Here's one the Mayans didn't see coming: "2012" took in $225 million at the box office worldwide, outpacing projections in North America with a leading $65 million domestic premiere, according to studio data.
Coming in second on the home court was “Disney's A Christmas Carol,” Robert Zemeckis’ 3D animated Charles Dickens adaptation, which dropped only 26 percent for its second weekend and finished with $22.3 million.
Lionsgate's “Precious” continued to draw huge numbers in limited release, finishing fourth with $6.1 million in only 174 locations.
Finishing in the middle of the pack in its third weekend of release, “Michael Jackson’s This Is It” experienced a 61 percent week-to-week drop with a $5.1 million three-day take. The concert-rehearsal film has now brought in $67.2 domestically for Sony. Like Sony’s “2012,” “This Is It” has played huge abroad, grossing another $11.5 million this weekend, bringing the worldwide cumulative total for the movie -- acquired by Sony for just $60 million -- to $222.6 million.
Continuing to display legs, meanwhile, Universal’s “Couples Retreat” has now crossed the $100 million mark domestically, taking in $4.2 million, a 31 percent drop in its sixth week of release.
Among other films opening this weekend, Focus Features’ “Pirate Radio” took in $2.9 million at 882 playdates to finish just out of the top 10, while Fox’s “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” – an animated film directed by Wes Anderson and voice-starring George Clooney and Cate Blanchett – made $260,000 starting out in just four theaters in New York and Los Angeles.
Overall, the domestic box office was up 10 percent from last week, according to one studio’s estimates, and that’s largely due to the outsized performance of Emmerich’s “2012,” which stars John Cusack, Woody Harrelson and Amanda Peet in a tale of terrified Angelenos seeking escape from California’s suddenly molten tectonic plates.
As is typical for an Emmerich movie, the reviews were brutal (evidenced by a Rotten Tomatoes score in the mid-30-percent range), but reviews typically don’t matter for this special-effects-proficient director. Pre-release projections for the "2012," which costs Sony about $200 million to produce, placed its opening in the mid-$50 million range.
“It delivers like a Roland Emmerich movie,” said one rival studio distribution official who saw the film at Show East, referring to non-stop action and special effects that tend to mute narrative deficiencies.
In fact, by those benchmarks, according to Sony distribution president Rory Bruer, Emmerich made his best delivery yet.
“I believe Roland raised a new bar for himself in regard to the special effects for this movie, which are so off-the-charts cool,” Bruer said. “I don’t think anybody has seen anything quite like them before. Those images have really helped us launch the film.”
And according to Bruer, it’s not just playing to the young dudes – the audience so far, he said, is only 45 percent under the age of 25 and only 52 percent male.
While making up a $200 million production nut shouldn’t be a problem for Sony, Disney economic model for “A Christmas Carol,” also production priced at a reported $200 million, is proving a bit more complicated. With $16 million in international grosses over the weekend, the 3D film has now taken in over $97 million globally.
There is hope, however, that as the holidays near, business will pick up. Zemeckis’ last holiday-themed motion-capture film, 2004’s “The Polar Express,” was also released in early November and displayed unique staying power, experiencing a 24% bump in business for its third weekend.
Here’s how the top 10 films fared overall this weekend at the domestic box office: