'Dawn' tops sluggish weekend

The weekend's lack of new entries didn't provide the positive effect on Stateside holdovers that some B.O. observers had predicted it would, as the frame's top players "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1" and "The Muppets" both saw relatively steep weekend-to-weekend three-day declines.

Summit's "Breaking Dawn," which won its third straight frame with an estimated $16.9 million, fell 59%, while Disney's second-place pic "The Muppets" dropped 62% in its soph sesh for an estimated weekend gross of $11.2 million. "Breaking Dawn" has cumed through Sunday $247.3 million; "Muppets," $56.1 million.

"The Muppets" fell further than expected, especially since family pics traditionally display the strongest legs. But the film faced an unusually crowded family field, compounded with the typical post-Thanksgiving B.O. slowdown.

Overall domestic box office was down approximately 7% from last year.

Comparatively, B.O. conditions were better -- if only just -- for "Breaking Dawn."

In 2009, the second "Twilight" offering, "New Moon," dropped 64% during this exact same weekend. That pic, however, played against the stalwart femme-skewing "The Blind Side -- not to mention three new wide releases. "Breaking Dawn" has the young femme market mostly to itself.

Bowing solid in limited release, Fox Searchlight's NC-17-rated "Shame" drew an estimated per-screen average of $36,118 from 10 locations.

"An NC-17 film certainly poses certain challenges," said Searchlight exec VP of distribution Sheila DeLoach. "But we're getting good notices from critics, so that should help us through the holiday season."

Searchlight also fared fairly well with "The Descendants," expanding the pic to 574 locations (up 141 from last weekend), with an estimated weekend gross of $5.2 million. That's off only 29% from last weekend's three-day holiday take. So far, "Descendants" has tallied $18.1 million domestically.

The Weinstein Co. specialty pair, "My Week With Marilyn" and "The Artist," held steady after their solid debuts last weekend.

"Marilyn," which maintained a location count of 244, dropped a fine 33% for an estimated $1.2 million three-day gross, while "The Artist" scored a per-screen average of $34,263 from six engagements, two more than last weekend. Both pics saw solid upticks on Saturday vs. last week -- a considerable achievement, given this weekend's overall sluggish B.O. atmosphere. "Marilyn" has cumed $3.9 million; "Artist," nearly $500,000.