The worst weekend at the North American box office since September 2008, with an overall take of $78 million. That's this very weekend (Dec. 9-11), when Garry Marshall's critically lambasted Warner Bros. release New Year's Eve succeeded in topping the domestic box office chart with a meager $13.7 million, according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. At 3,505 locations, New Year's Eve averaged a not-at-all celebratory $3,910 per site.
Thanks to a prestigious cast including Oscar winners Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, and Hilary Swank; Oscar nominees Michelle Pfeiffer and Abigail Breslin; and teen idol Zac Efron, Sex and the City's Sarah Jessica Parker, Two and Half Men's Ashton Kutcher, and Transformers: Dark of the Moon co-star Josh Duhamel (photo), some had been expecting that New Year's Eve would open around $30 million. Later on, $20 million became an acceptable figure. But $13.7 million? Chances are New Year's Eve won't get even close to matching its $56 million budget at the domestic box office – let alone recouping it. (Overseas, the movie opened with an acceptable $12.6 million in 36 territories.)
For comparison's sake: Marshall's all-star Valentine's Day – featuring Julia Roberts, Taylor Lautner, Bradley Cooper, Shirley MacLaine, Taylor Swift, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Alba, and others – debuted with $56.26 million in February 2010. Ken Kwapis' similarly packaged all-star romantic comedy-drama He's Just Not That into You – with once again Bradley Cooper, plus Jennifer Aniston, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Connelly, Drew Barrymore, Ben Affleck, Justin Long, et al. – brought in $27.78 million in February 2009.
In addition to the stars mentioned in the second paragraph, New Year's Eve celebrants include Cary Elwes, Alyssa Milano, Common, Jessica Biel, Seth Meyers, Sarah Paulson, Til Schweiger, Carla Gugino, Katherine Heigl, Jon Bon Jovi, Sofia Vergara, Lea Michele, James Belushi, Penny Marshall, Cherry Jones, Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges, Hector Elizondo, and Ryan Seacrest.
Expectations for the Jonah Hill vehicle The Sitter were quite low to begin with. After earning an estimated $3.72 million on Friday, The Sitter seemed doomed to gross $1 or $2 million less than the most modest predictions of about $10-$11 million. It turns out (if estimates are correct) the R-rated 20th Century Fox comedy pulled in $10 million, at the low end of expectations. These days, that's good news. The Sitter's per-theater average was a weak $3,636 at 2,750 locations. Directed by David Gordon Green, The Sitter, which also features Sam Rockwell and Ari Graynor, cost approximately $25 million.
After three weeks on top – a first for a Twilight Saga movie – Bill Condon's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 was down two spots at no. 3, with $7.9 million – down 52 percent, the highest drop-off rate among the top-twelve movies. In addition to love triangle participants Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner the Breaking Dawn cast includes 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.
At no. 4, The Muppets, featuring Amy Adams, Rashida Jones, Chris Cooper, and Jason Segel, brought in $7.07 million (down 36 percent).
At no. 5, Arthur Christmas drew $6.6 million – down a mere 11 percent. That's good news for the costly animated feature that has been doing only mediocre business.
Rounding out the top ten were Martin Scorsese-Asa Butterfield's Hugo, with $6.12 million (down 19 percent, despite the addition of 768 sites), Alexander Payne-George Clooney's The Descendants with $4.83 million (+1 percent, after adding 302 sites), George Miller's Happy Feet Two with $3.75 million (down 37 percent), Adam Sandler's Jack and Jill with $3.2 million (down 40 percent), and Tarsem Singh-Henry Cavill's Immortals with $2.44 million (down 45 percent).
At no. 11, Brett Ratner's Tower Heist, with Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller, took in $2.4 million. It was followed by the animated Puss in Boots, featuring the voices of Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek, with $1.65 million.
Note on the current state of the North American box office: not a single movie on the top twelve chart earned more than $6,000 per site. Only The Descendants had a per-theater average above $5,000 – and that's the only movie playing at less than 1,800 locations. (The fewer the number of theaters, the higher the per-theater average should be.)
New Year's Eve photo: Andrew Schwartz / Warner Bros.