Another weekend, another win for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1. The latest Twilight movie claimed the top spot at the box office for the third-straight weekend thanks to an average hold and a comparatively poor second-weekend performance from its biggest competitor, The Muppets. On an aggregate level, the Top 12 grossed under $74 million, which is slightly off from the same period last year ($78.3 million). Total box office wound up just over $81 million, which makes it the lowest-grossing weekend of 2011.
Breaking Dawn dropped 60 percent to $16.5 million. That tally is the best third-weekend gross out of all of the Twilight movies including New Moon, which fell 64 percent to $15.4 million on the same weekend in 2009. Through 17 days in theaters, the penultimate Twilight movie has earned $247.3 million.
The Muppets held on the second place with $11.1 million. It's 62 percent post-Thanksgiving decline was notably worse than Tangled's 56 percent and Enchanted's 52 percent. The movie has so far made $56.4 million, and it should pass The Muppet Movie ($65.2 million) next weekend to become the highest-grossing entry in the franchise (though it has no chance of surpassing that movie's attendance).
After expanding to 1,840 theaters (up from 1,277 last weekend), Hugo moved up two spots to claim third place. The Martin Scorsese children's book adaptation eased just 34 percent to $7.55 million, and has now earned $25.1 million.
Arthur Christmas was off just 39 percent to $7.4 million. That's the best post-Thanksgiving drop for a Christmas movie since Just Friends in 2005 (which had an identical decline), and it indicates that Arthur will continue to play well throughout the Holidays. After 12 days in theaters, the Aardman Animation movie has grossed $25.3 million.
Falling 56 percent to $5.9 million, Happy Feet Two did little to improve its status as one of 2011's biggest disappointments. With a total of $51.7 million so far, the animated sequel has currently made just 43 percent of its predecessor through the same point, and it has virtually no chance of closing anywhere near $100 million.
Distributor Fox Searchlight had a strong weekend in the specialty arena. The Descendants expanded to a nearly-wide 574 locations and eased 35 percent to $4.8 million. The movie has so far made $17.7 million, and should be set for a nationwide push beginning next weekend. Searchlight also opened Shame to $349,519 at 10 locations for a strong per-theater average of $34,952. That's a better opening average than 2004's The Dreamers (Searchlight's last NC-17 movie) despite playing in twice as many theaters. While the movie is way too graphic and ultimately ambiguous for mainstream audiences, Shame seems like a lock for a healthy arthouse run.