Paramount’s decision to open Hugo on 1277 screens last Wednesday indicated (to me at least) that they were hedging their bets and hoping that critical raves and a word-of-mouth groundswell might materialize. As of last night Hugo had pulled in $8,545,000 after three days (having opened on 11.23) in 1277 theatres. That works out to a $6691 per-screen average…not bad, could be better. But it was fifth-placed after Breaking Dawn, The Muppets, Happy Feet 2 and Arthur Xmas (none of which I give a damn about).

Let’s spitball and say Hugo, which yesterday earned $4,532,000, ends up with $14 million for the five days and maybe $12 million for the Friday-to-Sunday period. It’s considered a decent-to-healthy theatrical run when a film earns triple its opening weekend haul. An exceptional run means a quadrupling or quintupling of the same tally. Even if Hugo quintuples the $12 million weekend figure, it ends up with $60 million…but I think it’s more likely to triple and end up with $35 million, if that. There’s also foreign plus DVD/Blurays, digital downloads and broadcast TV sales ahead, but it still seems like a bust when you factor in Hugo‘s reported cost of $170 million.

“There’s no doubt it’s going to lose money,” says‘s Phil Contrino. “But with that said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it scratch and claw its way to $50 or $60 million domestically. It needs to make as much as it can before the the Christmas releases come along and cripple it.”

I know, I know — what do we care if Hugo is a financial bust or not? Are we Paramount stockholders? Let’s just see it and love it and recommend it to our friends. Except I can’t honestly tell my friends that it’s a jump-for-joy experience. The only part of Hugo that really sings is the last 20 or 25 minutes. The “let’s-all-rally-round-Marty-because-we-love-his-moviemaking-heart” critical fraternity has nonethless amped up the chatter to a point in which Kris Tapley is forecasting that Hugo could be one of the top three Best Picture contenders along with War Horse and The Artist.

That could happen (as much as that scenario perplexes me) but there’s always a certain deflation of value and spirit when a Best Picture contender that has obviously cost a lot to make fails to earn sufficient coin.

I still maintain that Hugo‘s 127-minute length limits the family audience. If it had only been, say, 90 or 95 minutes, it would have been a lot easier sit for kids and for people like me as well. The first 75% is too long, too indulgent, too taken with itself.

I wonder if Hugo would have made the same or slightly less so far if it had kept the original title of Hugo Cabret?