'Breaking Dawn -- Part 2' Just Misses 'Twilight' record

By: Grady Smith, CNN Contributer Email
By: Grady Smith, CNN Contributer Email

Say what you will about the "Twilight" series, but you can't fault it for being inconsistent.

The popular vampire franchise's final installment, "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2," scored the eighth biggest opening weekend of all time with a $141.3 million debut. If Summit's estimates hold up, that's just a touch ahead of "Breaking Dawn -- Part 1," which started with $138.1 million last year, and just a touch behind New Moon, which opened with $142.8 million in 2009.

Impressively, "Breaking Dawn -- Part 2" also earned $199.6 million in its international debut this weekend, giving it an early global total of $340.9 million. When all is said and done, the film will likely finish just above $700 million. After all, the last three Twilight films — Breaking Dawn -- Part 1, Eclipse, and New Moon — earned $712.2 million, $709.8 million, and $698.5 million, respectively. Like I said, it's a remarkably consistent franchise.

That consistency may be why Breaking Dawn -- Part 2 didn't experience an expected box office boost, despite being the grand finale of the popular franchise. Other finales have earned substantially more on their opening weekends, drawing in casual viewers who want to be part of the pop culture moment. In 2011 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2 opened 35 percent higher than its predecessor with $169.2 million. In 2005 Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith (which was thought to be the final Star Wars film at the time) started with 36 percent more than its predecessor with $108.4 million. But it appears that The Twilight Saga is a different beast. Fans are either in — and they've been in for a few years — or they're not interested.

Fortunately for Summit (a Lionsgate company following their acquisition earlier this year), who spent about $120 million to produce Breaking Dawn -- Part 2, that cult of loyal fans is still gigantic. The film scored a blazing $34,717 per theater average from its 4,070 theaters — the best average at the entire box office. Twihards are known for rushing to the theater at the first possible moment, so Breaking Dawn -- Part 2 is expected to fall quickly from here, but with the lucrative Thanksgiving frame coming up, it should enjoy at least one more massive weekend and climb to about $300 million total.

There's still a chance that Breaking Dawn -- Part 2 could become the highest grossing Twilight film domestically — though it seems unlikely given the fact that Breaking Dawn -- Part 1 ($281.3 million) earned substantially less than Eclipse ($300.5 million). Yet, with an "A" CinemaScore grade from polled audiences, which were 79 percent female (hilariously, the 21 percent of the audience that was male represents the highest male ratio ever for a Twilight picture), there's a chance that repeat viewings from super-fans could boost revenues.

We'll find out soon.

Last weekend's champ, Skyfall, dipped 53 percent to $41.5 million in its second weekend, lifting its domestic total to $161.3 million after just ten days. The film will easily become the highest-grossing Bond film ever in the U.S. over the next few days — Quantum of Solace currently holds that distinction with $168.4 million.

Around the world, Skyfall, which cost Sony and MGM $200 million, has already become the highest grossing Bond ever. After a $49.6 million international frame this weekend, its overseas total stands at $507.9 million, and its worldwide gross has reached $669.2 million — easily the highest number ever for the 50-year-old series. Casino Royale was formerly the highest grossing Bond film with $599.2 million, but Skyfall smashed that record with ease and now looks like it will soar to at least $850 million.

Lincoln, Disney's much buzzed-about Oscar contender, fared well in its expansion from 11 theaters into 1,775 locations, grossing $21.0 million over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Lincoln opened slightly higher than fellow Oscar front-runner Argo, which kicked off its run with $19.8 million last month (and now has $92.0 million total). Thanks to strong reviews and an "A" CinemaScore grade from audiences, 64 percent of which were 50 or older, the $65 million Steven Spielberg-directed film should hold up just as well — especially because older patrons typically take their time in coming out to the theater, and the upcoming holidays frees up many working adults' schedules to go to the movies. Spielberg's last film, War Horse, which was less well-received, galloped all the way to $79.9 million over the holidays after a $7.5 million opening weekend. With awards season right around the corner, Lincoln could make it to $100 million with ease.

Another Disney film came in fourth place. The videogame-themed animated effort Wreck-It Ralph dropped 45 percent to $18.3 million, and it now has $121.5 million total after three weekends. Next week, the $165 million family film goes head-to-head with Dreamworks' animated adventure Rise of the Guardians.

Rounding out the Top 5 was Paramount's $31 million Denzel Washington vehicle, Flight, which descended 42 percent to $8.6 million and now has $61.3 million total. The film isn't holding up quite as strong as its great reviews — and $24.9 million debut — suggested it would. This weekend Flight added 565 theaters to its run (for 2,612 total), yet it still dropped substantially. It might not make it to $100 million, but it will be remembered as a solid hit for all parties involved.

1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2 -- $141.3 million

2. Skyfall -- $41.5 million

3. Lincoln -- $21.0 million

4. Wreck-It Ralph -- $18.3 million

5. Flight -- $8.6 million

Two films made their debuts in limited release this weekend — both to strong, if somewhat unremarkable, results. The Weinstein Co.'s Silver Linings Playbook, which has tried to present itself as both a romantic comedy and an Oscar hopeful, earned $458,000 from 16 theaters, giving it a $28,625 per theater average. Meanwhile, Focus' Joe Wright-directed period piece Anna Karenina also opened in 16 theaters, taking in an estimated $315,000, good for a $19,688 average. Those figures certainly sound strong, so what's unremarkable about them?
Well, consider the fact that Lincoln garnered an $85,846 average upon its debut in 11 theaters last weekend. When the film went wide this weekend, that number dropped all the way to $11,831 — still a strong result, but a substantial dilution that naturally occurs upon expansion.

Silver Linings Playbook and Anna Karenina can't afford to let their per theater averages drop by a similar ratio, and both will need to expand much more slowly and rely on terrific word-of-mouth to carry them to profitability.

Read more on CNN.


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