Brad Pitt’s ‘Killing Them Softly’ Dies With ‘F’ CinemaScore As Twilight Saga, James Bond, And ‘Lincoln’ Dominate Box Office Yet Again

SUNDAY 7:30 AM,  3RD UPDATE: No change in the three top movies’ order at the domestic box office: Summit Entertainment’s Twilight Saga finale Breaking Dawn Part 2 is #1 for the third weekend in a row, the Eon Productions/MGM/Sony Pictures’ James Bond actioner Skyfall is a close #2, and Steven Spielberg’s Oscar buzzed Lincoln from DreamWorks/Fox/Disney is #3. It was a lean Friday but a fat Saturday. Ben Affleck’s Academy Awards-touted Argo crossed the $100M benchmark this weekend. While during the week, Wall Street called DreamWorks Animation’s Rise Of The Guardians “one of the most disappointing releases in the company’s history” – enough to hurt the public company’s share price. Analysts who expected to see $55M-$58M for the toon over Thanksgiving – not $32.6M – join Hollywood in still struggling to understand why audiences rejected the film. Toon is probably all in at just $80M.

Traditionally the weekend after Thanksgiving gives new definition to the term ‘quiet’. I’m told it’s failed to produce a wide release hit for 20 years and counting. So there were low expectations for producer Brad Pitt‘s R-rated ruthless star turn in Killing Them Softly (2,424 theaters) from his Plan B production company and Oracle heiress Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures which financed it for $15M. But Friday night it received a miserable ‘F’ CinemaScore from audiences despite decent reviews and a stellar cast including Ray Liotta, Richard Jenkins, and James Gandolfini. Little wonder that distributor The Weinstein Company dumped the film this off-weekend – when no movie has opened north of $10 million since 2005’s Aeon Flux – after acquiring it post its Cannes premiere for a release commitment only in the U.S./Canada. “If we do double digit millions, we will be fine. And if it happens to get into the teens, we would be very happy,” an exec told me before it opened. So TWC must be mad as hell because the pic only opened to single digits. One film financing exec tells me about the TWC deal on this pic, “Killing Them Softly will be lucky to reach $15M box office when all is said and done. Using that figure and extrapolating out their Showtime pay TV deal (which is not that great), potential TV deal, VOD, and DVD, they are going to be unrecouped about $12M in P&A assuming they spent $27M to release. Not good.”

Killing Them Softly was scheduled to be released September 21st, then moved to this weekend to avoid competing against TWC’s The Master. (Although it moves another ‘R’ movie against TWC’s Silver Linings Playbook.) The actioner retained its original release date in other regions where Inferno International is representing overseas sales which have produced nearly $15M in grosses so far. (Inferno filed for bankruptcy protection in Los Angeles earlier this year, citing a legal judgment related to the 2005 release of the Ryan Reynolds comedy Just Friends.) The film, shot in New Orleans for tax credits, follows three dumb guys who think they’re smart and rob a Mob-protected card game, causing the local criminal economy to collapse. Pitt plays the hit man enforcer hired to track them down and restore order. Based on George V. Higgins’ 1974 crime novel Cogan’s Trade, it was scripted and directed by Australian Andrew Dominik who previously teamed up with Pitt on another of Brad’s puny-grossing passion projects – 2007’s The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (just $3.9M). Harvey and Bob Weinstein, as well as Ellison, are among the executive producers. Besides Pitt, Dede Gardner, Steve Schwartz, Paula Mae Schwartz, and Anthony Katagas produced the film.

Playing in far less runs (1,403 theaters), LD Entertainment’s extremely unpleasant The Collection is its horror sequel to 2009’s The Collector and didn’t get near the original’s $3.6M debut at 1,325 locations ($7.7M total). The latest stars Emma Fitzpatrick and Josh Stewart, who reprises his role as Arkin. Written by Saw veteran genre scribes Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan who also directs, this grisly R-rated follow-up received less than middling reviews. While The New York Times called it “just a pointless exercise in sadism”, my favorite slam was the Detroit News reviewer who opined: “People in Hollywood need to work and surely The Collection created a lot of jobs, but there must be a better way.”

Overall, the Top 10 order based on weekend estimates looks a lot like the holiday’s. Total moviegoing is $110.6M, +45% over last year. But not close to last weekend’s Best-Ever Thanksgiving 5-Day Box Office:

1. Twilight: Breaking Dawn 2 (Summit/Lionsgate) Week 3 [Runs 4,008] PG13
Friday $5.4M, Saturday $7.5M, Weekend $17.1M, Cume $254.2M

2. Skyfall (Eon/MGM/Sony) Week 4 [Runs 3,463] PG13
Friday $4.8M, Saturday $7.6M, Weekend $16.9M, Cume $245.9M

3. Lincoln (DreamWorks/Fox/Disney) Week 4 [Runs 2,018] PG13
Friday $4.0M, Saturday $5.9M, Weekend $13.3M, Cume $83.5M

4. Rise Of The Guardians (DreamWorks Anim/Par) Week 2 [Runs 3,672] PG
Friday $2.9M, Saturday $6.3M, Weekend $13.4M (-44%), Cume $48.5M

5. Life Of Pi (Fox) Week 2 [Runs 2,928] PG
Friday $3.3M, Saturday $5.3M, Weekend $12.2M (-46%), Cume $47.8M

6. Wreck-It Ralph (Disney) Week 5 [Runs 3,087] PG
Friday $1.6M, Saturday $3.3M, Weekend $7.0M, Cume $158.3M

7. Killing Them Softly (Annapurna/Weinstein) NEW [Runs 2,424] R
Friday $2.5M, Saturday $2.7M, Weekend $6.9M

8. Red Dawn (FilmDistrict) Week 2 [Runs 2,781] PG13
Friday $2.0M, Saturday $2.9M, Weekend $6.6M (-54%), Cume $31.3M

9. Flight (Paramount) Week 5 [Runs 2,603] R
Friday $1.3M, Saturday $2.0M, Weekend $4.5M, Cume $81.5M

10. Silver Linings Playbook (Weinstein) Week 3 [Runs 371] R
Friday $914K, Saturday $1.3M, Weekend $3.2M, Cume $10.8M

11. The Collection (LD Entertainment) NEW [Runs 1,403] R
Friday $1.1K, Saturday $1.2K, Weekend $3.1M

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