Box Office: Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Singing Chipmunks

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Christmas is just over a week away and after two miserable weeks, we should finally see the box office picking up with three major sequels starring some of the biggest stars in Hollywood… that’s right! Alvin and the Chipmunks are back with a new movie!

Before we get to that, let’s talk about what should be the weekend winner, Guy Ritchie’s period action sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Warner Bros.), reuniting Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as London’s greatest detective Sherlock Holmes and his begrudgingly faithful partner Watson. They’re joined this time by the Swedish “Girl with a Dragon Tattoo” Noomi Rapace as they face Holmes arch-villain Professor Moriarty, played by Jared Harris of “Mad Men” and “Fringe.” Holmes fans should certainly be excited by the prospects of Moriarty’s introduction as well as more hilarious hijinks with Downey and Law. The previous movie opened on Christmas Day 2009 with $24.6 million its opening day and ended up with $62.3 million in its first weekend heading to a domestic gross of $209 million. One would expect the sequel to a $200 million blockbuster should have a bigger opening weekend, but one needs to bear in mind that opening on Christmas Day gave the original Sherlock Holmes a significant holiday bump. Opening a week before Christmas means that a lot of moviegoers will need their time and money for Christmas shopping and putting the nose to the grindstone before holiday vacations, which will likely hinder the sequel from opening over $70 million. One also has to take into account that moviegoing is down and even so, many of the original movie’s fans might also wait to see the movie over the holidays with family, meaning bigger legs. We think this one will still be able to do somewhere between $55 and 60 million, but still end up somewhere in the $200 million range, maybe slightly lower being there’s so much more competition over Christmas. (We also don’t think reviews will be as strong for the sequel, which may put off some of those trying to decide what to see in the coming week.)

It’s threequel time for 20th Century Fox as they release Alvin and the Chipmunks – Chipwrecked, featuring their lovable singing, dancing and moneymaking rodents, into over 3,500 theaters. The original Alvin and the Chipmunks opened in the same weekend in 2007, taking on Will Smith’s I Am Legend, and it brought in $44.3 million to that movie’s $77 million. It went on to gross $217 million, while its sequel opened to roughly $49 million over Christmas weekend two years later and grossed roughly the same. The things working in Alvin’s favor is that it has the namebrand that’s so important for casual moviegoers, plus it’s a G-rated movie, which means it will have immediate appeal to parents with small kids, as well as the more puritanical moviegoing set. Also, many of the current family offerings have already been playing for a number of weeks, since Thanksgiving. Granted, many might wait until the holidays to see the movie, especially since this weekend is the last one where people can go shopping.

Essentially, we have a rematch from Christmas 2009, where both of this week’s predecessors faced the second weekend of Avatar, with that winning the weekend with $75 million, Sherlock Holmes doing $62.3 million and Alvin and the Chipmunks – The Squeakquel taking in $48 million. Again, that was Christmas weekend which means the box office was heightened by there being no work or school.

Adding another interesting layer to the weekend is the decision to release Brad Bird’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Paramount), the return of Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, in roughly 400 IMAX theaters nationwide, six days before the movie’s national rollout in regular theaters. The big story here is that in roughly 100 70mm IMAX theaters worldwide, they’ll also get to see the six minute prologue for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, easily one of the most anticipated movies of 2012. Roughly 56 of those theaters are in the United States and Canada, but you can bet that Dark Knight fans will be out in force on Thursday at midnight and Friday to be the first to see the prologue the way it was intended, in full big-screen IMAX, which should see it having the biggest per-theater average in the Top 10. (Important Note: The digital IMAX theaters won’t be running this prologue; the full list of theaters where you can watch this is here.)

We’ve seen the prologue and it’s cool enough, but it seems a little odd to us that Nolan is pushing this technology which is already being phased out in favor of smaller digital IMAX screens. It’s also a strange decision on the part of Warner Bros. because this move helps the IMAX Corporation and helps bring business to Paramount’s holiday action sequel, but one wonders whether it may take away from Warner Bros.’ own holiday release, the “Sherlock Holmes” sequel. Besides physically taking business away from “Sherlock” this weekend, if people going to see the Dark Knight prologue stick around for “MI4” and they like it, they’re likely to tell their friends and word-of-mouth should help “Mission: Impossible” do even better taking on Holmes in their second weekend.

Paramount are also expanding Jason Reitman’s dark comedy Young Adult (Paramount), starring Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt, into over 1,000 theaters following its various awards nominations, but it’s the weak link being that it’s a very dark comedy that won’t necessarily play outside of big cities, though it should end up in the Top 5 with $5 to 6 million on its way to roughly $30 to 40 million total, depending on any boost it gets from awards season.

Opening in limited release, we get Roman Polanski’s adaptation of the hit Broadway play “God of Carnage” into the dark comedy Carnage (Sony Pictures Classics), starring Kate Winslet, Jodi Foster, John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz as parents of two boys who get into a schoolyard fight, and how their own personalities clash.

Our Review

One of the better documentaries we’ve seen this year is Alex Stapleton’s Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (Anchor Bay Films), a look at the groundbreaking work by filmmaker Roger Corman from his early days in Hollywood working with the likes of Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese and Ron Howard to his later years where his low-budget B-movie aesthetics made him somewhat of an outcast. With terrific interviews with Nicholson, Scorsese, Howard, Peter Fonda and many others who have worked with him, this film is an incredible portrait of an often misunderstood filmmaker who failed to receive credit for some of his many achievements, including the discovery of many of those interviewed.

This weekend last year saw the release of three holiday movies with Joseph Kosinski’s TRON: Legacy (Disney), the long-awaited sequel to the ’80s cult favorite, opening with a somewhat disappointing $44 million in 3,451 theaters. It fared better than the live action version of Hanna Barbera’s Yogi Bear (Warner Bros.), which opened with just $16.4 million in 3,515 theaters for second place. Following the disappointing showing for Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp’s The Tourist, Sony continued that streak with James L. Brooks’ rom-com How Do You Know (Sony), starring Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd and Jack Nicholson, four stars who somehow amounted to an opening of $7.5 million to take 8th place; a bonafide bomb. David O. Russell’s The Fighter (Paramount), starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo–the latter two being future Oscar winners–expanded nationwide into 2,503 theaters where it brought in $12.1 million for fourth place. The Top 10 grossed $125 million last year and though this year has generally been down, we think the release of three big sequels this weekend should allow this weekend to top last year.

This Week’s Predictions

1. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Warner Bros.) – $58.8 million N/A

2. Alvin and the Chipmunks – Chipwrecked (20th Century Fox) – $38.4 million N/A

3. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Paramount) – $8.0 million N/A

4. New Year’s Eve (New Line/WB) – $7.0 million -46%

5. Young Adult (Paramount) – $5.5 million +1833%

6. The Sitter (20th Century Fox) – $4.5 million -55%

7. Arthur Christmas (Sony) – $4.2 million -38%

8. The Muppets (Walt Disney) – $3.6 million -48%

9. Hugo (Paramount) – $3.5 million -43%

10. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (Summit) – $3.5 million -55%

Next week, the sh*t hits the fans in a big way as we get five new movies in wide release with Brad Bird’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Paramount) expanding nationwide on Wednesday, joined by David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Sony) and Steven Spielberg’s animated The Adventures of Tintin (Paramount). On Friday, filmmaker Cameron Crowe returns with his adaptation of We Bought a Zoo (20th Century Fox), joined on Christmas Day by Steven Spielberg’s War Horse (DreamWorks Pictures) and the sci-fi thriller The Darkest Hour (Summit Entertainment).

You can read more 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