Updated 9 a.m. PT Dec. 10
"New Year's Eve" has knocked "Breaking Dawn" out of the No. 1 spot at the box office — but with smaller numbers than expected.
The New Line comedy took in $5.1 million on Friday, according to studio estimates. That puts it on track for about $15 million for the weekend.
The story is much the same for the No. 2 movie in the nation, Fox's comedy "The Sitter." That film took in an estimated $3.7 million Friday, putting it in line for a $10-to-$11 million weekend.
Both those totals are lower than the studios and box-office watchers had predicted.
After three weeks in the No. 1 spot, "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1" fell to third place, taking in just short of $2.5 million on Friday. It is expected to take in about $7.7 million over the weekend.
Call it the calm before the storm.
With a crush of expensive studio films beginning to roll into multiplexes next weekend, romantic comedy "New Year's Eve" and Jonah Hill funny film "The Sitter" will be the only wide releases during what will likely be a relatively quiet pre-holiday weekend at the box office.
Garry Marshall's follow-up to last year's "Valentine's Day," "New Year's Eve" was produced by New Line for $56 million and is expected to gross between $20 million – $25 million while playing at 3,505 domestic locations this weekend.
Produced by Fox for around $25 million, "The Sitter" is not expected to surpass the $15 million mark.
Meanwhile, a flurry of arthouse releases will include Focus Features spy-novel adaptation "Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy," Charlize Theron dramedy "Young Adult" from Paramount, and the Madonna-directed "W.E." from the Weinstein Co.
If there's a big story at the box office, it will be Warner Bros.' distributed "New Year's Eve" finally ending the three-week reign of Summit's "Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1" as market champ.
Also read: Review: Ice-Cold 'Tinker Tailor' Burns Hot
Director Marshall and writer Katherine Fugate's formula of creating romantic comedies themed around holidays and featuring vignettes full of big-name stars has already worked once.
Shot for $52 million, "Valentine's Day" grossed $216.5 million worldwide.
But while "Valentine's Day" opened two days before Valentine's Day 2010, "New Year's Eve" is opening far enough ahead of the holiday to continue draw audiences throughout the holiday season, Dan Fellman, Warner's head of distribution, told TheWrap.
He noted that the movie is the only romantic comedy of the holiday season.
With Robert De Niro, Ashton Kutcher, Katherine Heigl, Sarah Jessica Parker and Hilary Swank among the well known talent falling in and out of love in this latest PG-13-rated installment, young women are tracking best.
According to research firm NRG, 84 percent of women under the age of 25 report awareness of "New Year's Eve's" presence at the box office, while 55 percent say they have "definite interest" in seeing it. A solid 17 percent from that demographic group call it their "first choice" to see next time they're in the theater.
Reviews, meanwhile, are just terrible, with aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes rating "New Year's Eve" at 7 percent fresh.
Reviews for Fox's R-rated comedy "The Sitter" are only slightly better (28 percent). The problem, however, is that not enough people seem to know the movie is coming out.
According to NRG, only 58 percent of moviegoers from all quadrants report awareness of the film.
Directed by David Gordon Green ("Pineapple Express," "Your Highness"), "The Sitter" is themed around a young man (Hill) whose entry into the child-care profession doesn't go as planned.
Joshua L. Weinstein contributed to this report.