Even more than before, studio development executives will be combing through scripts looking for something about female humans in love with handsome young monsters whose unspeakable urges can only be controlled if they immediately remove their shirts. “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” earned an estimated $140.7 million this weekend for mini-major Summit Entertainment, which is now a bit more major and a bit less mini. As both jolly Carl DiOrio and Nikki Finke remind us, that puts it right behind the opening weekends of “The Dark Knight” and “Spider-Man 3,” displacing, as per Finke, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” with its pitiful $135.6 million.
“New Moon” enjoyed a spectacular Friday performance of $72.7 million, an all-time record one-day take, but dropped by what DiOrio describes as a “manageable” 41% to earn a still terrific $43.2 million on Saturday. (Finke, plays the baseball statistician and mentions that the two-day total $115.9 million makes for the biggest two-day gross of all time, and also gets into other November openings, if you think that stuff is important.) Still, by the end of this weekend, most of the really hardcore “Twilight” fans will have seen “New Moon.” The question remaining is how many casual viewers, plus repeat hardcore fans, will return for the big Thanksgiving day weekend.
There was another surprise this weekend: I was right about one of my casual box office prognostications! Based on the true story of the NFL’s Michael Oher, “The Blind Side” starring Sandra Bullock and newcomer Quinton Aaron supported by country singer Tim McGraw and Kathy Bates, proved the sturdiness of the inspirational sports film genre. The sub-genre goes back at least as far back as 1940’s “Knute Rockne All American” and in this case won an estimated $34.5 million for the gipper and Warner Brothers, pretty much in line with what I wrote on Thursday. Astonishing.
According to Finke, the prognosticaters had only pegged this one for a maximum of $20 million, but they didn’t reckon, I suppose, with the cross gender and generational appeal of the story as well as its cross-cultural/ethnic impact which spans the inner-city and red state America, and both conservative and liberal perspectives common in Obama’s America. Lou Loumenick quotes this line uttered by country star Tim McGraw in the role of Bullock’s husband: “Who ever thought we would have a black son before we knew a Democrat?”
In the #3 spot this week was the big holdover from last weekend, Roland Emmerich’s “2012” which dropped a not-so-great 59% in its second week — spurred on, perhaps, by bad word of mouth from people like the 20-something male checker at the Walgreen’s next door to me who volunteered his views to me a couple of nights back. The mega-disaster flick earned a relatively modest estimated $25 million for Sony on it’s second weekend for a total so far of $108 million. That’s still well short of it’s $200 million budget, which I find a bit obscene, but it’s current foreign total is $341.1 milion. Ah, the international language of blowing-shit-up.
Bringing up the rear of the new releases is the poorly reviewed “Planet 51,” which apparently shows that even CGI animated family comedies can be hurt by poor buzz if that buzz is bad enough. Also, while our own Jason Zingale was unimpressed, “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire” continued its unusually strong performance as it expanded this week. As explicated via table at Box Office Mojo, the downbeat tale of inner city dysfunction earned an impressive $11 million in only 629 theaters (as compared to 3,035 for “Planet 51”).
Of the two films debuting from undisputed world class directors and huge international stars, German man-of-the-world/universe Werner Herzog’s critically embraced “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” starring Nicolas Cage had a disappointing debut of only $257,000 in 27 theaters despite great reviews and considerable buzz. On the other hand, Spain’s brilliant twosome of Pedro Aldomovar and Penelope Cruz earned back some of that lost “Planet 51” cred for their nation by taking in the week’s highest per screen average ($54,000) with their latest, “Broken Embraces.” That’s on only two screens, but it’s a start.