Andrew Cooper
John Young
December 01, 2011 AT 12:00 PM EST

Better clear your plate for some leftovers. The weekend following Thanksgiving typically sees few, if any, new releases. There are two reasons for this. First, if a studio opened a film this weekend, it’d likely be kicked off screens by Christmas due to an avalanche of December releases. And, second, if a studio has a movie that’s strong enough to withstand the December competition, why not release it a week earlier and take advantage of the holiday weekend?

So here we are with no new wide releases opening. The biggest question will be whether The Muppets can knock Twilight: Breaking Dawn off its box-office mantle. Here’s how I think the top five will finish:

1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1: $15 million

After spending two comfortable weeks at the top of the pack, Twilight: Breaking Dawn will finally have a serious challenger in The Muppets. It could be a photo finish, but I think the supernatural romance will eek out its third victory in a row. The movie has so far virtually duplicated the trajectory of Twilight: New Moon, which debuted in 2009 on the same November weekend as Breaking Dawn. Both flicks dropped 70 percent during Thanksgiving weekend. During its third weekend, New Moon declined 64 percent, and I see no reason to predict anything different for Breaking Dawn. A 64 percent drop comes out to be almost exactly $15 million.

2. The Muppets: $14.5 million

The felt puppet revival premiered to a solid $29.2 million last weekend and received a superb “A” rating from CinemaScore moviegoers. However, even positive word of mouth can’t ward off the unavoidable post-Thanksgiving slump. Take a look at 2007’s Enchanted and last year’s Tangled, two Disney hits that opened on Thanksgiving weekend and earned “A-” and “A+” CinemaScores, respectively. During their sophomore frames, Enchanted fell 52 percent and Tangled plummeted 56 percent. I’m going with a slightly better 50 percent decline for Kermit and Miss Piggy, but even that may not be enough to overtake those vampires and werewolves.

3. Hugo: $8 million

Martin Scorsese’s heartfelt 3-D tribute to silent cinema started off with $11.4 million last weekend while playing at only 1,277 theaters. The PG-rated film will expand to approximately 1,800 theaters this weekend. Fresh off a best picture award from the National Board of Review, Hugo may drop only 30 percent for $8 million and a cumulative tally of about $26 million. That’ll at least be a step in the right direction for the very pricey production, which reportedly cost between $150 million and $170 million to make.

4. Arthur Christmas: $6.1 million

Fourth place could be a fierce battle between two animated pictures: the well-reviewed holiday comedy Arthur Christmas and the Antarctic musical sequel Happy Feet Two. So far, the dancing penguins have outperformed Arthur on a daily basis since last Wednesday. But with Christmas quickly approaching, Arthur may have topicality on its side. And Happy Feet Two hasn’t been garnering much respect from the critics. This could go either way, but I’m giving the slightest edge to Arthur.

5. Happy Feet Two: $6 million

See above. Also worth mentioning is that Alexander Payne’s Oscar hopeful The Descendants is expanding to 574 theaters. The Hawaiian dramedy collected $7.3 million from 433 locations last weekend, and it now has a fighting chance of cracking the top five.

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