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Thanksgiving Families: Some Much More Popular Than Others

The Muppets Amy Adams. Letdown as Thanksgiving audiences flock to unorthodox family movie
The Muppets with Amy Adams. One would think that James Bobin’s The Muppets is the sort of ideal flick to come out during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. Yet the “family movie” that has become one of the year’s biggest blockbusters – not only in the U.S. but also internationally – deals not with furry puppets, but with themes such as the consequences of interspecies breeding, the horrors of impending motherhood, and the life-saving possibility of abortion (that’s Breaking Dawn – Part 1). In fact, notwithstanding a number of good reviews and the presence of Amy Adams, the $45 million The Muppets has been an undeniable box office letdown.

Thanksgiving families at the movies: Unorthodox kinfolk easily beat more conventional types

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

(See previous post: “‘Tis the Season for Interspecies Breeding – But Breaking Dawn – Part 1 Trailing Previous Twilight Sequels.”) Nov. 29 update: In the United States, Thanksgiving is a time for families to gather, whether pigging out at the dinner table or watching movies on the big and/or small screen.

That may help to explain why movies espousing family values continue to dominate the North American box office this 2011 Thanksgiving Weekend. On big (and not-so-big) screens across the U.S., you’ll find family Christmases and families of movie lovers, in addition to penguin families, Muppet families, Hollywood families, and vampire families.

Amy Adams’ ‘The Muppets’ trailing ‘Enchanted’

For starters, Bill Condon’s The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1, starring a pregnant Kristen Stewart, an impregnating Robert Pattinson, and a madly jealous Taylor Lautner, added $41.7 million – down a whopping 70 percent – over the post-Thanksgiving Day weekend, Nov. 25–27, according to figures found at Its cume stands at $220.8 million.

Trailing Breaking Dawn – Part 1, James Bobin’s The Muppets, a $45 million-budget Walt Disney Studios release, scored a good but hardly outstanding $29.2 million. Three-time Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee Amy Adams (Junebug, 2007; Doubt, 2008; The Fighter, 2010), Chris Cooper, and Jason Segel star.

Amy Adams, by the way, was also the star of Disney’s global box office hit Enchanted, which opened the week of Thanksgiving 2007. For comparison’s sake: The Muppets’ cume after five days is $41.5 million; four years ago, Enchanted took in $49.1 million (approximately $57 million today) during the same time frame.

‘The Muppets’ international prospects + slow-moving Happy Feet Two

The Muppets’ international prospects outside English-language countries such as the United Kingdom (where the TV show actually originated in the 1970s) and Australia are at best iffy. Disney suits can’t be too happy about their film’s domestic performance.

Besides Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, and Jason Segel, The Muppets’ extensive cast includes just about everybody in U.S. show business, e.g., Rashida Jones, Whoopi Goldberg, Sarah Silverman, Selena Gomez, Alan Arkin, Judd Hirsch, Jim Parsons, Neil Patrick Harris, and eight-decade Hollywood veteran Mickey Rooney.

Meanwhile, George Miller’s Happy Feet Two continued its modest run, bringing in a mild $13.39 million at no. 3 on Thanksgiving Weekend. The Warner Bros.-distributed animated movie’s cume stands at $43.75 million. For comparison’s sake: back in 2006, Happy Feet collected $99.5 million (not adjusted for inflation) during the same period.

Happy Feet Two features the voices of Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Sofia Vergara, Hank Azaria, Robin Williams, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Common, and Pink.

‘Arthur Christmas’ disappoints despite stellar voice cast

Directed by Sarah Smith, Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures’ animated 3D feature Arthur Christmas was another family-friendly commercial disappointment on Thanksgiving Weekend, collecting $12.06 million from 3,376 sites for a five-day total of $16.3 million.

Unless the international market comes to the rescue – the film has performed moderately well in the U.K. and Germany – there’s no chance Sony will be able to recover its hefty $100 million investment at the box office.

Arthur Christmas features the voices of James McAvoy, Laura Linney, Eva Longoria, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Laurie, Imelda Staunton, Joan Cusack, Jane Horrocks, Andy Serkis, Michael Palin, Ashley Jensen, Robbie Coltrane, Bill Nighy, and Dominic West.

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise
Hugo Asa Butterfield Chloe Grace Moretz. Martin Scorsese costly box office flopHugo with Asa Butterfield and Chloë Grace Moretz. Martin Scorsese’s costly (“less than $150 million”) fantasy centered on the development of cinema as an art form has been a major box office disappointment whose only – however small – hopes are the international market and some strong Oscar love. Asa Butterfield and Chloë Grace Moretz are featured alongside Sacha Baron Cohen, Richard Griffiths, Christopher Lee, and Jude Law. John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator) wrote the screenplay based on Brian Selznick’s novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

Costly ‘Hugo’ has no chance of recovering budget at domestic box office

At no. 5, Martin Scorsese’s 3D adventure-fantasy drama Hugo brought in $11.36 million from 1,277 locations on Thanksgiving Weekend, averaging a solid – though hardly record-breaking – $8,899 per-theater average. Hugo‘s revenues and average were boosted by 3D surcharges, as about 75 percent of the film’s take originated from 3D venues.

As per producer Graham King, Hugo cost “less than $150 million.” Unless that means way less – preferably way less than $50 million – Scorsese’s latest has no chance of recovering its budget at the North American box office. Not even close.

Its total after about four-and-a-half days: $15.4 million. And in spite of its generally well-regarded use of 3D technology, international box office prospects don’t look all that rosy either, as Hugo lacks stars (such as Scorsese’s 21st-century muse, Leonardo DiCaprio), superheroes, and a numeral at the end of its title.

Among the English-proficient French (and non-French) characters inhabiting Hugo‘s universe are the following:

Asa Butterfield in the title role. Chloë Grace Moretz. Sacha Baron Cohen.

Best Actor Oscar winner Ben Kingsley (Gandhi, 1982) as film pioneer Georges Méliès.

Veteran Christopher Lee (The Wicker Man, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring).

Two-time Oscar nominee Jude Law (as Best Supporting Actor for The Talented Mr. Ripley, 1999; as Best Actor for Cold Mountain, 2003).

Ray Winstone. Emily Mortimer. Michael Stuhlbarg. Frances de la Tour. Richard Griffiths.

Jack and Jill Adam Sandler in drag: Disastrous family Thanksgiving + box office flopJack and Jill with Adam Sandler times twice. Directed by Dennis Dugan, the lowbrow comedy Jack and Jill stars Adam Sandler as both a Los Angeles-based advertising executive and his “working-class” sister, who, as fate would have it, have to spend Thanksgiving together because, after all, they’re “family.” Also in the cast of this widely lambasted comedy: Katie Holmes and Al Pacino. Steve Koren and Adam Sandler himself were credited for the screenplay, from a “story” by Ben Zook.

‘Jack and Jill’ one of Adam Sandler’s weakest performers + ‘Immortals’ dying slow death

From no. 6 to no. 8 on this past Thanksgiving Weekend’s box office chart were:

  • The Adam Sandler star vehicle Jack and Jill with $10 million ($57.12 million cume). This widely panned comedy featuring Sandler as both himself and his drag self will end up as one of the actor’s worst box office performers of the last decade in the U.S. and Canada. Also in the cast: Katie Holmes and, inexplicably, Best Actor Oscar winner Al Pacino (Scent of a Woman, 1992).
  • Tarsem Singh’s fantasy adventure Immortals with $8.87 million ($68.7 million cume). In the cast: Henry Cavill, Freida Pinto, Kellan Lutz, Isabel Lucas, Mickey Rourke, and two-time Academy Award nominee John Hurt (as Best Supporting Actor for Midnight Express, 1978; as Best Actor for The Elephant Man, 1980).
  • Chris Miller’s Shrek spin-off Puss in Boots, featuring the voices of Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek. The DreamWorks Animation feature pulled in $7.51 million ($135.43 million cume).

Of the aforementioned three movies, only Puss in Boots has managed to surpass its ($130 million) budget at the domestic box office. But remember, studios get only about 50–55 percent of a film’s domestic gross while production budgets don’t include marketing & distribution expenses.

In other words, Puss in Boots is a domestic box office letdown – on the bright side, one with a likely robust international life thanks to its Shrek association. The $80 million Jack and Jill is a downright domestic flop and so is the $75 million Immortals, though the latter has already grossed about $65 million overseas.

Solid ‘The Descendants’ + ‘Tower Heist’ is a dud

At no. 9, Alexander Payne’s critical hit The Descendants, starring George Clooney and Shailene Woodley, brought in $7.34 million ($10.88 million cume). The likely Best Picture Academy Award contender added more than 400 locations this past Thanksgiving Weekend; its per-theater average at 433 sites was an excellent $16,628 – and without the help of 3D surcharges.

For comparison’s sake: The Descendants’ average was more than twice that of My Week with Marilyn‘s $7,174 at 244 locations. Also, in late December 2009 the George Clooney-Jason Reitman well-received collaboration Up in the Air averaged $18,344 at 175 locations; Up in the Air went on to gross $83 million domestically. (All things being equal, the fewer the number of locations, the higher the per-theater average should be.)

Following The Descendants was Brett Ratner’s $75 million action comedy Tower Heist with $7.32 million. Domestic cume: $65.19 million. Like Jack and Jill and Immortals, Tower Heist is definitely a domestic box office dud. In the cast: Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Gabourey Sidibe, Téa Leoni, and Alan Alda.

J. Edgar Leonardo DiCaprio as Hoover. Did FBI director have affair with Clyde Tolson?J. Edgar with Leonardo DiCaprio. J. Edgar Hoover was one of the most notorious and controversial U.S. figures of the 20th century. Besides using the FBI as his own private fiefdom, Hoover may or may not have been intimately involved with his associate director, Clyde Tolson. In J. Edgar, director Clint Eastwood and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black provide a – tepidly received – portrayal of the man who, according to the film, didn’t want to dance with Ginger Rogers, claimed he wanted to marry Dorothy Lamour, and attempted to blackmail Martin Luther King Jr. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Hoover while Armie Hammer was cast as Tolson.

Director Clint Eastwood’s domestic box office: ‘J. Edgar’ vs. ‘Milk’ & ‘Invictus’

At no. 11 this past Thanksgiving Weekend, Clint Eastwood’s tepidly received J. Edgar Hoover biopic J. Edgar raked in $4.97 million at 1,947 sites. Written by Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black (Milk, 2008), and featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Judi Dench, Naomi Watts, and Josh Lucas, J. Edgar has collected $28.83 million after three weekends out.

For comparison’s sake:

  • Gus Van Sant’s Milk, also written by Black and starring Best Actor Oscar winner Sean Penn, cumed at $31.83 million in early 2009.
  • After three weekends in December 2009, Eastwood’s Invictus, starring eventual Oscar nominees Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman, had scored $23.04 million at more than 2,000 locations. Invictus ended its run with $37.49 million in North America.

J. Edgar is clearly running ahead, though it’s debatable whether it’ll manage to pass the $50 million mark in the U.S. and Canada – especially if it fails to get much awards season assistance. Overseas prospects are brighter merely because of the presence of Leonardo DiCaprio.

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

‘My Week with Marilyn’ just okay – but ahead of ‘Blue Valentine’

Starring likely Best Actress Oscar contender Michelle Williams, Simon Curtis’ My Week with Marilyn took in $1.75 million at 244 sites (cume to date: $2.06 million), averaging a good $7,174 per theater.

For comparison’s sake: last January, Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine, starring Williams and Ryan Gosling, averaged $6,029 per site after expanding from 40 to 230 locations on its second weekend out. (Note: Blue Valentine had the advantage of higher earnings on a Sunday before a “partial” national holiday, Martin Luther King Day.)

The Weinstein Company released both My Week with Marilyn and Blue Valentine, which went on to gross only $9.7 million domestically despite Williams’ eventual Best Actress Oscar nod.

In addition to Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe, My Week with Marilyn, which is set during the making of The Prince and the Showgirl, features:

Eddie Redmayne as author/filmmaker Colin Clark, the titular “My.”

Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier.

Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh.

Dougray Scott as Arthur Miller.

Toby Jones. Emma Watson. Geraldine Somerville. Pip Torrens.

The Artist has strong debut – but trailing The King’s Speech

Another The Weinstein Company Thanksgiving release, Michel Hazanavicius’ widely acclaimed The Artist opened with a strong $204,878 at 4 locations, averaging $51,220 per site.

For comparison’s sake: Last year, Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech – a previous TWC release – also opened on Thanksgiving Weekend at four theaters, earning $355,450, or $88,863 per site.

Obviously, The King’s Speech had the advantage of featuring better-known names to American audiences: Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, and Geoffrey Rush. In addition to, well, color cinematography and audible dialogue.

Thanks to awards season momentum, The King’s Speech went on to gross $135.45 million in North America.

In The Artist – which mixes elements from, among others, What Price Hollywood?, A Star Is Born, and Rin Tin Tin movies – Cannes Film Festival Best Actor winner Jean Dujardin stars as a fast-fading silent film actor whose romantic interest, Hazanavicius’ real-life wife Bérénice Bejo, is a fast-rising star.

Featured players in this (mostly) silent comedy-drama include Penelope Ann Miller, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Missi Pyle, and veteran Malcolm McDowell (If…., A Clockwork Orange).

Psychological drama

And finally, distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method opened with $167,953 at four theaters on Thanksgiving Weekend, averaging $41,988 per site.

Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung, Keira Knightley as Sabina Spielrein, and Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud are seen in this – quite literally – psychological drama.

Chloë Grace Moretz and Asa Butterfield Hugo image: Jaap Buitendijk / Paramount Pictures.

Amy Adams The Muppets image: Patrick Wymore / Disney Enterprises.

Adam Sandler & Adam Sandler in drag Jack and Jill image: Columbia Pictures.

Leonardo DiCaprio J. Edgar image: Warner Bros.

“Thanksgiving Families for All Tastes: Some Much More Popular Than Others” last updated in July 2018.

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