Follow us on

2015 Preview: December

December 1st, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

November ended on a positive note with a strong Thanksgiving weekend. Even so, the overall numbers were mixed with a lot of misses mixed in with a few hits. It was better than October and we will call that a victory. Meanwhile, December is potentially record-breaking. Actually, given the evidence, it is almost assuredly going to be record-breaking. Star Wars: The Force Awakens has already set a record for the most money taken from ticket pre-sales and the biggest December weekend will fall. The pre-orders alone will guarantee that. On the downside, it is very likely that no film will make as much in total as The Force Awakens will make during its opening weekend. There's a chance no film makes in total as much as The Force Awakens makes during its opening day. There are a few films that have a shot at $100 million. For example, Joy should get there, if it becomes a major player during Awards Season. If not, it will at least come close. Daddy's Home, and to a lesser extent Sisters, could be surprise $100 million hits. However, like the rest of 2015, December is shaping up to be a month of a record-breaking hit and a lot of films that struggle just to get noticed. On the other hand, last December, was a lot more balanced at the top with four films earning more than $100 million, led by The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. There's a chance The Force Awakens earns more than all four $100 million hits from last year earned combined.

Weekend of December 4th, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This is the weekend after Thanksgiving day, which is historically one of the weakest weekends of the year. Additionally, the only wide release of the week is Krampus, which is a Black Comedy and historically, Black Comedies don't do well at the box office. On the positive side, this weekend last year, the closest we had to a wide release was The Pyramid, which opened in under 600 theaters and barely topped the Mendoza Line. 2015 should have an easy time winning the year-over-year comparison.

Krampus

Krampus poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: KrampusTheFilm.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: December 4th, 2015
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of horror violence/terror, language and some drug material.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Black Comedy
Keywords: Christmas, Dysfunctional Family, Demons
Directed By: Michael Dougherty
Written By: Todd Casey, Zach Shields
Starring: Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell, Emjay Anthony, Stefania LaVie Owen, Krista Stadler
Production Budget: Reported at $15 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Krampus is a Black Comedy. This is a genre that rarely finds box office success for two reasons. Firstly, they are really hard to make well. The tonal switches between the comedy and the darker elements tends to kill the film with critics. Secondly, even when they do earn good reviews, they rarely make a lot of money, because the target audience is just too small. On the other hand, the film has the weekend to itself and it likely didn't cost a lot to make, so it should do well enough to break even eventually.

Weekend of December 11th, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This week is busier than the first week of the month, but only barely. There's just one wide release, In the Heart of the Sea, while Legend is scheduled to expand wide. (We don't have its Thanksgiving weekend numbers as I'm writing this, so it is too soon to predict if it will have what it takes to expand truly wide. Last Minute Update: Weekend Estimates have Legend earning a per theater average of just under $7,400 in 40 theaters. That's not enough to justify a wide expansion. ) In the Heart of the Sea is the latest movie from Ron Howard, who used to be one of the biggest directors around. However, he's had more misses than hits for the past 12 years. This weekend last year, the top film was Exodus: Gods and Kings, which was a big budget dud. In the Heart of the Sea will likely earn about the same at the box office, but likely cost less to make, so it should have a better chance at breaking even.

In the Heart of the Sea

In the Heart of the Sea poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: InTheHeartOfTheSeaMovie.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: December 11th, 2015
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and peril, brief startling violence, and thematic material.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Animals Gone Bad, On a Boat, Marooned, Cannibalism, 1800s, Same Role, Multiple Actors, Lost At Sea
Directed By: Ron Howard
Written By: Charles Leavitt, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Nathaniel Philbrick
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Benjamin Walker, Tom Holland
Production Budget: Estimated at $75 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million

Movies that take place on the water are risky to make, because water is hard to control, so budgets tend to skyrocket. However, in this case, the film came in on time and on budget. Also, the early test screenings were positive enough that the studio, Warner Bros., decided to move the film from a March release date, which is an okay release date, to a December release date, which is a great release date. On the other hand, Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens the following week, and that's the only December release most people are paying attention to. It will be drowned out by the buzz during its opening weekend and obliterated by the competition the next weekend. After that, it should get a boost from Christmas and another boost from New Year's Day and do well enough here that it will break even eventually.

Weekend of December 18th, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This is the week..... This is the week Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens. The film has already broken records and it is widely expected to break many more. It could rewrite the December record book. It might even break some all-time records. It isn't the only film opening wide this week, as Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip and Sisters are both trying to be counter-programming. One of them could be a surprise $100 million hit, but it is more likely they will both be midlevel hits. This weekend last year, there were three wide releases, led by The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Combined, the three films opened with $90 million. If The Force Awakens doesn't make at least that much during its opening weekend, something has gone horribly wrong. It could make more than that during its opening day and it would still be below some predictions I've seen.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: AlvinMovie.com/
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: December 18th, 2015
MPAA Rating: PG or some mild rude humor and language.
Source: Based on TV
Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Animal Lead, Talking Animals, Road Trip, Step-Family, Romance, Miami, Florida
Directed By: Walt Becker
Written By: Adam Sztykiel
Starring: Jason Lee, Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney
Production Budget: Estimated at $70 million to $90 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

This is the fourth installment in the Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise. The first two films were both $200 million hits, but the most recent installment, Chipwrecked, fell nearly 40% from the second installment. This explains why there was a four-year gap between installments and not a two-year gap like we saw the first two times. This also explains why most people are not very bullish about this film's chances. Most of the kids who saw Chipwrecked are no longer in the target audience for The Road Chip. Additionally, the competition is fierce and even those who want to see this movie over The Force Awakens might be scared away by the crowds. On the other hand, it is Christmas and this is a family film, so it likely won't be a complete dud here and it should do better internationally.

Sisters

Sisters poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: SistersFilm.com/
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: December 18th, 2015
MPAA Rating: R for crude sexual content and language throughout, and for drug use.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Comedy
Keywords: You Can't Go Home Again, Parties Gone Wild
Directed By: Jason Moore
Written By: Paula Pell
Starring: Amy Poehler, Tina Fey
Production Budget: Reported at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million

Amy Poehler and Tina Fey play a pair of sisters who throw one last party at their parents' place before their parents sell the home the two of them grew up in. It's an R-rated comedy starring two women. Women-led R-rated comedies have done quite well over the past few years and the two leads have been part of some amazing comedies, both on TV and in movies. This film could be a surprise $100 million hit, like Trainwreck was. Or it could struggle to become a midlevel hit, because the competition is just too strong. I'm hoping its the former, but the latter is more likely.

Star Wars Ep. VII: The Force Awakens

Star Wars Ep. VII: The Force Awakens poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: StarWars.com
Distributor: Walt Disney
Release Date: December 18th, 2015
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Space Opera, Good vs. Evil, Delayed Sequel
Directed By: J.J. Abrams
Written By: J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan
Starring: John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill
Production Budget: Reported at $200 million
Box Office Potential: $650 million

What do I need to say? Star Wars Ep. VII: The Force Awakens is the latest installment in one of the biggest franchises of all time. The film doesn't come out for three weeks and it is already breaking box office records. It has the best ticket pre-sales of any release and there's talk it could break the December weekend record during its opening day, whilst breaking the all-time opening weekend record in the process. Add in the Christmas and New Year's Day box office and this film could finally unseat James Cameron as the box office champ. (It has been nearly 18 years since he didn't have the number one box office hit of all time.) The only real concern is the hype. If this movie isn't amazing, critically and financially, then it will be seen as a disappointment. The film could literally earn $400 million domestically and some people will see that as a flop.

Weekend of December 25th, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This is Christmas week. Christmas Day is one of the best single days to release a movie and this year it lands on a Friday. It's not surprising that this is also the busiest week of the month with four new releases and one wide expansion. Unfortunately for these films, it is widely expected that Star Wars: The Force Awakens will dominate the box office during its second weekend of release (and during its third weekend of release, but we are getting ahead of ourselves). Of the films opening wide this week, Joy is expected to lead the way and has a decent shot at $100 million and / or Oscar glory. Even on the low end, it will make $75 million and pick up a handful or Oscar nominations. The Big Short and Concussion are also aiming for Awards Season glory, but likely won't quite get there. Any buzz will help their box office numbers, at the very least. On the other hand, Daddy's Home is aiming for pure entertainment and has no aspirations for Awards Season. Finally, there's Point Break. That film's buzz is so bad it will likely be the biggest bomb of the month. This week last year, there were two wide releases, Into the Woods and Unbroken, both of which earned more that $100 million. There's a chance The Force Awakens will earn more than $100 million during this weekend alone.

The Big Short

The Big Short poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheBigShort
Distributor:
Paramount Pictures
Release Date: December 11th, 2015 (Limited)
Release Date: December 23rd, 2015 (Expands Wide)
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language and some sexuality/nudity.
Source: Based on Factual Book/Short Story
Genre: Drama
Keywords: Market Bubble, Corporate Malfeasance
Directed By: Adam McKay
Written By: Adam McKay, Charles Randolph, Michael Lewis
Starring: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Brad Pitt
Production Budget: Reported at $28 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

This is a tricky film to predict, as it is opening in limited release with a planned wide expansion two weeks later. Its box office potential has a very wide margin of error as a result. It could open in limited release and earn a per theater average of $10,000, which is great for a limited release, but not enough to justify a wide expansion. In this case, it would fizzle out before reaching $5 million. Or its Oscar buzz (it has a short at earning a Best Picture nomination) could grow and it could be in theaters right up till the Oscars are handed out. In this case, it could reach $100 million, if it is a big winner on Oscar night and gets a boost in its theater count. There is such a wide range of legitimate possibilities that predicting what will happen is more a matter of luck.

Concussion

Concussion poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Concussion-Movie.com/
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Release Date: December 25th, 2015
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material including some disturbing images, and language.
Source: Based on Factual Book/Article
Genre: Drama
Keywords: Medical and Hospitals, Football, Corporate Malfeasance, Immigration
Directed By: Peter Landesman
Written By: Peter Landesman, Jeanne Marie Laskas
Starring: Will Smith
Production Budget: Estimated at $40 million to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

This feels like Oscar-bait. This movie is based on a real-life story about a person overcoming difficulties and taking on the system. Yep. Oscar-bait. However, its early reviews are merely good and not great. They are certainly not Oscar-worthy. A lot of films would love 63% positive reviews, but this is going to hurt its box office potential more, because its aiming for Awards Season success. Also, Will Smith's dramas tend to perform weaker than his action films and his overall box office drawing power is waning, so I'm not overly bullish about this film's chances. Maybe as more reviews come in its Tomatometer Score will rise and it will be a pleasant surprise at the box office.

Daddy's Home

Daddy's Home poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: DaddysHomeMovie.com/
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: December 25th, 2015
MPAA Rating:
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Step-Family, Dysfunctional Family
Directed By: Sean Anders, John Morris
Written By: Brian Burns, Etan Cohen
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell, Linda Cardellini
Production Budget: Estimated at $70 million to $90 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million

Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell team up again after starring in The Other Guys back in 2010. That film earned great reviews and pulled in more than $100 million at the box office. I would like to think this film has a shot at doing the same, but the buzz just isn't there. Like every other film on this month's list, it is being overshadowed by The Force Awakens. That said, it's an action comedy and there's not many of those in theaters, so it doesn't have any direct competition.

Joy

Joy poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: JoyMovie.com
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: December 25th, 2015
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Genre: Drama
Keywords: Entrepreneur, Inventor, Dysfunctional Family, Professional Rivalry
Directed By: David O. Russell
Written By: David O. Russell, Annie Mumolo
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million and $50 million
Box Office Potential: $95 million

The latest collaboration between Jennifer Lawrence and David O. Russell. Their previous two such films, American Hustle and The Silver Linings Playbook, both won Oscars. As far as I can tell, the over / under for this film is 4 Oscar nominations. Additionally, both of those previous films earned more than $100 million at the box office. Granted, there is a chance audiences will grow tired of these two working together and its Odds of winning an Oscar are less than 50%, so I'm not convinced it will top $100 million. It should come close.

Point Break

Point Break poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: PointBreakMovie.com/
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: December 25th, 2015
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, thematic material involving perilous activity, some sexuality, language and drug material.
Source: Remake
Genre: Action
Keywords: Extreme Sports, Heist, Gangs, Undercover, FBI
Directed By: Ericson Core
Written By: Kurt Wimmer
Starring: Edgar Ramirez, Luke Bracey, Ray Winstone
Production Budget: Reported at $100 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

This movie is nearly guaranteed to be the biggest bomb of the month. It reportedly cost $100 million to make (other sources have it between $90 million and $110 million). The buzz isn't particularly loud, but it is almost universally negative. The original Point Break wasn't a monster hit, but it is considered a cult classic by some. These same people have been vocal about their displeasure when the trailer first dropped, as they felt it didn't live up to the spirit of the original. It is hard to disagree with their complaint. On the other hand, the target audience for this film appears to be people who were not even born when the first Point Break came out, so their opinions might not matter. Worse case scenario, the film barely makes the top ten during its opening and its per theater average is low enough that theater owners drop it in just a few weeks. Even the best case scenario has it earning less than $75 million, which is bad news for a film that cost $100 million to make.

Filed under: Monthly Preview, In the Heart of the Sea, Star Wars Ep. VII: The Force Awakens, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip, Sisters, Point Break, Joy, Krampus, The Big Short, Concussion, Daddy’s Home, Legend, Star Wars, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Robert De Niro, Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt, Will Smith, Mark Wahlberg, J.J. Abrams, Sean Anders, Christian Bale, James Cameron, Linda Cardellini, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Bradley Cooper, Conchata Ferrell, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Carrie Fisher, Ryan Gosling, Matthew Gray Gubler, Mark Hamill, Chris Hemsworth, Ron Howard, Oscar Isaac, Lawrence Kasdan, David Koechner, Jennifer Lawrence, Jason Lee, Justin Long, Jesse McCartney, Adam McKay, John Morris, Cillian Murphy, Amy Poehler, Edgar Ramirez, David O. Russell, Adam Scott, Ray Winstone, Tom Holland, Adam Sztykiel, Charles Randolph, Charles Leavitt, Kurt Wimmer, Michael Lewis, Michael Dougherty, Annie Mumolo, Luke Bracey, Walt Becker, John Boyega, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Etan Cohen, Benjamin Walker, Jason Moore, Ericson Core, Paula Pell, Peter Landesman, Emjay Anthony, Todd Casey, Zach Shields, Daisy Ridley, Jeanne Marie Laskas, Brian Burns, Allison Tolman, Krista Stadler, Nathaniel Philbrick