B.O. up 30% over 2011; 'Twilight' retains top spot while 'Guardians' lags

A stuffed Thanksgiving box office weekend hit record-setting heights thanks to holdovers led by Summit’s “Twilight” finale, “Breaking Dawn — Part 2,” with $64 million. But newcomer “Rise of the Guardians” fell short of expectations, tallying $32.6 million in five days, while “Life of Pi” surprised with $30.2 million.

“Breaking Dawn — Part 2,” which reached a domestic total of $227 million through Sunday, helped anchor the five-day frame, and the added power of holdovers “Skyfall” and “Lincoln” helped fueled the holiday surge.

“Skyfall” grossed $51 million in five days, bringing its Stateside cume to $222 million; “Lincoln” scored $34 million for a domestic total of $62 million.

Five-day domestic totals reached an estimated $290 million — roughly 16% higher than 2009’s previous five-day Thanksgiving benchmark of $250 million.

Fox’s 3D epic “Life of Pi” struck a chord with filmgoers, overperforming with $30.2 million. The $115 million-budgeted Ang Lee pic improved on Thanksgiving Dday — a rarity for the holiday — positioning “Pi” to play solidly through the holiday season.

Though “Guardians,” budgeted at $145 million, failed to open as well as past DreamWorks Animation films, the Paramount-distributed DWA toon should leg out slightly better than its predecessors based primarily on the film’s holiday theme.

“It’s a slower start for us,” admitted DWA marketing maven Anne Globe, who added that “Guardians” received an A CinemaScore rating. “But it’s really all about where the film ends up, and we planned the marketing campaign accordingly,” she said. The studio plans to spend more on marketing, accounting for a nearly seven-week play period through New Year’s weekend.

The weekend’s other wide release, FilmDistrict’s “Red Dawn,” played a touch higher than expectations, scoring an estimated $22 million in five days.

Internationally, “Breaking Dawn — Part 2″ grossed an estimated $97.5 million this weekend, lifting its overseas cume to $350.8 million. “Skyfall” tallied $41.3 million from Sony-distributed territories. Pic’s totaled nearly $569 million internationally (including estimated cumes from markets where MGM has rights).

The sluggish domestic start for “Rise of Guardians” should be offset next weekend when Par expands the film throughout most of Europe and elsewhere, totaling nearly 50 markets. This weekend, “Guardians” grossed an estimated $10 million from eight additional territories (pic bowed last weekend in China).

The highlight this weekend was Russia, where the toon grossed $5.9 million — 11% better than “Wreck-It Ralph.”

Globe said the film’s worldwide release was strategized to benefit from a longer-than-usual year-end holiday period, with Thanksgiving falling on the earliest possible date. Par is using 2004’s “The Polar Express” as domestic gauge for “Guardians”; that pic bowed Nov. 10 with $23 million in three days (“Guardians” earned $24 million) and cumed $183 million domestically.

One hopeful sign: “The exits indicate that the parent definite recommends were very high,” Globe said. Pic skewed 57% female, with under-25 auds contributing 53% of the weekend take.

3D isn’t likely to be a major boon for the toon, however. “Guardians” earned just 35% of its opening from some 2,900 3D and Imax locations (or 79% of the total 3,653).

Conversely, Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi” drew 68% from a comparable 3D spread. The film skewed slightly male (at 52%), while 60% of the gross came from auds 25 and over. “Pi” could still develop a devoted family following based on positive word of mouth and a strong A- CinemaScore.

“I think the special nature of this film stands out from everything else,” said Fox distrib topper Chris Aronson. “It’s really hard to gauge where the domestic ceiling for this film will be.”

“Pi” got off to a strong start overseas, launching in just four markets with $17.5 million, of which more than $10 million came from China. India contributed $3.4 million, which marks the country’s third-highest non-franchise opening, behind “Avatar” and “2012.” Several Indian thesps star in “Pi,” including Irrfan Khan and Suraj Sharma.

Back in the States, “Red Dawn,” which had been shelved for several years as an orphaned MGM title, received an overall B CinemaScore rating, though auds under 18 gave the pic an A. Pic played best throughout the South, as well as in markets with sizable military bases. FilmDistrict hosted sneaks for the military.

The weekend’s holiday box office was equally vibrant for the littler guys.Leading the pack was the Weinstein Co.’s “Silver Linings Playbook,” which successfully expanded to 367 domestic locations, up from 16, for an estimated $5.9 million in five days. TWC doesn’t plan to go wide with the film until January. “Playbook” has totaled $6.5 million Stateside.

“It’s great that you’ve got big movies in the market, with a really healthy specialty mix,” said Weinstein COO David Glasser.

“Anna Karenina” expanded to 66 theaters via Focus Features, grossing $1.1 million in five days, with a total of $1.5 million. Focus will expand the film to more than 300 locations on Nov. 30. Launching Friday at just two New York engagements, Sony Pictures Classics’ French-lingo pic “Rust and Bone” averaged an OK $15,098 per screen.

SPC has had a Thanksgiving player for the last several years, launching “A Dangerous Method” this time last year, when in three days it averaged more than $40,000 from four screens.

Fox Searchlight’s “Hitchcock” also bowed Friday, at 17 theaters, for a solid $17,694 per-screen average. Pic totaled just north of $300,000 through Sunday.

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