Box Office: New Year’s Eve Comes Early; Better Get a Sitter!

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After a down weekend, the box office is hoping to bounce back with a couple new comedies, as well as a few November hits continuing to expand to try and get moviegoers’ attention before the really big Christmas blockbusters hit next week.

Following up his enormous rom-com hit Valentine’s Day, Gary Marshall returns with another star-studded anthology based around a holiday, this one being New Year’s Eve (New Line/WB) with Ashton Kutcher and Jessica Biel returning from that movie, though both playing different characters. They’re joined by the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker, Robert De Niro, Hilary Swank, Michelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, Halle Berry, Josh Duhamel, Katherine Heigl and many more, and really, having so many big names in a movie together will be a bigger draw than any so-called plot or story. Essentially, it’s another romantic anthology trying to ape Richard Curtis’ Love Actually, and it probably won’t come close to the opening of Valentine’s Day, which took advantage of the dual holiday weekend to bring in $63.4 million over four days (that’s more than its production budget), though it should have a strong opening in the mid-to-high $20 million and it will just continue to bring in business as it leads up to New Year’s Eve proper, and it could end up with close to $100 million as it offers one of the few movies directed specifically towards women over the coming weeks.

Jonah Hill teams with Pineapple Express director David Gordon Green for The Sitter (20th Century Fox), a raunchy R-rated comedy that puts the R-rated comedy vet with a bunch of kids, something that’s normally reserved for PG fare (see Vin Diesel in The Pacifier, Eddie Murphy in Daddy Day Care, Ice Cube in Are We There Yet? or better yet, skip all of them!). Unfortunately, as we saw with The Change-Up over the summer, taking a premise that’s normally reserved for family fare and trying to make it something the 18 to 25 male crowd might dig is a tough one, though Hill has been garnering some good will from his last few movies, like the September hit Moneyball and the indie Cyrus, although this one may seem like backtracking for him. Rather than being released in December in hopes of big holiday business, 20th Century Fox may be hoping this gets buried and forgotten, and it’s likely going to have to settle for second place with between $12 and 15 million and probably won’t have the typical bump that movies get over Christmas since it probably can’t fare too well against the real blockbusters opening over the next two weeks. We think this will end up with less than $40 million total.

Martin Scorsese’s Hugo (Paramount) is expected to expand into 500 or 600 more theaters to take advantage of its last two weekends of strong business, although it’s still likely to drop a place to fourth. Alexander Payne’s The Descendants (Fox Searchlight) is also scheduled to expand into roughly 850 theaters and that should be able to keep its place at 7th as it’s one of the few adult movies in theaters.

In limited release, French filmmaker Cedric Klapisch (L’Auberg Espagnole, Paris) returns with the romantic comedy My Piece of the Pie (Sundance Selects), starring Karin Viard as France, a single mother forced to take a job as a maid for a rich stock trader named Steve (Gilles Lelouche), but her role evolves into being his nanny when his 3-year-old son is left on Steve’s doorstep while he’s in the middle of a big deal. It opens in New York on Friday as well as playing On Demand. Look for our interview with Klapisch tomorrow.

Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman are reunited for Young Adult (Paramount), starring Charlize Theron as Mavis Gary, a teen novel author who returns home to her smalltown to try to win back her boyfriend, played by Patrick Wilson, finding a kindred spirit in a loner, played by Patton Oswalt. Like Reitman’s previous movie, Up in the Air, the movie is getting a limited release this week to help build word-of-mouth for a wide release next weekend.

Here’s our review and you can find our interviews with Diablo Cody and Patton Oswalt here.

Opening in New York and L.A. on Friday is Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of John Le Carré’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Focus Features), starring Gary Oldman as his popular character George Smiley, who is trying to find a mole in the British Secret Service at the height of the Cold War. The amazing cast includes Colin Firth, John Hurt, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, Tom Hardy, Toby Jones and more. Here are our interviews with Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and director Tomas Alfredson and our review.

A film likely to end up on this year’s Terrible 25 is former music video director Mark Pellington’s new movie I Melt with You (Magnolia), which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, starring Thomas Jane, Jeremy Piven, Rob Lowe and Christian McKay as college friends now in their 40s who get together at Big Sur for a weekend of partying and excess. It’s been On Demand since early November but shows up in a single theater in New York and L.A. on Friday.

A trio of films are getting a one-week Oscar consideration run in New York and/or Los Angeles, all movies directed by women oddly enough with Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin (Oscilloscope) starring Tilda Swinton as a mother dealing with a problematic son (Ezra Miller) whose only joy comes from tormenting her until a shocking event changes both their lives.

Madonna returns with her second movie W.E. (The Weinstein Co.), starring Andrea Riseborough as Wallis Simpson, the American divorcée whose relationship with King Edward VII forced him to abdicate the throne in controversy. Abbie Cornish plays Wally Winthrop, a New York woman in the present day whose obsession with the love story between Wallis and Edward while overseeing a Southeby’s auction of the Windsor Estate helps her get through her abusive marriage.

Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Holland (Europa Europa) returns with In Darkness (Sony Pictures Classics), a look at the survival of a group of Jews in war-torn Poland by moving into the sewer system under their town.

This weekend last year saw no big blockbuster openings as the third movie in the C.S. Lewis franchise, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Fox Walden), opened with just $24 million, less than half what the original movie made on the same weekend five years earlier. Even worse, the teaming of Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp for the action-comedy The Tourist (Sony) resulted in a second place opening with $16.4 million, a major disappointment how much the film cost just due to the involvement of two A-list stars. Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, starring Natalie Portman, jumped into the Top 10 in 6th place with $3.3 million in 90 theaters, the first signs of the success it would turn into, grossing over $106 million, slightly more than the latest “Narnia” and significantly more than The Tourist made domestically. The Top 10 grossed $81 million and this year’s offerings may fall just short of that.

This Week’s Predictions

1. New Year’s Eve (New Line/WB) – $27.2 million N/A

2. The Sitter (20th Century Fox) – $14.3 million N/A

3. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (Summit) – $7.8 million -53%

4. Hugo (Paramount) – $7.3 million -4%

5. The Muppets (Walt Disney) – $6.2 million -44%

6. Arthur Christmas (Sony) – $4.8 million -35%

7. The Descendants (Fox Searchlight) – $4.4 million -9%

8. Happy Feet Two (Warner Bros.) – $3.2 million -45%

9. Jack and Jill (Sony) – $2.8 million -47%

10. Immortals (Relativity) – $2.3 million -48%

Next week, the month of December rolls along with two of what’s expected to be the biggest holiday blockbusters as Robert Downey Jr. returns as Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Warner Bros.) and a certain group of singing mammals also return in Alvin and the Chipmunks – Chipwrecked (20th Century Fox). Opening in an exclusive IMAX run is Tom Cruise’s return as Ethan Hunt in Brad Bird’sMission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Paramount).

You can read stuff like this and regular box office, awards and festival coverage on the new Weekend Warrior Blog and to keep up with the latest articles and posts, you can follow us on Twitter.

Copyright 2011 Edward Douglas