2012 Preview: December

November was a strong month and left 2012 with a very easy path to a new all time record. There was only one major miss the entire month, Rise of the Guardians, while The Silver Linings Playbook was pulled from wide release at the last minute, so it is a little hard to judge its box office performance. On the positive side, Skyfall might top original expectations by $100 million. All this December has to do is maintain pace with last December to ensure 2012 sets the new record. I would like to say that will be easy to do, but I really don't know. Last year, there was only one $200 million hit, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, plus a few others that reached $100 million, so the bar isn't set too high. This year, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is expected to at least come close to $300 million. Some think it will earn more than $400 million. However, it could also be the last film to make $100 million till February. December is normally a very good month to release a film, but the release schedule is so messed up that it makes it very hard to predict what will happen. There appears to be just ten films opening truly wide this month (I'm getting mixed signals on a few of them). That's a really light schedule for a month and a light schedule tends to help maximize the box office potential for individual films. However, eight of these films open wide within a seven-day period. That's insane. There's no way all of those films will find an audience and there's a chance that due to the competition, none of them will. Let's hope the situation isn't as bad as that, but there are some serious reasons to be concerned for most new releases coming out this month.

Weekend of December 7th, 2012

There's only one wide release during the first weekend on December and I'm not bullish about its chances. Playing for Keeps is a romantic film, much like New Year's Eve, which opened the same weekend last year. New Year's Eve missed expectations by a sizable degree and I worry Playing for Keeps will suffer the same fate. In fact, some think it will actually do a lot worse. Unless the holdovers can carry the week, the month will likely start on a losing note.

Playing For Keeps

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: PlayingForKeepsMovie.com
Distributor: FilmDistrict
Release Date: December 7th, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexual situations, language and a brief intense image.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Romance, Divorcee Romance, Exes in Love, Soccer, TV Industry, Love Triangle, and more
Directed By: Gabriele Muccino
Starring: Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Noah Lomax, Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta Jones, Dennis Quaid, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $35 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million

I have very low expectations for this film for a number of reasons. Firstly, FilmDistrict has only released one movie that earned more than $50 million and I really doubt this movie will join that list. Gerard Butler has only starred in one $100 million hit during his career. Likewise, Jessica Biel hasn't had a lot of box office success recently, neither has Catherine Zeta Jones, Uma Thurman, or Dennis Quaid. I've only seen one early review, and it is negative. And finally, there's almost no buzz. The film has very little hope of becoming a substantial hit. In fact, it might open well below $10 million and disappear shortly after that.

Weekend of December 14th, 2012

The Hobbit. That's really all that needs to be said. This week The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is opening up and it is by far the most anticipated film of the month. In fact, if you asked people at the beginning of the year what was the most anticipated film of the year of 2012, this film would have been picked by a lot of people. It should make more during its opening weekend than the entire top ten combed made last year. Last year wasn't a disaster at the box office either, with the wide openings of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, and the IMAX preview of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. If 2012 doesn't come out ahead this week, its lead over 2011 is in serious trouble. Fortunately, the odds of that happening are nearly zero.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheHobbit.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: December 14th, 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Likely Aiming for PG-13
Source: Based on a Book / Sequel
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Prequel, Cliffhanger Ending, Dragon, Same Role, Different Actors, Ensemble, Visual Effects, 3D, Shot in 3D, and more
Directed By: Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, and others.
Production Budget: Reported at $270 million, but that was before the series was split into three films
Box Office Potential: $325 million

Peter Jackson returns to the world of J.R.R.Tolkien with The Hobbit. The Lord of the Rings trilogy Peter Jackson made starting in 2001 earned more than $1 billion domestically and nearly $3 billion worldwide. It makes complete sense that the studio would want to recreate the same magic. Most people are very excited about this film. There are also some who are a little worried it won't live up to the hype. That said, given the hype, a $100 million opening is possible, even if the film can't live up to the hype. Plus, the lack of top-tier releases for the rest of the year should give it strong legs. If it is earns overwhelmingly positive reviews, then it might reach the top ten of all time.

Weekend of December 21st, 2012

The beginning of the busiest time of the year. Not only are there five wide releases coming this week, but there's an Oscar contender opening in limited release with a scheduled wide expansion in January, plus three more films that are opening wide next Tuesday (Christmas day). There's no way all of these films will maximize their box office potentials. Jack Reacher should be the biggest hit of the weekend, but Tom Cruise is no longer the guaranteed box office draw he used to be. The Guilt Trip and This is Forty share too much of their target audience for both to be hits, but they could both interfere enough with each other that neither will be hits. Monster, Inc. hopes to earn more than the previous 3-D re-lease, Finding Nemo, but I'm not sure that's a safe bet. Finally, I'm not sure Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away will open truly wide. The film earning the best buzz that's coming out this week is Zero Dark Thirty. Unfortunately, that film's wide release was pushed back till January, so it is only opening in limited release this week. As for the year-over-year comparison, that's pretty much impossible this time around. This weekend last year, Christmas Eve landed on a Saturday, and that's a dead zone for the box office, while Christmas Day landed on a Sunday, and that's one of the best single days at the box office. This causes such a mess that the comparison is pointless.

Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: WorldsAway3D.com
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: December 21st, 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Likely aiming for PG.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: 3D, Shot in 3D, and more
Directed By: Andrew Adamson
Starring: Erica Linz, Igor Zaripov, and others
Production Budget: Unknown
Box Office Potential: Unknown

Of all of the films opening this month, this is the one I'm least sure about. I'm not sure how much it cost to make. I'm not sure it will open wide. I'm not even sure it has a real plot. If it doesn't open wide, there's little chance it will later expand wide. If it does open wide, it will likely get squeezed out by the bigger releases. My best guess is a sub-2000 theater opening and $15 million in total.

The Guilt Trip

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: GuiltTripMovie.com
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: December 19th, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language and some risque material.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Road Trip, Inventor, Widow, Dysfunctional Family, and more
Directed By: Anne Fletcher
Starring: Seth Rogen, Barbra Streisand, and others
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $30 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Seth Rogen plays an inventor who is traveling across the country to sell his invention. Barbra Streisand plays his mother, a widow who hasn't had a social life since his father died when he was eight years old. He decides to ask her to go on the trip with him. High jinx ensue. It doesn't look like a bad movie, but it doesn't look like it has the potential to be anything more than a midlevel hit. This is Barbra Streisand's first starring role since The Mirror Has Two Faces, but I don't know if that means there's a lot of pent up demand, or if that means her box office drawing power has dried up. Anne Fletcher's most recent film, The Proposal, was a surprise hit, but I don't feel confident predicting a similar result this time. Finally, the competition will probably prevent the film from reaching its full potential. Of the five films opening wide this week, this one is fourth in terms of buzz. (Only Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away is weaker.)

Jack Reacher

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: JackReacherMovie.com
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: December 21st, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, language and some drug material.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Falsely Accused, Returning Soldier, Police Procedural, Organized Crime, and more
Directed By: Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Robert Duvall, Werner Herzog, Richard Jenkins, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $80 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million

Shouldn't this film have a lot more buzz? Granted, Tom Cruise isn't the guaranteed $100 million box office star like he used to be, but he is still a box office star. It's not earning the biggest buzz of the month. It's not even earning the biggest buzz of the week. There are two main stories coming out of this film. Firstly, fans of the original novel were not happy Tom Cruise was cast, nor were they happy the name of the film was changed from One Shot to Jack Reacher. Jack Reacher is a huge man in the book and Tom Cruise is not. This, plus the name change, has led a lot of fans to speculate that the filmmakers have changed too much when they adapted the film. Secondly, an extra in the film saw his fame rise after people from Reddit started messing with the IMDb rankings. For a while, Alexander Rhodes had top billing according to IMDb. Personally, I have a hard time believing this film will be a complete flop and it really should at least match its production budget. However, most analysts think it will finish with closer to $50 million than $100 million.

Monsters, Inc.

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Disney.Go.com/MonstersInc
Distributor: Disney
Release Date: December 19th, 2012
MPAA Rating: G for General Admissions
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Monsters, Corporate Malfeasance, Undercover, Surprise Twist, Kidnap, Rescue, 3-D, 3-D Re-release, Exile, and more
Directed By: Lee Unkrich and David Silverman
Starring: John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Mary Gibbs, and others
Production Budget: Originally $115 million, unknown for 3-D Conversion
Box Office Potential: $45 million

Most expect the latest 3-D re-release, Monsters, Inc., to perform weaker than the previous one, Finding Nemo. However, I think it has a few advantages. This includes a much better release date. Also, the upcoming release of Monsters University should also help boost awareness of this re-release. On the other hand, there is definitely a downward trend for 3-D re-releases that's impossible to ignore. Additionally, this movie didn't make as much as Finding Nemo did when it was originally released. I think the positives outweigh the negatives, but it could be close.

This is Forty

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ThisIs40Movie.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: December 21st, 2012
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, crude humor, pervasive language and some drug material.
Source: Spin-Off
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Mid-Life Crisis, Relatives Playing Relatives, Dysfunctional Family, Music Industry, and more
Directed By: Judd Apatow
Starring: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, Megan Fox, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million

This feels like a $100 million movie. It is written and directed by Judd Apatow and is a spin-off of Knocked-Up, this time focusing the family of Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann and their two kids, Maude Apatow and Iris Apatow. Knocked-Up earned nearly $150 million, while Judd Apatow's box office average is very stunning. It is also the film earning the best buzz that is opening this week. And finally, the film's early reviews are currently perfect. On the other hand, it is really busy week and I don't think any of the five releases coming out this week will be major hits. There's too much competition with each other and with The Hobbit for that to happen.

Weekend of December 28th, 2011

While the weekend technically begins on the 28th, all of the wide releases come out on the 25th. Christmas Day is one of the most important single days at the box office and this year there are three wide releases, two of which are earning enough buzz to suggest they could reach $100 million. Django Unchained has be best chance to reach $100 million, but Les Miserables has a better chance to reach $200 million. It also has a better chance at fizzling out at $50 million. There's a lot of uncertainty there. Parental Guidance, which is another film opening this week. It is a family film opening on Christmas day, so it's box office chances can't be too bad, right? Due to the strange alignment in the weekends, the comparison to last year is rather pointless. I just hope 2012 has already broken the all time record so we won't have to worry about it.

Django Unchained

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: UnchainedMovie.com
Distributor: Weinstein Co.
Release Date: December 25th, 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - likely aiming for R
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Western
Keywords: Slavery, Revenge, Bounty Hunter, Rescue, and more
Directed By: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $60 million to $80 million
Box Office Potential: $105 million

Quentin Tarantino's follow-up to Inglourious Basterds. Inglourious earned a lot of buzz, especially on the internet, but unlike a lot of similar films, it was able to turn that buzz into box office dollars. In fact, some credit its success with saving Weinstein Co.. Django Unchained has just as much buzz and it is opening on one of the best days of the year to open a film; however, I don't think it will do quite as well at the box office. It does have a better opening date, but it also has a lot stronger competition. Basterds earned outstanding reviews, which certainly helped its legs. Django might match Basterds in that regard, but I'm not willing to make that assumption. I think it will be the biggest hit of the week and it should earn more than $100 million domestically, which will be more than enough to break even sooner rather than later.

Les Miserables

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: LesMiserablesFilm.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: December 25th, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for suggestive and sexual material, violence and thematic elements.
Source: Based on a Musical that is Based on a Book
Major Genre: Musical
Keywords: Revolution, Romance, First Love, Love Triangle, Poverty, Political, Orphan, Cross-Dressing, Prostitution, Spoiled Child, Child Abuse, Ensemble, and more
Directed By: Tom Hooper
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $61 million
Box Office Potential: $95 million

I'm of two minds about Les Miserables's box office chances. On the one hand, it is an epic movie in every sense of the word. It is based on one of the most popular stories of all time that was previously turned into an award-winning musical. Its cast is incredible with a number of box office stars. It is opening one of the best days at the box office. It has more buzz than just about any other film opening in December. On the other hand, it is a musical and there have only been five musicals to reach $100 million at the box office in the last decade. (This includes Enchanted.) Mamma Mia! was the last such film to reach that level, doing so in 2008, while Chicago holds the record for biggest single release. (Grease has made more during its lifetime, but it took a couple re-releases to get there.) It is possible this film will break the all-time record. It is also possible it will struggle like Sweeney Todd or Phantom of the Opera did. The above box office potential is a weighted average of the two extremes, but there's a lot of uncertainty here.

Parental Guidance

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ParentalGuidanceMovie.com
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: December 25th, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG for rude humor.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Dysfunctional Family, Babysitting, and more
Directed By: Andy Fickman
Starring: Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

I'm of two minds with regards to this film's chances. On the one hand, Parental Guidance doesn't look very good. (Although I should admit, I laughed at Bailee Madison's "You lied to me!" line in the trailer.) It looks like a family film designed specifically to be unchallenging to its audience in a sitcom kind of way. On the other hand, Cheaper by the Dozen wasn't very good, but it made well over $100 million when it came out nearly ten years ago. Andy Fickman previously made The Game Plan, which also earned weak reviews, but still made $90 million, despite a weaker release date. This film could be a surprise Christmas Day hit, but I think it is prudent to be less bullish in our predictions.


- C.S.Strowbridge


Date posted: 2012-12-01