North American box office: not the end of the world for ‘2012’

And arthouse flicks are setting off shockwaves, too:

1. 2012: $65.2 million (NEW)
2. A Christmas Carol: $22.3 million (2nd week; drops 26%)
3. Precious: $5.87 million (2nd week in limited release; up 214%)
4. The Men Who Stare at Goats: $5.86 million (2nd week; drops 54%)
5. Michael Jackson’s This Is It: $5.1 million (3rd week; drops 61%)

actual numbers, not estimates
Yeah yeah yeah, the big-budget CGI disaster flick du jour made a small fortune this weekend — we knew it would. We knew it didn’t even matter whether it was any good, storywise — which it isn’t — as long as the FX were convincing. Which they are. $19,165 at each of 3,404 locations. Even with a reported budget of $200 million, there’s no doubt that 2012 will earn that back. In fact, it already has: the film opened worldwide last week (a necessity in the age of rampant piracy), and it took in $225 million across the planet it destroyed. Everything’s cool.

But look at this: Precious is the No. 3 movie across the U.S. and Canada this weekend, and it’s playing at only 174 locations… which most likely means actually just 174 screens, while 2012 will have been on multiple screens (7:00, 7:15, 7:30, 7:45, 8:00, etc) at each of its locations. That’s a per-screen — or per-location average, really — of $33,762. Precious cost $10 million to make (and I’m actually surprised it was as much as that). And just wait till it starts getting awards from critics’ groups, and gets Oscar nominations…

And yet, look at this: Fantastic Mr. Fox debuted this past weekend on four screens — really just four screens — and it earned $265,900. That was enough for the flick to clock in at No. 24… but its per-screen average was $66,475, by far the best of the weekend. (Precious was second; La Danse: Le Ballet de L’Opera de Paris, which took in $28,104 from a single screen; 2012 was a distant fourth; the rest of the top 10, per-screen-wise, were all limited releases, playing on, at most, four screens.) I’ve been wondering whether Fox would be able to maintain the terrific pace it’s seen in the U.K. — so far, so good.

The weekend’s other wide release? Pirate Radio (aka The Boat That Rocked) sank, debuting way down at No. 11 with $2.9 million, or $3,293 at each of its 882 locations. Oh, and The Fourth Kind? It dropped 62 percent in its second weekend. Ouch.

Milestones: Couples Retreat and Paranormal Activity both passed the $100 million mark last weekend.

[numbers via Box Office Mojo]

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