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Weekend Predictions: Will Anchorman Anchor the Box Office or will Smaug Persist

December 19th, 2013

Anchorman 2 poster

This week there are two wide releases, Anchorman: The Legend Continues and Walking with Dinosaurs, as well as two limited releases expanding wide, American Hustle and Saving Mr. Banks. All four films will have to deal with last weekend's champion, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, as well as Frozen, which should do well thanks to the holidays. This weekend last year was pretty bad for a December weekend. Jack Reacher opened with $15.21 million, which put it a distant second place to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The Desolation of Smaug won't make as much as An Unexpected Journey did last year, but Anchorman has a shot at first place and so the combined strength should help the box office grow in the year-over-year comparison.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy opened way back in 2004 and became a sizable hit earning good reviews. For a while, there has been a push to make a sequel and finally it's happening. Anchorman: The Legend Continues has some big shoes to fill as far as quotability is concerned, and it looks like it is going to succeed. The reviews are better than the predecessor's reviews were and it is likely its box office numbers will also show some growth. The film opened on Wednesday earning $8.10 million, which is better than expected. This is better than Little Fockers made a few years ago and I think the two films share a lot of their target audiences. Little Fockers earned $45 million during its five-day opening, including $30 million over the three-day weekend. Anchorman 2 should top that with ease. In fact, it might make $45 million over three days and over $65 million in total. I think that's a little too bullish, but I'm going with $40 million / $57 million.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey fell 56% during its second weekend of release with $36.89 million over the weekend for a running tally of $150.04 million after two. If The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug can have the same drop-off, it will make $32 million over the weekend. On the positive side, its reviews are better than An Unexpected Journey's reviews were. On the negative side, it is a sequel and those tend to have weaker legs. Additionally, there's strong competition this time around. I think it will come close, but dip a little faster to just over $30 million over the next three days.

American Hustle expands wide this Friday, instead of Christmas day, when it was originally scheduled to expand wide. This could be a really smart move, as the film has picked up several awards nominations recently and the buzz couldn't possibly be louder. The film's reviews are nearly perfect and it is a shoe-in for several Oscar nominations, while Jennifer Lawrence could be the favorite to win her second Oscar in a row. As far as box office potential is concerned, it should earn between $15 million and $20 million over the weekend. I'm think it will finish on the high end with $19 million. If it does start winning awards, it could stick around long enough to reach the century mark.

Frozen should be right behind with $15 million over the weekend for a running tally of $187 million, more or less. With most kids out of school and Christmas next week, it should continue to stick around theaters till at least the new year. If it can top $250 million, and I think it can, then it will have made enough to cover its production budget domestically. Granted, it will still have to cover its P&A budget, but that should be easy to do on the international scene.

Saving Mr. Banks should round out the top five, but its expansion won't go as well as American Hustle will for a few reasons. Firstly, while it earned a per theater average of $27,558, that's a fraction of its fellow expansion's per theater average. Secondly, while its reviews are incredible, they are still weaker than American Hustles' reviews are. Finally, while it has picked up several Award Nominations, it hasn't done as well as its competition has done. There's just too much direct competition. That said, an opening weekend of $12 million isn't a bad start given the legs the average December releases has.

The final wide release of the week is Walking With Dinosaurs. This is one of the most expensive films opening this month, but its reviews are also among the worst. It looks beautiful, but the plot is weak. Are families going to want to see this film? Or will they stick with Frozen? I think Frozen has the clear edge and this film will miss the top five with just $9 million.


Filed under: Weekend Preview, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, Frozen, Walking with Dinosaurs, Saving Mr. Banks, American Hustle, Jennifer Lawrence