No new wide openers set for traditionally slow frame; 'Shame' bows limited

Like it or not, most Stateside moviegoers will have to play catch-up at multiplexes this weekend.

That’s because for what is traditionally one of the slowest B.O. seshes of the year (the week following Thanksgiving), studios have opted not to bow new titles on a nationwide scale. The drought will pay off for holiday titles, led by last week’s top pics, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1″ and “The Muppets.”

The weekend’s highest-profile new release is Fox Searchlight’s NC-17-rated “Shame,” starting with nine locations.

Looking to take advantage of the slowdown, a few awards hopefuls that opened earlier this year, including Sony pair “Moneyball” and “The Ides of March,” are getting wide re-releases. Paramount’s big winner with the National Board of Review, “Hugo,” also adds more than 500 locations in its second outing for a total 1,840.

Last weekend, “Breaking Dawn” topped the domestic B.O. with a five-day tally of $61.9 million, followed by “The Muppets,” which collected $41.5 million over the long holiday stretch. “Breaking Dawn” cumed $228 million through Wednesday; “Muppets,” $44 million.

Though the penultimate “Twilight” pic could feasibly win its third straight frame (pic has topped mid-weeks handily), some B.O. pundits say “The Muppets” is looking good for a soph-sesh resurgence.

Last year, Warner Bros.’ Thanksgiving champ “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1″ surrendered the post-holiday frame’s top spot to Disney’s “Tangled.” “Tangled,” however, did slightly better than “The Muppets” with mid-week perfs. “Muppets” faces a much more crowded family market.

Either way, B.O. observers expect a tight race.

Other likely benefactors of the holdover-dominated weekend include the remaining kidpics — Warner Bros.’ “Happy Feet Two,” Sony’s “Arthur Christmas” and “Hugo.”

Initial soft tracking for “Hugo” caused Par to rethink the film’s release strategy, scaling it back to just north of 1,200 locations. But in the wake of positive critical response and strong adult interest, the studio pursued a healthy second week expansion. (Adult auds are typically more avid patrons during repeat frames.)

Fox Searchlight’s “The Descendants,” which nabbed three NBR awards, including actor and supporting actress, also should continue to draw strong adult support. Last weekend, the film became Searchlight’s fastest-grossing film to reach $10 million in just 12 days, beating “Black Swan,” which took 17 days to hit that mark.

“Descendants,” which has tallied north of $12 million through Wednesday, expands today to 574 playdates.

Meanwhile, the distrib’s limited bow of “Shame” faces an uncertain road given its restrictive rating, though kudos attention for star Michael Fassbender should lift overall interest. Searchlight bowed NC-17-rated “The Dreamers” at five locations during February 2004, averaging a solid $28,526 opening per-screen.

Similarly explicit indie “Sleeping Beauty,” from Sundance Selects, debuts this weekend at two locations, while the Weinstein Co.’s “Coriolanus” has a one-week Oscar-qualifying run at two locations in New York and Los Angeles before its opening Jan. 20.

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