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2014 Preview: December

December 1st, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies poster

November is over and there are not a lot of positive things to say about what happened during the month. There were a couple of films that matched expectations, but there were no breakout hits and a few that missed expectations by wide margins. Granted, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 will top $300 million with relative ease, but that's still nearly $100 million lower than some people were predicting. The month ends with 2014 about $300 million behind 2013's pace and there's really no chance to catch up in December. That doesn't mean there are no films that will be worth watching in December. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies should at least earn $200 million, while $300 million is not out of the question. Additionally, there are several films that at least have a shot at $100 million at the box office, but not all will get there. At least this December and last December are on par with each other. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug topped $250 million while there were three others that topped $100 million. I think we will get the same result this month. Last year there were a lot more wide releases, but many of them bombed. I think this year the lack of competition will help more films reach their potential.

Weekend of December 5th, 2014

The Pyramid poster

This is the weekend after Thanksgiving long weekend, which is historically one of the two weakest weekends of the year. To emphasize this, there are no wide releases. I thought The Pyramid was opening wide, but early theater counts have the film opening in between 500 and 600 theaters. It very likely won't open in the top five. In fact, there's a chance it will miss the Mendoza Line during its opening weekend, which could leave it out of the top ten. Furthermore, there are two limited releases, Still Alice and Wild, which will likely finish with a higher box office than The Pyramid. This weekend last year, Out of the Furnace was the only wide release and it barely made an impact at the box office. The year-over-year comparison will be a battle of the holdovers, with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 going up against last year's winner, Frozen, and Frozen has the clear advantage in that area. 2014 with start the month off with a loss.

Weekend of December 12th, 2014

Exodus: Gods and Kings poster

December starts for real during the second weekend of the month with Exodus: Gods and Kings and Top Five. Exodus is the second Bible epic of the year. Noah earned $100 million during its run, but it was also plagued by controversy. Exodus is a lot more faithful to the Bible story and that could help it at the box office. It also has a great release date and if it doesn't at least earn $100 million, I will be a little surprised. On the other hand, I'm not 100% convinced Top Five will open truly wide. Additionally, while Chris Rock is a very popular stand-up comic, his movie career isn't as strong. He's been in a number of $100 million hits, but these are mostly voice roles and cameos. This weekend last year, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug led the way the $73.65 million. There's almost no chance 2014 will come out ahead on the year-over-year comparison.

Exodus Gods and Kings

Exodus: Gods and Kings poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ExodusGodsAndKings.com
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: December 12th, 2014
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence including battle sequences and intense images.
Source: Based on a Religious Text
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Jewish, Religious, Faith-Based, Slavery, Revolution, Adopted Family, Ancient Egypt, and more
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Written By: Steve Zaillian, Bill Collage, and Adam Cooper
Starring: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $130 million to $150 million
Box Office Potential: $110 million

It is easiest to compare Exodus: Gods and Kings to Noah and use that to judge its box office potential. Exodus has the better release date and less controversy. Exodus also has less competition to deal with, as Noah was crushed during its sophomore stint by Captain America: The Winter Soldier. On the downside, less controversy also means less buzz, while its early reviews are weaker than Noah's reviews are. The pluses and the minuses more or less balance out and while I think Exodus will perform a little better that its fellow Bible epic did, it won't be a monster hit.

Top Five

Top Five poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TopFiveMovie.com
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: December 12th, 2014
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, nudity, crude humor, language throughout and some drug use.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: African-American, Stand-Up Comedy, Movie Business, Reality TV, Romance, Wedding, Love Triangle, Gratuitous Cameos, Directing Yourself, Written by Star, and more.
Directed By: Chris Rock
Written By: Chris Rock
Starring: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Kevin Hart, Gabrielle Union, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Chris Rock stars as an edgy stand-up comic who had break-out success in movies, but now he is questioning the direction his career has gone. Meanwhile, he is engaged to a Reality TV star, Gabrielle Union, who wants to have their wedding on her TV show. Thrown into this mix is Rosario Dawson, a reporter trying to get past appearances to get a real story about him. Good news, the early reviews are fantastic. The bad news, the buzz is not. The buzz isn't bad, but it is really quiet. It is so quiet, I'm not 100% sure it will opening truly wide, or if it does, it will open in barely more than 2,000 theaters. I hope I'm just being pessimistic, but considering how weak the box office has been this year, I think being pessimistic is the smart thing to do.

Weekend of December 19th, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies poster

It is a much busier week this week with three wide releases, including the third and last installment of Peter Jackson's Hobbit franchise. The Battle of the Five Armies should have no trouble earning top spot for the weekend and should have no trouble becoming the biggest hit of the month. The real question is whether or not it will top The Desolation of Smaug. Also opening this weekend are a pair of family films, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb and Annie. Secret of the Tomb is the third film in the Night at the Museum franchise. The first two films were big hits, but I'm not sure if this film will continue that trend or if the franchise has worn out its welcome. Annie is the second movie adaptation of the comic series, this time with an African-American twist. This weekend last year was led by The Desolation of Smaug with $31.51 million, while Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues opened in second place with $26.23 million. The Battle of the Five Armies should earn more than those two films combined, so 2014 should come out ahead in the year-over-year comparison.

Annie

Annie poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Annie-Movie.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: December 19th, 2014
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild language and rude humor.
Source: A remake of a musical that was based on a comic.
Major Genre: Musical
Keywords: African-American, Orphan, Political, Political Campaign, Adopted Family, Coming of Age, and more
Directed By: Will Gluck
Written By: Will Gluck, Emma Thompson, and Aline Brosh McKenna, Thomas Meehan, and Harold Gray
Starring: Quvenzhané Wallis, Jamie Foxx, and more
Production Budget: Estimated at $40 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million

A family film opening the week before Christmas. That's a prime release date for this type of movie. However, there are some troubling signs. First of all, there are three films opening wide this week, including another family film, and this one is the smallest. I fear it will fail to find an audience in theaters because the other two films opening this weekend will overshadow it. Additionally, it has been leaked online. This can't help the box office numbers, but hopefully it won't kill it. Finally, there is another, bigger musical coming out the week after this film debuts. On the low end, it might struggle to become a midlevel hit. On the high end, it could become a $100 million hit. I'm going right in the middle of those two extremes, which seems the safest.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheHobbit.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: December 17th, 2014
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - It will be PG-13.
Source: Based on a Novel / Sequel
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: War, Dwarves, Elves, Prequel, Prequel and a Sequel, 3D, Shot in 3D, and more
Directed By: Peter Jackson
Written By: J.R.R. Tolkien, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, and Guillermo Del Toro
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, and more
Production Budget: $250 million
Box Office Potential: $275 million

The Battle of the Five Armies is the final installment of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings franchise. The first Hobbit film earned more than $300 million, but wasn't loved by critics. The second film performed worse at the box office, but better with critics. I think The Battle of the Five Armies will bounce back at the box office and might even top the original domestically. Even with a monster production budget, it will break even before it reaches the home market.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: NightAtTheMuseumMovie.com
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: December 19th, 2014
MPAA Rating: PG for mild action, some rude humor and brief language.
Source: Based on a Novel / Sequel
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Living Toys; Delayed Sequel; Posthumous Release; Gratuitous Cameos; Same Actor, Different Roles; and more
Directed By: Shawn Levy
Written By: Robert Ben Garant, David Guion, Michael Handelman, Thomas Lennon, Mark Friedman, and Milan Trenc
Starring: Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Ben Kingsley, and more
Production Budget: Estimated at $100 million to $150 million
Box Office Potential: $125 million

The first two films in this franchise earned mixed reviews, but both did very well at the box office. Unfortunately, Battle of the Smithsonian was much weaker at the box office than the first film was and the gap between installments will likely result in Secret of the Tomb being even weaker than the second film was. The buzz is quieter this time around and we've had a number of sequels this fall that have failed to live up to their predecessors. It should have no real trouble reaching $100 million, but it won't be a monster hit and will have to rely on international numbers to break even.

Weekend of December 26th, 2014

Into the Woods poster

This year, Christmas falls on a Thursday, which is an ideal day for maximum box office results. Three films try to take advantage of that and Into the Woods is the biggest of them. It is an adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical and is expected to win Christmas weekend and finish with well over $100 million. The other two films are not expected to be big as big hits, but nor are they expected to bomb. The Interview is an R-rated comedy, which isn't your typical Christmas release. That said, the buzz is good. Unless you live in North Korea, then this film is seen as an act of war. The final release is Unbroken, which is expected to be an Awards Season contender. As such, it has the most uncertainty at the box office. It could be a midlevel hit or a $100 million smash, depending if it picks up some Oscar nominations. This weekend last year, there were eight films that earned $10 million or more over the weekend, but none that earned more than $30 million. I think 2014 will be stronger at the top, but I'm not completely sold on its depth. It might be a coin toss for the year-over-year comparison.

The Interview

The Interview poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheInterviewMovie.Tumblr.com/
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: December 25th, 2014
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, crude and sexual humor, nudity, some drug use and bloody violence.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Investigative Journalism, North Korea, CIA, Hitman, Political Assassination, Political, Directing Yourself, Written By Star, and more
Directed By: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg
Written By: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Dan Sterling
Starring: Seth Rogen, James Franco, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $95 million

Seth Rogen and James Franco reunite after appearing in a couple of previous R-rated comedies. This time around, the pair star as two journalists traveling to North Korea to interview Kim Jong-Un. However, they are intercepted by the CIA who try and convince them to assassinate him instead. Both men have made a number of $100 million hits. Seth Rogen has five such hits, only counting his live action roles, while James Franco has six. This includes This is the End, which featured both actors, while The Pineapple Express came relatively close back in 2008. There are two downsides as far as I can see. Firstly, the film is playing counter-programming to the more family-friendly films and Awards Season contenders. Secondly, it is a high concept film. A comedy about two civilians being pressured into becoming amateur assassins is certainly out there. On the other hand, if the reviews are good, there could be enough demand to get this film past the century mark.

Into the Woods

Into the Woods poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Movies.Disney.com/Into-The-Woods/
Distributor: Disney
Release Date: December 25th, 2014
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements, fantasy action and peril, and some suggestive material.
Source: Based on a Fairytale and Based on a Musical
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Talking Animals, Witches, Infertility, Dysfunctional Family, Princesses / Princes, Giants, Ensemble, and more
Directed By: Rob Marshall
Written By: Rob Marshall, Stephen Sondheim, and James Lapine
Starring: Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $50 million
Box Office Potential: $150 million

This movie is based on the musical by Stephen Sondheim that was first staged in 1986. I actually own a DVD of the 1992 Broadway version with Bernadette Peters, Joanna Gleason, etc. The musical takes a number of fairytales and mashes them together to create a new story that takes place before and after the Happily Ever After endings. This film has arguably the second loudest buzz for this month behind only The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and as a Family Film opening on Christmas Day, it should have a profitable opening day. On the high end, it might come close to $200 million, while on the low end, it should still top $100 million. The above box office potential is an average of the two extremes.

Unbroken

Unbroken poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: UnbrokenFilm.com
Distributor: Universal Release Date: December 25th, 2014
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for war violence including intense sequences of brutality, and for brief language.
Source: Based on a Factual Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: World War II, War, In a Plane, Disaster, Marooned, Rescue, Prisoner of War, and more
Directed By: Angelina Jolie
Written By: Joel Cohen, Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese, William Nicholson, and Laura Hillenbrand
Starring: Jack O'Connell and and others
Production Budget: Reported at $65 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million

Jack O'Connell stars as an Olympic athlete who joins the military at the start of World War II. His plane is shot down and he spends more than a month in a life boat before being rescued and stuck in a POW camp for more than two years.

Angelina Jolie's first directorial effort, In the Land of Blood and Honey, earned mixed reviews and failed to find an audience in theaters. However, Unbroken is expected to be a major player during Awards Season. In fact, the early buzz has Angelina Jolie potentially earning an Oscar nod for Best Director. If it does live up to the hype, it could earn more than $100 million at the box office. On the other hand, if the Awards Season hype turns out to be just hype, then the film might struggle to get to $50 million. I think the lower end is more likely, simply because relying on becoming an Awards Season player for box office dollars is risky.


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Filed under: Monthly Preview, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, Annie, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Into the Woods, Unbroken, The Interview, Wild, The Pyramid, Top Five, Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, Night at the Museum, Angelina Jolie Pitt, Meryl Streep, Robin Williams, Ian McKellen, Christian Bale, Emily Blunt, Philippa Boyens, Ethan Coen, Rosario Dawson, Guillermo Del Toro, Joel Edgerton, Jamie Foxx, James Franco, Martin Freeman, Robert Ben Garant, Joanna Gleason, Kevin Hart, Peter Jackson, Anna Kendrick, Ben Kingsley, Richard LaGravenese, Thomas Lennon, Shawn Levy, Rob Marshall, Jack O'Connell, Bernadette Peters, Chris Rock, Seth Rogen, Ridley Scott, Ben Stiller, Emma Thompson, Gabrielle Union, Owen Wilson, David Guion, Michael Handelman, Will Gluck, Aline Brosh McKenna, Fran Walsh, J.R.R. Tolkien, Milan Trenc, Evan Goldberg, Richard Armitage, Adam Cooper, Laura Hillenbrand, Quvenzhané Wallis, Joel Cohen, Steve Zaillian, Bill Collage, Dan Sterling, Stephen Sondheim