'Potter' dominates holiday weekend
'Hallows' tops newcomers with five-day estimates of $76.3 mil
By Andrew Stewart
Moviegoers revealed a healthy appetite at the weekend's domestic box office, with Disney's "Tangled," the weekend's only wide 3D release, as the Thanksgiving sesh's top opener with a better-than-expected $69 million from 3,603 locations.
But the top spot on the B.O. chart still went to Warner Bros.' "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" in its second frame, with five-day estimates totaling $76.3 million for a cume to date of $220.4 million.
The frame's other wide openers, "Burlesque," "Love and Other Drugs" and "Faster," launched in the low to mid-teens.
"Hallows" and "Tangled" easily outmatched last year's top two holiday performers, "Theand "The Blind Side," but that year also had four films in the top 10 to gross more than $20 million. Overall, the weekend was down slightly (5%) from 2009's five-day record-setting Thanksgiving sesh.
Steady holiday moviegoing carried over to the specialty front as the Weinstein Co.'s much-buzzed about "The King's Speech" posted the year's highest per-screen average with $87,448, outstripping the previous top per of $70,282 set by "The Kids Are All Right." "Speech" launched Friday, totaling a stellar $349,791 at four U.S. locations.
Fox Searchlight's "127 Hours" also bolstered the specialty biz, expanding to 293 locations for a five-day gross of $2.3 million and a cume of $4.4 million.
Sony/Screen Gems' "Burlesque" debuted in fourth place, with an estimated five-day take of $17.2 million from 3,037 locations, while "Love and Other Drugs," from 20th Century Fox, came in at No. 6, with an estimated $14 million at 2,455.
CBS Films' "Faster" -- the distrib's first release since "The Back-Up Plan" in April -- followed "Love and Other Drugs" with an estimated five-day total of $12.2 million from 2,454 locations.
Without any major day-and-date releases overseas, foreign auds continued to embrace "Hallows," which posted another outstanding weekend at the international B.O., with an estimated $113.2 million from 62 territories on more than 19,000 screens. "Hallows" debuted in France, where it became the territory's highest opener so far this year, with $19.1 million on 994 screens.
Disney's "Tangled" launched in seven markets repping just 15% of the international marketplace. It earned an estimated $13.8 million, of which $7.5 million (60%) came from Russia. The animated pic's Russian debut stands as the best opening in that market for a Disney toon, as well as the highest-grossing opening ever in Russia for a nonsequel animated pic.
Domestically, "Tangled" outstripped the previous Thanksgiving record-holder, "Enchanted," which opened with five-day totals of $49 million in 2007. The Mouse House's "Toy Story 2" went wide over the long holiday sesh in 1999 with $80.1 million, though that toon debuted in limited release the week before Thanksgiving weekend. Higher 3D ticket prices helped "Tangled," which saw 56% of its gross from 2,461 3D-equipped screens.
Disney holds the top five three-day Thanksgiving openings, with "101 Dalmatians" (1996) and "A Bug's Life" (1998) added to the mix.
While "Tangled" still played best with young girls (Disney made a major marketing push to attract more boys), the toon benefited as the frame's most prominent family title; "Hallows" skews slightly more toward teens and adult auds.
Disney distrib topper Chuck Viane described Thanksgiving as the ideal launchpad given that most families gathered for the holiday include extended relatives, meaning more ducats sold per family. "The number of people who come to the movies this weekend inside a family unit are bigger than normal, because you get grandma and grandpa as well," Viane said.
"Tangled," which scored an A+ CinemaScore rating, played to 61% females, with 53% of the pic's gross coming from moviegoers under 25.
Strong exit polls could bolster exhib appeal for "Tangled" when it faces the next 3D pic, "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," on Dec. 10. Warners' "Yogi Bear" and Disney's "Tron: Legacy" further the 3D glut, launching Dec. 17, followed by Fox's "Gulliver's Travels" on Dec. 22. "Tangled" benefited most from Warners' decision to forgo a 3D "Hallows," leaving fourth-frame holdover "Megamind" its only 3D competish.
Indie distrib Freestyle Releasing, however, got lost amid the wash of 3D titles, securing just 42 3D locales for "Nutcracker in 3D." Pic stalled with moviegoers, grossing just $89,000 during its five-day debut.
In response to the pic's disappointing launch, a Freestyle rep said: "It would seem this very nontraditional telling of a classic was rejected by the target audience of moms and their children … (but) a continued rollout well beyond the initial five markets will hopefully find a receptive audience."
Despite its 2D-only format, "Hallows" continued to perform strongly, dropping a respectable 60% from its opening weekend, which included $24 million in midnight grosses. "Hallows" also held well in the Imax format, contributing three-day estimates of $5.8 million and a $31 million cume from the format so far.
Warners exec VP of domestic distribution Jeff Goldstein credited repeat business and a wider demo base, in part, for the film's success so far. "Hallows" has overperformed the franchise's six previous installments, with 2005's "Goblet of Fire" having totaled $209.4 million after its second week. "Goblet" launched the week before Thanksgiving.
Screen Gems' "Burlesque," with Sony distribbing, closely followed "Megamind" in standing, tallying an estimated five-day total of $17.6 million for a cume north of $130 million.
"Burlesque" received an overall A- aud appraisal but scored better with the under-35 crowd, which gave the pic an A rating. Male auds, who made up 31% of the film's opening demo, even gave "Burlesque" an above-average rating. Sony, however, expected the film to appeal heavily to gay men.
The film's marketing materials hyped stars Cher and Christina Aguilera, as well as the music, in trailers and online videos.
Rory Bruer, Sony prexy of worldwide distribution, credited stars Cher and Aguilera as the pic's primary draws. "Cher has a knockout song where even she said she hit a few notes she's never hit before."
Like "Burlesque," Fox's "Love and Other Drugs" tapped into a primarily female base, with 63%, and drew 60% of its aud over 25. The R-rated film, toplining Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway, repped a significant marketing challenge for Fox as it isn't a typical romantic comedy. Pic got a B- CinemaScore rating, which could reflect audience confusion.
Still, Fox distribution exec Chris Aronson said the film debuted in line with studio expectations, boosted by a better-than-expected following from the 17-25 age group. "This movie wasn't made for teenagers; it was made for that college-aged section," Aronson said. "That's the audience that will carry the day."
Femme-driven pics like "Burlesque" and "Love and Other Drugs" were impacted most by Thanksgiving, while films targeting primarily male auds, including "Faster," benefited from that demo wanting to get out of the house.
"Faster," along with holdovers "Unstoppable" and "Due Date," saw sizable upticks from Wednesday to Thursday, with the latter two holding the best overall. Fox's "Unstoppable" dropped just 10% in its third frame, with an estimated $16.2 million, while Warners' buddy comedy "Due Date" fell 18%, with five-day totals at $10.4 million. "Unstoppable" has cumed $60.7 million; "Due Date," $85 million.
Meanwhile, "Faster" was the only top 10 performer to rise steadily each day through Saturday, when it jumped 7%. Pic's five-day total should help kick start a potentially profitable run, with CBS Films and Sony Intl. each having invested $12 million.
Contact Andrew Stewart at email@example.com