Disney has pulled off a 3D-animated hit without the help of its Silicon Valley-spun hit factory, with "Rapunzel" adaptation "Tangled" debuting to $69 million over the five-day Thanksgiving-holiday weekend, according to studio estimates.
It wasn't the weekend's biggest performance, with Warner holdover "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1" winning the frame with $78.8 million, but it was the second best Thanksgiving premiere ever.
The biggest Turkey Day-weekend premiere came in 1999, with Pixar's "Toy Story 2" grossing $80.1 million over the five-day holiday frame.
With "Tangled" — which also tallied $13.8 million internationally — projected to open to only open around $40 million domestically, the performance came as a bit of a surprise.
"Tracking has been off all year, but this weekend, it was amazingly off," noted one rival-studio distribution executive.
"It was somewhere between $20 million to $30 million more than the low and high end of (pre-release) expectations," added Disney theatrical distribution chief Chuck Viane. "I think what happened was, 'Harry Potter' was such a big cloud over the marketplace the last few weeks that it was hard to accurately track anything else."
Over a five-day holiday frame that was pretty much flat with the same period last year (down 3 percent), three other wide releases — "Burlesque," "Faster" and "Love and Other Drugs" — enjoyed fair-to-middling debuts.
Here's a look at the top 10 at the domestic box office. Report continues below chart:
Sony's Cher/Christina Aguilera musical "Burlesque" grossed $17.2 million over the five-day period, missing $20 million plus/minus estimations of some tracking firms but coming in line with studio estimates.
The PG-13-rated musical cost Sony $55 million to make, but received solid word-of-mouth, with moviegoers scoring it with an A-minus, according to customer-satisfaction grader Cinemascore.
"This picture is going to be very profitable for us," said Sony distribution president Rory Bruer, predicting solid international play for the film when it opens abroad in mid-December.
Narrowly missing its mid-teens forecast, Fox's Jake Gyllenhaal/Anne Hatheway rom-com "Love and Other Drugs" opened to $14 million. The film was co-produced by Fox and Regency Pictures at a cost of around $30 million.
CBS Films' "Faster," meanwhile, met its studio's $12 million forecast, with The Rock/Billy Bob Thornton action movie grossing an estimated $12.2 million over the five days.
With co-producer Sony handling foreign distribution, CBS Films is claiming only $12 million of exposure on negative costs.
CBS Films is hoping that, in the coming weeks, older male viewers of, say, SEC college football games and NFL Sunday coverage on the studio's sibling broadcast network will come see the movie.
It's a decidedly different strategy than the one CBS Films employed for its last film, the women-targeted J-Lo movie "The Back-Up Plan."
"And our audience is the only one that's not pre-occupied with shopping during the holidays," noted CBS Films distribution head Steven Friedlander.
Among limited releases, The Weinstein Company's "The King's Speech" grossed $349,791 at four New York and L.A. locations for a per-screen average of $87,448 — the best per-screen performance for a platform release so far this year.
The Tom Hooper-directed period drama stars Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter, and has garnered an R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America — a rating Weinstein is protesting as being too stringent.
"While the rating didn't hurt business, we are seeing from our exit polls that people from fields like education are asking, 'Why can't I bring my kids to this picture?'" noted Weinstein chief operating officer David Glasser.
Meanwhile, back in the land of big studio tentpoles, DreamWorks Animation's "Megamind" held up well in its fourth weekend, despite losing some of its 3D exhibition to "Tangled."
"Megamind" grossed $17.6 million over the five-day holiday, upping its domestic total to $130.5 million and curbing doubts that the film won't make it to $150 million.
Competition for 3D screens will become intense in December, with Disney's "Tron" and a third "Chronicles of Narnia" movie joining the fray.
But even with only two movies in the 3D exhibition marketplace, Disney's Viane pondered, "Would I have liked to have more 3D seats? Sure."
Overall, he added, 56 percent of "Tangled" patrons saw the film in 3D, with some ticket-buyers opting for 2D engagements when 3D shows were sold out.
"Nine months from now, in the summer, you won't see this happening," Viane noted. "But for now, there's a real log-jam, no question about it."
Among 2D films, Fox Denzel Washington runaway-train movie "Unstoppable" picked up steam in its third week, grossing $16.2 million over the five-day holiday … and putting the $85 million Tony Scott-directed movie on pace to possibly make some money.
The film cost Fox about $85 million to make, but had already grossed over $30 million in the foreign box office before the start of the holiday.
Finding it much harder to get to the black are Lionsgate Russell Crowe film "The Next Three Days" and Paramount rom-com "Morning Glory."
"The Next Three Days" grossed just $6.6 million over the holiday period, declining steadily over the five-day span. The film, which costs Lionsgate about $35 million to make, has grossed $14.6 million so far. (Lionsgate has only about $25 million worth of production-cost exposure after foreign pre-sales.)
"Morning Glory," meanwhile, grossed $5.5 million over the holiday, upping its total to $26.5 million. The film, which stars Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton and Rachel McAdams, has a negative cost of around $40 million.
But the big story at the box office remained "Tangled," with Viane showing his appreciation to directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard, and writer Dan Fogelman, for being good sports about having their movie released alongside "Potter."
"If you're the filmmakers, and you see 'Harry Potter' coming, you're thinking, 'These guys hate me.' But these guys were collaborative and easy to work with from the get-go."