By Amy Kaufman
12:45 PM CST, November 20, 2012
The Tooth Fairy and her friends will be no match for a couple of sharp-fanged vampires at the box office this Thanksgiving.
After debuting with a massive $141.1 million last weekend, "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2" is expected to rule the multiplex again over the holiday. The fifth and final installment in the vampire franchise will likely rake in another $50 million by Sunday, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys.
That's far more than what "Rise of the Guardians" -- an animated picture featuring classic children's characters like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny -- is projected to collect between Wednesday and Sunday. The 3-D family film may gross $45 million during its first five days in theaters, one of the worst debuts ever for a DreamWorks Animation movie. (Distributor Paramount Pictures is predicting an even softer opening of around $35 million.)
The other two new films hitting theaters on Wednesday -- "Life of Pi" and "Red Dawn" -- are also expected to do lackluster business this Thanksgiving. Directed by Oscar-winner Ang Lee, the $120-million 3-D "Pi" may have trouble making up its production budget after a projected five-day start of only $20 million. "Red Dawn," a remake of the 1984 Cold War film starring Patrick Swayze, could do slightly better -- launching with $22 million.
Produced by DreamWorks Animation for roughly $145 million, "Rise of the Guardians" is the last DreamWorks film to be distributed by Paramount. Next year, 20th Century Fox will begin distributing films from the Jeffrey Katzenberg-led studio worldwide.
The brainchild of children's author William Joyce, "Guardians" tells the story of folk heroes trying to protect the world's children from an evil Boogeyman-esque character. Unlike DreamWorks' successful comedy-based franchises "Shrek" and "Madagascar," however, "Guardians" is an earnest, adventure epic -- not the studio's traditional area of strength.
This weekend, "Guardians" will debut overseas in only eight markets, including Russia, Hong Kong and Argentina.
"Life of Pi," meanwhile, is based on author Yann Martel's bestselling 2001 book about a young boy who survives the sinking of a cargo ship and is then stranded in the middle of the ocean on a raft with four animals. Executives at Fox have admitted that the film is one of its most expensive gambles ever, since its star is an unknown Indian actor and the story is not based on a well known brand or comic book.
Of the films hitting the multiplex this weekend, "Pi" has the best reviews; on Thursday, the film had notched a 88% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. If positive word-of-mouth doesn't make the movie a hit in North America, Fox is optimistic the picture will perform well overseas -- particularly in Asia, home territory of filmmaker Lee and star Suraj Sharma. The movie opens in China, Hong Kong, India and Taiwan this weekend.
"Red Dawn" has also faced its challenges. MGM announced it would remake the '80s action flick back in 2008, and the film was shot a year later. However, the movie's release was repeatedly delayed as MGM entered bankruptcy and FilmDistrict acquired the $65-million production's distribution rights in 2011.
The film, which stars Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson, tells the story of a group of young patriots who form a guerrilla army when their city comes under attack. When the picture was filmed, Hemsworth had not yet been cast as "Thor," and Hutcherson hadn't been cast in "The Hunger Games" franchise. Now the young actors are so popular (and so busy) that they could not even attend a press junket to promote "Red Dawn."
"Red Dawn" also made headlines last year when MGM agreed to digitally alter the film to appease the Chinese government. Originally, the villains in the movie were Chinese, but because China is such an important market for Hollywood films, the studio removed any Chinese flags and military symbols from the film. The bad guys in the film now hail from North Korea.
'Life of Pi' a huge gamble for 20th Century Fox