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‘Dawn’ tops sluggish weekend

Pic earns $16.9 mil at domestic B.O.; 'Muppets' trails

Holdovers were ho-hum at the domestic box office, as “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1” and “The Muppets” both experienced fairly steep weekend-to-weekend three-day declines. Overseas filmgoing, meanwhile, was more stable, led by “Breaking Dawn” with its estimated $40.2 million weekend take, down 47%.

Domestically, Summit’s “Breaking Dawn” won its third straight frame, tallying through Sunday a projected $16.9 million. Pic fell 59%, compared to Disney’s second-place pic “The Muppets,” which dropped 62% in its soph sesh for an estimated weekend gross of $11.2 million. “Breaking Dawn” has cumed $588.3 million worldwide, including $247.3 million from Stateside plexes; “Muppets” reached $56.1 million domestically, with total overseas grosses approaching around $4 million.

The Mouse pic slipped further than expected, especially since family pics traditionally display the strongest legs. But “Muppets” faced an unusually crowded family field, compounded with the typical post-Thanksgiving B.O. slowdown.

Despite a lack of fresh wide openers, a glut of holdoevers didn’t provide the lift that some B.O. observers had predicted, and domestic box office was down approximately 7% from last year.

B.O. conditions were slightly better for “Breaking Dawn.”

In 2009, the second “Twilight” of fering, “New Moon,” dropped 64%

during the same weekend. That pic, however, played against sleeper hit “The Blind Side — not to mention three new wide releases. “Breaking Dawn” has the young femme market mostly to itself.

Bowing solid in limited release, Fox Searchlight’s NC-17-rated “Shame” drew an estimated per-screen average of $36,118 from 10 locations.

“An NC-17 film certainly poses certain challenges,” said Searchlight exec VP of distribution Sheila DeLoach. “But we’re getting good notices from critics, so that should help us through the holiday season.”

Searchlight also fared fairly well with “The Descendants,” expanding the pic to 574 locations (up 141 from last weekend), with an estimated weekend gross of $5.2 million. That’s off only 29% from last weekend’s three-day holiday take. So far, “Descendants” has tallied $18.1 million domestically.

The Weinstein Co. specialty pair, “My Week With Marilyn” and “The Artist,” held steady after solid debuts last weekend.

“Marilyn,” which maintained a location count of 244, dropped a fine 33% for an estimated $1.2 million three-day gross, while “The Artist” scored a per-screen average of $34,263 from six engagements, two more than last weekend. Both pics saw solid upticks on Saturday vs. last week — a notable achievement, considering this weekend’s overall sluggish B.O. atmosphere. “Marilyn” has cumed $3.9 million; “Artist,” nearly $500,000.

Sundance Selects’ “Sleeping Beauty” collected a meager $5,200 estimated per-screen average, bowing at just two locations.

Kid-targeted showdown

Thanks to positive buzz and early awards traction, as well as an additional 563 locations, Paramount’s “Hugo” surged to third place vs. the pic’s fifth-place standing last weekend. “Hugo” grossed an estimated $7.6 million, which yielded a 33% weekend drop.

The Par pic narrowly edged out Sony’s fellow soph-sesh kidpic “Arthur Christmas,” grossing $7.4 million from nearly twice as many locations as “Hugo.” Both pics have tallied just north of $25 million.

Warner Bros.’ third-frame holdover “Happy Feet Two” followed in standing with its estimated weekend gross of $6 million, lifting totals to $51.8 million. The 3D toon had a substantial international push this weekend in markets such as Russia, Germany and the U.K. Pic’s overseas weekend take totaled $16.3 million for a cume of $34 million.

Checking in with Par’s “Puss in Boots,” the film continues to perform in the top 10 domestically, earning in its sixth outing $3.1 million. “Puss” benefited early on from few family pics in the market. With a cume of $139.5 million, “Puss” should surpass Par-DreamWorks Animation’s “Megamind,” which grossed $148 million this time last year.

‘Puss’ reboots o’seas

Overseas, “Puss” reached a total $89.2 million, thanks to the weekend’s $23 million take.

An influx of product hasn’t given this season’s kidpics much room to grow, and conditions aren’t likely to improve, with a trio of Christmastime family fare — “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked,” “The Adventures of Tintin” and “War Horse” — waiting in the wings.

Feeling the crunch, Par will push “Hugo” to more than 2,000 locations next weekend.

Looking to take advantage the shortage of wide entries, Sony re-launched earlier fall releases “Moneyball” and “The Ides of March” at more than 1,000 locations each. Both pics landed at just north of $500,000 for three days, though studio expectations were modest.

As it stands, “Moneyball” has cumed $73.8 million; “Ides,” $40.2 million.

Sony Pictures Classics expanded specialty titan “Midnight in Paris” to 305 playdates from 41, grossing an estimated $274,518.

Pic did roughly the same as “Like Crazy,” screening at half the engagements. In its 29th week, “Midnight in Paris” has cumed a stellar $56 million.

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