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Weekend Predictions: Six Days of Christmas

December 21st, 2011

This year Christmas is a mess, when it comes to the box office. There are six films opening or expanding wide spread over six days. This includes The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which was bumped up at the last minute and opened on Tuesday. At the other end of the time frame, War Horse and The Darkest Hour don't open till Sunday. The number of films virtually guarantees at least two will struggle at the box office, but hopefully by spreading out the releases, moviegoers will be able to spread their daily movie contact among the new releases. That is if people will bother going to the movies. The longer the slump continues, the more likely it is due to a systemic issue. When people stop going to the movies, they don't see as many trailers and posters for upcoming releases and they are less excited about upcoming releases and, therefore, they are less likely to see movies in the future. It's a vicious cycle. Last year wasn't a great weekend at the box office, because Christmas Eve, which is a dead zone at the box office, landed on a Friday. This year it lands on a Saturday, so it could be even worse.

Almost everyone is expecting Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol to win at the weekend; however, there are divergent opinions on how well it will perform in terms of raw box office dollars. The film's reviews are amazing, while its IMAX run should help with the word-of-mouth this weekend. On the other hand, the previous installment in the franchise missed expectations, while Tom Cruise is no longer the A-lister he used to be. Plus, the box office as a whole is in a slump and, as I said, these slumps tend to feed themselves after a while. Hopefully this film will break out of that slump, but I'm not overly optimistic. Look for $16 million over the next two days, $26 million over the weekend.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo will likely be the biggest hit of the truly new releases coming out this week. It opened last night with limited showings earning $1.6 million. Given its reviews, its word-of-mouth should be great and there are some who think it will earn first place over the weekend. On the other hand, David Fincher's films rarely have explosive debuts. Only one of his films has topped $30 million during its opening weekend. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button opened on Christmas Day in 2008 and managed $26 million, and it didn't have to deal with a midweek opening diluting demand over the weekend, plus this year Christmas Eve is on a Saturday, which will further hurt the film's three-day box office numbers. I'm going with $20 million over the weekend, plus another $15 million from Tuesday through Thursday.

After a disappointing opening, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows hopes to avoid collapsing this weekend. It can hope, but it will likely still happen. The reviews are good compared to most action films, although they are just below the overall positive level now. However, the film has direct competition, which will likely cost it more than a few ticket sales over the weekend. Maybe it can grab second place with just over $20 million, but third place with $18 million is more likely.

The Adventures of Tintin has already made nearly $240 million internationally, and it has yet to open in Australia and Brazil. This bodes well for its chances here, as does the film's reviews, which are currently 76% positive. However, there are two main areas of concern. Firstly, the source material is much, much better known in Europe and Asia than it is in the United States. Secondly, practically every kids movie has missed expectations since the summer. Puss in Boots nearly matched expectations, while Dolphin Tale was the only real pleasant surprise. Expectations have softened to the point where reaching $10 million over the weekend is not a sure thing. I'm going with fourth place with just over $12 million, plus about $7 million on Wednesday and Thursday, but I might be a bit too optimistic.

We Bought a Zoo is opening on Friday, but while it is likely debuting at a saturation level theater count, the buzz has been surprisingly weak. It may or may not reach the top five during its opening weekend. The reviews are good, but on the low side compared to the other wide releases this week. It does have Friday all to itself, as far as wide releases go, which might help, but then it has to deal with Christmas Eve the next day without enough time to build word-of-mouth. With a little luck, it could grab fourth place with $15 million, but it could also fail to make the top five with just $11 million. I'm going with $12 million and fifth place, but Alvin and the Chipmunks will likely be right behind it.

War Horse is opening on Sunday in an estimated 2300 theaters. Christmas Day is usually a good day to open a film, especially for an Oscar bait film. However, while this film has the feel of an Oscar contender, its reviews are only good, not great. During its first day of release, it should make between $4 and $6 million with $5 million a relatively safe bet.

The final release of the week is The Darkest Hour, which is a horror film opening on Christmas Day. It's not terribly uncommon for this to happen, but they rarely have breakout success. Wolf Creek made less than $3 million in 2005 and Black Christmas made just over $3 million a year later. Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem made close to $10 million a year after that. However, since then, there have been no horror films. The Darkest Hour will likely finish on the low end of the scale, but with no reviews, it's hard to be sure. I'm going to go with $3 million, plus or minus $1 million.


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Filed under: Weekend Preview, The Adventures of Tintin, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Dolphin Tale, The Darkest Hour, War Horse, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol, We Bought a Zoo