Pitt's 'Killing' earns soft $7 mil as newcomers struggle

Holdovers kept the domestic box office alert this weekend as “Breaking Dawn — Part 2,” and “Skyfall” helped lift three-day totals higher than any previous post-Thanksgiving frame. As for new entries, Brad Pitt gangster film “Killing Them Softly” from the Weinstein Co. disappointed with an estimated $7 million.

International B.O. news centered on DreamWorks Animation’s “Rise of the Guardians,” which Paramount expanded to 46 additional markets this weekend, for an estimated $40 million.

In its third outing with $17.4 million, “Breaking Dawn — Part 2″ eked out a narrow victory over James Bond pic “Skyfall,” which grossed an estimated $17 million in its fourth domestic outing. “Part 2″ has cumed $254.6 million domestically and counting; “Skyfall” reached $246 million Stateside.

The post-holiday frame usually is one of the slowest moviegoing weekends of the year, though with totals at north of $110 million, this weekend doesn’t even figure among the top five slowest frames of 2012. Post-Thanksgiving moviegoing typically ranges in the $80 millions, with the weekend’s previous record high of $99.7 million set in 2009.

Domestic totals, which benefited from following a record Thanksgiving, outstripped the 2011 post-holiday frame by some 45%.

But the other new wide opener, start-up distrib LD Entertainment’s torture-porn scarer “The Collection” fared even worse than “Killing Me Softly” with just $3.4 million through Sunday.

Last weekend, the $145 million toon “Rise of the Guardians” faltered domestically, leaving overseas auds to pick up the slack. France and Mexico led the pic’s weekend charge, with at around $4 million each.

It’s much too early to make any definitive claims about “Rise,” though as a promising sign, the film opened to No. 1 in 20 markets this weekend. Pic’s cumed almost $50 million domestically, with $106 million worldwide so far.

Prior to the weekend, Stateside observers projected that “Skyfall” would come out on top. The film still had a decent hold, down only 52% from last weekend, but wasn’t able to outmatch “Twilight,” which fell exactly in line with its “Breaking Dawn” predecessor, off 60%.

Disney-DreamWorks’ “Lincoln” fell 47% for an estimated $13.5 million and a domestic cume of $84 million.

“Rise of the Guardians” and Fox’s “Life of Pi” followed domestically, grossing $13.5 million and $12 million, respectively. “Rise” dropped 43% this weekend, which is similar to how “The Polar Express” played at around this time in 2004. “Life of Pi,” meanwhile, declined 47%, bringing its Stateside cume to $48.4 million.

At the specialty box office, the Weinstein Co.’s V.I.P. “Silver Linings Playbook” held the best of any wide-ish release, dropping only 24% from last weekend at 371 locations. “Playbook” added $3.3 million to its domestic cume of nearly $11 million.

“This absolutely confirms that we made the right decision,” said Weinstein COO David Glasser, referring to the distrib’s choice to roll out the film slowly.

“You’ve got to work each quadrant on its own,” Glasser added. “There’s no way we were going to attract each demo opening weekend.”

Focus Features also had a solid weekend expanding “Anna Karenina” to 384 locations, for a three-day take of $2.2 million. Pic’s cumed more than $4 million domestically, with $11.5 million from overseas via Universal.

“Hitchcock,” from Fox Searchlight, expanded well to 50 engagements, averaging $8,111 per screen and cuming nearly $1 million Stateside.

The underperformance of “Killing Them Softly” has little to do with the release date, as proven by robust weekend totals. Instead, Glasser attributed the pic’s soft debut to poor word-of-mouth (pic received a rare F CinemaScore rating).

“As you watched social media, you could see the downward shift as people got a hold of this movie,” Glasser said. The film actually had a fine Friday, with $2.5 million, but lost steam on Saturday due to negative word-of-mouth on Facebook and Twitter.

“Killing Them Softly,” for which Weinstein bought distribution rights at script stage last year, likely had a polarizing effect from being more stylized than what most audiences had anticipated. Exit polls were unflattering at arthouse cinemas.

“The Collection” marks only the second release for Mickey Liddell and David Dinersteins’s fledgling company LD Entertainment after it released NC-17 pic “Killer Joe” this summer.

A sequel to 2009’s “The Collector,” the follow-up centers on a group of mercenaries tracking down a young woman taken by a crazy killer. “Collection” did even worse than its predecessor, which opened with $3.6 million Stateside via Freestyle Releasing. That pic cumed $7.7 million, a likely too-high bar for the sequel.

Interestly, despite several adult-skewing titles with wide appeal in the market, they don’t seem to be cannibalizing each other too much.

“Skyfall” has easily led the charge, thanks to support from younger auds as well. Warner Bros.’ “Argo,” meanwhile, has been steadily chugging along, crossing the $100 million domestic threshold this weekend. “Lincoln” also continues to be a solid player at commercial plexes, while Paramount’s Denzel Washington starrer “Flight” reached nearly $82 million Stateside through Sunday.

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