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2017 Preview: December

December 1st, 2017

The Last Jedi

The box office was mostly as expected during November. Granted, Thor: Ragnarok over-performed and Justice League underperformed, but overall there were no real surprises. This means the month started slow, but we got a couple of wins in the end and that bodes well going into the final month of the year. That said, December is a weird month. There are five weekends, but only seven films that I’m sure are opening truly wide. Additionally, five of those seven films are opening Christmas weekend. I’ve never seen a month this lop-sided. There are no real wide releases the first two weeks of the month, so we will likely start slow again, but when The Last Jedi debuts, we should see explosive growth at the box office. It will open with more than any film last December made and that should help 2017 cut into 2016’s lead. 2017 won’t be able to close the gap entirely, but the month could do well enough to cut 2016’s lead to under $250 million. That’s my goal. If that happens, I will be happy.

Weekend of December 1st, 2017

The Shape of Water

This is the weekend after Thanksgiving, which is one of the worst weekends of the year for wide releases. For example, this weekend last year, the widest release was Incarnate, which opened in fewer than 2,000 theaters and opened below the Mendoza Line (earning less than $2,000/theater) by a significant margin. This year, Polaroid was supposed to be the sacrificial lamb, but like all Weinstein Co. films, its fate is unknown. That’s not to say there are no films opening this weekend that are not worth checking out. In fact, many think The Shape of Water will expand truly wide over the course of its run.

Weekend of December 8th, 2017

Just Getting Started

Normally this weekend is the weekend where the box office gets back to normal. However, that’s not the case this week. Just Getting Started is the only film scheduled for a wide release, but its distributor is Broad Green Pictures and their track record at the box office suggests it will open semi-wide and not truly wide. In fact, it likely won’t even be the biggest hit of the weekend. I, Tonya has an Oscar-Qualifying run beginning this weekend and it is widely expected to earn more in total than Just Getting Started will. Meanwhile, this weekend last year, Office Christmas Party was the only wide release of the week. It wasn’t a major hit, but it opened with more than Just Getting Started will likely earn in total.

Just Getting Started

Just Getting Started
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: JustGettingStartedMovie.com
Distributor: Broad Green Pictures
Release Date: December 8th, 2017
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language, suggestive material and brief violence.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Rivals Becoming Friends, Golf, Retirement, FBI, Lawyers, Hitmen, Witness Protection, Retirement Home, Posthumous Release
Directed By: Ron Shelton
Written By: Ron Shelton
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Tommy Lee Jones, Rene Russo
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million

At best, I could see this film becoming a midlevel hit, sort of like Going in Style, if it were being released by a major studio. On the other hand, it is being released by Broad Green Pictures, which has struggled so much during its short run that it has actually downsized and stopped making movies. Their biggest hit so far as been A Walk in the Woods, which does share a lot of its target audience with this movie, so maybe this film will do similarly well at the box office. I wouldn’t bet on it.

Weekend of December 15th, 2017

Star Wars Ep. VIII: The Last Jedi

The box office finally explodes this weekend, as Star Wars Ep. VIII: The Last Jedi debuts. It should make more during its opening weekend than any other December release will make in total. Meanwhile, Ferdinand is playing counter-programming, but as arguably the only family film of the holiday break, it should last long enough to top $100 million with ease. (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a PG-13 action film, while the the first Jumanji was a PG family film. I’m sure many families will go to this movie, on the other hand, but it is not a true family film.) This weekend last year, Rogue One debuted with more than $155 million. Since The Last Jedi is part of the main story and not a one-off prequel, it should perform better at the box office, even if it is unlikely to match The Force Awakens.

Ferdinand

Ferdinand
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: FoxMovies.com/Movies/Ferdinand
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: December 15th, 2017
MPAA Rating: PG for rude humor, action and some thematic elements.
Source: Based on Fiction Book/Short Story
Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Animal Lead, Talking Animals, Bullfighting, Remake
Directed By: Carlos Saldanha
Written By: Jordan Roberts, Munro Leaf
Starring: John Cena, Kate McKinnon
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $90 million to $110 million
Box Office Potential: $150 million

Ferdinand is one of those movies that is not quite a remake, but I think a lot of people will treat it as such. It is based on a book, which was previously turned into a short cartoon in 1938 by Disney. In fact, Ferdinand the Bull won the Oscar for Best Animated Short the year it came out. A lot of people remember that cartoon and I think that will help this film’s box office chances. That said, Blue Sky Studios hasn’t had a great track record recently. Their more recent film bombed at the box office, while The Peanuts Movie was the first film of theirs to wow critics in nearly a decade. That said, it is still a family film opening less than two weeks before Christmas, so if it doesn’t earn at least $100 million domestically, I would be shocked. It has a slim chance to become the first film from the studio to hit $200 million domestically.

Star Wars Ep. VIII: The Last Jedi

Star Wars Ep. VIII: The Last Jedi
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: https://www.starwars.com/the-last-jedi/
Distributor: Walt Disney
Release Date: December 15th, 2017
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Action
Keywords: Space Opera, Robot, Good vs. Evil, Outer Space, Dysfunctional Family
Directed By: Rian Johnson
Written By: Rian Johnson
Starring: Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $250 million
Box Office Potential: $750 million

It’s a Star Wars movie. I don’t know what more I need to say about the film’s box office chances. The film will finish somewhere between The Force Awakens and Rogue One at the box office, at least domestically.

There have been a number of films released this year that were the latest installment in long-running franchises, which missed expectations domestically, only to become monster hits internationally. These include The Fate of the Furious, Despicable Me 3, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. All three films missed expectations domestically, but all three were massive hits internationally and broke even as a result. I suspect Star Wars Ep. VIII: The Last Jedi will earn about 20% less than The Force Awakens did domestically, but earn about 20% more than that film did internationally.

Weekend of December 22nd, 2017

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

We finally get to Christmas weekend, which is one of the best weekends of the year at the box office. This year, it is practically a 13-day weekend from December 20th to January 1st. There are five films opening wide hoping to take advantage of the holidays, but not all of them are going to be able to. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Pitch Perfect 3 both have enough buzz that they should have no trouble getting to $100 million. The Greatest Showman and Downsizing have a shot at $100 million, if they can become Awards Season contenders. Meanwhile, Father Figures looks like it will get lost in the crowd. This weekend last year, Sing was the only big hit earning $270 million domestically, while Passengers hit $100 million, barely. The other two films really struggled. This year, we won’t be as strong on top, but the combined box office numbers should help 2017 end on a winning note.

Downsizing

Downsizing
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: DownsizingMovie.com
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: December 22nd, 2017
MPAA Rating:
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Tiny Worlds, Human Experimentation, Therapists / Therapy, Therapist, Relationships Gone Wrong
Directed By: Alexander Payne
Written By: Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
Starring: Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $30 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

Alexander Payne has a great track record with critics and several of his past films earning major Awards Season nominations. This film’s reviews are not nearly as positive and the film is also proving to be more than a little divisive with some critics calling the movie a complete disaster. Even if we ignore the most negative voices, the average review just isn’t positive enough for Awards Season buzz and the competition is too strong for this film to thrive at the box office without that help. I don’t think it will bomb, but I don’t think it will be anything more than a midlevel hit.

Father Figures

Bastards
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: WarnerBros.com/Father-Figures
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: December 22nd, 2017
MPAA Rating: R for language and sexual references throughout.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Twins, Dysfunctional Family, Faked Death, Road Trip
Directed By: Larry Sher
Written By: Justin Malen
Starring: Ed Helms, Owen Wilson
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million

Ed Helms and Owen Wilson play fraternal twins who learn their father didn’t die when they were young, as their mother had previously told them. However, she doesn’t know who their father is. The pair take a road trip to visit the various candidates to find their real father.

Several years ago, this film could have been a major hit, but R-Rated comedies have fallen off their peak and neither of the two lead actors are major box office draws at the moment. Add in the intense competition and this film will likely fail to find an audience. On the other hand, it is Christmas, so the film’s legs should be really long and it won’t bomb completely. Furthermore, it likely didn’t cost a lot to make, so it could break even sometime on the home market.

The Greatest Showman

The Greatest Showman
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: FoxMovies.com/Movies/The-Greatest-Showman
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: December 20th, 2017
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements including a brawl.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Genre: Musical
Keywords: Romance, Biography, Circus, Singers, Fired, Money Troubles
Directed By: Michael Gracey
Written By: Michael Arndt, Jenny Bicks
Starring: Hugh Jackman
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $60 million to $80 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million

A musical biopic of P.T. Barnum, as played by Hugh Jackman. Musicals haven’t been a reliable box office draw for about 50 years, so there’s a chance this film will open with less than $10 million during its opening weekend and never really find an audience in theaters. It could also earn great reviews, pick up some Golden Globe nominations, and hit $100 million during its domestic box office run. I really want this higher end to be more likely, but the buzz surrounding this film it just too quiet for me to be too excited.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: SonyPictures.com/Movies/JumanjiWelcomeToTheJungle
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Release Date: December 20th, 2017
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for adventure action, suggestive content and some language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Alternate Reality Game, False Identity, Same Role, Multiple Actors, Explorer, Academics
Directed By: Jake Kasdan
Written By: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner, Chris Van Allsburg
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $100 to $125 million
Box Office Potential: $150 million

Jumanji came out more than 20 years ago and earned $100 million domestically, back when $100 million was a real challenge to get to. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle should have an easy time getting to that milestone. The film is earning the loudest buzz of all of the Christmas week releases; granted, a lot of that early buzz was, “Why are you remaking Jumanji?!”, but the trailers have helped sell most of its target audience people on the film. Additionally, all four members of the main case have had $100 million hits in their careers. In fact, Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart co-starred in Central Intelligence, which earned more than $125 million last year, so not only do they have proven box office drawing power, but they have proven chemistry together.

Pitch Perfect 3

Pitch Perfect 3
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: PitchPerfectMovie.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: December 22nd, 2017
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language and some action.
Source: Based on Factual Book/Article
Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Musicians, Singers, Romance, Tournament, Ensemble
Directed By: Trish Sie
Written By: Kay Cannon, Mike White, Dana Fox
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $30 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $125 million

I don’t think Pitch Perfect 3 will match Pitch Perfect 2 at the box office, as comedies rarely top their predecessor. Granted, Pitch Perfect 2 was one of those rare exceptions, but asking a comedy franchise to grow at the box office two installments in a row is asking too much. On the positive side, this film should have the biggest opening weekend of any film debuting this week, in part because the only real competition, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, opens on a Wednesday, which will lower that film’s three-day weekend total. Additionally, while the film likely won’t be the biggest hit of this week, its production budget it very likely less than half the cost of making Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, so it will very likely be a lot more profitable.

Weekend of December 29th, 2017

Star Wars Ep. VIII: The Last Jedi

Like most years, there is no new wide releases the weekend after Christmas. This means The Last Jedi will dominate the box office for the third weekend in a row, while films like Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Pitch Perfect 3, as well as some Awards Season contenders, will be looking to thrive as counter-programming. Meanwhile, this weekend last year, Rogue and Sing were a strong one-two punch, while there were a total of six films that earned $10 million or more during the weekend. I really think 2017 will top that allowing the year to end on a strong note.

Filed under: Monthly Preview, The Greatest Showman, Downsizing, Ferdinand, Star Wars Ep. VIII: The Last Jedi, Pitch Perfect 3, Father Figures, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Just Getting Started, I, Tonya, The Shape of Water, Star Wars, Matt Damon, Morgan Freeman, Jack Black, John Cena, Glenn Close, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Kevin Hart, Ed Helms, Oscar Isaac, Hugh Jackman, Dwayne Johnson, Tommy Lee Jones, Anna Kendrick, Alexander Payne, Rene Russo, Carlos Saldanha, Ron Shelton, Brittany Snow, Mike White, Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson, Dana Fox, Michael Arndt, Jim Taylor, Jake Kasdan, John Boyega, Anna Camp, Adam Driver, Rebel Wilson, Chris Van Allsburg, Rian Johnson, Kay Cannon, Jordan Roberts, Scott Rosenberg, Jenny Bicks, Karen Gillan, Jeff Pinkner, Trish Sie, Daisy Ridley, Kate McKinnon, Michael Gracey, Larry Sher, Justin Malen, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Munro Leaf
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