Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1," which grossed a total of $221.3 million.
Summit Entertainment
Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1," which grossed a total of $221.3 million.

Story highlights

"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn--Part 1" grossed $62.3 million over Wednesday-to-Sunday

"The Muppets" debuted in second place with a strong $42.3 million

"Arthur Christmas" unwrapped a fairly lackluster $17 million —  

As expected, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn–Part 1” led the box office once again over the extended Thanksgiving frame, but Disney’s “The Muppets” reboot more than held its own in second place.

Meanwhile, newcomers “Arthur Christmas” and “Hugo” started modestly, and “The Descendants,” “My Week with Marilyn,” and “The Artist” all impressed in limited release. Here’s how the box office played out over the holiday weekend:

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn–Part 1” (Geez, typing that whole title never gets any easier. I half-expect the next installment to be renamed “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn–Part 2: The Finale–2 Love or 2 Die”) grossed $62.3 million over the Wednesday-to-Sunday period, with $42 million of that coming in over the regular three-day frame. That gives the vampire drama a ten-day total of $221.3 million, ahead of the $214.3 million “Eclipse” had earned at the same point in its run.

Other comparisons between “Eclipse” and “Breaking Dawn” are hard to draw. “Eclipse” opened on a Wednesday and was a summer movie, while “Breaking Dawn” debuted on a Friday and is playing during the Thanksgiving season. Furthermore, both of their runs contained holiday weekends in the first two frames, which make weekend-to-weekend drops difficult to compare. For the record, though, “Breaking Dawn’s” three-day weekend drop was 70 percent from last week’s $138 million opening. One thing that can be said with certainty? The “Twilight” franchise remains a box office juggernaut. “Breaking Dawn’s” $10,330 per theater average was the second-highest in the Top 10, and when all is said and done, it should finish its run in the $300 million range.

Disney’s $40 million reboot “The Muppets” debuted in second place with a strong $42.3 million. The friendly felt puppets laughed up $29.5 million over the regular three-day weekend. Audiences skewed slightly older than those at typical kids’ movies, as only 35 percent of viewers were under the age of 18, but then the Muppets were never meant to be solely kiddie fare — that’s why “Sesame Street” was invented!

“The Muppets” $42.3 million bow is lower than the $49.1 million opening of the Mouse House’s “Enchanted” (which also starred Amy Adams) in 2007. Thanks to strong word-of-mouth and terrific reviews, “Enchanted” endured through the holiday season and wound up with a magical $127 million total. With a straight “A” CinemaScore grade and broad appeal with all ages, “The Muppets” may climb to a similar $100+ million cume in the coming weeks. Wherever “The Muppets” finishes though, it has already proven more successful than the last Muppets movies to hit theaters, “Muppets from Space,” which only earned $16.6 million in 1999. It looks like Miss Piggy might finally get the credit she’s always known she deserves. Welcome back, guys!

After a disappointing opening last weekend, “Happy Feet Two” needed a miraculous hold to save its box office prospects – but that didn’t really happen. The $135 million animated sequel earned another $18.4 million over five days and $13.4 million over three, which marks a rather large for a family film 37 percent drop. With $43.8 million after ten days, “Happy Feet Two” won’t come close to the original’s $198 million gross. Penguins – they’re just so 2006.

Two more expensive children’s movies rounded out the Top 5. In fourth, Sony’s Aardman-produced 3-D animation “Arthur Christmas” unwrapped a fairly lackluster $17 million in its first five days ($12.7 million over three days). The well-reviewed $98 million production scored an “A–” CinemaScore grade, and while its subject matter should help it hold well throughout December, “Arthur” will need to post some very small declines to make up for its low $3,762 per theater average and maintain its location count.

Martin Scorsese’s first foray into 3-D, “Hugo,” began its run in fifth place. The “adventure” (read: homage to silent film) cost producer GK Films a reported $170 million, and Paramount is distributing. “Hugo” earned $15.4 million in five days, and $11.4 million over the typical weekend. While those results sound alarmingly low, the silver lining here is that “Hugo” is only playing in 1,277 locations – the smaller run yielded a strong $8,888 per theater average over three days. Still, “Hugo” has a LOT to prove before anyone should consider calling it a success.

Paramount is clearly hoping to build a strong word-of-mouth foundation which could propel the well-reviewed film in the coming weeks, and a rep for the studio tells me that Paramount plans to add a few hundred locations to its run next weekend before breaking into an extra-wide release on December 9 (that is when CinemaScore data will be available). Film buffs were apparently interested to see how Scorsese used the 3-D illusion – according to Paramount, 75 percent of the film’s gross came from 3-D screens. (According to me: a quick Fandango browse reveals that today in New York City theaters, 64 out of 77 showtimes – that’s 83 percent! – are in 3-D. Would that mean that a 75 percent 3-D share is actually disappointing?)

In limited release, “The Descendants” proved utterly dominant. Fox Searchlight’s George Clooney drama, which is already earning a deafening amount of Oscar buzz, expanded onto 433 screens on Friday, and it increased 505 percent to $7.2 million over three days ($9.2 million over five), giving “The Descendants” a tremendous $16,628 per theater average and a ten-day total of $10.7 million.

Fox Searchlight, more than any other arthouse studio, knows how to platform a release as audiences become engaged with the title, and Searchlight often holds back on expansion when prognosticators assume they’ll push their movies wider – they didn’t put Alexander Payne’s last movie, “Sideways,” into more than 1,000 theaters until its 15th weekend. We’ll have to wait and see what the distributor does with “The Descendants,” but they’ve clearly got a hit on their hands. It should soar well past Clooney’s last picture, “The Ides of March” ($39.5 million) and perhaps even past Clooney’s 2009 Oscar bait, “Up in the Air” ($83 million).

Fellow Oscar contender “My Week with Marilyn” began its run with $2.1 million in five days. The Marilyn Monroe picture earned $311,000 out of 183 theaters on Wednesday and Thursday, and then expanded into 244 theaters for the weekend, when it earned $1.8 million more. That gave it a moderately good $6,161 per theater average. Encouragingly, Marilyn ticked up by a strong 13 percent on Saturday, and then dropped by a scant 30 percent on Sunday, so word-of-mouth may be spreading quickly for the drama, which earned an “A–” CinemaScore grade. According to Weinstein, audiences were 65 percent female and 50 percent over the age of 50.

In very limited debuts, “The Artist” and “A Dangerous Method” both posted strong numbers from just four theaters. The Artist found about $210,000 and a stunning $52,604 per theater average – great results for any film, much less a black-and-white silent one. With strong Oscar buzz and an “A” CinemaScore grade working in The Artist’s favor, Weinstein is planning to expand the film slowly through Christmastime. Sony Pictures Classics’ A Dangerous Method, meanwhile, grossed about $182,000, for an impressive $45,463 venue average. Expect expansions for the Michael Fassbender/Viggo Mortensen/Keira Knightly film as well.

One final note: Interestingly, “Tower Heist” seems to be enjoying a late surge of popularity. Despite losing 468 theaters this weekend, the caper clicked up 3 percent to $7.3 million over three days. The $85 million ($75 million after tax rebates) Eddie Murphy/Ben Stiller comedy, directed by Brett Ratner, has now found $65.3 million total.

1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 – $42 million ($62.3 mil over five days)

2. The Muppets – $29.5 mil ($42 mil)

3. Happy Feet Two – $13.4 mil ($18.4 mil)

4. Arthur Christmas – $12.7 mil ($17 mil)

5. Hugo – $11.4 mil ($15.4 mil)

6. Jack and Jill – $10.3 mil ($14.1 mil)

7. Immortals – $8.8 mil ($12.6 mil)

8. Puss in Boots – $7.5 mil ($10.4 mil)

9. Tower Heist – $7.3 mil ($10.2 mil)

10. The Descendants – $7.2 mil ($9.2 mil)

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