Twilight movie is expected to dominate the box office when it debuts at 4,070 locations this weekend. Assuming it gets the typical finale bump, Breaking Dawn Part 2 will easily score a franchise-best opening, and it could even be on track for a 2D opening record.
Meanwhile, Steven Spielberg's Lincoln expands in to 1,775 locations after a successful week in limited release, though it's going to be competing for adult audiences with the flashier Skyfall. Overall, this is going to be one of the highest-grossing weekends ever, and it could even top the $259.9 million record set on the final weekend of 2009.
In November 2008, the first Twilight movie surprised many box office observers when it debuted to a hefty $69.6 million on its way to a $192.8 million total. The movie's popularity grew on DVD, which caused many fans to seek out the book series as well. As a result, The Twilight Saga: New Moon opened twice as high ($142.8 million) just one year later, and ultimately closed with an astounding $296.6 million.
The following Summer, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse set the franchise record with $300.5 million, confirming that Twilight was a premiere franchise on par with Harry Potter at the domestic box office. Last November the first part of finale, Breaking Dawn Part 1, took a slight step backwards with $281.3 million, though that's still a very strong hold for the fourth entry in a franchise. To date, the four Twilight movies have made over $1.07 billion domestically and $1.44 billion overseas.
Summit clearly knows how to release a Twilight movie, and their marketing team appears to be taking a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach. Previews nicely mix action and romance, and posters/billboards clearly focus on stars Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner (the K-Stew/R-Patz relationship drama from this Summer is all-but-forgotten at this point, and shouldn't be an issue when it comes to the movie's performance). The biggest difference for this outing, though, is that it's the final movie, and the marketing is going to great lengths to highlight that (the tagline reads "The Epic Finale That Will Live Forever").
As Hollywood tends to want to keep lucrative franchises alive long past their expiration date, it's rare to see definitive franchise conclusions like Breaking Dawn Part 2. When they do come around, though, they consistently debut higher than any of their predecessors: examples from the last decade include The Long of the Rings: Return of the King, Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and The Dark Knight Rises. Using Lord of the Rings as an example—it's a book adaptation with exactly one year between entries and no 3D addition—Breaking Dawn Part 2 could be in line for as much as $165 million this weekend.
It is worth pointing out, though, that The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 will be opening at 10 p.m. on Thursday night instead of the typical midnight debut. Technically these showtimes should be accounted for on Thursday, not Friday, though there's a good chance that Lionsgate/Summit doesn't break out the results.
After earning $1.33 million from 11 locations in its first six days, Steven Spielberg's biopic Lincoln will attempt to connect with mainstream audiences when it expands nationwide this weekend. The big pluses here are the Spielberg brand, strong reviews (90 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), and a heaping of awards buzz surrounding Daniel Day-Lewis's performance as the 16th president of the United States.
Unfortunately, audiences have consistently shown that they aren't interested in seeing wonky political dramas, especially ones featuring real-life presidents: not counting documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 and fantasy horror flick Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the top debut ever for a movie about a real-life president belongs to Oliver Stone's W. with a meager $10.5 million. It's also hard to imagine that, in the immediate wake of a heated presidential election, many moviegoers will seek out a nearly two-and-a-half hour political drama. Add in Skyfall's appeal among Lincoln's key older demographic, and there's a good chance the movie underwhelms in its nationwide debut.
Silver Linings Playbook and Anna Karenina will both make a play for arthouse audiences this weekend at 16 locations each. The Weinstein Company was originally planning to go nationwide with Silver Linings on Nov. 21 before announcing this limited run last week; that expansion has now been delayed a bit, and instead it will only go out in to around 420 theaters next Wednesday. Ultimately, this is the best pattern for a crowd-pleaser that's proving to be a tricky sell (advertisements are as awkwardly manic as the movie's main characters), though the last-minute shifts may have thrown off the marketing effort a bit.
Reviews are more mixed on Anna Karenina, and it's been hard to get the word out with all the other adult-oriented movies currently playing in theaters. Still, Joe Wright and Keira Knightley's past collaborations are well-regarded, and the book is one of the most widely-read of the 20th century, so a debut near $500,000 seems doable.
Forecast (Nov. 16-18)
1. Breaking Dawn Part 2 - $158 million (including 10 p.m. Thursday)
2. Skyfall - $47.5 million (-46%)
3. Wreck-It Ralph - $18.7 million (-43%)
4. Lincoln - $11.5 million
5. Flight - $8.9 million (-40%)
Bar for Success
Breaking Dawn Part 2 needs to at least match its predecessor's $138.1 million. Since it's a light release catering to older audiences, $10 million is a fine start for Lincoln.