James Bond and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunters

'Skyfall' and 'Lincoln' hit solid numbers, but far below 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2'

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Andrew Cooper, SMPSP/Summit Entertainment

On Election Day, no state passed a referendum in favor of human-vampire marriage, but 10 days later moviegoers voted for mixed-species unions in a landslide. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, the final episode in the five-film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s tetralogy of teen-girl Bella and vampire-hunk Edward, scored a toothsome $141.3 million at North American theaters, according to preliminary studio estimates.

Distantly trailing BD2, but registering strong numbers, were two movies about national governments in crisis: a fantasy terror attack in Skyfall, a true-life Civil War political wrangle in Steven Spielberg‘s bio-pic Lincoln. The 23rd installment in the 50-year James Bond film franchise became the all-time too-grossing 007 picture (in inflated dollars), while the Steven Spielberg bio-pic certified its status as an Oscar front-runner with surprisingly solid public support. Business at domestic theaters was bloody good all around: up about 15% from the pre-Thanksgiving weekend last year, when Breaking Dawn Part 1 led the bat- and wolf-pack.

[UPDATE: In the final weekend figures, released Monday, BD2 finished with $141.1 million — below the $142.8 million of the Saga’s 2009 New Moon episode and above BD1‘s $138.1 million. All other top-10 films were close to their estimates. The $1.28 million for Jab Tak Hai Jaan pushed the Indian musical melodrama into eighth place, $16,000 above Pitch Perfect and $111,000 higher than Here Comes the Boom.] 

(READ: Mary Pols’ review of Breaking Dawn Part 1)

Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) had engaged in what must be the longest foreplay in movie history — more than six hours of screen time in three-plus features — before consummating their love in BD1. The saga’s fans kept the faith, though, spending $2.5 billion worldwide for the first four films. The original Twilight, in 2008, earned $392.6 million globally, the next three about $700 million each, pulling about 60% of that amount from foreign territories. That’s an excellent return on a four-movie $265-million cumulative budget. BD2, which cost about $120 million to produce, snagged a snazzy $341 million around the world this weekend and should have no trouble hitting the familiar $700-million mark. At home, the target audience — 79% female, 50% under 25 — awarded the film a pristine “A” rating in a CinemaScore survey of early attendees. At the baby shower for Bella and Edward’s newborn Renesmee, it’s raining money.

(READ: Can Twilight Ruin Real-Life Romance?

Skyfall, which last weekend earned $88.4 million for the year’s fourth best opening, kept cruising at high altitude, with a still-celestial $41.5 million. That 53% drop is in line with the second-weekend stats of 2012’s other blockbusters: The Avengers (down 50.3%), The Dark Knight Rises (down 61.4%) and The Hunger Games (down 61.6%). But domestic numbers aren’t as important to Skyfall as to the Twilight movies; the two previous Bond films starring Daniel Craig have earned at least 70% of their global revenue abroad. So far, 76% of the Skyfall worldwide take has come from the international side (where the movie opened a few weeks earlier). That $509.7 million represents the lion’s share of its $669.2 million take, which easily beats the previous Bond record-holder, Casino Royale at $599 million. In real dollars, though, Bond 23 still has quite a climb to catch Bond 4. Thunderball, starring Sean Connery as 007 and released in 1965, earned the modern-day equivalent of about $1.1 billion.

(READ: Corliss’s review of Skyfall

Lincoln, even with Spielberg’s éclat and two-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role, could have hit the fatal front line of audience indifference, given the scarcity of movies about the struggle to pass important legislation. (The only example that leaps to mind: 1776, the 1972 musical rendition of the fight over the Declaration of Independence.) But this fact-based drama, detailing the battle to win votes in the House of Representatives for the anti-slavery amendment, surpassed early forecasts and earned a robust $21 million at 1,775 theaters. The next weeks will tell whether Lincoln can continue to attract mainstream acclaim, in a national forum where people vote by buying tickets. The film’s status as an Oscar finalist is all but certain.

(READ: Corliss’s review of Lincoln)

Two other Oscar hopefuls opened in limited release, each one at 16 theaters. Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell’s quirky comedy starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as a charming pair of neurotics, grossed $458,430; and Anna Karenina, with Keira Knightley as the love-struck heroine in Joe Wright’s stylized version of the Tolstoy novel, reaped $315,395. The pairing of two likable stars and the sheaf of enthusiastic reviews (a 90% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes) give Silver Linings a better chance at becoming a breakout hit than Anna Karenina (65% “fresh”), whose art-film pedigree will be rewarded with craft nominations come Oscar time.

(READ: Corliss’s reviews of Silver Linings Playbook and Anna Karenina

A foreign-language film made a rare breakthrough into the top 10, though it wasn’t listed by the movie-stats website Bob Office Mojo. The Bollywood musical Jab Tak Hai Jaan, headlined by Indian superstar Shah Rukh Khan and directed by the legendary Yash Chopra (who died Oct. 21 at 80), earned $1.2 million at 161 North American theaters that cater to the Desi diaspora. “Although its top-10 ranking is due in part to weakness at the lower end (all the Halloween films passed their expiration date),” writes Tom Brueggemann in his Thompson on Hollywood box-office report, “it is still an impressive feat for this day-and-date-with-India release of a top Bollywood action/romance.” A fierce melodrama about risked lives, lost memories and the search for a missing love, Jab Tak Hai Jaan might be just the tonic for Twilight fanpires, on the rebound after their Dawn finally broke in two.

Here are the Sunday estimates of this weekend’s top-grossing pictures in North American theaters, as reported by Box Office Mojo (except for No. 10):

1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, $141.3 million, first weekend

2. Skyfall, $41.5 million; $161.3 million, second week

3. Lincoln, $21 million; $22.4 million, second week

4. Wreck-It Ralph, $18.3 million; $121.5 million, third week

5. Flight, $8.6 million; $61.3 million, third week

6. Argo, $4.1 million; $92 million, sixth week

7. Taken 2, $2.1 million; $134.6 million, seventh week

8. Pitch Perfect, $1.3 million; $62 million, eighth week

9. Here Comes the Boom, $1.2 million; $41 million, sixth week

10. Jab Tak Hai Jaan, $1.2 million, first week