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Weekend Predictions: How will Revenant and Forest Weather the Star Wars Storm?

January 7th, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The big news this week was Star Wars: The Force Awakens being officially crowned the All-Time Domestic Box Office champion. It should follow-up that news with yet another first place finish on the weekend box office. There are two films trying to take its crown: The Forest and The Revenant. The Revenant is a very likely Oscar winner and has performed phenomenally well in limited release, so it has a real shot at box office success this weekend. On the other hand, The Forest is a low-budget horror film that is just hoping to land in the top five. This weekend last year was led by Taken 3 with just under $40 million over the weekend, while Selma earned second place with $11 million. The Force Awakens might make more than those two films combined, but even if it doesn't, the one-two punch of The Force Awakens plus The Revenant will give 2016 an easy win in the year-over-year comparison.

For the first time during its run, Star Wars: The Force Awakens isn't guaranteed first place. It is only practically guaranteed first place. It only has about a 90% chance of earning first place with between $45 million and $50 million. This will be enough to push it past $800 million. The only question is whether it will get there on Saturday, or if it will have to wait till Sunday. However, while I'm going with $48 million over the weekend, there is a small chance it will drop more than 50% and The Revenant will be a bigger hit than expected and the film will slip into second place. That won't be a big deal for The Force Awakens, but...

The Revenant has earned a theater average of over $100,000 for two weeks in a row. There are very, very few films that can make that boast. It's only this film and American Sniper. American Sniper expanded wide this time last year and set the record for Biggest January Weekend and Biggest Fourth Weekend. It has since lost the former record to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, while the latter record seems very safe for a long time to come. The Revenant isn't expected to challenge American Sniper, but it is hoping to earn $10,000 on the theater average chart. That would give it a wide expansion weekend of just over $33 million. I think that is asking a little too much, but an average of $9,000 and a weekend haul of $30 million isn't. That said, there's a chance this film is an explosive hit when it expands and it pulls in close to $15 million, for a $45 million opening and a first place finish. If that happens, not only will the film be nearly guaranteed $100 million domestically, but the $10 million to $15 million of free publicity from toppling The Force Awakens could put it on track for $150 million to $200 million. A $30 million weekend will still be enough to get to $100 million, assuming it doesn't bomb during the rest of Awards Season.

Daddy's Home should crack the century mark tonight and then earn about $17 million over the weekend. The film was more expensive to make compared to most comedies at $50 million, but unless the studio spent more than that on global advertising, it will break even early in its home market run, at the very latest.

There are four films that should be in a close batter for fourth place, including the only true wide release this week, The Forest. The film stars Natalie Dormer as a set of twins, one of whom disappeared in Japan and the other who travels to Japan to look for her. There's only one review on Rotten Tomatoes, so it is too soon to judge the film's quality. The one review is negative, but not aggressively so. The film is too generic to get worked up about. On the high end, the film could earn $15 million, but the low end is about half that. Sadly, it appears that the low end is more likely. I'm predicting just under $10 million, which should be enough for fourth place. However, it will be really close and it could easily open just outside of the top five.

The other three films with a shot at fourth place are The Hateful Eight, Sisters, and The Big Short. The Hateful Eight did a lot better than Sisters did last weekend; however, it has to deal with direct competition from The Revenant, while there are no new or expanding comedies coming out this weekend to challenge Sisters. I still think The Hateful Eight will come out on top with just over $9 million, but Sisters will be very close behind with just under $9 million.

The Big Short is the longest long shot here, but it did just pick up another nomination and it could be the big winner at the Golden Globes this Sunday, so the buzz could help it drop less than 10% and that might be enough for fourth place. I think seventh place with $8 million is more likely.

The Revenant Comparisons
The Forest Comparisons

Filed under: Weekend Preview, Star Wars Ep. VII: The Force Awakens, Sisters, The Forest, The Revenant, The Hateful Eight, The Big Short, Daddy’s Home, Natalie Dormer