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Weekend Predictions: Ring in the New Year with Auld Films

December 29th, 2011

The New Year's Eve weekend is one of the most prosperous at the box office, but it also usually has no wide releases. This is the case this year, for the most part. War Horse and The Darkest Hour will have their first full weekends at the box office, but that's as close as we have to a new release. This means it is unlikely there will be many major changes in the ranking of the top five films and Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol has a clear shot at first place. Also, because Christmas Eve fell on Saturday, we should see strong growth across the board. Anything less than double-digit growth by any film will be considered a disappointment. This means we could actually end 2011 on a winning note compared to 2010. It wouldn't be enough to make a difference in the big picture, but a win is a win.

Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol should have no trouble winning the box office race this weekend, the only question is by how much. The film should benefit from its stellar reviews and word of mouth and the weaker than expected competition. In fact, the only downside is that it has been seen by so many people that it has less room to grow. It should still grow, but not by as much as the rest of the top five. Look for $33 million over the weekend, giving it a running tally of $135 million.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows hasn't lived up to expectations, but there is some good news. It crossed $100 million on Wednesday, while it should achieve $23 million over the weekend. This means it will top its production budget by the end of the weekend. Assuming it does respectable business overseas, it will break even early in its home market run, if not sooner.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, being a family film, should get a bigger boost than most due to the New Year's holiday. The last time Christmas Eve landed on a Saturday was 2005 and Cheaper by the Dozen 2 was the big family hit of the weekend. The following weekend, it jumped up by 55%. If Chipwrecked did the same, it would earn about $19 million over the weekend, which would put it on pace to reach over $100 million before the end of its theatrical run. This should be enough to break even sooner rather than later, but it is much lower than the previous installments in the franchise.

War Horse opened on Christmas day and made $7.5 million. It has also performed well thanks to its reviews and Oscar buzz. (I do think the Oscar buzz is premature, as 76% positive reviews won't win you many awards. Perhaps it will do well in technical categories, but that's it.) On the high end, it might grab third place with $21 million, but on the low end, it might struggle to find a place in the top five with $13 million. I'm going with $16 million.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo should be right behind with $15 million. It has not lived up to box office expectations, but hopefully its reviews will translate into awards and it can do well enough internationally to warrant adapting the other two books in the franchise, because it would a shame to end it here.

The Adventures of Tintin should be right behind with just under $15 million. The film will be considered a major disappointment here, but has made enough internationally to justify making a sequel.

We Bought a Zoo will slip to seventh place with $12 million over the weekend. It appears to be the victim of overcrowding, although its reviews were also lower than most of the other wide releases.

Moving further down the list we come to The Darkest Hour, which has been following Wolf Creek's box office performance so closely I see no reason it will suddenly deviate now. Wolf Creek made close to $4 million during its sophomore stint, and it is very likely The Darkest Hour will likely do the same. Its reviews are much weaker, so perhaps instead of making just under $4 million, it will make just over $3 million.

One last note, The Iron Lady opens on Friday in just four theaters. Normally we don't talk about limited releases on this column, but since it is the target film in this week's Box Office Prediction contest, I thought I would talk about its box office chances before that contest ends. (It closes tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.) So far the film's reviews are only good, but not great, which will likely hurt its chances long-term. However, Meryl Streep has been earning a lot of buzz for her performance and most think she will earn yet another Oscar nomination. Anything less than $40,000 over the weekend would be a huge shock. On the upper end, anything significantly more than $200,000 is probably out of the question. If I were to enter the contest, I would go with something closer to the lower end than the higher end.


Filed under: Weekend Preview, The Adventures of Tintin, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Darkest Hour, War Horse, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol, We Bought a Zoo, The Iron Lady, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked