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2016 Preview: December

December 1st, 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

November was good, but not great. Fortunately, 2016 had a large enough lead going into November that the month only needed to be good. In fact, it could have been mediocre and 2016 would have still had an excellent shot to end the year above 2015. As for December, it’s a race between Star Wars and Star Wars. Almost no one thinks Rogue One is going to match The Force Awakens, but if Rogue One earns just half of what The Force Awakens managed, then 2016 will come out on top in the year-over-year comparison. There are only two other films with a better than 50/50 chance of hitting $100 million, Passengers and Sing. Either one could earn second place for the month, but Passengers will likely start faster. Last December, the only other film to earn more than $100 million was Daddy’s Home, which earned just a hair over $150 million. There’s a chance both Passengers and Sing will earn more than $150 million, which would be a boon to the box office. However, Star Wars: The Force Awakens was just too strong last year and it would take a miracle for 2016 to have a stronger December. That said, it would take a complete collapse for 2016 not to top 2015 in raw dollars. The growth might not be enough to keep pace with ticket price inflation, on the other hand.

Weekend of December 2nd, 2016

Incarnate

This is the weekend after Thanksgiving, which is historically one of the worst weekends of the year to open a movie. There is only one new release this week that has a shot at the top ten, Incarnate, and it isn’t even opening truly wide. It is expected to struggle to reach the top ten and will disappear from theaters by Christmas. In fact, Jackie is expected to earn more in total and it debuts this weekend in just 5 theaters. This weekend last year, Krampus earned second place with $16.29 million. I would be shocked if Incarnate earned more than half that during its entire run.

Incarnate

Incarnate
Trailer: Trailer Coming Soon
Official Site: Facebook.com/IncarnateMov
Distributor: High Top Releasing
Release Date: December 2nd, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of horror violence, terror, disturbing images, brief strong language, sensuality and thematic elements.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Keywords: Possessed, Supernatural, Demons, Exorcism, Confined to a Wheelchair, Magical Technology, Exploring a Character's Mind, Delayed Release
Directed By: Brad Peyton
Written By: Ronnie Christensen
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, David Mazouz, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Carice van Houten
Production Budget: Under $20 million.
Box Office Potential: Under $10 million

Aaron Eckhart plays an exorcist who uses science to enter a person’s mind to battle the demon that is possessing them. His latest patient, David Mazouz, is being possessed by the most powerful demon he has encountered.

This film was shot at the end of 2013 and finished in 2014, but it is only getting a release now. That's two years late. Worse still, it is being dumped during one of the worst weekends of the year and is expected to play in just 1,500 theaters. There’s a chance this film will open below the Mendoza Line ($2,000/theater) and disappear just two weeks later. I’m not quite that pessimistic, but it will be really close. Earning $5 million or less is more likely than earning $10 million or more.

Last Minute Update: The film’s theater count is a little better than last week’s estimates at 1,737, but its first review is negative. None of this suggests I should change its box office potential.

Weekend of December 9th, 2016

Office Christmas Party

There is only one wide release this week, Office Christmas Party, which is the latest in a growing list of R-rated Christmas comedies. There are also two films that are expected to expand wide: Miss Sloane and Nocturnal Animals. However, I don’t think both will be able to expand wide. There’s a chance neither will expand truly wide. This weekend last year, the only wide release was In the Heart of the Sea and it bombed with just $11.05 million. This is the only week this entire month where 2016 has an excellent chance at winning in the year-over-year comparison.

Miss Sloane

Miss Sloane
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: MissSloaneMovie.com/
Distributor: EuropaCorp
Release Date: November 25th, 2016 (Limited Release)
Release Date: December 9th, 2016 (Expands Wide)
MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexuality.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Drama
Keywords: Political, Politicians, Political Campaign, Washington, D.C.
Directed By: John Madden
Written By: Jonathan Perera
Starring: Jessica Chastain
Production Budget: $18 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million

Miss Sloane opened in limited release this past weekend earning nearly $60,000 in just three theaters. That’s great for a limited release and that could be enough to expand significantly over the coming weeks. However, it isn’t enough to suggest a truly wide expansion. Furthermore, its reviews are only 65% positive, which is good for a wide release, but not good enough for a limited release to expand truly wide. Perhaps I’m being pessimistic. Perhaps Jessica Chastain will earn some Oscar buzz and the movie will still be in theaters in February. However, there’s a chance it will lose 60% of its theater average the first weekend of December and its “wide expansion” turns out to be well under 1,000 theaters. The above box office potential is a weighted average of the two extremes.

Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: www.focusfeatures.com/nocturnalanimals
Distributor: Focus Features
Release Date: December 9th, 2016 (Expands Wide)
MPAA Rating: R for violence, menace, graphic nudity, and language.
Source: Based on Fiction Book/Short Story
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Keywords: Film Noir, Los Angeles, Writing and Writers, Relationships Gone Wrong, Infidelity, Non-Chronological, One Last Job, Sex Crimes, Death of a Spouse or Fiancée / Fiancé, Death of a Son or Daughter, Cancer, Same Actor, Multiple Roles, Dysfunctional Family
Directed By: Tom Ford
Written By: Tom Ford
Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Production Budget: $22.5 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million

Nocturnal Animals opened two weeks ago earning an average of just over $13,000 while playing in 37 theaters. It has already hit the $1 million milestone and it still has room to grow. That’s the good news. The bad news is its theater average is already low enough that I don’t think a truly wide expansion would be wise. It would need some serious Awards Season buzz to continue to grow and its reviews are just not strong enough for that. If the studio does push it into 2,000 or more theaters this week, the it could earn $25 million domestically, but at a cost in P&A that likely won’t be worth it.

Office Christmas Party

Office Christmas Party
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: OfficeChristmasParty.com/
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: December 9th, 2016
MPAA Rating: R for crude sexual content and language throughout, drug use and graphic nudity.
Source: Based on Fiction Book/Short Story
Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Christmas, Sibling Rivalry, Dysfunctional Family, Parties Gone Wild, Corporate Life, Narcotics, Black Out Drunk
Directed By: Josh Gordon, Will Speck
Written By: Justin Malen, Laura Solon, Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, T.J. Miller, Olivia Munn
Production Budget: Estimate at $30 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

T.J. Miller plays a branch manager who learns the CEO, Jennifer Aniston, who is also his sister, is going to close the branch. They have one shot and that is to win over an important client. They try to do so by throwing one hell of a Christmas party. Things get out of hand quickly.

R-rated Christmas comedies are not unheard of, but they are also not an established sub-genre yet. I can certainly see the appeal, especially with people who grow sick of hear Christmas carols by the time December finally starts. That said, for every Bad Santa or The Night Before, there are films that struggle at the box office, like The Ref or Bad Santa 2. I think this one will be on the higher end of expectations and there are some who think it could top $75 million domestically. I’m not that bullish.

Weekend of December 16th, 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

This is the week that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens. Nothing else matters. It won’t dominate the box office the same way The Force Awakens did this weekend last year and there’s no way 2016 will win in the year-over-year comparison. That said, it will still likely earn more during its opening weekend than Collateral Beauty and La La Land will earn in total and neither of those films are expected to bomb.

Collateral Beauty

Collateral Beauty
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: CollateralBeauty-Movie.com/
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: December 16th, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Drama
Keywords: New York City, Advertising and Marketing, Death of a Son or Daughter, Depression, Ensemble
Directed By: David Frankel
Written By: Allan Loeb
Starring: Will Smith, Helen Mirren, Edward Norton, Michael Peña, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Jacob Latimore
Production Budget: Estimated at $40 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $60 million

Will Smith plays a man whose daughter dies and in order to deal with that, he writes letters to universal concepts like Death, Time, and Love. He doesn’t expect a response, but he gets personal visits from all three.

I get the feeling that this film was made to win Oscars and there is some really minor buzz for a few members of the cast, but nothing to suggest anything will come from that. If it gets a reputation for busted Oscar bait, like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, then it could bomb as a result. On the other hand, if it gets a reputation as a good drama, but not Oscar bait, then it could be solid counter-programming to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I’m cautiously optimistic.

La La Land

La La Land
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: LaLaLand.movie/
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: December 9th, 2016 (Limited Release)
Release Date: December 16th, 2016 (Expands Wide)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Musical
Keywords: Hollywood, Aspiring Actress / Actor, Jazz, Musicians, Music Industry, Movie Business, Romance, Big Break, Relationships Gone Wrong
Directed By: Damien Chazelle
Written By: Damien Chazelle, Jordan Horowitz
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone
Production Budget: $20 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million

Emma Stone plays an aspiring actress and Ryan Gosling plays a struggling jazz musician. They meet and fall in love. However, when their careers begin to flourish, it puts a strain on their relationship.

This musical is one of the Awards Season heavy-hitters with the film contending for various Oscar categories, including both lead actors, direction, writing, production design, sound editing, etc. and of course, Best Picture. Should this film start picking up a ton of nominations, it will get a boost to its box office chances. On the other hand, it is a musical and those rarely become more than midlevel hits.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: StarWars.com/Rogue-One/
Distributor: Walt Disney
Release Date: December 16th, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for extended sequences of sci-fi violence and action.
Source: Spin-Off
Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Prequel, Rebellion, Space Opera
Directed By: Gareth Edwards
Written By: Chris Weitz, John Knoll
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen
Production Budget: At least $200 million
Box Office Potential: $450 million

On the one hand, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in a really tough spot. It is the follow-up to The Force Awakens, which is the biggest domestic hit of all time. On the other hand, it could earn just over half of what The Force Awakens earned and become the biggest hit of the year. I don’t think it will do that well, but anything less than $400 million domestically and $1 billion worldwide will be seen as a disappointment. It has an excellent chance of becoming the biggest worldwide hit of 2016 and we will be tracking its performance every step of the way.

Weekend of December 23rd, 2016

Passengers

This week is a mess. It is Christmas week, which tends to mess with the release schedule. Christmas day is a great day to release a movie, regardless what day of the week it lands. This year it lands on the Sunday, which is less than ideal. There are five films opening this week, three on Wednesday, one on Friday, and one on Sunday. Like I said, it’s a mess. Both Passengers and Sing are expected to earn well over $100 million. Fences is a potential Oscar contender and because of that, it’s box office chances are more unpredictable. Why Him? isn’t expected to be a hit, but at least it didn’t cost a lot. Assassin’s Creed, on the other hand, may have cost as much as $200 million, but is only expected to earn a fraction of that. This weekend last year, Christmas landed on a Friday and that really helped the overall box office. The Force Awakens earning nearly $150 million also helped. There’s no way 2016 is going to come out ahead in the year-over-year comparison.

Assassin’s Creed

Assassin’s Creed
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: AssassinsCreedMovie.com/
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: December 21st, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, thematic elements and brief strong language.
Source: Based on a Game
Genre: Action
Keywords: Time Travel, Corporate Malfeasance, Assassination, Hitmen, Magical Technology, Spanish Inquisition, Voodoo, Computer Simulation
Directed By: Justin Kurzel
Written By: Michael Lesslie, Bill Collage, Adam Cooper
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard
Production Budget: Reported at $130 million to $200 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million

There has never been a great video game movie and there have been almost none that were major hits at the box office. Assassin’s Creed was hoping to break that streak, but I’m not convinced that will happen. When I read about the plot, I was surprised they kept the Animus Project part of the storyline. That’s always the worst part of video games and just a weak excuse to set each game in a new time period. I think it will just be a layer of confusion for most moviegoers and video game movies can’t survive if only the fans of the game itself buy tickets.

The most recent big-budget video game adaptation was Warcraft, which earned terrible reviews and bombed domestically. (It also didn’t do well internationally, outside of China, where it was a monster hit.) Most expect this film to perform better here, but not by a large enough margin to make a difference. Even doubling Warcraft’s domestic haul won’t be enough to pay for Assassin’s Creed’s $130 million to $200 million production budget, as there is no built in Chinese audience to work with. It’s not going to do better than that, because this film’s and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s target audiences are too similar.

Fences

Fences
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: FencesMovie.com
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: December 25th, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, language and some suggestive references.
Source: Based on Play
Genre: Drama
Keywords: Directing Yourself, Novel or Other Work Adapted by Author, Pittsburgh, 1950s, Former Professional Athlete, Baseball, African-American
Directed By: Denzel Washington
Written By: August Wilson, August Wilson
Starring: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis
Production Budget: $30 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

Denzel Washington stars and directs this film, which is about a former Negro League baseball player living in Pittsburgh in the 1950s, struggling to get by. He hasn’t directed a movie in almost a decade and The Great Debaters didn’t live up to great expectations. Fences also has great expectations with many saying Denzel Washington could pick up nominations for both his acting and directing, not to mention nods for Viola Davis, August Wilson, and even Best Picture. Because of the buzz, it could earn excellent reviews and still be seen as a critical disappointment and this in turn could hurt its box office chances. That’s what happened to The Great Debaters. On the other hand, it is the only new release on Christmas day and that could help it shine at the box office. Furthermore, if it's reviews improve from its 82% positive level now and it begins to pick up some major nominations, it could stay in theaters until Oscars are handed out on February 26th.

Passengers

Passengers
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: PassengersMovie.com
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Release Date: December 21st, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexuality, nudity and action/peril.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Keywords: Space Program, Romance, Disaster
Directed By: Morten Tyldum
Written By: Jon Spaihts
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt
Production Budget: Reported at $150 million
Box Office Potential: $150 million

If Passengers doesn’t make at least $130 million domestically, then there will be people at Sony Pictures who will be fired as a result. They’ve had a bad year and if Ghostbusters turns out to be their biggest domestic hit of the year, someone will lose their jobs. Fortunately, the buzz for Passengers is excellent and there are those predicting 90% positive reviews. Unfortunately, it shares a lot of its target audience with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Granted, it is heavier on the drama and tension and lighter on the action and spectacle, but it is still going to suffer due to the competition.

Sing

Sing
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: SingMovie.com/
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: December 21st, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG for some rude humor and mild peril.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Animal Lead, Talking Animals, Singers, Musicians, Theater, Talent Contest, Ensemble, Money Troubles
Directed By: Garth Jennings
Written By: Garth Jennings
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly
Production Budget: Rumored at $75 million
Box Office Potential: $150 million

Sing is the biggest family film of the month and it is opening the Wednesday before Christmas. That’s great news. Its early reviews are also strong and if they remain this strong, it will be a selling point. It is the latest from Illumination Entertainment and they have an amazing track record at the box office. That said, the film will have to deal with incredible competition and the overall buzz is quiet, even for a family film. Furthermore, early reviews tend to not hold up very well and its Tomatometer Score is only 80% positive at the moment. It wouldn’t be that shocking to see it fall out of the overall positive level. Hopefully that’s not the case.

On a side note, if the film does as well as expected, then kids will be singing songs from the soundtrack for the next few months. Parents be warned.

Why Him?

Why Him?
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: WhyHimMovie.com
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: December 23rd, 2016
MPAA Rating: R for strong language and sexual material throughout.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Dysfunctional Family, In-Laws / Future In-Laws, Romance, Christmas
Directed By: John Hamburg
Written By: John Hamburg, Ian Helfer, Jonah Hill, John Hamburg, Ian Helfer
Starring: James Franco, Bryan Cranston, Zoey Deutch
Production Budget: Estimated at $40 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

When Stephanie returns home, she brings her boyfriend, Laird, with her. Her father, Ned, immediately hates him. Laird wants to propose to Stephanie, but wants to win her family’s blessing first. Ned is determined to prevent that from happening.

I’m not bullish about this film’s chances. R-rated comedies are off their peak at the box office and this film’s buzz isn’t very loud. Furthermore, James Franco’s performance at the box office has been mixed, to be kind. It does have Friday to itself, as most of the wide releases this week are opening on Wednesday, so that could help at the box office. I don’t think it will help enough to become a midlevel hit.

Weekend of December 30th, 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

The weekend after Christmas is one of the best weekends of the year at the box office. It is also the last holiday weekend and there is a ton of competition from massive films released in the past two weeks, as well as Oscar contenders beginning their wide expansion. Because of this, studios rarely risk releasing any wide releases on this week. This is the case this year, so the box office will be a battle between Rogue One and The Force Awakens. There’s almost no chance Rogue One will earn $90.24 million, which is what The Force Awakens earned this weekend last year, so 2016 will end on a losing note. Sort of. This weekend last year was actually the first weekend of 2016, so ... it’s complicated.

This is why we need the Strowbrinian Calendar. In the Strowbrinian Calendar, there are 13 months, each lasting exactly four weeks or 28 days and begin with a New Years Day that doesn’t belong to any month / week. So the end of the year would go Friday December 27th, 2016; Saturday December 28th, 2016; New Years Day, 2017; Sunday January 1st, 2017; Monday January 2nd, 2017; etc. Every four years, you would add a Leap Day after New Years Day, which would also belong to no month / week, unless the year is also divisible by 128, in which case you skip the Leap Day that year. On a side note, the new month would be called Strowbrinia and would come after August and before September. Otherwise, the names and order of the months wouldn’t change.

Filed under: Monthly Preview, Passengers, Assassin’s Creed, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Sing, Nocturnal Animals, La La Land, Incarnate, Collateral Beauty, Why Him?, Miss Sloane, Office Christmas Party, Fences, Jackie, Will Smith, Kate Winslet, Denzel Washington, Amy Adams, Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Jessica Chastain, Marion Cotillard, Bryan Cranston, Viola Davis, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Fassbender, James Franco, David Frankel, Ryan Gosling, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jonah Hill, Carice van Houten, Scarlett Johansson, Keira Knightley, Jennifer Lawrence, Diego Luna, Seth MacFarlane, John Madden, Matthew McConaughey, Ben Mendelsohn, T.J. Miller, Helen Mirren, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Edward Norton, Michael Peña, Chris Pratt, John C. Reilly, Michael Shannon, Emma Stone, Chris Weitz, Reese Witherspoon, Donnie Yen, Brad Peyton, Allan Loeb, Josh Gordon, Will Speck, Gareth Edwards, Damien Chazelle, Felicity Jones, John Hamburg, John Knoll, Jon Lucas, Scott Moore, Jacob Latimore, Jordan Horowitz, Olivia Munn, Adam Cooper, Justin Kurzel, Ronnie Christensen, Morten Tyldum, Jon Spaihts, Zoey Deutch, Tom Ford, Michael Lesslie, Garth Jennings, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bill Collage, Taron Egerton, David Mazouz, Ian Helfer, Justin Malen, Tori Kelly, Jonathan Perera, Laura Solon, August Wilson
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