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Will it be a Holly Jolly Christmas?

December 21st, 2005

Over the next five days a total of eight movies will either open wide or expand wide. With that much competition, there is literally zero chance that all the films will succeed. In fact, chances are none will be able to unseat King Kong as the box office champ. Further complicating the prediction process, there are three groups of releases with two movies opening wide tonight, three more on Friday and three on Sunday. This column will deal with all of them.

Despite its disappointing start, King Kong should have the legs to remain in top spot over the weekend, which is great news for the studio. Bad news is, it's going to take a bit of a tumble. The reason for this is simple, Christmas, or more specifically, Christmas Eve. That day is deadly to the box office, and this year it occurs on the Saturday. A 50% drop-off, which wouldn't be out of the question, would leave the film with $25 million. On the other hand, a 40% drop-off is probably the best the big guy can hope for, which would give it $30 million. Split the difference and you get $27.5 million over the weekend and about $115 million in total.

Cheaper by the Dozen 2 has a cheap sitcom feel, but that shouldn't hurt its box office too much since the original was the same. The original was also a surprise hit, reaching nearly $140 million back in 2003 / 2004, and while this film won't hit the same heights, it could hit $100 million. Look for a little more than $4 million tonight (which might be enough to take top spot from King Kong for the day), a little under $3 million on Thursday, and $23 million over the weekend for a $30 million start.

Narnia enters its third weekend hoping to have enough momentum to take advantage of the holidays. It did slip a bit faster than expected during its second weekend of release and the competition for the box office is extreme this weekend, but it has the most Christmas-y feel, and that should help. Narnia should add $18 million over the weekend, scoring a third place finish in the process.

Fun With Dick and Jane's early reviews were amazing with the film scoring 80% positive at one point, then everything fell apart and its Tomatometer sunk to just 32% positive. And with buzz more inline with Spanglish than with the average Jim Carrey hit, the film will likely struggle somewhat. It should get off to a reasonable start with just over $3 million tonight, just under $2 million tomorrow and $17 million over the weekend, but I'm not bullish about the film's long-term chances.

Memoirs of a Geisha opens in wide release on Friday, sort of. 1,400 theatres is not really what most people would consider a wide release, but in this case it is probably for the best. Reviews have been terrible for what is essentially Oscar bait; the movie looks amazing, but is just dull. And while it has done very well on the art-house circuit, it is not a film that has mainstream appeal written all over it. Even so, it should still grab a spot in the top five with just over $7 million, which is nowhere near original expectations, nor is it enough given the film's production budget.

The Family Stone should place sixth with just under $7 million and since its total box office is already close to its production budget, the studio should be happy with this result.

A film with a similar feel, Rumor Has It, should bring in a similar box office of just over $6 million, which may seem like a really bad start, but the movie doesn't open till Sunday so that weekend total is really a one day total. Critically speaking, the film hasn't performed as well as I had expected, but it isn't doing badly either and puts it on par with The Family Stone. Overall this film should have typical December legs and reach roughly $60 million when all is said and done.

Next up is Munich, which opens in just over 500 theatres on Friday. This one is the last wide releases of the year to be a serious contender for Oscar glory, however, two are problems facing the film this weekend. Firstly, the ad campaign is non-existent, which was a conscious decision by Steven Spielberg, but it's a decision that will likely backfire. Secondly, reviews are not that good; granted, they are much better than the average wide release, but not up to the level needed to be a major player at the Oscars. The former problem is more of a concern now, reducing its box office potential to $6 million over the weekend. The latter problem will affect the film's legs as it is unlikely to benefit from a serious Oscar bounce.

Coming in ninth should be The Ringer, which opens in roughly 1,600 theatres on Friday. With eight films opening / expanding wide, this one looks like it's the odd man out with small theatre count, no reviews, and lackluster buzz, etc. It should grab $5 million this weekend, but don't look for the kind of legs that most December releases have.

Rounding out the top ten should be Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with just under $4 million. That will put the film's domestic box office at just over $260 million and into the Top 30 on the All-Time Charts.

Coming in eleventh will be Brokeback Mountain, which continues to set records during its run, the latest being highest per theatre average for a non-IMAX film playing in 50 or more theatres. The film is adding roughly 100 more theatres this weekend, which may be enough to keep it in the top ten, but it will likely just miss that with $3.5 million.

Those that have been keeping track will have noticed only 6 wide releases / major expansions so far. That's because two of these films won't make the top ten. The best of the rest is The Producers, which should earn about $3 million when it expands wide on Sunday. Although with a theatre count of less than 1,000 theatres, it is stretching the definition of a wide release.

On the other hand, Wolf Creek is opening in 1,700 theatres with reviews that have been surprisingly good, but it's just the wrong time of year to release a movie like this. Look for $2.5 million on Sunday.

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Filed under: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, King Kong, Fun With Dick And Jane, Brokeback Mountain, Cheaper by the Dozen 2, The Family Stone, Memoirs of a Geisha, Munich, Rumor Has It, The Ringer, The Producers: The Movie Musical, Wolf Creek