Leftovers. An American family may spend a day or two devouring the rest of the turkey, the sweet potatoes and mince pie, but for Hollywood, it’s not until the weekend after the long Thanksgiving holiday that moviegoers sample the hits they’ve missed. Like Walmart shoppers coming late to the big-ticket items, audiences tend to ignore new movies, even a prestige effort with a major star. Sorry, Brad Pitt. This time they killed you softly.
The top six films at the North American box office last weekend — The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, Skyfall, Lincoln, Rise of the Guardians, Life of Pi and Wreck-It Ralph — were the six leaders this time, according to estimates posted very early Sunday morning by Nikki Finke at Deadline Hollywood; and, for now, they are in the exact same spots.
[UPDATE: In final box-office statistics released Monday, Rise of the Guardians edged Lincoln by a mere $12,156 to take third place for the weekend. The Collection earned $14,138 more than Silver Linings Playbook to capture 10th place. And the distributor for Dragon finally reported the martial-arts film's weekend take: a meager $11,137 at 14 theaters. No punch, no kick.]
Turns out this is a post-holiday tradition. In the brief pause between the big November movies and the pre-Christmas barrage of Oscar contenders, action films and comedies, movie studios rarely release any heavy hitters. Only once in the last 20 years — with Tom Cruise‘s The Last Samurai in 2003 — has a new picture topped the box-office chart the weekend after Thanksgiving. Usually the studios just take the weekend off; last year no new picture opened in as many as 60 theaters.
The Weinstein Company probably figured that someone must want to see a new movie — maybe a bloody crime drama with Pitt as a supercool hit man. Hence the debut of Killing Them Softly from writer-director Andrew Dominik, who teamed with the star in another prestige loser, the 2007 The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Opening in 2,424 theaters, Killing landed in seventh place with a popgun fizzle: an estimated $6.8 million. By comparison, the family drama Brothers, with Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire (remember him?) exchanging glowers over Natalie Portman, opened on this same weekend in 2009 and earned $12.4 million on 300 fewer screens. As Zac Gille of Alt Film Guide notes, this could be the worst opening weekend ever for a Pitt film in wide release.
(READ: Richard Corliss’s review of Killing Them Softly)
And that’s the good news, for Killing Them Softly also managed to pull a rock-bottom, subterranean “F’ grade from the CinemaScore survey of early attendees. The last movie to get an F-you score was The Devil Inside back in Jan., but the makers of that critically reviled exorcism cheapie, which Paramount bought for a remainder-sale $1 million, could take some solace in a sensational $33.7 million opening weekend. Killing, which received a respectable 79% “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes aggregate of film reviews, must have Pitt, Dominik and the Weinsteins wondering what went wrong between the critics’ screenings and opening day.
Another grade-Z horror film, The Collection, battled Silver Linings Playbook for 10th place, with both entries earning about $3.4 million. A sequel to the 2009 The Collector, in which a sadist captures and terrifies a Detroit family, The Collection sends its hero (Josh Stewart) back into the madman’s booby-trapped house. Since the original movie earned only $7.7 million in its entire run, one may wonder why either Stewart or the filmmakers thought it worthy to return to their ramshackle Saw venue. After two rentals, this property is officially condemned.
(READ: Richard Corliss on how Saw came and conquered)
In a very limited slate of new indie releases, the rock-doc Beware of Mr. Baker, about curdled Cream drummer Ginger Baker, took in $12,500 at the Film Forum in Manhattan; and Love, Marilyn, an HBO tribute to Marilyn Monroe, made just $4,000 in its Oscar-qualifying run at one theater. Dragon, the Chinese martial-arts epic that pleased most critics (88% “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes), opened at New York’s Village East Theater but did not report box-office revenue as of Sunday afternoon.
(READ: Mary Corliss’s review of Dragon)
Here are the Sunday estimates of this weekend’s top-grossing pictures in North American theaters, as reported by Deadline Hollywood:
1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, $17.2 million; $254.4 million, third week
2. Skyfall, $17 million; $246 million, fourth week
3. Lincoln, $13.3 million; $83.5 million, fourth week
4. Rise of the Guardians, $13.3 million; $48.7 million, second week
5. Life of Pi, $11.4 million; $47.8 million, second week
6. Wreck-It Ralph, $7 million; $158.2 million, fifth week
7. Killing Them Softly, $6.8 million, first weekend
8. Red Dawn, $6.3 million; $31.1 million, second week
9. Flight, $4.4 million; $81.4 million, fifth week
10. Silver Linings Playbook, $3.1 million; $10.7 million, third week