Breaking Dawn Breaks the Bank with $139.5 Million Opening Weekend

Breaking Dawn Breaks the Bank with $139.5 Million Opening WeekendTo no one’s surprise – and the delight of film distributor Summit Entertainment – The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 had a huge box office debut at the North American Box Office. The much-anticipated teen flick easily left its competition in the dust, which included the disappointing debut of the Warner sequel Happy Feet Two. Fox Searchlight on the other hand had a terrific debut for its acclaimed George Clooney drama The Descendants on just 29 screens.

Opening on 4,061 screens starting at 12:01am Friday morning to the tune of $30.3 million, Breaking Dawn sunk its fangs into a massive $72 million in its first twenty four hours of release (Saturday earned $40.7 million while Sunday’s take is being estimated at $26.8 million). The opening day total was the third highest in film history, trailing only Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two ($91 million) and the second chapter in the Twilight franchise, New Moon ($72.7 million). The estimated $139.5 million opening weekend haul for Dawn is the fifth largest on record as well, once again right behind the opening weekend totals for New Moon.

Breaking Dawn Part 1, which concludes next November, was directed by Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) and had the worst reviews of any film in the series thus far. But when it comes to a franchise and fan base as big as the ones for the Twilight series, one has to wonder why reviewers even bother writing anything critical about the movie in the first place. The series fans bestowed the film with a decent “B+” CinemaScore rating, which should keep Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner rolling in the dough for the next few weeks to bring another $300 million hit to Summit Entertainment. Overseas, the movie opened on Tuesday and earned a great $144 million from 54 territories.

Five years ago, Warner Brothers opened their computer-animated musical comedy Happy Feet up against the then-latest James Bond film Casino Royale. The film went on to surprise everyone by beating the 45-year old franchise at the weekend box office. This weekend, Warner opened the sequel Happy Feet Two up against Breaking Dawn Part 1. While there was no way on Earth the studio could have expected their penguin movie to beat a Twilight film, they had to have hoped it would have matched or done better than the $41 million opening for the first movie set five years ago.

Instead, the opening for Happy Feet Two brought in half of what the first one did this weekend (and that is with the increased prices for 3D tickets). Debuting on 3,606 screens, Happy Feet Two stumbled its way to an estimated $22 million. The film was savaged by critics on Rotten Tomatoes to the tune of a 42% approval rating (but got a “B+” CinemaScore rating) and faced competition from the still-popular Puss In Boots, factors that may have harmed the film’s debut a bit. Things aren’t going to get easier for the sequel as The Muppets, Hugo and Arthur Christmas arrive on the scene Wednesday. Warner is going to have to rely on strong word-of-mouth to stick around until December.

The third opener this weekend was Fox Searchlight’s critically-acclaimed comedy/drama The Descendants, which opened on 29 screens in selected cities to the tune of a huge $1 million. Directed by Alexander Payne (Sideways) and starring George Clooney in an Oscar-worthy performance, The Descendants scored a great 90% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and will continue to expand across the country over the next few weeks.

After scoring a mild number one victory last weekend, Relativity’s The Immortals fell from the heavens by approximately 61%. The recipient of bad word-of-mouth, the fantasy flick earned a $12.5 million in its sophomore round to bring its total to the $53 million mark. Given the speed of the film’s downward trajectory, Immortals should finish its run near the $70 million mark domestically.

Another badly-received film from last weekend, the Adam Sandler comedy Jack and Jill dropped by a steep 52% in its second weekend of release. Like Immortals, Jack is suffering from dire word-of-mouth and will most likely not reach the usual $100 million threshold Sandler’s comedies do. Still on 3,438 screens, Jack smacked an estimated $12.3 million in sales this weekend to bring its ten-day total to $41.4 million. The film may amble its way to $65-70 million by the end of its domestic run.

In fifth place in its fourth weekend of release was Dreamworks’ hit animated flick Puss in Boots. Despite a hit from the arrival of Happy Feet Two, the sword-wielding kitty held on to earn an estimated $10.7 million on 3,415 screens. To date, Puss has earned an estimated $122.4 million. Depending on how much the Thanksgiving holiday helps out, the movie still has a chance of reaching $160-170 million in domestic ticket sales.

The remainder of the top ten is as follows:

6. Tower Heist (Universal Pictures) $7 million ($53.7 million overall total to date)

7. J. Edgar (Warner Brothers) $5.9 million ($20.6 million)

8. A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas in 3D (Warner Brothers) $2.9 million ($28 million)

9. In Time (Fox) $2 million ($33.6 million)

10. (TIE) The Descendants (Fox Searchlight) $1 million; Paranormal Activity 3 (Paramount) $1 million ($102 million)

On Wednesday and just in time for Thanksgiving, The Muppets, Arthur Christmas and all arrive on the scene with their sights set on toppling Breaking Dawn from its first place pedestal.

– Shawn Fitzgerald

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