Ah, it’s Thanksgiving weekend, a time at the box office that’s turned into an ongoing love/hate relationship with the Weekend Warrior, a weekend I appreciate for its ability to bring moviegoers into theaters, but one that’s become the bane of my existence since casual moviegoers tend to be much harder to predict than the regulars. As we mentioned in our Long Distance Box Office about this weekend a few weeks back, this weekend tends to be about family, but also it’s about the impending holidays and for many people it’s about catching up on movies they may have missed.
Summit Entertainment’s The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 will probably remain atop the box office even with a fairly substantial drop-off from its opening weekend, but otherwise the new movie with the most potential to bring in Thanksgiving moviegoers is DreamWorks Animation’s Rise of the Guardians (Paramount). Based on the popular series of books by William Joyce, it features the voices of Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Chris Pine and Isla Fischer as North aka Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Jack Frost and the Tooth Fairy, respectively. Featuring such well-known and beloved entities among children should go a long way at making it a first choice for the gathering families that have smaller kids, and it seems like the perfect movie to get everyone ready for the holiday season which is kicking into high gear on the Black Friday following Thanksgiving. This is a very different movie for DreamWorks Animation, although Paramount have done a good job marketing it by focusing on Santa’s elves in a similar way that Universal have focused on the minions in Despicable Me to get mothers and kids with the “cute factor.” Everything seems to be coming up roses for DWA’s 25th feature film. Granted, last year we thought Arthur Christmas would be a huge hit for Sony Pictures Animation, because it combined a holiday theme with a family-friendly movie, but that didn’t do nearly as well as we expected (see below) and there’s a chance that the parents who normally take their kids to see animated movies they might enjoy as well may not realize how good this one is. (Hopefully, positive reviews will rectify this.) Even though we don’t expect it to set any records for the Thanksgiving weekend, we could see the movie bringing in roughly $33 to 35 million over the three-day weekend and $45 to 47 million including Wednesday and Thursday.
The first of this Thanksgiving’s prestige releases is Ang Lee’s Life of Pi (20th Century Fox), based on the bestselling novel by Yann Martel, which literally sold millions of copies back in 2001. As we’ve seen with other bestseller-turned-movie The Kite Runner, having a book that’s popular doesn’t always mean you have the next “Twilight.” (ahem) Even though the movie stars an unknown Indian actor in Suraj Sharma, being directed by Ang Lee is going to go a long way into getting people to see it, knowing his previous work with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain, both Oscar nominees. Fox has done a great job promoting this one with exciting commercials that give a good taste of what to expect and reviews have generally been solid since the movie’s debut as Opening Night film at the New York Film Festival. (It’s currently at 94% positive on Rotten Tomatoes.) The fact that the movie is PG could also help bring in the families with older kids, although they may feel it’s not appropriate for younger kids and both Rise of the Guardians and Wreck-It Ralph are offering them competition, but the movie could play well among Christian audiences with its focus on religion and spirituality. With that in mind, we think this one is probably heading to the $20 to 22 million range for the five days (similar to Baz Luhrmann’s Australia a few years back) but it should have solid legs, especially once it starts bringing in awards and nominations, which could start happening in December. We expect this one to end up in the $75 to 80 million range,
Every year or so, we’re given a token action movie or one geared specifically to guys and this year filling that slot is Red Dawn (FilmDistrict), a remake of the 1984 cult classic, this one starring Josh Peck, Chris Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson and Adrianne Palicki. It’s an action-thriller about the country being invaded by North Koreans and a group of high schoolers fighting back, but this is a leftover from MGM’s bankruptcy, a movie shot over three years ago that’s been sitting on the shelf. That may not be that well known, but it’s being targeted specifically towards teen and older males, particularly those familiar with the original movie, and though they may be available to see it on Wednesday, the rest of the week will be dedicated to family which means there won’t be as much business on the weekend. Reviews won’t be good and Thanksgiving tends to be a bad time to release movies geared towards guys with only a few action movies doing well, most notably Denzel Washington’s Déjà vu, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s End of Days and Brad Pitt’s Spy Game, but all of those had much bigger stars than Red Dawn. Other action movies like Hitman and Transporter 3 brought in $18 to 21 million shooting for the same male audience and we think this one could be heading that way but being heavily frontloaded to Wednesday and Thursday. We think it could end up with roughly $18 million over the five days with less than $12 million of that over the three-day weekend and it will end up with less than $35 million total.
At one point, there was a plan to give David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company), starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Chris Tucker, a wide release just before Thanksgiving but those plans were changed when the movie wasn’t tracking as well as they’d hoped, so they opened it in limited release last weekend and will expand into roughly 400 theaters on Wednesday. Reviews have been great with a lot of Oscar buzz for the cast and Russell’s screenplay and that should be helped by first weekend word-of-mouth to get curious moviegoers to check it out once it plays in their town. It should be able to bring in $3 to 3.5 million over the five days, which could be enough to get it into the bottom of the Top 10, which would be a good start to a slow rollout over December to take advantage of awards.
This weekend last year saw the return of The Muppets (Walt Disney), co-starring Jason Segel and Amy Adams, which opened with $41.5 million in its first six days over Thanksgiving, $29.2 million of that over the three-day weekend. Despite that strong opening, it would still take second place to The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1, which remained on top for a second week with $41.6 million over the weekend (down 70%) and $61.8 million over the five days. That was slightly less than The Twilight Saga: New Moon made over the same weekend two years earlier. Sony Animation Pictures teamed with Aardman for the holiday comedy Arthur Christmas (Sony), which should have been a big hit due to the holiday, but instead it brought in a disappointing $12.1 million over the three-day weekend in 3,376 theaters and $16.3 million in its first five days for fourth place. Martin Scorsese’s 3D fantasy-adventure Hugo (Paramount) opened in less than 1,300 theaters to take fifth place with $15.4 million in its first five days. The Top 10 grossed less than $210 million over the five days, but with strong movies like Skyfall and Lincoln and Wreck-It Ralph bolstering “Breaking Dawn” and strong new movies, that number should be bested by this year’s Thanksgiving offerings.
This Week’s Predictions –
1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (Summit) – $46.5 million -67% ($68 million five-day)
2. Rise of the Guardians (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) – $35 million N/A ($47.7 million five-day)
3. Skyfall (MGM/Sony) – $26 million -37% ($38 million five-day)
4. Lincoln (DreamWorks) – $17 million -19% ($24.5 million five-day)
5. Life of Pi (20th Century Fox) – $14.6 million N/A ($21.5 million five-day)
6. Wreck-It Ralph (Disney) – $15.0 million -21% ($20.7 million five-day)
7. Red Dawn (FilmDistrict) – $11.3 million N/A ($17.8 million five-day)
8. Flight (Paramount) – $6 million -30% ($8.5 million)
9. Argo (Warner Bros.) – $3.5 million -19% ($5.1 million)
10. Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company) – $2.4 million ($3.5 million)
This week’s Chosen One is the documentary Central Park Five (Sundance Selects) from award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns, his daughter Sarah and her husband David McMahon, which looks at the brutal beating and rape of a jogger in Central Park in 1989 and the five Hispanic and African-American youths who were falsely accused of the crime, spending more than 7 years in prison before the truth came out. The movie opens in New York City on Friday, and you can read more about it, as well as read interviews with the three filmmakers and find out where it’s playing here.
French filmmaker Jacques Audiard (A Prophet) returns with the drama Rust & Bone (Sony Pictures Classics), starring Marion Cotillard as Stéphanie, a killer whale trainer who loses her legs in a bizarre accident, forcing her to rely on a boorish fighter, played by Belgian actor Matthias Schoenarts (2011 Oscar nominee Bullhead), and the two of them form a bond over their respective issues.
Sir Anthony Hopkins plays legendary filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock in Sacha (Anvil! The Story of Anvil) Gervasi’s Hitchcock (Fox Searchlight), based on the time when the director was trying to make Psycho and was having difficulties with his main creative collaborator, his wife Alma, played by Helen Mirren. Also starring Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Biel as Janet Leigh and Vera Miles, respectively, as well as Michael Stuhlbarg, Toni Collette and Danny Huston, it opens in select cities on Friday.
Lisa Kirk Colburn’s doc Gottfried Helnwein and The Dreaming Child (First Run Features) takes a look behind the scenes of the opera “The Child Dreams” designed by Gottfried Heinwein for the Israeli Opera of Tel Aviv in 2010, based on the play by Hanoch Levin. It opens in New York at the Quad Cinemas on Friday.
Next week, the month of November comes to a close with Andrew Dominik’s crime-drama Killing Them Softly (The Weinstein Company), starring Brad Pitt, and the horror sequel The Collection (LD Entertainment), from the writers of the last four “Saw” movies.
Copyright 2012 Edward Douglas