This may have been the slowest weekend at the domestic box office in 2011 – estimates range from $79 to $82 million – but one star continues to shine (even if steadily losing its brilliance): despite an estimated 60 percent drop-off rate, Bill Condon's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1, starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner, topped the North American box office chart for the third weekend in a row. Breaking Dawn has now become the very first Twilight movie at the no. 1 spot on three weekends (consecutive or otherwise).
According to Box Office Mojo, Breaking Dawn earned an estimated $16.9 million, easily beating The Muppets' $11.2 million at no. 2. Even Martin Scorsese's well-received Hugo, which collected $7.62 million at no. 3, was left behind in terms of per-theater average: at 4,046 locations, Breaking Dawn averaged $4,177 per site; Hugo, despite 3D surcharges, averaged only $4,144 at 1,840. Remember, all things being equal, the lower the number of theaters, the higher the per-theater average should be.
Among the top twelve movies on the domestic box office chart, only Alexander Payne-George Clooney's The Descendants and Michelle Williams-Eddie Redmayne-Kenneth Branagh's My Week with Marilyn had higher per-theater averages than Breaking Dawn: $9,059 and $4,836, respectively. Now, The Descendants is playing at only 574 locations; My Weekend with Marilyn at even fewer: 244. (And that means The Weinstein Company won't be able to expand much further their movie starring Williams as Marilyn Monroe, Branagh as Laurence Olivier, and Redmayne as the "My" in the title.)
It's also worth noting that Breaking Dawn earned more on its third weekend than any of the previous Twilight Saga movies: David Slade's The Twilight Saga: Eclipse grossed $13.42 million in July 2010, Chris Weitz's The Twilight Saga: New Moon grossed $15.42 million (about $16 million today) on the first weekend in December 2009; and Catherine Hardwicke's Twilight took in $13.04 million (about $14.5 million today) also in early December 2008.
Now, regarding Breaking Dawn's three-time "it's lonely at the top" feat: Twilight was the no. 1 box office movie for a single weekend in fall 2008. On Weekend 2, it fell to third place, after the Reese Witherspoon-Vince Vaughn comedy Four Christmases and the animated feature Bolt, featuring the voices of John Travolta and Miley Cyrus. Twilight managed to surpass Bolt on Weekend 3, but from then on it went steadily downhill.
In fall 2009, New Moon was on top for two consecutive weekends. On Weekend 3, it trailed the Sandra Bullock sleeper blockbuster The Blind Side. On Weekend 4, New Moon was behind not only The Blind Side, but also Disney's The Princess and the Frog, featuring the voices of Oprah Winfrey and Terrence Howard, and Clint Eastwood's eventual (domestic) box office flop Invictus, starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.
Eclipse opened on a Wednesday shortly before the Fourth of July weekend, in the height of the summer season. Needless to say, it stayed one single weekend at the top of the domestic box office chart. On Weekend 2, it trailed Despicable Me, featuring the voices of Steve Carell and The Muppets' Jason Segel; on Weekend 3, Eclipse trailed not only the animated sleeper hit, but also Christopher Nolan-Leonardo DiCaprio-Marion Cotillard's sci-fier Inception and Nicolas Cage-Jay Baruchel's eventual box office disappointment The Sorcerer's Apprentice. On Weekend 4, Eclipse was way down at the no. 8 spot, behind the aforementioned three movies, plus Angelina Jolie's Salt, Pixar's Tom Hanks-Tim Allen-voiced Toy Story 3, the eventual Selena Gomez flop Ramona and Beezus, and the widely panned Adam Sandler comedy hit Grown Ups.
Adapted by Melissa Rosenberg from Stephenie Meyer's bestselling novel, in addition to Pattinson, Stewart, and Lautner, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 also features Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Kellan Lutz, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Dakota Fanning, MyAnna Buring, Booboo Stewart, and Michael Sheen.
Plus Maggie Grace, Lee Pace, Sarah Clarke, Anna Kendrick, Christian Serratos, Christopher Heyerdahl, Michael Welch, Christian Camargo, Julia Jones, Gil Birmingham, Kiowa Gordon, Billy Burke, Bronson Pelletier, Charlie Bewley, Tyson Houseman, Daniel Cudmore, Jamie Campbell Bower, Casey LaBow, Mia Maestro, and Alex Meraz.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn photo: Andrew Cooper / Summit Entertainment