Vampires, werewolves and dewy teen girls continued their profitable prowl through the multiplexes, as The Twilight Saga: New Moon was No. 1 for the long holiday weekend. The second film in the Twilight quartet racked up $42.5 million for the usual Friday-to-Sunday frame and $66 million during the five-day Thanksgiving span. The Stephenie Meyer phenomenon has now taken in $230.7 million in North American theaters, according to studio estimates. That makes it, after just 10 days, the sixth highest-grossing movie of 2009. New Moon has amassed even more abroad, $243 million, which suggests it will cross the half-billion-dollar worldwide mark in its first two weeks. Not bad for an upstart indie distributor, Summit, and for a movie that cost just $50 million to produce.
But if movies were football teams squaring off for a big game, New Moon would not have covered the spread against that dogged underdog, The Blind Side. The inspirational sports drama, made for just $29 million, earned a stalwart $41 million in three days and $57.5 million in five. Whereas New Moon's revenue fell 70% from last weekend's neck-swiveling $142.8 million take, The Blind Side's tally increased about 18% in its second weekend. Word of mouth has been great CinemaScore's poll of exiting moviegoers gave it a gold-star A+ and Sandra Bullock's recently burnished star quality made this the rare sports movie that appeals to women as much as to men. Combine the grosses for The Blind Side, Bullock's summer comedy hit The Proposal ($164 million) and the throwaway All About Steve ($33.8 million), and the 45-year-old star has earned nearly $300 million at the domestic box office so far this year. She's a bigger draw, you could say, than any two 22-year-old cuties, male or female.
Chalk up part of The Blind Side's success to a condition that might be called seasonal affection. With the big college teams fighting for conference championships and audiences in a beneficent holiday mood, the mass audience must have figured it was downright Thanksgiving-y to see a real-life uplifter about a crack addict's son who is adopted by a nice white couple and pulls himself up to be a star tackle at Ole Miss. (Sort of Rudy meets Precious.) It doesn't hurt that the movie's subject, Michael Oher, graduated impressively from college to the NFL. As a starting right tackle for the Baltimore Ravens, he is ranked second on ESPN.com's Rookie Watch and is a possible Pro Bowl selection in his first year. Fans of the movie should note that the Ravens' Sunday game was on NBC. We wonder if there's an over-under line on the number of times the announcers mention The Blind Side.
The extra days off gave audiences a chance to catch up on hits they'd missed; four of the session's top five slots were occupied by holdovers. The apocalyptic travesty 2012 landed in third place. In less than three weeks it has earned $486.9 million worldwide, 71% coming from overseas. (The movie has something for folks everywhere: Europe and Asia get destroyed along with the U.S.) After biding its time since early November, A Christmas Carol saw a 30% bump from the previous weekend, to finish fifth. Audiences decided, since they had started their Christmas shopping, that it might be time to see a holiday movie. Robert Zemeckis' CGI spectacular, which cost at least $200 million (as did 2012), still has a way to go to break even: 26 moviegoing days until Dec. 25.
Did anyone see new movies this weekend? A few people. Old Dogs the semi-geezer semi-comedy that teamed the director (Walt Becker) and one of the stars (John Travolta) of the surprise hit Wild Hogs with aging jackanapes Robin Williams cadged a modest $16.8 for the three days. And the mayhem-festooned action film Ninja Assassin was the decade's lowest-grossing opening for the Wackowski brothers, once renowned for The Matrix. Its $13.1 million three-day gross was considerably below not only V for Vendetta but the widely reviled (and, take one stubborn critic's word for it, visually enthralling) Speed Racer. The only upside for Old Dogs and Ninja Assassin is that they didn't cost much to make: $35 to $40 million each.
In more specialized fare, Wes Anderson's stop-motion-animation delight Fantastic Mr. Fox, with George Clooney contributing his voice to the Roald Dahl children's classic, purloined a so-so $7 million in its first weekend of wide release; it earned about the same per-screen average as the much feebler animated feature Planet 51. The Road, with Viggo Mortensen enduring many a hardship in the film version of Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic novel, took in a sturdy $1.5 million at 111 theaters, to finish a mere $10,000 behind Clooney's 10th-place The Men Who Stare at Goats. In a special engagement at single theaters in New York City and Los Angeles, Disney's old-style animated feature The Princess and the Frog pulled in $712,000. If it keeps that up, it will truly be Disney magic.
Here are the 10 top-grossing pictures in North American theaters, as reported by Box Office Mojo. We list the estimated totals for both the weekend (Friday-Sunday) and the five-day Thanksgiving frame (Wednesday-Sunday).
1. The Twilight Saga: New Moon, $42.5 million weekend, $66 million five days; $230.7 million, second week
2. The Blind Side, $40.1 million weekend, $57.5 million five days; $100.3 million, second week
3. 2012, $18 million weekend, $25.6 million five days; $138.8 million, third week
4. Old Dogs, $16.8 million weekend, $24.1 million five days; first week
5. A Christmas Carol, $16 million weekend, $22.6 million five days; $105.4 million, fourth week
6. Ninja Assassin, $13.1 million weekend, $21 million five days; first week
7. Planet 51, $10.2 million weekend, $13.9 million, five days; $28.5 million, second week
8. Precious, $7.1 million weekend, $9.4 million five days; $32.5 million, fourth week
9. Fantastic Mr. Fox, $7 million weekend, $9.5 million five days; $10.1 million, third week
10. The Men Who Stare at Goats, $1,533,000 weekend, $2.2 million five days; $30.6 million, fourth week. The Road, $1,523,000 weekend, $2 million five days, first week