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Scott Mendelson

Scott Mendelson

Posted: December 2, 2008 11:27 AM

Thanksgiving at the Box Office

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Four Christmases became just the fifth non-Disney movie since 1985 to open number one on Thanksgiving weekend (during the Fri-Sun 3-day portion). Every other year, it's either been a holdover from the weekend before or a Disney family comedy. The previous four are Rocky IV, Star Trek IV, Back To The Future II, and Mrs. Doubtfire.

For the record, the Disney movies that debuted at number 01 on Thanksgiving are Flubber, Toy Story, 101 Dalmatians, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, The Haunted Mansion, and Enchanted. So, in last 23 years, only twelve Thanksgiving weekends have been won by a debuting film. Over half of all Thanksgiving weekends since 1985 have been holdovers, usually from the weekend before (the exception was 1994, when The Santa Clause made it to number 01 in its third weekend after being #2 and #3 in its first two weekends).

For all the hub-bub about Thanksgiving being a major weekend, there has been only one true powerhouse opening weekend in post-Batman era. In 1999, Toy Story 2 went wide, grossing $57 million over the Fri-Sun portion (at the time, it was the third biggest weekend ever, behind The Phantom Menace and The Lost World). But the second biggest opening weekend in history over Thanksgiving is Enchanted, which debuted last year with a 'whopping' $34 million. So, if Disney had shown a little gumption and moved Bolt out of the way of Twilight, they likely would have once again owned this weekend (Bolt actually out grossed last weekend's opening, showing strong word of mouth and likely long legs). Note to major studios, stop launching insanely expensive and lengthy period pieces like Australia or Alexander during this holiday. You will not get the opening weekend you want.

Granted, movies opening over the holiday are hoping to have legs that will allow them to play into Christmas, and then take advantage of the two weeks of 'weekend' weekdays (kids are off of school and lots of adults have vacation time), but the lack of mega-openers over Thanksgiving weekend is stunning. Speaking of those weekend-weekdays, I've always said that the very best weekend to open is the weekend before Christmas (Titanic, Lord Of The Rings, I Am Legend, Mouse Hunt, Sabrina, Tombstone - huge weekend-to-final gross multipliers for all of them).

Shocking facts about the big 'November 3'. In three successive weekends, Madagascar 2, Quantum Of Solace, and Twilight opened to well over $60 million. Yes, this is a record. Also, these three openings now stand, in ascending order of release, as the seventh, sixth, and fifth biggest November weekends of all time. Also worth noting... it's quite possible (though not inevitable) that none of these films will make it to $200 million domestic. Madagascar 2 is already trailing the day to day numbers for Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, and even A Shark's Tale. Quantum Of Solace is severely trailing The Bourne Ultimatum in daily and weekend totals. And Twilight... well, Sex & The City made a solid recovery after a crash an burn in the second weekend. We'll see if the vampire romance can pull a similar trick (if it pulls a complete crash like The Village and 8 Mile, it still ends up with $160 million). If 2 or 3 of these films fail to reach the $200 million mark, is there anything to blame other than front loading and mediocre word of mouth? I shudder to think that a movie now needs to open to at least $60 million, if not $70 million to even have a chance at the $200 million mark. For the record, The Simpsons Movie has the biggest opening weekend ($74 million) for a film that failed to cross $200 million (it finished with $184 million).

Oh, and nice work by Lionsgate, opening The Transporter 3 to only a little less than 20th Century Fox's The Transporter 2 ($16 million 3-day, $20 million four-day). The $12 million 3-day opening ($18 million five-day) was just a little higher than the $10 million ceiling for Jason Statham Lionsgate vehicles (War, Crank, The Bank Job). And, like it's predecessor, The Transporter 3 has almost out grossed The Transporter ($25 million total domestic) in its opening frame.

That's all for now.

Scott Mendelson

 

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