This weekend is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which is not one of the biggest long weekends at the box office. (It is just too close to Christmas / New Year's to really help boost the box office significantly.) There are three films opening wide, Beauty and the Beast 3D, Contraband, and Joyful Noise, plus another film, The Iron Lady, which is expanding enough that it could reach the top ten. I don't think any of them will match last year's winner, The Green Hornet, which pulled in $33.53 million during its opening weekend. However, one can hope all three wide releases reach their potential and 2012 will come out ahead of 2011.
Beauty and the Beast 3D is the second Disney animated film to get a 3D conversion in the past few months, and it won't be the last. The previous film, The Lion King, opened with just over $30 million, which was much better than expected. There are very few people who think this film will manage to the same amount at the box office and there are certainly reasons to keep expectations in check. For instance, the buzz is not nearly as strong. However, part of this is because it is the second film and much of the buzz surrounding The Lion King was, 'Will this work? Are people willing to pay money to see an older move converted into 3-D?' People are not asking that question this time around, because we know the answer is yes. On the other hand, The Lion King hadn't been released on Blu-ray yet, and we saw with the annual re-release of The Nightmare Before Christmas that this matters. A lot of people think this film will open with significantly less than $20 million at the box office, but the early ticket sales have been strong and I think $24 million is within reach. I am a lot more bullish than most, so keep that in mind.
Most people think Contraband will win the box office race this weekend. Mark Wahlberg is a solid box office draw, while there's no direct competition opening this week. In fact, the most direct competition is Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol, which has been in release for about a month now, so action fans will be looking for something new. On the other hand, the reviews are exactly 50% positive, and dropping, while it is a weak time of year to open a film. Contraband should open just north of $20 million, let's go with $21 million, which might be enough for first place, especially if it turns out I'm overly optimistic about Beauty and the Beast 3D's chances.
The third wide release of the week is Joyful Noise, a musical set in the world of gospel music starring, among others, Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton. The film's reviews are weak and are currently just 43% positive, plus it's generating the least amount of buzz of the three wide releases. Queen Latifah films tend to open in the low teens and I don't expect this one to be widely off that mark. Maybe it will open in the high teens, but third place with $14 million is more likely.
Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol should finish right behind with $13 million for the weekend, giving it a running tally of $187 million. It should get to $200 million before long, but it will likely drop out of the top five before then.
There could be a logjam for fifth place with The Devil Inside, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo all on track to earn between $10 million and $11 million. After an amazing start, The Devil Inside fell to second place on the daily chart on Tuesday, and could fall even more on Wednesday and Thursday. The reason for this is simple: It's a terrible movie. Granted, the genre isn't helping and it adds up to a massive collapse this weekend. I think it will grab fifth place, barely, while Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo will be right behind.
Finally we get to The Iron Lady. This film will need about $6 million to get into the top ten, which is possible but not a sure thing. The film's reviews are currently 56% positive, which is okay for a wide release, but expectations were a lot higher than merely okay. Meryl Streep has been earning a lot of nominations for her performance, so maybe that will be enough to help it grab tenth place, but I think it will just miss out with $5 million.
Date posted: 2012-01-12