We’re inching slowly closer to the end of the year and that magical Christmas week where everyone is out of work and school and movie theaters are slammed with business. The last two weekends have been fairly dismal with one bomb after the next, so it’s good news for the box office that Oscar-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson has finally returned to the franchise that made him world famous with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (New Line/WB).
Mind you, we’ve already written about this film’s box office chances in a previous Long Distance Box Office (which we’re sadly behind on continuing), and there’s not that much more to say about it, although we do have more information in hand. First of all, we’ve had a chance to see more of Warner Bros.’ marketing, which is pretty solid, although early reviews have been generally mixed and the general feelings towards Jackson’s decision to shoot the film at a higher frame rate is greatly contributing towards the negativity. Because only a few theaters (roughly 5%) will be able to play the movie at the higher frame rate, that probably won’t be a huge long-term problem.
Normally, the fact that the movie’s opening so close to Christmas might hurt its chances of a big opening except it’s coming out after two really dismal weekends where no new movies opened over $8 million and clearly, moviegoing audiences will be hungry for an event movie like “The Hobbit.” We can’t disregard that all three “Lord of the Rings” movies grossed over $300 million domestically and the nine years since the finale certainly has created a hunger among the fans that could drive many of them to try to see the movie opening weekend, if not opening day.
Because of this, we do think that Jackson’s “Hobbit” will set a new December opening record, currently $77 million held by Will Smith’s I Am Legend followed closely by James Cameron’s Avatar, helped greatly by the higher ticket prices since the release of those two movies combined with the high anticipation for Jackson’s return to Middle-earth. The Hobbit should have a huge opening day with many fans rushing out to see it at midnight and we wouldn’t be surprised if it matches the opening Wednesday of “Return of the King” or does slightly better with roughly $35 million opening day and somewhere in the mid-$90 million for the weekend on its way to roughly $320 million total as it stays in first place over the next three weekends. We’ll have to see how it holds up against the competition next weekend because it’s facing a lot bigger projects than any of the “Lord of the Rings” movies had to face in their day, and those opened later in December, which meant the second weekend took place after Christmas rather than just before. We think The Hobbit will only be #1 for the next three weekends compared to “Return of the King’s” four weeks at #1 with the unlikely Texas Chainsaw 3D taking over the top spot when it opens in early January.
This weekend last year saw the release of Guy Ritchie’s action sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Warner Bros.), reuniting Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, which opened in 3,703 theaters to bring in a somewhat disappointing $39.6 million. Taking second place was the sequel to the squeakquel, the threequel Alvin and the Chipmunks – Chipwrecked (20th Century Fox), which took second place with $23.2 million, again showing how a combination of sequelitis and timing saw disappointing openings for two holiday movies. Both movies ended up making money over the holidays proper with “Shadows” grossing $186 million total and “Chipwrecked” ending up with $133 million total. The real story of the weekend was the release of Tom Cruise’s own action sequel Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol (Paramount) into 425 IMAX theaters a week before its national release, an unprecedented decision that happened to include the opening sequence from Christopher Nolan’s anticipated The Dark Knight Rises. These two factors helped contribute to its astounding weekend take of $12.8 million, roughly $30 thousand per site, to take third place. The Top 10 grossed $105 million, but since The Hobbit will probably make close to that by itself, expect the first good weekend in a long time.
This Week’s Updated Predictions
1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (New Line/WB) – $96.4 million N/A (up .8 million)
2. Lincoln (DreamWorks) – $6.5 million -29% (Down .3 million)
3. Rise of the Guardians (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) – $6.0 million – 42% (down .2 million)
4. Skyfall (MGM/Sony) – $5.5 million -48% (down .1 million)
5. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (Summit) – $4.5 million -52%
6. Life of Pi (20th Century Fox) – $4.3 million -47% (down .2 million)
7. Playing for Keeps (FilmDistrict) – $2.9 million -49%
8. Wreck-It Ralph (Disney) – $2.8 million -42% (down .2 million and one spot)
9. Red Dawn (FilmDistrict) – $2.0 million -48%
10. Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company) $1.7 million -45% (down .1 million)
This week’s CHOSEN ONE is Travis Fine’s Any Day Now (Music Box Films), starring Alan Cumming as Rudy Donatello, a drag queen in 1979 California who meets two people who will change his life, a lawyer named Paul who has been hiding in the closet (played by Garret Dillahunt of “Deadwood”) and a young boy with Down’s Syndrome named Marco (newcomer Isaac Leyva).
The first time I heard about this movie was in the guide for the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year and honestly, it didn’t sound particularly interesting or something I might like, plus I was so busy during that period, I had to limit which movies I had a chance to see. The next time I heard about the movie, it had won the coveted Audience Award, and one thing I can always say about the Tribeca Film Festival is that the audiences there really have good taste, especially in terms of more mainstream indies like City Island. I made sure to catch the film’s last screening on Sunday when it was rescreened due to its award and boy, was I surprised by what a wonderful and special film this was.
Cumming’s Rudy is just such a larger than life character when we first meet him, lip-syncing in a club to some disco tune, and he spots Dillahunt’s straight-lace lawyer sitting at the bar and they immediately hit it off. But it’s when Rudy returns home and finds his neighbor’s Down’s Syndrome-stricken teenager Marco in the hallway when the story starts unfolding. Marco’s mother is a junkie and it’s not long before she overdoses and is sent to jail leaving Marco alone, so Rudy takes him in and goes to Paul to get help to keep the boy from going to a foster home.
Cumming has had a lot of memorable roles but the character of Rudy really allows us to see lots of different sides of him, from humorous and comic to heartbreaking, and it’s surprising how much young Isaac Leyva brings out of him in their scenes together. I haven’t seen a lot of Dillahunt’s work but have seen enough to know that he’s definitely playing against type as a low-key straight-laced lawyer, afraid of his colleagues discovering his sexuality as he tells everyone that Rudy is his cousin.
This is a truly unconventional love story especially to a straight guy like myself, but you can really feel the love these two men have for each other and towards Marco, who acts like the glue in their relationship. Despite Paul’s skills and place in the D.A.’s office, he finds himself hitting a hurdle when it comes to getting the courts to allow Marco to stay with them rather than sending him to a foster home, and it’s that conflict that threatens to ruin their family which drives the storytelling and the film’s message about how gay adoption has barely gotten easier since then.
Director Travis Fine has created a small but special film that really warms your heart regardless of your sexuality or feelings on the subject, and I urge you to seek Any Day Now out as it opens in select cities on Friday and expands over the next month, because if you like really emotionally-moving indie films, you’re likely to be just as surprised by this movie as we were.
Michael Mohan’s comedy Save the Date (IFC Films), which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, stars Lizzy Caplan (Bachelorette) as the independent Sarah who breaks up with her boyfriend Kevin (Geoffrey Arend) as her sister Beth (Alison Brie) is planning her upcoming wedding to her fiancé (and Kevin’s bandmate) Andrew (Martin Starr). Sarah throws herself into a rebound relationship with Jonathan (Mark Webber), but the closeness between the five individuals makes it difficult for Sarah’s new romance to flourish. It opens in New York and on VOD Friday.
Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin star in Fisher Stevens’ action-comedy Stand Up Guys (Roadside Attractions), playing aging gangsters who are reunited after Walken’s character is released from prison after spending 28 years there and the three of them try to pull off one more job together. It opens for a one-week Oscar run–that’s a laugh considering how bad the movie is–before its wide release on February 1, 2013.
Abbie Cornish stars in David Riker’s drama The Girl (Brainstorm Media) as a woman from Texas who finds the daughter of an illegal immigrant separated from her mother, so she goes off to try to find her along with the young girl. It opens in New York and L.A. for a one-week Oscar qualifying run (also a bit of a joke), before its limited run in March next year.
Opening at the Film Forum on Wednesday is Chris Sullivan’s experimental animation film Consuming Spirits about the relationship between three very different people: Earl Gray, an elderly former radio and newspaper columnist who lives with his cat Pufferballs, 42-year-old Gentian Violet who lives with her mother and the fellow newspaper employee she dates and plays with in a musical group.
Antonino D’Ambrosio’s doc Let Fury have the Hour (Cavu Pictures) looks at how various artists from Chuck D to street artist Shepard Fairey, musicians Tom Morello and Billy Bragg, filmmaker John Sayles and comedian Lewis black transform their anger about the world around them into art. It opens at the Quad Cinemas in New York on Friday as does the environmental doc Trashed, featuring Jeremy Irons, which looks how the world’s food chain is being affected by pollution in the air, land and sea.
Next week is Christmas and the weekend preceding it, as well as the very last Box Office Preview of the year as the Weekend Warrior takes a much needed break, but first we have Tom Cruise’s action-thriller Jack Reacher (Paramount) based on the Lee Child character, filmmaker Judd Apatow reunites with Paul Rudd and wife Leslie Mann for the comedy This Is 40 (Universal). Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand team for the road trip comedy The Guilt Trip (Paramount) and we get a rerelease of the CG animated comedy Monsters, Inc. 3D (Walt Disney). Then, on Christmas Day, Quentin Tarantino returns with the Western Django Unchained (The Weinstein Company), starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio, The King’s Speech director Tom Hooper tackles the classic musical Les Misérables (Universal) with Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway, while Billy Crystal and Bette Midler give some Parental Guidance (20th Century Fox).
Copyright 2012 Edward Douglas