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Movie Projector: 'Breaking Dawn' to devour three new family films

November 23, 2011|By Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times
  • Miss Piggy and Kermit in The Muppets. The new film is generating interest from children and adults nostalgic for the 1970s television program The Muppets Show.
Miss Piggy and Kermit in The Muppets. The new film is generating interest… (Scott Garfield, Disney…)

Multiplexes will be stuffed with new family releases over the Thanksgiving holiday, but the latest installment in the "Twilight" franchise is likely to feast on the most ticket sales yet again.

"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1" opened to an impressive $138 million last weekend, and the fourth film in the vampire series could rake in an additional $60 million from Wednesday through Sunday, according to those who have seen prerelease audience surveys.

Meanwhile, three new PG-rated films, all of which have earned exceedingly positive reviews, hit theaters Wednesday.

"The Muppets," starring Jason Segel and Jim Henson's popular gang of puppets, is expected to collect about $45 million by Sunday. "Arthur Christmas," a 3-D computer-animated holiday tale, is expected to gross $15 million to $18 million in the same time frame. And "Hugo," director Martin Scorsese's 3-D film about an orphan living in a 1930s Paris train station, probably will bring in only $10 million to $13 million for the five days.

"The Muppets" is returning to the big screen for the first time since 1999, when "Muppets From Space" debuted with a lackluster $4.8 million. Co-written by Segel, the new film is generating interest from children and adults nostalgic for the 1970s television program "The Muppets Show," which featured Kermit, Miss Piggy and their pals.

The movie cost Walt Disney Studios about $45 million to produce. It will open in Mexico on Friday.

"Arthur Christmas" was made by Sony Pictures Animation and the British animation house Aardman Animations, the production company behind the popular Wallace & Gromit movies, TV show and commercials. This marks the first collaboration between the two studios.

The movie, which cost Sony about $100 million to produce, is about how Santa's son learns how to deliver presents worldwide on Christmas Eve. "Arthur Christmas" is going after a younger audience than "Hugo" or "Muppets," hoping to capitalize on the interest of kids ages 7 to 11.

Though audience polling indicates that "Arthur" may have a soft opening, the studio is hopeful that it will follow in the footsteps of its recent summer release "The Smurfs." Early tracking had projected that the animated movie featuring miniature blue cartoon characters would have a weak opening, but it debuted with a surprisingly strong $35 million in July and ultimately raked in more than $550 million worldwide.

"Arthur Christmas" has already opened in five foreign markets, where it has so far collected $9 million. The film is performing especially well in Britain, where it has sold about $7.6 million in tickets. This weekend it will play in 25 countries, including Japan and Australia.

"Hugo," an adaptation of the bestselling children's book "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," is playing in 1,200 theaters, about 2,000 less than the other new movies in wide release this weekend. Rob Moore, Paramount's vice chairman, said the studio opted to open the film in fewer theaters because it is hoping that strong word of mouth will propel it to box-office success in the coming weeks.

"Instead of putting everything into this very crowded Thanksgiving, we decided to wait and use the great reviews to push and expand the movie into December," Moore said.

The film was initially set for release by Sony on Dec. 9, but financier Graham King insisted that it open over the long Thanksgiving weekend. Because the studio already had plans to debut "Arthur Christmas" over the holiday, King moved the film from Sony to Paramount Pictures.

Scorsese's first family picture was financed by King, who said it cost less than $150 million to produce. Another person familiar with the film's budget, who asked not to be identified so as not to damage business relationships, said it cost around $170 million. Paramount is releasing the picture for a fee and paying for the film's prints and advertising.

In limited release, the Weinstein Co. is releasing two possible awards contenders. "My Week With Marilyn," starring Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe, will open Wednesday in 12 markets and expand to 61 locations Friday. The film, which cost about $10 million to make, will also debut in Britain this weekend.

Meanwhile, the company's black-and-white silent movie, "The Artist," will debut in two theaters in New York and two more in Los Angeles on Friday. Although the movie has already collected more than $16 million in France — where its lead actors hail from — it remains to be seen if the unique $14-million production will resonate with American audiences.

Twentieth Century Fox will offer sneak previews Saturday in 800 theaters of Cameron Crowe's family drama "We Bought a Zoo," opening nationwide Dec. 23.

amy.kaufman@latimes.com

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