"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Pt. 1" pulled off a rare feat this year retaining the top spot at the box office for a third straight weekend.  With $16.9 million and $247.5 million to date domestic and over $550 million worldwide, the fourth installment of Stephenie Meyers' vampire saga has given Summit Entertainment an early if not expected Christmas present.  The picture also is a rare three-weekend topper this calendar year joining "The Help" (four weekends) and "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" (three) in that regard.

Before Friday many industry observers thought Disney's "The Muppets" could use strong word of mouth to overtake "Breaking Dawn" for the top spot.  Not only did that not occur, the Jason Segel passion project didn't even come close with just another $11.2 million and a troubling 62% drop. With just $56.4 million so far its unlikely the "Muppets" will hit the $100 million mark.

"Hugo," which upped its theater count to 1,840 locations this weekend, grossed $7.6 million.  The National Board of Review winner for best picture pulled has now grossed $25.1 million to date. Paramount Pictures and GK Films will continue to hope awards season recognition can fuel Martin Scorsese's latest critical wonder.

Another film showing true word of mouth appears to be "Arthur Christmas."  The Sony Animation and Aardman collaboration dropped only 39% for another $7.5 million and $25.2 million so far.  The Santa Claus themed animated comedy will still need international to make up most of its $100 million plus budget, but the hold is certainly a nice silver lining for the filmmakers.

Rounding out the top five was "Happy Feet Two" with $6 million and $51.7 million to date. Warner Bros. can take solace that "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" looks like it will have a monster opening in two weeks.

"Shame" debuted in 10 theaters with a spectacular $361,181 or $36,118 per screen.  It's even more impressive when taking the film's NC-17 rating into account.  Fox Searchlight will hope that continued critical acclaim and awards season attention fuels interest in Steve McQueen's breakout.

Another impressive limited player is "The Artist."  After winning the NYFCC award for best picture, The Weinstein Company release didn't drop after adding 2 screens for another $205,580 and a $34,263 per screen. 

"The Descendants" continued its strong limited run as well jumping to 574 theaters and another $5.2 million.  Searchlight's premier best picture player has now grossed an impressive $18 million to date.

Next weekend's wide releases include "New Year's Eve" and "The Sitter."

Box office actuals are released on Monday.