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Blizzard of New Releases for Christmas

December 24th, 2008

There are five films opening wide tomorrow, as well as a limited release expanding into more than 1000 theaters, which could be enough to propel it into the top ten. Given the weak new releases for the past few weeks, there is a chance all five wide releases will place in the top five, while it is unlikely any will bomb completely (even the two saddled with negative buzz). Compared to last Christmas, the box office could see some growth, which will help the year end on a positive note.

Bedtime Stories is the widest release of the week, and despite earning reviews that are far from the best, it should have an easy path to the top of the chart. Not only is it opening in 3,681 theaters, it has the ad campaign to back it up and Adam Sandler is everywhere on TV. Additionally, while the reviews are below 20%, it is a kids movie, and films like Night at the Museum and Cheaper by the Dozen didn't earn great reviews, and they became big hits at this time of the year. I don't expect Bedtime Stories to match Night at the Museum, especially internationally, but it should top Cheaper by the Dozen. Look for $36 million over the weekend, and a record breaking $12 million on Christmas day. Overall $200 million is not out of the question, which should be more than enough to make the studio happy.

Marley & Me marks Jennifer Aniston's third film opposite a member of the Frat Pack (Along Came Polly and The Break Up were the other two). And while it is unlikely it will be the biggest hit of the three, it should still make enough to keep the studio happy, as it has a lot going for it. The film is not opening as wide as Bedtime Stories is, but it is earning much better reviews. Additionally, since it is aimed at a slightly older audience (families instead of kids) the better reviews should help it at the box office. I'm not expecting it to keep pace with the above film, especially opening night, but it should hold up better over the weekend. Look for just under $7 million tonight, just over $30 million by the end of Sunday, and perhaps $100 million in total. It will be nice if the film can reach the century mark, as a lot of potential $100 million hits stumbled late in the year. That is, unless the less than merry ending hurts it more than anticipated. If that happens, it might not match original expectations.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons represents the third collaboration between David Fincher and Brad Pitt, and there's already some talk of Oscar night victories for the pair. If this Oscar buzz can continue to grow, it could become the biggest hit for the pair topping the $100 million Se7en earned in 1995. I am a little concerned about the reviews; granted, 76% positive is wonderful for a wide release, but it is not up to the level one would normally associate with an Oscar-worthy film. Look for $5 million tonight, $16 million over the weekend, and if it can become a winner during awards season, just over $100 million in total. That said, given its production budget, it will need to do better on the international scene to show a profit by its initial push into the home market.

Next up is Valkyrie, which is not as bad as the early buzz suggested. Granted, early buzz was terrible and a lot of analysts were expecting the movie to earn 20 to 30% positive reviews (I certainly was), so while 61% positive is far from great when compared to the number of Oscar contenders released this time of year, it is seen as a major victory. That said, the film will have a tough road a head of it at the box office. First of all, there's a lot of competition with three films opening wider, and two holdovers with higher theater counts. Also, while the reviews are better than expected, its buzz will still hurt. Finally, while it was produced by United Artists, it's being distributed by MGM, which is a huge negative. I don't think the movie will bomb, it certainly will do better than Lions for Lambs, in fact, it could make more over the next four days as that film made in total. Look for just under $5 million tonight and just over $15 million over four days.

There will be a real race for fifth place with three or four films with a legitimate shot at coming in fifth place. This includes the last wide release of the week, The Spirit, which is a real wildcard. There are some that think it will pull in $15 million, or more, over the next four days, while others think it may fail to reach $10 million. Given its reviews and its buzz, the latter is more likely. Split the difference and we get $12.5 million over four-days, which will likely leave it in seventh place behind both Yes Man and The Tale of Despereaux while it should end just ahead of Seven Pounds. However, all four films have a chance to reach fifth place.

Finally, we get to Doubt, which is expanding into just over 1200 theater tomorrow. Looking at the film's reviews and its performance during Awards Season so far, it has a decent shot at 10th place with $6 million or so allowing it to overtake Bolt, while it could earn $8 million and jump ahead of Four Christmases for ninth place. On the other hand, it is more likely that it will just miss the top ten with $5 million, but that's not a bad performance given the smaller scope of the movie, and the more nominations it earns, the longer its legs will be, so it should still become a financial success by the time it reaches the home market.


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Filed under: Marley & Me, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Four Christmases, Bolt, Bedtime Stories, Yes Man, Valkyrie, Seven Pounds, The Tale of Despereaux, Doubt, The Spirit