weekend after Thanksgiving has been an unusually ghastly one for box office. And this year was no exception. We had three wide-release openers, only one of which really made a mark, while the number one film was a word of mouth sensation that basically outlasted its competition. As expected, the top film of the weekend was The Blind Side. Following two weekends of playing second-fiddle to New Moon, the Sandra Bullock heartwarmer capitalized on weak openers and a steadily crashing Twilight sequel to earn $20 million in its third weekend. While it dropped by 50% from last weekend, that's by far the lowest drop in the top ten. It's also earned in its third weekend what most people thought it would earn in its opening sprint.
The Blind Side has now amassed $128.8 million, becoming Sandra Bullock's second-highest domestic performer, after this year's The Proposal. Expect this new entry to eclipse that film's $163.9 million total in the next couple weeks at worst. This one is surely playing the long game, as it will likely hover around the top five right into the new year. And if Sandra Bullock scores a (deserved) Best Actress nomination at this year's Academy Awards, then $200 million may just be the start for this one. And don't be too surprised if this one sneaks into the expanded Best Picture race, especially as critics are currently trashing Nine and relatively divided on The Lovely Bones. And although the field is already too crowded, it would be nice if Warner waged a Best Actor campaign for Quinton Aaron. The film works because it's every bit as much his story as Bullock's.
Coming in second place is Twilight Saga: New Moon, which plunged another 64% following last weekend's epic 70% dive. For the record, the first Twilight dropped 62% in its second weekend and 50% in its third, so this sequel is proving itself to be far more frontloaded. The sequel's $15. million third-weekend gross is just above the original's $13 million third-weekend take, despite doubling the opening weekend. And really, to go from $142 million to $15 million in three weekends is kind of staggering. Still, the film has amassed $255.3 million domestically and $570 million worldwide. In a bittersweet note, the film has officially knocked Tim Burton's Batman off the top-50 domestic grossers list, but I promise to be strong and shed no tears (besides, in today's numbers, Batman would have grossed $452 million). At this point, it will likely be an uphill struggle to get to $300 million, but I doubt Summit is going to allow themselves to lose that particular bragging right. The series has probably peaked with this second installment, which basically means that the only ones who will show up for the next two (or three?) installments will be actual fans. No harm in that, the Harry Potter series has been in that position since the fourth picture and they can still count on a $290 million domestic take, give or take a few bucks.
Third place went to our first opening, Lionsgate's Brothers. This remake of a Danish drama opened with $9.5 million, which actually gives it (I think...) the biggest opening for any recent Iraq/Afghanistan war film (The Kingdom took place in Saudi Arabia). The post-traumatic-stress potboiler has garnered okay reviews and solid notices for Toby Maguire, so it should stick around for a few weekends. A Christmas Carol lost 400 screens and plummeted 50%. At $115 million, it's still a bit ahead of The Polar Express but its day-to-day comparisons are starting to drop. Sadly, this one really only has one more weekend left, as it loses its 3D and IMAX screens to Avatar on the 18th. Fifth place went to Old Dogs, which plunged 59% for a new total of just $33.9 million. Still, the production budget was just $35 million so it's pretty much gravy from here on in. But this critically-reviled comedy has failed to become the general second-choice so it will be out of theaters just in time for the next likely-to-be-terrible kids flick, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.
2012 has now grossed $148.9 million, as it loses sight of the $187 million final gross of The Day After Tomorrow. Still, this picture has been an international monster, grossing $666 million worldwide, so a $700-800 million total is in store depending on how much of the world it has already played in. May Avatar have the same good fortune. Seventh place goes to Armored, the refreshingly old-fashioned B-heist picture. While the $6.5 million opening weekend isn't exactly a big deal, this one cost just $20 million, so a quick theatrical run and a long life on DVD and cable will put this one in the black. Oh, and for the record, let me take a second to admonish the countless critics who accused this film of being a rip-off of Reservoir Dogs. I've seen the film, and it's no more a rip-off of Quentin Tarantino's nearly eighteen-year-old crime melodrama than Brothers is a rip-off of the first act of Pearl Harbor. The only things the two films share is a heist-gone-wrong and the fact that there are no women in the picture. That kind of wrongheaded libel makes me wonder if critics actually watched the film or if they just glanced at the trailer and press materials. Besides, Reservoir Dogs was itself a remake of Ringo Lam's City on Fire.
Ninja Assassin dropped 62% on account of being pretty terrible and shockingly boring for the first half of the picture. It's a bunch of ninjas trying to kill each other and James McTeigue found a way to make that unexciting and tedious. If I may quote William Hurt for a moment, "How do you f&%k that up?" The misfire sits at 29 million. It will crawl to $40 million and commit seppuku... and I hope the blade is rusty and dull. The last major opener, Everybody's Fine, tanked with just $3.8 million, basically killing Robert De Niro's Oscar chances (which, to judge its ad-campaign, was the only reason this picture was made). Tragically, the biggest plunge in the top-twenty was from Precious, which collapsed due to lack of media attention and direct competition from The Blind Side. A 67% plunge and a new total of $36 million means that the film absolutely needs year-end awards and Oscar nominations to get anywhere past $40 million. Since I rather like both films, I hope everybody gets what they need from the year-end derby.
Finally, there was an amazingly successful limited release and an epically-failed wide release. First, the good news. Capitalizing on rave reviews and its Best Picture honors from the National Board of Review, Up in the Air scored $1.1 million from just fifteen theaters for an astonishing $78,763 per screen. This is the 21st-best per screen average of all time, and the third-biggest for any film playing on more than six screens. The Jason Reitman-directed George Clooney vehicle will expand over the next two weeks before going wide on Christmas day. On the other hand, Transylmania, a movie that I didn't even know about, opened in 1,007 mostly-empty theaters for a whopping total of $263,941. That's a per-screen average of $262. While that's not the worst per-screen average of all time, when the best thing you can brag about is that you made $25 more per screen than Delgo, it's time to stop bragging. Congratulations Full Circle Films, in your Christmas stocking you now have a bulletproof tax write-off.
That's all that's fit to print this weekend. Join us next weekend when The Lovely Bones opens in three theaters (expect a review Tuesday night or Wednesday morning), while A Serious Man opens in limited release, and Me and Orson Welles expands to forty theaters. In new wide-releases, Clint Eastwood's Invictus (i.e.- see Morgan Freeman play Nelson Mandela) opens on 2,100 screens and Disney's The Princess and the Frog finally goes wide with a 3,300-screen expansion.
Follow Scott Mendelson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ScottMendelson