Follow us on

Christmas Delivers Some Gifts to Good Moviegoers (and a Couple of Lumps of Coal)

December 28th, 2006

Most films missed expectations this weekend and that hurt the overall box office, which was off 8% compared to last year. But there were still reasons to celebrate with Pursuit of Happyness and Rocky Balboa matching their production budget over the weekend while Dreamgirls exploded on Christmas Day.

Night at the Museum won the box office race with ease, as expected, but its $30.4 million over the 3-day weekend was on the low end of expectations. Including Christmas Day, the film pulled in a still impressive $42.2 million. This is the biggest opening for Shawn Levy, topping Cheaper by the Dozen while at 49% positive it has also become his best-reviewed movie, topping Big Fat Liar. As for the film's long term chances, it should have no trouble remaining in first place this weekend and $100 million is all but guaranteed. It could top $150 million if word-of-mouth among families is good and that would make it the biggest hit of the month.

Pursuit of Happyness surprised analysts by placing second with $14.8 million from Friday to Sunday and $22.5 million including Monday. This is actually lower than expectations but with practically every other new release slumping it was able to place higher on the charts. After two weeks the film has topped its $55 million production budget and is well on its way to $100 million. This solidifies Will Smith's reputation as one of the most dependable box office draws working today and shows he can do more than action and comedy.

When Rocky Balboa opened on Wednesday, it managed $6.2 million, which was slightly better than expected. However, a sharp drop-off on Thursday was a portent of a weaker than expected weekend total. To be fair, $12.2 million / $17.0 million is still a very strong opening for a film that cost $24 million to make and its total since Wednesday of $26.7 million is already more than its budget. And with a more mature target demographic and some of the best reviews of any wide release this month, and the usual long legs for a December release, the film should have little trouble reaching $100 million.

The Good Shepherd opened in fourth place with a disappointing $10.0 million over three days and $13.9 million including Christmas Day. For a film that cost an estimated $100 million to make, and has dubious international appeal, this is a disaster. The reviews are above average and the target demographic should help its legs, but it will likely be a case of too little too late.

There was a surprise result as fifth place went to Charlotte's Web. Its $7.6 million / $9.6 million was on the low end of expectations, but again the weaker competition allowed it to finish in the top five. On the other hand, a total of just $28.3 million after two weeks is a terrible result for a film that cost an estimated $100 million to make.

On the other hand, that's a much better result than Eragon managed. The film fell nearly 70% during the three-day portion of the weekend to just $7.0 million while adding in Monday gave it a sophomore stint of $9.3 million. Granted, the film is doing much better internationally, but it will have to earn at least $200 million there to show a profit any time soon, and that looks unlikely.

Opening in Seventh place was We Are... Marshall, which earned less over four days than it was expected to earn in three. Its $6.1 million / $8.6 million opening is very disappointing for a genre that is seen as very dependable, and with no international appeal it will have to wait a long time for it to show a profit.

In addition, there were two films that opened / expanded on Christmas day: Dreamgirls and Black Christmas. Both beat expectations.

Dreamgirls had earned roughly $850,000 in its roadshow tour before expanding wide on Christmas Day. Analysts were expecting $5 million last week, but over the weekend the tracking really picked up with many theaters reporting that they had sold all tickets for Christmas day by Saturday. On Christmas Day the film placed second with $8.7 million, which gave it a four-day weekend total of nearly $9.0 million, which was enough for seventh place. This could be enough for a Chicago-like run at the box office, but that will depend heavily on how well it can expand past its 852 theater count. Its reviews suggest that transition will be smooth. As for Oscars, I still think its The Departed's year.

Black Christmas beat the previous two Christmas Day horror films with $3.31 million. Granted, it was a really, really close race with Darkness earning $3.30 million back in 2004. Even with reviews that were predictably bad, its legs should match those of films and finish with just under $20 million, but that should be enough to show a profit sometime during the home market.


Filed under: Night at the Museum, The Pursuit of Happyness, Dreamgirls, Charlotte's Web, Eragon, Rocky Balboa, The Good Shepherd, We Are Marshall, Black Christmas