It’s Christmas weekend, leading into the last full week of the year, which is also one of the busiest weeks at the box office, although that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to see any records broken as the biggest factor in how well movies play is mostly determined by which day Christmas falls upon. This year, Christmas falls on Sunday, which is not ideal because in the days before, people are going to be shopping and traveling and might not have time for movies. What would normally be the busiest day of the weekend, Saturday, is Christmas Eve, which is normally dead with many movie theaters closing early, as well. Then starting on Monday, most people are out of work and school, which means the theaters will be packed and business will be spread out among the movies as more casual moviegoers show up to see what’s on the marquee. I almost wish I could make a graph showing how some of the new movies opening this week will do better on Wednesday through Friday while others will do most of their business on Monday, but you can generally expect that the family-friendly films will do bigger business on Sunday and Monday than they might in the days leading up to Christmas.
After an impressive opening weekend in 425 IMAX theaters, former Pixar Animation maestro Brad Bird’s Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol (Paramount), featuring the return of Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, joined by Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg and Paula Patton, expands nationwide with the widest release into over 3,500 theaters and it has the best chance at building on that opening to win the weekend with roughly $35 million or more over the three-day weekend. It should do decent business on Wednesday and Thursday as those who missed the IMAX screenings last weekend will check it out but its biggest day should be Friday and it should have solid business on Christmas Day and the week that follows. We think it could do $14 to 15 million on Wednesday and Thursday, bumped up to $13 to 14 million on Friday and when you add another $17 million or so on the Monday after Christmas, we’re looking at it doing somewhere between $65 and $70 million over its first six days. Tom Cruise is indeed back!
On the other hand, David Fincher’s take on the Swedish bestseller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Sony), starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, has a guaranteed built-in audience from the many avid fans of the books, as well as Fincher’s own fanbase, which gives it a strong chance of winning on Wednesday, although many of those fans may also rush out to the Tuesday night previews. A dark R-rated thriller, this isn’t the type of movie that might normally do well in the week following Christmas since it’s not a movie that families will necessary go to see as a group, but it should do decent business over the weekend to bring its total to $65 million or so by the Monday after Christmas, and we think word-of-mouth business in January once people return from the holidays will keep it going strong.
Director Steven Spielberg has two movies opening this week, the first one on Wednesday, which is the animated The Adventures of Tintin (Paramount), based on the popular graphic novels by Hergé, with Jamie Bell playing the famous explorer, joined by Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Daniel Craig and Andy Serkis. With Spielberg on board, the appeal of the comics to males 25 and older should make it a draw, especially to fathers bringing their sons, which should help it make $16 million over the three-day weekend and roughly $25 million including the Monday after Christmas. It probably won’t do more than $8 or 9 million on the Wednesday and Thursday though as it’s not going to be as big a pre-Christmas draw as the two movies above, but should have business spread out over its first six days. The only problem is that it might split Spielberg fans with his other movie opening on Christmas Day (See below). It’s looking to do roughly $33 million in its first six days, but we think it will end up below $100 million by the time it leaves theaters.
Cameron Crowe makes his return to theaters on Friday with the adaptation of Benjamin Mee’s We Bought a Zoo (20th Century Fox), starring Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Elle Fanning and Thomas Haden Church, and while it’s the most family-friendly movie being released over the holiday weekend, it’s also the tougher sell being that it doesn’t have the built-in audience of some of the other movies. After doing a number of promo screenings, word-of-mouth should be built up so families looking for something the whole family might enjoy will give this a look, so we think it will do roughly $13 million over the three-day weekend and $20 million in its first four days.
Steven Spielberg’s other movie, the wartime epic War Horse (DreamWorks Pictures), featuring a cast of British and German actors and a horse named Joey, opens on Christmas Day Sunday, and frankly, Disney has done a much better job marketing this than Paramount with “Tintin” and with a lot of awards attention, the film should do brisk business on Sunday and then even better business on Monday. We think a $7 million opening day would be doable, which should bump up to $9 to 10 million on Monday and we could see it grossing as much as $75 to 80 million by New Year’s Day, making it a solid hit for Spielberg.
Also opening Christmas Day is the alien invasion action flick The Darkest Hour (Summit Entertainment), produced by Russia’s Timur Bekmambetov, but it’s not getting nearly as much attention as any of the other movies and even with a release in 3D, we don’t think it will get as many of the older single guys who normally might go see a genre film on Christmas Day, but should bring in $3 to 4 million its opening day then drop down significantly starting on Monday. We’d be surprised if this ends up grossing more than $20 million, facing so much stronger competition and being the only movie that’s not being screened in advance.
Opening in limited release on Friday is Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut In the Land of Blood and Honey (FilmDistrict), a foreign language love story set during the Bosnian War, starring Goran Kostic as a Serb soldier who falls for a Muslim woman, played by Zana Marjanovic, a romance that’s constantly hindered by the war between their people.
With a one-week Oscar eligibility release in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco on Friday, Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou’s own wartime epic The Flowers of War (Wreckin Hill) stars Christian Bale as an opportunist Westerner who ends up having to protect a dozen Catholic schoolgirls with the help of a group of call girls when their church is invaded by Japanese soldiers.
Glenn Close stars in Rodrigo Garcia’s adaptation of the 19th Century tale of Albert Nobbs (Roadside Attractions), playing a waiter in a high-end residential hotel who is actually a woman disguised as a man. Her sexual confusion is compounded when she meets a painter, played by Janet McTeer, who is under a similar disguise but has figured out how to settle down with a wife. It opens in select cities Wednesday.
Stephen (The Reader, The Hours) Daldry returns with the 9/11 drama Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (Warner Bros.), co-starring Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and newcomer Thomas Horn, playing a young boy who searches for closure after the death of his father. It opens in select cities on Christmas Day in advance of its wide release on January 20.
Dee Rees’ Sundance favorite Pariah (Focus Features) stars Adepero Oduye as Alike, a 17-year-old girl from Fort Greene, Brooklyn who is having trouble coming to terms with her sexuality and gender identity, while living with conservative parents (Kim Wayans, Charles Parnell), and how her life is changed by her friendships with two other girls.
Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi (About Elly) returns with the drama A Separation (Sony Pictures Classics), which has already won multiple awards and is thought by many to be the frontrunner for Best Foreign Language film at the Oscars next year. It explores the incidents surrounding a middle class couple who decide to divorce, but when the husband hires a maid to care for his Alzheimer’s-stricken father, circumstances lead to an incident that changes all their lives. It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday, December 30.
Also opening on December 30 is Meryl Streep playing former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Phyllida (Mamma Mia) Lloyd’s The Iron Lady (The Weinstein Company), which has her living alone in her 80s and reflecting back on her entire life and career while being haunted by her late husband Denis. (Jim Broadbent)
Gabby (On a Clear Day) Dellal’s dramaAngels Crest (Magnolia), stars Thomas Dekker as a young father whose three-year-old son goes missing, something that tears apart his community when his alcoholic wife (Lynn Collins) accuses him of negligence. Co-starring Jeremy Piven, Kate Walsh, and Mira Sorvino, it will have a theatrical run at New York’s Cinema Village on December 30, then in L.A. on January 13.
(Look for interviews and reviews for some of the other movies above in the coming week.)
Last Christmas wasn’t nearly as crazy as only three new movies opened in wide release with the comedy threequel Little Fockers (Universal), which reunited Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro, winning the weekend with just $30 million after making $15 million on Wednesday and Thursday. Second place went to the Coen Brothers’ True Grit (Paramount), starring Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon, which opened big with $24.8 million in 3,037 theaters after making $11 million on Wednesday and Thursday, as it was well on its way to becoming one of the Coens’ biggest hits. Jack Black’s Gulliver’s Travels (20th Century Fox) opened on Christmas Day, which fell on Saturday last year, and it grossed $6.3 million in its first two days to take 8th place. The Top 10 grossed $124 million but with much bigger movies being released on Wednesday, we think that this weekend can do better even with the Christmas Day moved to Sunday.
This Week’s Predictions –
1. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Paramount) – $36.5 million (3-day); $16 million (Weds/Thurs); $17 million on Monday 12/26 (roughly $70 million in first six days)
2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Sony) – $33.4 million (3-day), $18 million (Weds/Thurs); $15 million Monday (roughly $65 million in first six days)
3. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Warner Bros.) – $22.5 million (3-day) -44%; $13.5 million Monday
4. The Adventures of Tintin (Paramount) – $16.2 million (3-day); $7.5 million (Weds/Thurs); $9 million Monday ($32 million in first six days)
5. Alvin and the Chipmunks – Chipwrecked (20th Century Fox) $14.5 million -37%; $10.5 million Monday
6. We Bought a Zoo (20th Century Fox) – $13 million (3-day); $7.5 million Monday ($20.5 million in four days)
7. War Horse (DreamWorks Pictures) – $7.5 million (opens Christmas Day); $9.2 million Monday ($16.7 million two days)
8. New Year’s Eve (New Line/WB) – $4.1 million -45%; $2.5 million Monday
9. The Darkest Hour (Summit Entertainment) – $3.8 million (opens Christmas Day); $2.5 million Monday ($6.3 million two days)
10. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (Summit) – $2.2 million -48%; $1.1 million Monday
Next week, is the Weekend Warrior’s customary “week off” but you can look for lots of great stuff like our annual Top 25 and Terrible 25 list as well as more Oscar stuff over the next week or so. I hope everyone who has stuck with us through these changes has Happy Holidays and a Very Happy New Year… see you in 2012!
Copyright 2011 Edward Douglas