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Weekend Predictions: Christmas Cacophony

December 19th, 2012

For the next week, starting tonight and running till Christmas day, there are eight films opening wide, or at least wide enough to predict they will enter the top ten. Despite that level of competition, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, will very likely remain in top spot. Jack Reacher looks to be the best of the new releases, at least for the weekend. Meanwhile, This is 40 probably won't start as fast, but Judd Apatow's films tend to have really good legs. Monsters, Inc. is debuting in 3D tonight, but is destined to be a midlevel hit and nothing more. The Guilt Trip is also opening tonight, but I'm not sure it has the buzz to even be a midlevel hit. The final new release of the weekend is Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away, but with an opening theater count of just 800, it will struggle just to reach to the top ten. And because Christmas lands on the Tuesday, and we won't have another weekend prediction column till Friday, we need to talk about the three Christmas day releases, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, and Parental Guidance. Last year, Christmas day landed on the Sunday, which makes the comparisons between weekends nearly impossible. I'm going to assume 2012 is going to come out ahead, mainly because they had nothing to compare to The Hobbit, so as long as this year's new releases are as strong as last years holdovers, victory is a safe bet.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey started its box office run by matching predictions nearly perfectly. Now it hopes to avoid a 50% drop-off during its sophomore stint. It does have a lot of competition to deal with; however, this is mostly a case of quantity over quality, as no film opening over the weekend is expected to top $20 million from Friday through Sunday. The film's reviews are good, but not great. A lot of people were expecting amazing, so this could have a negative impact on the film's legs. On the other hand, this time of year tends to help a film's legs. I don't think there's any doubt the film will repeat in first place, while I think it will avoid the 50% drop-off, barely, with $43 million.

Jack Reacher has been plagued by a lack of buzz, but now that early reviews are coming in, the buzz should grow louder. If the film can maintain a Tomatometer Score at or above 75%, it should have a chance at reaching $100 million during its run. For that to happen, it will need a solid second place finish with just over $20 million. That's possible, but a little too bullish. I'm going with $18 million over the three-day weekend, but if it does well over Christmas week and next week during New Year's weekend, then it still has a slim shot at the century mark.

This is 40 is a spin-off of Knocked Up. That film earned 90% positive reviews and nearly $150 million at the domestic box office, so trying to tap into that again makes complete sense. This is 40 won't match that. So far its reviews are just shy of the overall positive level, and they have been falling. Many critics are complaining that the film is too long and doesn't maintain the usual level of jokes Judd Apatow is known for. Most are still saying it is worth checking out, but it is weaker than anticipated. Look for $15 million over the weekend and $75 million in total.

Monsters, Inc. makes its 3D debut tonight and I'm a little torn on how it will do. It's hard to use its reviews as a box office indicator, because most of them are for the original release. The new reviews are praising the movie, but it's hard to judge if the 3D conversion is worth going out to theaters. Or will fans wait for the Blu-ray release? On the low end, it might only made $2 million tonight and finish the weekend with $9 million in total. On the high end, it might make close to $4 million tonight, $3 million tomorrow, and more than $10 million over the three-day weekend. I really want it to finish on the high end of the range and I'm worried that is clouding my judgment. Let's go with just under $3 million tonight, roughly the same tomorrow, and $9 million over the weekend.

The buzz for The Guilt Trip has never grown to the level it needed to be at to thrive, and now its reviews are weak. Most critics are saying the film is thinly written, repetitive, and tries too hard to be safe to be really funny. There are some critics who still think there are enough laughs to be worth your time. Also, the film is aimed at more mature women and there is a lack of direct competition for that target demographic. It should score third place tonight with just over $2 million, but it will sink to fifth place over the weekend with $7 million. On the other hand, it is a safe film you can watch on Christmas day, so it could get a boost there.

The final new release of the week is Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away, but it is only opening in 800 theaters. It also only has one review and it is negative. There doesn't seem to be a lot going for the film. On the other hand, Cirque du Soleil is one of the most popular attractions at Vegas and their live shows sellout, so clearly there are people who love the show. It will only need about $3 million to get to the top ten, and I think it will get there.

Moving onto the Christmas Day releases... Django Unchained is the latest film from Quentin Tarantino, and if its early reviews are correct, it could be his best. The film certainly has a lot of buzz and there's a chance it will open in first place on Christmas day. I think it will grab $12 million on its opening day, which would be the third best Christmas day opening of all time. It might have a shot at $15 million, which would put it past Marley and Me for second place. (First place is owned by Sherlock Holmes, but Christmas day landed on a Friday that year.) This should be enough for $100 million in total.

Les Miserables strikes me as a mix between War Horse and Dreamgirls. Both films opened on Christmas day (opened wide in the latter's case), one was about the horrors of war and the other was a musical. Les Miserables is a musical that deals in part with the French Revolution. It has the musical numbers from one film and the huge set pieces from the other. The film is clear Oscar bait and while it is earning major nominations, its reviews are weaker than anticipated. An opening day of $9 million, more or less, is the most likely result, but just over $10 million isn't out of the question, if the Awards Season buzz helps it along. It too could reach $100 million, if it can turn some of its nominations into wins.

Finally there's Parental Guidance, a film made to draw in families on Christmas day. There have been many family films that have opened on Christmas day. For instance, Cheaper by the Dozen opened on Christmas day nearly a decade ago and despite earning terrible reviews, still managed $8 million opening day and $138 million in total. On the other hand, Peter Pan opened the same day earning less than $4 million and finishing with $48 million. So far, this film only has one review on Rotten Tomatoes, but it is positive. The buzz is nearly nonexistent, mainly because there are so many other wide releases opening during the week, but after the weekend, that might change. I'm going with an opening day of $5 million, but that might be enough for $60 million in total.


Filed under: Weekend Preview, Monsters, Inc., The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Guilt Trip, This is 40, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Parental Guidance, Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away, Jack Reacher, Judd Apatow, Quentin Tarantino