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Kidpic trio will have trouble toppling ‘Dawn’

'Hugo,' 'Muppets,' 'Arthur Christmas' fight for family auds

A wealth of choices for family auds over Thanksgiving weekend could result in kidpic cannibalization.

Disney’s “The Muppets” is expected to top Aardman Animation’s 3D CGI “Arthur Christmas” and Martin Scorsese’s 3D f/x-laden “Hugo.” But B.O. observers aren’t expecting Kermit and the gang to beat Summit’s “Twilight” crew, as holdover “Breaking Dawn — Part 1” is projected to gross in the $60 millions in five days.

“The Muppets,” which bows today at 3,440 locations, should earn somewhere north of $40 million through Sunday, according to pre-weekend tracking services.

B.O. pundits expect Sony’s “Arthur Christmas,” which cost a reported $98 million, to earn between $15 million and $17 million in five days at 3,376 locations, while Paramount’s “Hugo,” made by GK Films for a pricey $170 million, is tracking on the soft side in the low double digits, though it opens at just 1,277 locations.

All three wide openers are seeing more positive reviews than the average family pic, which could add to wider appeal.

Overseas B.O. won’t see a similar holiday boost, and “Breaking Dawn” should win again after last weekend’s $152.9 million international bow.

“Arthur Christmas” bows day-and-date in Australia, France and Japan, while “The Muppets” launches only in Mexico.

Disney has a steady track record at the Thanksgiving box office.

Last year, Disney’s “Tangled” started out strong with a five-day take of $53.7 million. But that wasn’t enough to beat “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” which collected $75 million in its second outing.

Given the multi-generational appeal for “The Muppets,” budgeted at a relatively inexpensive $45 million, some bizzers say the film could outdo expectations and appeal to both kids and their parents who grew up with the property. Disney has flexed considerable marketing muscle in promoting the live action/puppet film, which stars Amy Adams and Jason Segel, to older teens and college-age students. For instance, the Muppets, who became popular through their “Sesame Street” appearances before getting their own show in 1976 — recently appeared on such late-night shows as “Saturday Night Live” and “Chelsea Lately.”

The Mouse is being more modest with its predictions in the high $30 millions.

Thanksgiving B.O. usually starts strong on Wednesday, tapers off slightly on the holiday itself, and then picks up again over the weekend.

“Breaking Dawn” should see a similar three-day week-to-week drop as “New Moon,” which fell 72% this weekend in 2009. “New Moon” debuted with $143 million; “Breaking Dawn” collected $138 million opening weekend and has tallied so far almost $148 million.

The penultimate “Twilight” pic has little competition among teen girls. That’s not the case with family films — in addition to the trio of new entries, holdovers like “Happy Feet Two” and “Puss in Boots” will also look to lure tots. The former pic bowed last weekend to a soft $21 million in three days, but should hold steady, with a projected five-day take in the mid-$20 millions.

“Happy Feet Two” has cumed nearly $23 million through Tuesday; “Puss in Boots” approaches $125 million domestically.

Both “Arthur Christmas” and “Hugo” are tracking best with families, though “Hugo” could also pick up adult Scorsese fans.

3D likely will have a marginal effect on both films. Last weekend, “Happy Feet” earned just 50% of its opening from 3D — similar to “Puss in Boots” at 51%. That’s better than some of the summer’s 3D toons (i.e. “Cars 2”), but down significantly from this time last year with films like “Megamind” and “Tangled.”

“Arthur Christmas” bows at 2,378 3D locations; “Hugo” has approximately 1,000 3D locations.

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