The week after Thanksgiving is always slow at the multiplex, but what's happening this weekend is ridiculous. If Sunday estimates hold, the combined gross of the top 10 movies on the box office chart will be less than $77 million.

The three-day total for last weekend's top 10 was $171 million. The difference represents a drop of about 55 percent. True, there were no audience sparklers among the three new wide releases. As I suggested in my Friday forecast, movies about bad times run the risk of being ignored during bad times, especially in the midst of the holiday season. And that's what happened to 'Brothers,' which is set to finish third with an estimated $9.7 million, sixth-place 'Armored' ($6.6 million) and tenth-place 'Everybody's Fine' ($4 million).
The week after Thanksgiving is always slow at the multiplex, but what's happening this weekend is ridiculous. If Sunday estimates hold, the combined gross of the top 10 movies on the box office chart will be less than $77 million.

The three-day total for last weekend's top 10 was $171 million. The difference represents a drop of about 55 percent. True, there were no audience sparklers among the three new wide releases. As I suggested in my Friday forecast, movies about bad times run the risk of being ignored during bad times, especially in the midst of the holiday season. And that's what happened to 'Brothers,' which is set to finish third with an estimated $9.7 million, sixth-place 'Armored' ($6.6 million) and tenth-place 'Everybody's Fine' ($4 million).

As expected, the Sandra Bullock-starring sports drama 'The Blind Side' overtook 'The Twilight Saga: New Moon' for the top spot, but its estimated gross of $20.4 million showed a 48% drop of its own. 'New Moon,' now dependent on repeat viewings by its lovestruck fans, is on pace for a $15.7 million weekend and a stunning three-week total of $255.6 million.

The only other bright spot on the weekend was the per-screen business done by Jason Reitman's Oscar ballyhooed 'Up in the Air.' Starring George Clooney as a corporate functionary scoring frequent flier miles while delivering pink slips to laid-off middle managers around the country, 'Air' is expected to bring in more than $1 million from 15 theaters in six major markets. That's a hefty per-screen average of nearly $70,000.

'Air's' success may seem to fly in the face of the argument I made against movies exploiting bad times in bad times, but if anyone can get a heavy lift off the ground these days, it's Reitman, whose previous hits -- 'Thank You For Smoking' and 'Juno' -- gave a comedic spin to the uncomfortable topics of tobacco addiction and teenage pregnancy. Add the irresistible caddish charm of Clooney and you've got enough sugar to make the medicine go down.

But whatever else Hollywood was selling, moviegoers weren't buying. Disney hold-overs 'A Christmas Carol' ($7.5 million) and 'Old Dogs' ($6.9 million) did just well enough to take fourth and fifth place behind 'Brothers,' whose trio of young stars -- Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire and Natalie Portman -- partially overcame its gloomy premise about a romance between a couple brought together by the presumed death of her husband, his brother in Afghanistan. It has some life in it, but the other newscomers are confirmed D.O.A.

'Armored,' a heist film whose fallen hero is a decorated Iraq veteran motivated by a high mortgage and low bank account, stumbled out of the gate, on pace for a meager $6.6 million opening weekend. 'Everybody's Fine,' a family drama adapted from a 1990 film by Italian sentimentalist Giuseppe Tornatore, will end up with around $4 million, a number that spells doom for its overall box office prospects and for Miramax's hope of an Oscar nomination for star Robert De Niro.

Twelfth-place 'Precious: Based on the Novel Push By Sapphire' is starting to show signs of audience fatigue. In 664 theaters, it's going to end up with a little more than $2 million for this weekend and $36.3 million total. Its distributor Lionsgate suffered something of a marketing setback on Thursday when 'Precious' failed to make either of the National Board of Review's year-end Top 10 lists -- for Best Picture and Best Independent Picture.

The weekend's top 10:

1. 'The Blind Side' $20.4 million (3,326 theaters). Total: $129.3 million.
2. 'New Moon' $15.7 million (4,124). Total: $255.6 million.
3. 'Brothers' $9.7 million (2,088).
4. 'Disney's A Christmas Carol' $7.5 million. Total: $115 million.
5. 'Old Dogs' $6.9 million (3,425). Total: $33.9 million.
6. 'Armored' $6.6 million (1,915).
7. '2012' $6.6 million (3,220). Total: $148.8 million.
8. 'Ninja Assassin' $5 million (2,503). Total: $29.8 million.
9. 'Planet 51' $4.3 million (2,904). Total: $34 million.
10. 'Everybody's Fine' $4 million (2,133).