Holiday figures drop on Saturday for first time since '04

The holiday B.O. was all bad news/good news, depending on how you look at it. Whenever Christmas falls on a Saturday, expectations are low, and actual figures came in on average 10% lower than initial studio estimates. However, the B.O. was up 11% from the 2004 weekend, the last time the holiday fell on a Saturday.

And while Universal’s “Little Fockers” performed below expectations at $45 million, it still won the weekend — and jumped a promising 188% from Friday to Saturday, giving the studio reason for optimism.

With a blizzard blanketing the East Coast, overall B.O. was down 44% from last year’s Christmas weekend. But adult oriented titles such as “True Grit” and “Black Swan” looked promising, as Fox Searchlight broadened “Black Swan” to 1,466 locations on Saturday and took $6.3 million over the three days. “Black Swan” has cumed nearly $29 million to become the year’s highest-grossing specialty title, surpassing “The Kids Are All Right” with $21 million.

Paramount’s “True Grit” beat expectations with a revised five-day take of $36.1 million at 3,047 corrals — the studio projected closer to $20 million. “Little Fockers” came up short of U’s $60 million pre-weekend projection, ultimately grossing $45.1 million from 3,536 over the five days. Both pics launched midweek, hoping to squeeze out extra ducats before Friday’s slowdown.

Twentieth Century Fox launched “Gulliver’s Travels” on Saturday to benefit from a slight B.O. pickup Christmas Day, but the Jack Black 3D fantasy underwhelmed with $6.3 million for the two days. With several other 3D pics still in the market, “Gulliver’s” secured just 958 3D locations; half of the pic’s two-day grosses came from 3D, according to Fox.

With most kids and some adults on vacation all week, B.O. is historically hearty in the period leading up to New Year’s.

That trend should extend to specialty titles, which are starting to cross over to broader auds. The Weinstein Co. expanded “The King’s Speech” to 700 playdates, earning $4.5 million; cume is $8.3 million.

Meanwhile, Focus Features’ Sofia Coppola-helmed “Somewhere” bowed on Wednesday at seven locations. Pic averaged a fine $24,714 per screen for a five-day total of $172,997. Sony/Screen Gems’ “Country Strong,” with Gwyneth Paltrow and Tim McGraw, opened midweek in Nashville and L.A., posting a five-day per-screen average of $17,321 from two locations.

Not so promising was the debut of Lionsgate’s “Rabbit Hole,” which missed with U.S. auds after expanding to 34 locations, up from five last weekend, for a per-screen average of $2,527. Pic earned a total $85,931 for a domestic total of $166,770 in its second week.

Despite early theater closings and plenty of snow in some overseas territories, the international market contributed tasty holiday totals, with “Little Fockers” earning an estimated $27 million from 37 day-and-date markets. Par, which is handling overseas distribution, will have revised foreign totals today.

Disney reported $26.6 million for “Tron: Legacy” through the weekend. Pic, now screening in 34 markets, accounted for some 65% of the international marketplace. Topping weekend charts in 28 territories, it has cumed $65.5 million internationally.

While Christmas is often a slower time at the domestic box office, most bizzers expected B.O. to pick up on Sunday. However, severe winter weather, especially in New York and Boston, put a damper on that pattern.

Fox’s family pair, “Gulliver’s” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” saw slightly higher discrepancies, with both pics off 12% from studio estimates. This means families were likely less willing to venture outdoors, while adult-skewing pics like “True Grit” and “Black Swan” fared better, off 3% and 5%, respectively.

“Grit” now stands as Joel and Ethan Coen’s highest opener, beating “Burn After Reading,” which bowed to $19 million in 2008. Aud was 70% over 30, with a 65%-35% male-female split. Pic received an overall B+ CinemaScore rating.

Par vice chairman Rob Moore said he expects “Grit” to broaden this week to more auds under 30, saying, “The great thing about ‘True Grit’ is the combination of it being a great movie that’s also a very commercial movie.”

Budgeted at $38 million, “Grit” nearly has covered Par’s base cost, something Par and Relativity Media’s “The Fighter” has achieved in just three weeks. “The Fighter,” which cost $25 million, has cumed $26.7 million domestically.

While Par’s “True Grit” lassoed a healthy start, U’s “Little Fockers” came in soft with a budget north of $100 million. Still, “Fockers” saw a better-than-usual Friday to Saturday jump. “Using that as a road map forward, we feel we’re well on our way to success,” said U prexy of marketing Eddie Egan.

U’s second Focker family installment, “Meet the Fockers,” launched the same holiday frame in 2004 with $46.1 million for a cume of $279 million. U attributed the depressed bow in part to franchise degradation.

Scoring a less-than-desirable B- aud appraisal, “Little Fockers” played best among femmes, with 57%.

The weekend’s third wide release, “Gulliver’s Travels,” struggled to make its mark in a crowded 3D market, squeezed by other similarly targeted 3D pics like “Tangled,” “Yogi Bear” and “Narnia.” “Tangled,” which took in $6.4 million, and “Narnia,” with $9.5 million, continued to attract a sizable portion of the family aud, dropping just 27% and 23%, respectively. Warner’s “Yogi Bear,” which dropped 52%, grossed $7.8 million; cume is $35.8 million.

Disney’s 3D holdover “Tron: Legacy,” which debuted last weekend at 2,424 3D locations, dropped 54% with an estimated weekend take of $20.1 million. Domestic cume is $88.3 million, with Imax contributing $21 million.

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