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Thanksgiving Weekend Box Office Review: Sandra Bullock Blind Sides New Moon

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It was just seven-and-a-half years ago that Spider-Man became the first film to gross over $100 million in a single weekend. Now, we have a movie that has in fact dropped $100 million between its first and second weekend. That's right; Twilight Saga: New Moon grossed $42.5 million over the Fri-Sun portion of the long Thanksgiving weekend. That's a drop of 70.2%, the 52nd biggest drop of all-time and a difference of $100.3 million. Yes, the second-weekend gross was lessened by the holiday Wednesday and Thursday that preceded it (the film grossed $65 million from Wed-Sun), but this is still an astonishing statistic (like Lost in Space, it now becomes the answer to a fun trivia question). Not that it matters in the long run. The Dakota Fanning vehicle has already grossed $230 million, with about $475 million in global grosses in well under two weeks. As of now, it's close enough to the 62% second-weekend plunge of the first Twilight to be judged as having a similar run. By the end of its second weekend, Twilight had grossed 62% ($119.7 million) of its eventual $192.7 million total. Should New Moon follow suit, it's looking at a final domestic gross of around $370 million. So let's just assume that it will be slightly more frontloaded due to it being a sequel and the eventual end-of year competition and peg it at $350 million in the end.

But the big news of the weekend is the incredible legs of Sandra Bullock's The Blind Side. Following a larger than expected $34 million opening weekend and incredible word of mouth, the 'based on an incredible true story' football drama capitalized on the overly niche Thanksgiving offerings to become the one movie that the whole family could agree on this weekend. With $40 million in its second weekend (up 17% from its opening stretch), the well-reviewed heart-warmer just barely crossed the $100 million mark in its tenth day of release. Nevermind what I said last weekend about it crossing $150 million. This looks like an even bet for $200 million and a Best Actress nomination for Sandra Bullock, plus an outside shot at a Best Picture nomination should enough of the holiday 'Oscar bait' pictures (The Lovely Bones, Invictus, Nine, etc) disappoint. It will also soon top the $154 million-gross of Jerry Maguire to become the highest-grossing sports drama of all-time. Sandra Bullock is now, fifteen years into a varied and interesting career, the biggest female star on the planet. And please, let's not turn this film's refreshing success (wow,a $29 million, big studio, star-driven drama... who knew?) into a The Blind Side vs Precious debate, with alleged implications for Barack Obama and/or Sarah Palin in the next election cycle. Don't be that idiot. Anyway, Precious is still pulling in $10,000 per screen on 634 screens, although it plunged 34% implying that the film may have reached its pre-awards peak. Still, the 'other' critically acclaimed drama that kinda-sorta deals with racial issues has now grossed $32 million without even reaching 1,000 screens. Where it goes from here will be decided by its success at the Golden Globes and the Oscars.

2012 was in third place, using the holiday weekend as a buffer and dropping just 32%. The mega-budget disaster movie to end all disaster movies has now grossed $138 million in the US and $594 million globally. Now, all the way in fourth place, we get to the new movies (openers rarely win the box office during the Thanksgiving holiday). The critically reviled ("if it were a person, I'd stab it in the face") Old Dogs could only muster $16 million over three days and $24 million over five. It's not a bad opening, but considering that the $35 million-budgeted film is supposed to be hell on Earth, I'm curious as to how general moviegoers respond. Still, it has no competition in the harmless family comedy demo for a good long while, so it might just hold its own. The redundantly-titled Ninja Assassin pulled in $21 million worth of nerds, Spike TV watchers, action-junkies of both genders, prurient fans of lead-actor Rain, and unwilling women who got dragged along as payback for dragging their significant others to New Moon last weekend. The film cost just $40 million, so it should be fine once overseas money comes in, as it'll be a cult rental and cable favorite for years to come.

A Christmas Carol also benefited from the holiday, crossing the $100 million mark and increasing its weekend take by 30%. Amazingly, it's still tracking just ahead of The Polar Express at this point. $150 million is not out of the question, but it will have to weather the loss of its 3D and IMAX screens to Avatar in just three weeks. Planet 51 dropped just 17% in weekend two, so the 'who-cares' animated stinker has now grossed $28 million. The lone flop opener of the weekend was Fox's The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Despite great reviews and a solid two-week run in limited release, the Wes Anderson animated fable grossed just $7 million over three days and $9.4 million over five. On the plus side, the theaters will be all the emptier should my wife and I take the chance and take our two-year old with us this afternoon (she laughed at the trailer and wanted to see 'more fox'). We've had success with the local second-run theater, but we have yet to brave a first-run release.

There were four limited releases of note this weekend. First off, The Road had a targeted 111-screen release, scoring a $1.5 million three-day and $2 million five-day opening. I've long surmised that the Weinsteins intentionally opened this grimmest of grim post-apocalyptic dramas over Thanksgiving in order to ensure it would flop, thus preventing them from having to spend money on a costly Oscar campaign. This last-minute switch from national release to targeted opening seems to verify that. We'll see what expansion plans are in store, if any, for this relatively well-reviewed, but long on the shelf adaptation of the beloved novel. The all-star drama The Private Lives of Peppa Lee opened on twelve screens and grossed just $96,000 over the long holiday. The Zach Efron vehicle Me and Orson Welles opened on four screens, grossing just $64,000 per. To be fair, the target demo for a Zach Efron film isn't the sort to be found at art-house theaters, so this could still do okay if it ever goes wide. The other limited release was Disney's The Princess and the Frog, which annoyingly (for my family) opened on just two super-expensive venues in New York and LA. Yes, it scored the third-biggest per screen average of all time, with $356,000 per screen for three days and $571,000 per screen for the whole holiday. But movies tend to do that when they open in two theaters that charge $30-$50 per ticket. The critically acclaimed 2D throwback opens wide on December 11th.

That's pretty much all the news that's fit to print. Join us next weekend, when The Blind Spot likely takes over the top spot as New Moon continues to fall and the openers (Armored, Brothers, Everybody's Fine) struggle for third place on less than 2,300 screens a piece. Jason Reitman's Up in the Air opens in ten theaters as it attempts to cement its status as an Oscar front runner (barring unforeseen variables, a review is coming Tuesday night or Wednesday morning). For a look at what happened last Thanksgiving, to listen to a radio interview I conducted concerning New Moon, Precious, and gender role models, or just to see what you've been missing, check out Mendelson's Memos.

Scott Mendelson