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Weekend Predictions: Will the Holidays Finally Begin?

December 16th, 2011

The box office has given us disappointment after disappointment for a long time. It is getting to the point where no matter how strong a film looks on paper, I expect it to struggle at the box office. This week, we have three or four major releases, depending on how you define things. Both Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows are opening in roughly 3,700 theaters, while Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol is opening in 400 theaters and Young Adult is expanding into nearly 1,000 theaters. All four films should place within the top five. They should also do well when compared to last year's batch of new releases / expansions. The best new release from this week last year was Tron: Legacy, which made $44 million. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows should top that with ease, and the combined strength of the rest should help 2011 earn a solid win. Then again, I've said that before recently and ended up being disappointed the following Monday.

Sherlock Holmes opened at this time of year in 2009, opening with more than $60 million and finishing with more than $200 million domestically and $500 million worldwide. It's no surprise that a sequel was made. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is looking to duplicate the first film's success, but it might have a whole lot of trouble, mainly because the entire market is depressed compared to 2009. Its reviews are almost as good as the original's reviews were and are more than strong enough given the genre. The competition is also far weaker this time around. Finally, sequels tend to start faster before falling quicker. In a normal market, this would add up to a $75 million opening; however, it is not a normal time at the box office, so I'm predicting a $60 million opening. This should be enough to keep the studio happy; anything more than $50 million should be enough to keep the studio happy.

Alvin and the Chipmunks has proved itself to be a powerhouse at the box office with the first two films earning more than $400 million domestically and $800 million worldwide, despite the cries from critics. The first film earned just 26% positive reviews, while the second film earned just 21% positive reviews. At the moment, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked's reviews are just 11% positive. Additionally, in the past 12 months, Yogi Bear, Hop and The Smurfs were in theaters, so there's a chance we've reached the saturation point for CG Characters in a Live Action World kids' movie. There are some who think this film will suffer a collapse compared to the previous films, opening with less than $30 million. Even some of the more optimistic prognosticators think the film has little chance of matching its predecessors. I think $34 million is probably the most likely figure. Assuming its legs are strong, thanks to the holidays, that should be enough to show a profit, but I think it would be wise to end the franchise there, before it suffers a financial setback.

Amazingly, Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol will likely open in third place. I say amazingly, because despite costing more than $100 million to make, it is only opening in 400 or so theaters. However, it is opening in 400 or so IMAX and other big screen theaters. Because of this, its per theater average could be stunning. It deserves as much success as it can get, as its reviews are 94% positive making it among the best reviewed wide releases of the year. I'm a little worried it will become the biggest hit of the fall and as a result Brad Bird will give up making animated films. Pie in the sky, Ghost Protocol could open with $12 million. Worst case scenario, people have given up on Tom Cruise as an action star and it makes less than $6 million. I'm going with third place and $8 million.

Young Adult expands tonight increasing its theater count to nearly 1000 theaters. With excellent reviews, not to mention a Golden Globe nomination, the film could be a sizable hit as it expands semi-wide. On the high end, it could reach third place with $8 million or so. On the low end, it might miss the top five with $4 million, which would be disappointing indeed. I'm going with fourth place at just under $7 million.

The best of the holdovers will be New Year's Eve, pretty much by default. After struggling during its opening weekend, the awful reviews and the number of new releases will likely take a real toll on the film's box office numbers. In fact, it could fall by more than 50% to under $6 million. I think it will avoid that fate, but barely. Look for just under $7 million, meaning it will be in a virtual tie for fourth place. However, if it beats expectations by just a little bit, it could earn third place.


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Filed under: Weekend Preview, Young Adult, New Year’s Eve, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked