Los Angeles - The latest Twilight movie cast the longest shadow with $16.9 million for a third-straight No 1 finish during one of the year's slowest weekends at the box office.
Business was dismal, with box office tracker Hollywood.com estimating on Sunday that domestic revenues totalled just $82m. That puts it barely ahead of Hollywood's worst haul of the year, when revenues were $81.5m over the second weekend in September.
Once studios release final numbers on Monday, this past weekend could come in as the worst of the year if revenues finish even lower.
The first weekend of December often presents a lull in between big Thanksgiving holiday releases and the onslaught of year-end blockbusters that arrive a bit later. But this big a slowdown is surprising given that there's quality stuff out there among the top 10 films, particularly family fare such as The Muppets, Hugo and Arthur Christmas.
New entertainment options
Hollywood executives usually blame bad weekends on a weak crop of movies.
"It's tough to blame it on the product when the product is pretty good and the films are solid," said Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "While the post-Thanksgiving weekend is typically slow, it's not usually this slow."
The dreary weekend comes after a relatively quiet Thanksgiving holiday at movie theatres, despite analysts' predictions of potential holiday records because of a great line-up of films.
But more fans might be thinking twice about heading out to theatres given the new entertainment options they have with Apple's iPad, Amazon's Kindle products and other gadgets, along with their big-screen home setups for movies and television.
Or it could be that Hollywood has temporarily neglected its mainstay audience of young males. Dergarabedian said there's little out there now for guys looking for thrills and laughs.
That will change in the coming weeks as Jonah Hill's comedy The Sitter opens on Friday, followed by a rush of action tales: Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Robert Downey Jr's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin.
Women and families continue to dominate the scanty business at theaters now. Summit Entertainment's female-driven blockbuster The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 raised its domestic haul to $247.3m. Breaking Dawn added $40.2m overseas, taking it to a tally of $341m internationally and $588.3m worldwide.
Coming in second again was Disney's The Muppets with $11.2m, lifting the family film's domestic total to $56.1m. Despite good reviews, though, The Muppets audience was off more sharply than any other top 10 movie compared to Thanksgiving weekend.
Paramount's family adventure Hugo, an acclaimed saga directed by Martin Scorsese, finished third with $7.6m, raising its domestic take to $25.2m.
Sony's animated holiday comedy Arthur Christmas was fourth with $7.4m, pushing its total to $25.3m.
In limited release, Fox Searchlight's sexually explicit drama Shame opened strongly with $361 181 at 10 theatres in six cities. Shame expands to six more cities on Friday.
Starring Michael Fassbender in a grim portrait of a sex addict, Shame is the latest film angling to lure moviegoers despite an NC-17 rating that prohibits anyone younger than 17 from seeing it.
Some fans and theatres equate the NC-17 tag with pornography, but serious films with that rating occasionally break through and find an audience. Fox Searchlight is positioning Shame for Academy Awards attention after the film earned Fassbender the best actor prize at the Venice Film Festival.