Everyone feasted, on new goodies and prime leftovers, at the movies this Thanksgiving. The North American box office registered a succulent $288 million, up $20 million from the turkey-time record set in 2009. Customers caught up with The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 ($64 million for the five-day span from Wednesday to Sunday), according to preliminary studio estimates. The older action crowd flocked to the James Bond film Skyfall ($51.1 million), while kids and adults who missed going to school sampled Lincoln ($34.1 million), helping to make the Steven Spielberg bio-pic the new Oscar front-runner. For a rare holiday weekend, holdovers filled the top three slots.
The three new pictures in wide release all faced significant challenges, and all managed to hang on. The DreamWorks animated feature Rise of the Guardians, based on William Joyce’s novel, imagines Santa Claus as an action figure, a bearded Marvel man fighting a villain of Christmas future. At a production cost of $145 million, and a first-five-day total of $32.6 million — well below the $40 million that most 3-D cartoon features easily recoup in their first three days — Guardians must build its audience, not simply hold on to it. But with a golden “A” rating from the CinemaScore survey of early attendees, word-of-mouth may keep the movie flying through Christmas.
(READ: Mary Pols’ review of Rise of the Guardians)
Life of Pi, Ang Lee’s 3-D movie of the Yann Martel novel, cost nearly as much as Guardians ($120 million) and earned a bit less ($30.15 million). But that number made the folks at Fox positively giddy, given that the movie has an unknown Indian teenager as its star — a boy stranded in a small boat on the Pacific after losing his family in a storm disaster — and a CGI Bengal tiger as the boat’s only other passenger. The critics were generous, and the A-minus CinemaScore rank encouraging from a weekend crowd that was 54% male, 60% over the age of 25. The film also earned $17 million in its first few days in China, Hong Kong, India and Lee’s native Taiwan. It appears that the Pi people may now dream of Oscars, at least in the technical categories, and something bigger: breaking even on a grand investment.
(READ: Corliss’s review of Life of Pi)
As for the other wide-release debut, Red Dawn, it’s a wonder it didn’t go direct to video years ago. Made in 2009, long before leading-man Chris Hemsworth had donned his Thor costume, this remake of the 1984 Commie-phobic drama about kids in the woods battling a Soviet invasion switched the enemy from Russians to Chinese, and then, with an eye to the world market, North Korea. With the huge delay, and the addled political strategy, Red Dawn still pulled in $22 million over the five-day holiday in North America. (No early figures are available from North Korea.) The film’s audience — 62% male, 52% over 25 — gave it a less-than-victorious B on CinemaScore.
(READ: Mary Pols’ review of Red Dawn)
Silver Linings Playbook, the Oscar-hopeful romcom with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, crashed the top 10, with $7.6 million for the five days, though playing in only 367 theaters. In two limited-release films that opened Friday, Hitchcock, the bio-pic about the director and his wife, starring Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, opened to a chilly $301,000 in 17 theaters; and Rust and Bone, the French drama with Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard as a whale trainer who loses her legs, earned a modest $30,200 at two New York City houses. Central Park Five, marking a rare venture onto the big screen by PBS docu-dean Ken Burns, took in $33,900 in three theaters. These figures aren’t great, but it was tough for indie films on a weekend when mainstream fare like Lincoln and Life of Pi offered thoughtful Thanksgiving nourishment on the grand scale.
Here are the 10 top-grossing pictures in North American theaters, as reported by Box Office Mojo. We list the estimated totals for both the weekend (Friday-Sunday) and the five-day Thanksgiving frame (Wednesday-Sunday).
1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, $43.1 million, weekend; $64 million, five days; $227 million, second week
2. Skyfall, $36 million, weekend; $51.1 million, five days; $221.7 million, third week
3. Lincoln, $25 million, weekend; $34.1 million, five days; $62.2 million, third week
4. Rise of the Guardians, $24 million, weekend; $32.6 million, first five days
5. Life of Pi, $22 million, weekend; $30.15 million, first five days
6. Wreck-It Ralph, $16.8 million, weekend; $22.8 million, five days; $149.5 million, fourth week
7. Red Dawn, $14.6 million, weekend; $22 million, first five days
8. Flight, $8.6 million, weekend; $10.3 million, five days; $74.9 million, fourth week
9. Silver Linings Playbook, $4.6 million, weekend; $7.6 million, five days; $6.5 million, second week
10. Argo, $3.9 million, weekend; $5.7 million, five days; $98.1 million, seventh week