Box Office: Supernatural Soap Opera Slows Down Dancing Penguins

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Historically, the weekend before Thanksgiving is one where some of the biggest holiday movies of the year are released, and this year is no different with the first half of the fourth installment of the blockbuster romantic drama, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (Summit Entertainment) being released in over 4,000 theaters. It comes just three years after the first movie Twilight started the ball rolling on what’s become an enormous cultural phenomenon that’s led to two blockbuster sequels. With thousands of reported sell-out shows even before the movie’s midnight opening Thursday, this is clearly going to be the biggest event movie in many months which should get millions of Stephenie Meier, Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner fans out en masse both Thursday midnight and Friday.

“The Twilight Saga” is still very much something that appeals more to women than men and doesn’t go that young, especially with some of the things covered in the final book, and those things should keep it from surpassing the opening record set by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 just a few months back. There should be enough demand that will allow it to surpass the November opening record of “New Moon” of $142 million set two years ago. Look for it to pull in upwards of $70 million in its first 24 hours alone and then do considerably less on Saturday and Sunday, although it should be another easy $300 million gross for the movie with help from the upcoming holidays.

For the first time since Disney’s Bolt made the mistake of going up against the first Twilight, a studio is hoping to attract some of the business from non-“Twilight” fans, and in this case, it’s George Miller’s animated anthropomorphic musical sequel Happy Feet Two (Warner Bros.) The first movie opened with $41 million and grossed nearly $200 million domestically as well as winning an Oscar in the animated feature category. (That was the year Pixar had Cars.) Granted, the potential for the movie’s 3D release and increased ticket prices would normally help it open bigger, but what’s holding the movie back, at least opening weekend, is that the original movie’s business was mainly being drawn from the same female moviegoing audience that’s likely to rush out to see “Breaking Dawn.” There may be some mothers who go with their daughters to see the movie over the weekend after seeing the latest “Twilight” on Thursday or Friday, but there’s a better chance they’ll just wait and see it sometime down the road. We think this will keep it from opening as big as the previous movie, and while it has a chance of making up some ground in the weeks to come, it’s facing three more family films next week including Disney’s The Muppets, which we think might absolutely destroy all competition next week.

On the other hand, the lack of options for older males might prove to be a great boon for a movie like Tarsem’s Immortals, last week’s #1, something that might keep it from dropping off as much as it may normally have. Still, it’ll be in third place regardless.

Opening in New York and L.A. are two movies we thoroughly enjoyed at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, both directorial feature film debuts, this first one being Sam Levinson’s Another Happy Day (Phase 4 Films), a dysfunctional family dramedy starring Ellen Barkin, Demi Moore, Thomas Haden Church, Ezra Miiler and more. Actor Paddy Considine makes his own feature film directorial debut with Tyrannosaur (Strand Releasing), a film starring Peter Mullen as Joseph, an angry alcoholic widower whose constant rages are quelled when he meets a Jesus-loving shop clerk, played by Olivia Colman. Both movies offer strong drama combined with dark comedy and terrific unforgettable performances by all involved, though neither movie will be for everyone because they do take very unique approaches to independent film genres we’ve seen explored so often before.

You can read more about both movies at the links below:

Sam Levinson Interview

“Another Happy Day” Sundance Review

Paddy Considine Interview

Peter Mullen & Olivia Colman Interview

“Tyrannosaur” Sundance Review

Also opening on Wednesday in New York and L.A. and then expanding to other cities Friday is the new movie from Alexander (Sideways, Election) Payne, The Descendants (Fox Searchlight), starring some guy named George Clooney, which we think is going to be another hit for the company that brought us Sideways and Little Miss Sunshine. This one is a similar road trip dramedy which has Clooney traveling across the islands of Hawaii with his two daughters, and it’s not quite as edgy as our other two recommendations i.e. you can bring your older parents to see it.

You can read our interview with director Alexander Payne here and our Toronto Film Festival thoughts here.

One of the dogs of the weekend is Jerome Salle’s The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch (Music Box Films), an ’80s throwback action movie that features some of the most convoluted storytelling and bad acting we’ve seen in a French film in quite some time. We were shocked how bad it was considering how much we love Music Box Films’ other output, and the fact it has Kristin Scott Thomas in it, but it’s getting a slight theatrical release along with Music Box’s first foray into VOD.

Last year on this weekend, it was all about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (Warner Bros.), and though it ended up not getting the planned 3D release, it still brought in $125 million in 4,125 theatres, which at the time was the sixth-biggest domestic opening ever. It would go onto make the customary $295 million and pave the way for the second installment to set a new opening record and bring in a total of $380 million. Offered as counter-programming, the Russell Crowe action-thriller The Next Three Days (Lionsgate) didn’t fare as well, opening in fifth place with $6.4 million, making it one of Crowe’s bigger recent bombs. The Top 10 grossed $184 million but since we think “Breaking Dawn – Part 1” will do better than “Deathly Hallows – Part 1” and Happy Feet Two should also do well, this weekend should kill last year’s cumulative gross.

This Week’s Predictions

1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (Summit) – $146.8 million N/A (~4,100 theaters)

2. Happy Feet Two (Warner Bros.) – $36.2 million N/A (~3,800 theaters)

3. Immortals (Relativity) – $15 million -52%

4. Puss In Boots (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) – $14.0 million -39%

5. Jack and Jill (Sony) – $13 million -48%

6. Tower Heist (Universal) – $7 million -45%

7. J. Edgar (Warner Bros.) – $6.6 million -41%

8. A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas (New Line/WB) – $3.0 million -50%

9. In Time (20th Century Fox) – $2.1 million -49%

10. Footloose (Paramount) – $1.5 million -48%

Next week, it’s Thanksgiving! And there are three PG movies vying for the exact same family audiences over the long holiday weekend with Jason Segel and Amy Adams trying to reunite The Muppets (Disney), Aardman and Sony Animation introducing us so Santa’s son Arthur Christmas (Sony) and Martin (“F*cking Goodfellas”) Scorsese setting aside the swear jar for his 3D adaptation of Brian Selznick’s popular illustrated novel Hugo (Paramount).

You can read stuff like this and regular box office, awards and festival coverage on the new Weekend Warrior Blog and to keep up with the latest articles and posts, you can follow us on Twitter.

Copyright 2011 Edward Douglas