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2013 Preview: December

December 1st, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug poster

We had some good news and some bad news in November. The bad news is the overall weakness at the box office continued and 2013 lost its lead over 2012. Strong runs by The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Frozen did help it bounce back in the end, but 2013 is still going to have a tough time topping 2012. Looking forward to December, we find about a dozen wide releases, sort of. There are several films that are opening in limited release that are expected to expand wide by the end of the month, but I'm not sure that will be the case for all of them. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug should be the easy winner this month and if it is a little lucky, it might even top its predecessor at the box office. There is a huge amount of hype surrounding Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues and it could double the first film's box office numbers. On the other hand, those two films might be the only two December wide releases to reach $100 million. There are a few that have the potential to get to the century mark, if they are big players during Awards Season. Obviously some of the films coming out this month will win awards, but there's already a lot of competition in theaters before the month begins. There were three $100 million movies last December, led by The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, so while it could be close, it looks like December will lose in the year-over-year comparison. This is really bad news, as 2013 can't afford to go out on a losing streak if it wants to top 2012.

Weekend of December 6th, 2013

Out of the Furnace poster

The first weekend of the month is also the first weekend after the Thanksgiving day long weekend, which is a notoriously bad weekend to release a film wide. Out of the Furnace is the only film opening wide this weekend, and I'm not 100% sure it is. There are some sources that say this is opening "nationwide", which isn't the same thing as opening truly wide. On the other hand, the buzz is strong enough to suggest that even if the film doesn't open truly wide, it might do well enough to earn some measure of mainstream success. On a side note, Inside Llewyn Davis, is also opening this weekend, but I'm 90% sure it is opening in limited release and expanding on the 20th. Again, it may or may not expand wide. Looking at this weekend last year, the only wide release was Playing for Keeps, which barely missed the Mendoza Line at the box office. 2013 had better win in the year-over-year comparison given the terrible competition. If it doesn't, we can write off 2013's chances to win in the end.

Out of the Furnace

Out of the Furnace poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: OutOfTheFurnaceMovie.Tumblr.com
Distributor: Relativity
Release Date: December 6th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, language and drug content.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Life on the Outside, Poverty, Boxing, Organized Crime, Missing Person, Revenge, Unbelieving Cops, and more
Directed By: Scott Cooper
Written By: Scott Cooper and Brad Ingelsby
Starring: Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Sam Shepard, Woody Harrelson, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $10 million to $20 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million

From the writer and director of Crazy Heart. It stars Christian Bale and Casey Affleck as two brothers. The former is out of prison and trying to get his life back on track, but when his brother disappears, and the cops don't seem interested, he delves into the world of organized crime to find him.

I'm not 100% sure this film will open truly wide, but even if it doesn't, it has enough pre-release buzz and and even some Awards Season buzz that it should expand significantly. (The early reviews are not quite Oscar-worthy, but they are certainly better than most wide releases.) On the other hand, even if it opens wide, it likely won't be any more than midlevel hit. If the studio thought it would be a big hit, they wouldn't have released it this weekend. On the other, other hand, it likely cost little enough to that even the lower end of expectations might be enough to break even sometime on the home market.

Weekend of December 13th, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug poster

Two films are opening on Friday the 13th, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas. American Hustle and Saving Mr. Banks are also opening, but they are opening in limited release and expanding wide later on. If The Desolation of Smaug isn't the biggest hit of the month, it either bombed hard, or another movie was a shockingly strong hit, more likely a bit of both. Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas should live up to other Madea films and become a solid midlevel hit. This weekend last year was the weekend The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opened. It will be a real race between An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug to determine if 2013 will win the year-over-year comparison. It isn't terribly unlikely Smaug will win, but I wouldn't bet money on it either.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheHobbit.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: December 13th, 2013
MPAA Rating:
PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images.
Source: Based on a Novel / Sequel
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Prequel, Dwarves, Dragon, Sequel to a Prequel, Ensemble, and more
Directed By: Peter Jackson
Written By: J.R.R. Tolkien, , Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, and Guillermo Del Toro
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $250 million
Box Office Potential: $275 million

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opened with a huge amount of pre-release buzz and became the biggest hit of last December. Unfortunately, it also had to deal with some controversies over 48 fps while its reviews were only good and not great. They certainly were not as good as The Return of the King's reviews were, although that's an unfair comparison. It wasn't able to live up to that film at the box office, despite a decade of inflation and significant 3D ticket sales. This time around, the buzz is more subdued, so while I expect the reviews to improve, I don't think the box office numbers will. I don't think it will collapse at the box office and anything less than $200 million domestically and $600 million worldwide will be a shock. A domestic total of $275 million and a worldwide total of $800 million is more than enough to cover its production budget and global P&A budget. Additionally, I do think There and Back Again will bounce back and could become the biggest hit in the trilogy.

Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas

Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: AMadeaChristmasMovie.com
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: December 13th, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual references, crude humor and language.
Source: Based on a Play / Sequel
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Christmas, Fat Suit, Crossdressing, Dysfunctional Family, Written By Star, Directing Yourself, Author Adapting Their Own Work, and more
Directed By: Tyler Perry
Written By: Tyler Perry
Starring: Tyler Perry, Kathy Najimy, Alicia Witt, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $15 million to $25 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million

It's a Madea movie. Given the consistency of the franchise, I don't think there's much more I need to say. So far the franchise has averaged just over $60 million with none of the movies failing to hit at least $50 million and only one movie has made significantly more than $60 million. I think the Christmas season will help the movie top that average, but since the previous two movies barely cracked $50 million, it won't do so by a large margin.

Weekend of December 20th, 2013

Out of the Furnace poster

This is a busier week than it first appears. There are only two films opening wide, but there are three film's potentially expanding wide. (Inside Llewyn Davis is the wildcard here. The evidence suggests it is only expanding nationwide this weekend, not truly wide, so I'm not including it here.) Out of the four films opening / expanding wide this weekend, Anchorman: The Legend Continues is the only practically guaranteed hit. However, both Saving Mr. Banks and American Hustle have enough Awards Season buzz that you can't dismiss the possibility that one of them will crack $100 million domestically. This weekend last year there were four wide releases, but none of them did particularly well. Jack Reacher did the best earning $15 million over the weekend and $80 million in total. It looks like 2013 could have a solid win. It will need it if it is to win at the end of the year. Also opening this week is Her, but it is opening in limited release and not expanding wide till January.

American Hustle

American Hustle poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: AmericanHustle-Movie.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: December 13th, 2013 (Limited release)
Release Date: December 18th, 2013 (Expands wide)
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, some sexual content and brief violence.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Comedy? Really? It feels more Drama
Keywords: FBI, Con Artist, Undercover, Mafia, and more
Directed By: David O. Russell
Written By: David O. Russell and Eric Singer
Starring: Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million

A conman and his partner / wife are forced to go undercover in the mafia by the FBI. The trailer doesn't make the movie feel like a comedy, but late last week it was switched from the Drama to the Comedy categories at the Golden Globes. I'm not sure how this will affect the film's box office chances, but it has to have some effect, right?

David O. Russell's most recent film was Silver Linings Playbook, which earned eight Oscar nominations, including a win for Jennifer Lawrence. The buzz surrounding this film is just as good with some saying Jennifer Lawrence is the favorite to win her second Oscar. This buzz should certainly help it perform at the box office, but it is still opening in limited release and expanding a week later. If the film struggles in limited release, and it will have a ton of competition, it might not expand truly wide. I don't think this will be an issue, but you can't completely ignore the possibility either. On the other hand, it is also possible the film will do so well with Awards Season voters that it will stick around long enough to earn $100 million. I think the higher end is more likely than the lower end and the above box office potential is a weighted average of the two extremes.

Anchorman: The Legend Continues

Anchorman 2 poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: AnchormanMovie.com
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: December 20th, 2013
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Likely Aiming for PG-13
Source: Original Screenplay / Sequel
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: News, TV, Comeback, Gratuitous Cameos, Written By Star, Delayed Sequel, and more
Directed By: Adam McKay
Written By: Adam McKay and Will Ferrell
Starring: Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Christina Applegate, David Koechner, Kristen Wiig, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $50 million
Box Office Potential: $150 million

After the 1970s end and the group had gone their separate ways, Ron Burgundy and the gang reunite to help lead a 24-hour news channel.

The original Anchorman earned good reviews and did well at the box office. It wasn't a massive hit, nor did it earn award-worthy reviews. However, nearly ten years later, it is remembered as one of the funniest, most quotable movies of the past ten years. There have been rumors of a potential sequel for a long time now and every time they surfaced, a lot of people would get excited. This is great news for Anchorman 2's box office chances... assuming it can match the original film's reviews. I'm more than a little worried it will be another Hangover 2. Even so, it should still start much faster and the holidays, not to mention a decade of inflation, should help it at least reach $100 million. If it can earn better reviews, its legs could help it get well past $150 million. Maybe I'm being unreasonably optimistic, but I think the higher end it more likely than the lower end.

Saving Mr. Banks

Saving Mr. Banks poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Movies.Disney.com/Saving Mr Banks
Distributor: Disney
Release Date: December 13th, 2013 (Limited Release)
Release Date: December 20th, 2013 (Expands Wide)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements including some unsettling images.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Author, Movie Business, Dysfunctional Family, Biography, Non-Chronological, and more
Directed By: John Lee Hancock
Written By: Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith
Starring: Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $35 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million

The Walt Disney studio made a movie about Walt Disney trying to make one of their most beloved movies, specifically Mary Poppins.

This has Oscar Bait written all over it. Hell, this has Oscar Bait tattooed on its forehead. Given the film's early reviews, it's got a real chance to be a player during Awards Season. It has a good chance of earning a Best Picture Oscar nomination, as well as nods for Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks. If it does become a major player during Awards Season, it has a real shot at getting to $100 million. Even if it doesn't, it should at least become a midlevel hit.

Walking with Dinosaurs

Walking with Dinosaurs poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: WalkingWithDinosaurs.com
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: December 20th, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG for creature action and peril, and mild rude humor.
Source: Based on a TV Show
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Dinosaurs, Animal Lead, 3D, Shot in 3D, Voiceover, Edutainment, and more
Directed By: Barry Cook and Neil Nightingale
Written By: John Collee
Starring: John Leguizamo, Justin Long, Tiya Sircar, Skyler Stone, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $85 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million

Based on the BBC TV series of the same name. That show was a documentary series that used CGI to bring dinosaurs to life. This movie maintains some of the educational focus, but tells a narrative adventure story in which Alex, a Pachyrhinosaurus, who must lead his pack to a new land when their old grazing land becomes too dangerous for his pack to stay there. This is one of the more expensive films opening this month, but its box office chances are not strong. It's a safe film for families opening right around Christmas, which should help; however, a lot of people are going to see the trailer and consider this film a Nature Documentary rather than an adventure film. This is really bad news, as documentaries are almost never breakout hits, certainly not to the degree a film that cost $85 million to make would need to break even. It doesn't have the buzz of some of the major mainstream releases, nor does it have any real Awards Season buzz, so it will likely slip through the cracks.

Weekend of December 27th, 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street poster

Technically, the Friday is the 27th, but all five films opening wide this week are opening on the 25th of December. This makes total sense, as Christmas day is an excellent day to release a new movie, while the weekend after Christmas has a dead zone for new wide releases. This year we have a couple films that might crack $100 million, a film that cost more than $200 million, and a couple others that hope to not get lost in the crowd. The Wolf of Wall Street is the top draw this week, both in terms of box office potential and critical acclaim. Many think it will grab a Best Picture Oscar nomination, among other nods, while it has the best shot at reaching $100 million. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is the latest from Ben Stiller, who has released more than a few $100 million hits this time of year. However, the buzz for this one is a lot softer than I would like. 47 Ronin cost more than $200 million to make, but its buzz is nearly universally negative. Grudge Match is a boxing picture that stars two veteran actors, both of whom made iconic boxing pictures in the past, but will that be enough to draw in crowds? Finally there is Believe. ... Has Bieber Fever subsided? I kind of think it has. This weekend last year, there were three wide releases. The weakest of which was Parental Guidance, which earned close to $15 million over the weekend and $80 million in total. The other two made well over $100 million in total. There's a chance a couple of the new films this weekend will finish with $100 million, but it not likely. It looks like 2013 will end on a low note. Also opening this week are August: Osage County and Lone Survivor, both of which are expected to expand wide in the new year.

47 Ronin

47 Ronin poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: 47RoninMovie.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: December 25th, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images, and thematic elements.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Martial Arts, Revenge, Inspired By a True Story, Wuxia, and more
Directed By: Carl Rinsch
Written By: Chris Morgan, Hossein Amini, and Walter Hamada
Starring: Inexplicably it stars Keanu Reeves
Production Budget: $225 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

A Chushingura, that is to say, a version of the Forty-Seven Ronin story from Japanese history. There are more than a few changes from the real life events that made their way into this movie. Firstly, they've upped the fantasy elements to make it a Wuxia movie, which is a cool change. Secondly, they decided no Hollywood audience would give a damn about a movie set in Feudal Japan if there was no white guy in the lead role, so they added Kai, a half-Japanese / half-British outcast to the movie. Kai is played by Keanu Reeves. He has starred in some huge movies and his career earnings are nearly $4 billion worldwide. However, it has been a decade since he last starred in a movie that reached $100 million domestically. Also, the buzz is bad with a lot of people making the same complaints I am making regarding the ethnicity of the lead character in a very traditional Japanese story. Maybe it will be a breakout hit internationally, but I think its domestic box office potential is only a fraction of the movie's production budget.

Grudge Match

Grudge Match poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: GrudgeMatchMovie.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: December 25th, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sports action violence, sexual content and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Sports, Boxing, Comeback, Rivalry, and more
Directed By: Peter Segal
Written By: Tim Kelleher and Rodney Rothman
Starring: Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Kevin Hart, Alan Arkin, and others
Production Budget: Rumored at $50 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone star as two aging boxers who are tempted back into the ring to settle a 30-year rivalry. So it's Jack La Motta vs. Rocky Balboa. This might actually be a good movie. A lot of people thought Rocky Balboa would turn out to be a terrible movie, but it was the best sequel in the franchise, at least in my opinion. Unfortunately, this film has a lot of competition to deal with and the buzz isn't loud enough to think it will become a breakout hit. It should do well enough to break even early in its home market run.

Justin Bieber's Believe

Justin Bieber's Believe
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: JustinBieberBelieve.com
Distributor: Open Road
Release Date: December 25th, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG for brief language and mild thematic material.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Documentary / Concert
Keywords: Pop Music, Singer, Musicians, and more
Directed By: Jon M. Chu
Written By: Not Applicable
Starring: Justin Bieber
Production Budget: Reported at $15 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Has the hype surrounding Justin Bieber died? I think it might have. He's gotten more press recently for scandals than for his music. Let's compare him to another music artist who became big at roughly the same time, Miley Cyrus. Miley Cyrus has also a lot of press, mostly dealing with scandals. However, these are mostly related to her music. Was her performance at the AMAs going too far? Is her music video for "Wrecking Ball" too provocative? On the other hand, Justin Bieber has gotten bad press for spray painting a wall, peeing in a bucket, getting caught at what might have been a brothel. I don't think it will completely bomb and the low production budget should help it break even sometime on the home market, but it won't live up to Never Say Never.

Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: WalterMitty.com
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: December 25th, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG for some crude comments, language and action violence.
Source: Based on a Short Story / Remake
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Fantasy Sequence, Delayed Adulthood, Midlife Crisis, Romance, Unrequited Romance, Directing Yourself, Development Hell, and more
Directed By: Ben Stiller
Written By: James Thurber and Steve Conrad
Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $60 million to $80 million
Box Office Potential: $85 million

A remake of the 1947 film of the same name. It has been in the works for nearly 20 years now. The buzz surrounding the movie was at one time very positive, so much so that there was talk of winning awards. Talk of awards have all but ended with the early reviews. Maybe its Tomatometer Score will bounce back from 31% positive, but it won't bounce back enough to earn great reviews. On the other hand, Ben Stiller has had a lot of success this time of year, even with some films that haven't won over critics, so I wouldn't be too surprised if the film reached $100 million. Hell, if Parental Guidance can pull in nearly $80 million, why can't this one?

The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheWolfOfWallStreet.com
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: December 25th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for for sequences of strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language throughout, and for some violence.
Source: Based on a Factual Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Mafia, FBI, White Collar Crime, Wall Street, and more
Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Written By: Jordan Belfort and Terence Winter
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Kyle Chandler, Matthew McConaughey, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $100 million
Box Office Potential: $105 million

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Jordan Belfort, a Wall Street dealer who makes millions on the stock market in less than legal ways, which garners the attention of the FBI.

This is the fifth time Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio have worked together. Given the success of some of their other films, no one should be surprised that they wanted to work together again. This should be the biggest hit of the week and is the only one I think has a better than 50/50 chance of hitting the century mark. It also has a better than 50/50 chance of earning a Best Picture Oscar nomination, as well as nominations for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, etc. If Leonardo DiCaprio earned his fourth Oscar nomination, it wouldn't be a complete shock, although that is a super competitive category this year.


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Filed under: Monthly Preview, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, 47 Ronin, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Wolf of Wall Street, Lone Survivor, August: Osage County, Walking with Dinosaurs, Out of the Furnace, Saving Mr. Banks, Inside Llewyn Davis, Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas, Grudge Match, American Hustle, Her, Rocky, Madea, Robert De Niro, Tom Hanks, Ian McKellen, Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker, Amy Adams, Casey Affleck, Christina Applegate, Alan Arkin, Christian Bale, Philippa Boyens, Steve Carell, Kyle Chandler, Bradley Cooper, Scott Cooper, Miley Cyrus, Willem Dafoe, Guillermo Del Toro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Walt Disney, Will Ferrell, Martin Freeman, Woody Harrelson, Kevin Hart, Jonah Hill, Peter Jackson, Tim Kelleher, David Koechner, Jennifer Lawrence, John Leguizamo, Justin Long, Matthew McConaughey, Adam McKay, Kathy Najimy, Tyler Perry, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, David O. Russell, Zoe Saldana, Martin Scorsese, Peter Segal, Sam Shepard, Sylvester Stallone, Ben Stiller, Emma Thompson, Kristen Wiig, Alicia Witt, Hossein Amini, Fran Walsh, J.R.R. Tolkien, John Lee Hancock, Chris Morgan, Justin Bieber, Richard Armitage, Walter Hamada, Barry Cook, Rodney Rothman, John Collee, Jon M. Chu, Terence Winter, Tiya Sircar, Kelly Marcel, Brad Ingelsby, Neil Nightingale, Steve Conrad, James Thurber, Skyler Stone, Carl Rinsch