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David Poland

By David Poland

Friday Box Office Estimates by Smaugy

Friday Estimates 2013-12-14 at 8.58.06 AM

What the HELL were Lionsgate and Tyler Perry thinking? A Madea Christmas is the 6th Madea movie. 5 releases… 5 hits. February, February, April, April, June. So when do you release #6? December. Huh?

Now, of course, it is a Christmas movie. And Black Nativity opened over Thanksgiving, so naturally, Tyler Perry would avoid… (record scratch) You’re Tyler f-ing Perry. You resurrected commercial black cinema on that back of a giant drag granny. You are releasing a movie that should… I say, should… be a perennial Christmas movie for your audience. And you decide to release it on the second weekend of December?

There have been 16 Christmas-themed movies in movie history that have grossed over $50 million domestic (as, coincidentally, all the Madea movie have). How many of them were released in December? ZERO.

Denzel Washington and a then-hot Whitney Houston couldn’t get $50m out of The Preacher’s Wife off of a December release. The Nativity Story just barely got into December (12/1), but not up to $38 million domestic. Jack Frost didn’t quite get to $35 million. The Muppets worst showing in the last 25 years was A Muppets Christmas Carol, opened 12/11. And those are the 4 BEST grossers with Christmas themes opening in December.

Now, Tyler Perry may well become the king of Christmas movies opening in December. The bar is at $48.3 million. And the season is on his side for a leggier than normal run. But just barely. And just a mediocre result for a Madea movie.

As noted above, making a Christmas perennial is something dreamed of by artists everywhere (mostly musical ones). But this was such a unique opportunity and this date choice was just awful and completely predictable.

Speaking of early dates, this is the 6th Peter Jackson opening in December and the earliest (if only by a day in 2 cases). But The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has a bit of an audience built in to the release. The must-see crowd will come to it… it doesn’t need to go looking for them (like a bunch of frickin’ hobbits).

Meanwhile, Smaug is the classic trip wire for fresh-faced (or old faced/newly placed) box office analysts. On Friday alone, Smaug is the 22nd best opening weekend in the history of the month of December. How can that be? Well, December is different. Always has been. Avatar opened to a not-December-record-breaking $77 million before becoming the highest grosser in domestic and worldwide history by a billion dollar margin.

So now we have negative headlines about the third best opening day in the history of December, $6.5m off the record for the day, but still suggesting the 2nd highest opening in the history of movie Decembers.

All I can say is, “Calm the f*** down.”

Frozen looks like it will have little trouble becoming the #1 film from Walt Disney Animation Studios, Disney’s in-house animation division under the supervision of John Lasseter for 7/8 years now. It will hit about $160 million this weekend, putting it a good $30m ahead of where Tangled, the current top WDAS film, was at about the same time in its run, as well as having a better Weekend 3 gross. The real challenge for Frozen comes internationally, where Tangled did an astounding $390 million. But we won’t know about that for a few months, as these animated films are not rolled out worldwide at this time of year, accelerating in January and February.

Will The Hunger Games: Mockingjay 1 be moved to March 2015 by Summitsgate? The next few weeks should tell. Catching Fire is running a bit slower than the first THG at this point in the run, but is still ahead by $25m or so domestically. If that trend continues – and there was about $90m domestic in the THG tank at this point – and Catching Fire ends up undergrossing THG domestically, you could see a flip on release dates.

Of course, the punchline is that Catching Fire will pass the total worldwide gross of THG this weekend. And Summit had the experience with the Twilight series of moving the domestic release to the more lucrative summer slot and seeing the foreign – where the big money is – drop a bit. Then again, there was a much bigger domestic leap with movie 2 for Twilight than we’re seeing here with THG. So… time will tell…

On the same world beat, Thor 2 will end about 10% higher domestically than the first… and about 50% higher worldwide.

Love American Hustle, but $105k or so on 6 screens for a movie being sold as a wide release is not a major box office event. It’s not nothing… but it ain’t anything. The real magic about American Hustle is that will all the firepower on top of the hood, it’s a pretty inexpensive movie. And it should do some killer numbers overseas, where the word “American” is not a big seller, but the cast and themes should make it a big hit.

Saving Mr. Banks and $22k per-screen on 15 is not as impressive and will be unfairly compared all weekend. Banks has become the media’s favorite target lately for some reason. Overkill. Would they rather have Hustle’s numbers? Absolutely. Are Hustle’s numbers more encouraging? Absolutely. But it is really easy to overstate the significance of exclusive release numbers. I recall just a year ago when a movie opened to $27k per on 16 and was written off by some people. The movie was, ironically, David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, which went on to gross $132m domestic and $236m worldwide. And that was without Batman or Lois Lane’s help.

32 Responses to “Friday Box Office Estimates by Smaugy”

  1. movieman says:

    Not a great limited bow for “Mr. Banks,” but it’s not really an arthouse kind of film, is it?
    Very curious to see how it plays–and to whom–through the holidays and beyond.
    Despite the Disney imprimatur, kids will be bored and confused.
    And no self-respecting teenager will go anywhere near it.
    Can a movie become a hit if its core (only?) demographic is Baby Boomer “Mary Poppins” nostalgists?

  2. movieman says:

    I think Perry knows that “Madea Christmas” dvds will become stocking stuffers for years to come.
    Why sweat the theatrical?

  3. pj says:

    105k PTA would be the 2nd highest PTA of the year(only bettered by 3D Frozen)….unlikely to be matched by anything else coming out (Sorry Her and August). It’s almost twice as much as presumed frontrunner 12 Years a Slave.

    And why can’t you compare Banks and Hustle? They were both trying to do the same thing: build up hype with excellent PTA numbers before wide release and Banks failed to do so. And Comparing Banks to SLP is laughable at best. Banks doesn’t have the reviews, the nominations, or the more importantly the word of mouth to keep the business going till march.

  4. Jack1137 says:

    Thanks for the advice movieman now i know what to get you next Christmas. ; )

  5. bulldog68 says:

    Loved American Hustle. Good performances all around. One slip up though, which is not spoiler territory in the least. In one scene Cooper’s character calls his boss, played by Louis CK, and obviously he’s calling on a land line to another land line, but yet he asks, “Where are you?”

    That’s a question for the cellphone age methinks.

  6. Joe Leydon says:

    OK, there is no way I can say this without sounding heartless and crass, but: I wonder how much better Hours might have done had Paul Walker died 3 or 4 weeks before he did, and there would have been more time to do more advertising and book more theaters?

  7. movieman says:

    Speaking of slip-ups, I’m pretty sure Disney hadn’t released a line of Winnie the Pooh merchandise (including stuffed Poohs) by 1961 when “Mr. Banks” is set.
    The Disney Corp. bought merchandising rights from the Milne estate in ’61 (I looked it up). But I don’t think they did much about it (e.g., manufacture stuffed Pooh bears like the one adorning P.L. Travers’ Beverly Hills Hotel suite in the movie) until releasing their first Pooh short in early ’66.
    Having grown up on Disney in the ’60s (their movies, the Sunday night TV show, etc.), I don’t seem to recall a whole lot of stuffed Disney characters in department stores back then. Let alone a Pooh bear five years before the release of his first animated short.

  8. EtGuild2 says:

    The MADEA number sure is suprising to me…nice analysis DP.

    Re: HUNGER GAMES, that’s kind of a lose-lose proposition, as the competition is worse next year at this time, but March isn’t a cakewalk either with the MADAGASCAR spin-off. It just seems bizarre to worry either way–the first two installments have already almost matched the first three TWILIGHTS. Could it be that there’s a ceiling for 2D young-adult films?

    @JOE we’ll get to indulge our morbid curiosity on Walker with the DISTRICT B13 remake.

  9. Chucky says:

    The motion picture industry has become one gigantic money grab. Combine that with a snowstorm stretching from St. Louis to Boston and beyond. Result: the latest Season of Stealin’ is faltering. Sweet!

  10. Geoff says:

    Dave, I hate to almost sound racially ignorant here but I think the answer to your Madea conundrum is……Best Man Holiday headed to over $80 million domestic from a mid-November opening, also backed by a major studio. That AND you had Black Nativity coming out Thanksgiving weekend……can you imagine the negative headlines that would have sprouted about with complaints that THREE holiday-themed movies targeting African Americans just HAD to be released within three weeks of each other PLUS the roll-out for Mandela and 12 Years a Slave at the same time??? And you can bet that Tyler Perry would have gotten much of the brunt… can he try to monopolize the audience while “quality” films targeted towards them are coming out at the same time? Bottom line is that Lionsgate had a no-win situation here…..Tyler Perry is already too easy of a target and they already got burned by betting the Alex Cross-relaunch on him last year.

    And keeping the Hunger Games franchise in November makes absolute perfect sense…..they’ll still find their way towards $400 million domestic and MAYBE they can even nudge their way towards some Oscar buzz with the last installment in 2015, which I’ll bet will seem even more high quality coming out a few weeks before JJ Abrams brings back Star Wars.

  11. LexG says:

    American Hustle has sold out every show today at the Arclight in Hollywood… Hordes of people being turned away, and usually Saturday mornings and afternoons there are fairly scarce until 4 or 5pm. That’s anecdotal, of course, but place was a fucking madhouse, pretty much all for that one movie. I was rollin’ solo and cannot STAND being assigned-seated next to strangers, so I exchanged for another movie, but couldn’t believe Hustle was such a hot ticket.

  12. movieman says:

    I think “Hustle” will do just fine as it enters nat’l release next weekend.
    Maybe not as well as “SLP” did last year, but very, very nicely just the same. (The flurry of Oscar nominations coming its way won’t hurt.)
    I’m more concerned about “WOWS.”
    While Leo is a fairly dependable b.o. draw (and all of his previous collaborations w/ Scorsese are among the biggest hits of his career), I’m not surely whether it’s the movie mainstream auds are expecting.
    Sure, the first half is a whirligig maelstrom of “Good Fellas”-ish fun, but the second half evolves into a dual homage to Italian arthouse directors like Paolo Sorrentino and American indie god John Cassavetes.
    Plus, it’s three hours long and, unlike the schemers, dreamers and beautiful losers of “American Hustle,” none of the characters are, y’know, “likable.”
    Love that it’s as artfully/purposefully alienating as “The King of Comedy.” I just hope it doesn’t take 30 years before receiving its due.

  13. EtGuild2 says:

    I adored “WOWS,” and I think the Leo/Scorsese combo will open with a bang, but not sure how it will hold up. Then again, I wasn’t sure “Shutter Island” was audience friendly, though WOWS is arguably more challenging. It’s unbelievably ambitious, trying to hook the audience in for a ride that, as you said movieman, becomes decidedly more challenging, almost impressionistic in its messiness and message later on. Marty seems unchained since winning the Oscar. This three-film stretch with SI and “Hugo” is among the most vital, daring period of his career, and he’s still pushing hard with “Silence,” his next feature.

  14. movieman says:

    But we’re not mainstream auds, Et.
    Just not sure what average moviegoers will make of “WOWS,” particularly the second half of the film.
    Unkind WOM could sink it once Festivus is over.
    I also think it’s problematic opening five days after “AH”‘s nat’l release.
    It might have made more sense to gone the platform route w/ a wide release on, say, January 17th. (Their Jack Ryan movie could have moved again. If nothing else, Paramount’s release slate of late has been rather, er, fluid.)

  15. EtGuild2 says:

    AH still seems like a question mark to me though. Commercial audiences haven’t shown an appetite for high-brow crime related dark comedies in recent years (The Informant!, Burn After Reading, In Bruges). The reviews/cast will probably lock up $50 million alone, but hard to know after that. For WOWS, is there still a populist demand for a “hang the bankers high” movie ? “Wall Street 2″, bad buzz, questionable casting and bad/delayed release date included, still broke $50 million.

    My guess is, financially, “Walking With Dinosaurs,” “Saving Mr. Banks” and of course “47 Ronin” are all in much worse shape than either this holiday season. (“Walter Mitty’s” trailer has a lot of people fooled I think, though that’s anecdotal).

  16. LexG says:

    Joe, if you check back in… Would HOURS be kind of upsetting or depressing to watch this soon? Was a Walker fan and want to see it, and generally if I don’t see things in theaters, I never end up seeing them (since I don’t have Netflix and there are no more Blockbusters)…. but less than 2 weeks later seems a little uncomfortable; Enough Said, for example, was a truly melancholy viewing experience.

    It seems to have one of those “one week only in random theaters then gone” releases. I know the director was happy to keep it on the schedule as a way of honoring Walker, and that’s a very nice thought… But not even 12 days later, it sounds harrowing to watch.

  17. LexG says:

    I think it was Movieman himself, though, who had the VERY GOOD, UNDERRATED point that with few rare exceptions, pretty much everything makes money at Christmas. Last year I was blowharding how THIS IS 40 was in trouble, it was gonna tank, no one would go, and Movieman was all, “Eh, anything released this week makes way more money than it otherwise would.” And he was right. At the very least, 47 RONIN looks “cool” enough, and has a star people actually like (and who we’re not burnt out over) in Keanu… Obviously it’s so prohibitively expensive (and comes pre-mocked with critical knives sharpened because of it), but the trailers seem to play OK with action movie crowds. As always, I think there’s way too many movies at once, but I doubt it’ll be a full-on RIPD-level miss.

  18. Triple Option says:

    RE: American Hustle phone call, it didn’t bother me at the time. I can’t recall the full context of that scene. In my head I may have cut him a break because as a field agent he’s going to be calling in from parts unknown all the time. I’d assume they’d normally use the intercom if in the same office bldg and since that wasn’t the way they communicated, CK had to wonder or if Cooper was supposed to/expected to be someplace that he wasn’t..?

    One thing I will say about phone calls in the movie that I thought was a great touch was two people on the line in the house – brilliant! I tried watching the Goldbergs earlier this year and couldn’t make it through a second episode because they kept making obvious point outs to items of that era but couldn’t quite relive things as they were.

    re: Lex assigned seating, That was prolly my first big turnoff to the Archlight. I don’t know where I want to sit until I get inside and see what I’m up against. If I see 4 seats blocked out in a row, I’m likely to avoid it because I don’t want texting and talking by frat boys or cheerleaders ruining my movie. Now, if I go in and see four women in their late 50s I’m thinking perfect, they won’t blow up their cellies or dangle their feet on the backs of the row of chairs in front of them.

    Now, I’ve kinda come to accept the assigned seats. Some places i go have them some don’t. The plus side is I can wait until the trailers start before I go in and grab my seat and thus avoid sensory invasion on the incessantly running advertisements. I’m pretty sure the same protocol was followed on detainees in Abu Ghairb to get them roll over on their fellow troop locations.

    Could the answer also be Medea fatigue? The initial Best Man was decent film so I could see it doing well. Kinda surprised that it’d take this long to do a sequel. I mean I know why that could happen but I thought it was odd when I first heard it was coming out. I actually think the marketplace would be large enough to support Best Man Holiday and 12 Years in the same w/e. I don’t know how much patronage of the Medea films, especially opening w/e isn’t out of fear of a poor showing meaning an even greater dearth of Black films?? It’s anecdotal, but I’ve definitely heard people talk about getting out to represent. The Bulter, 42, Fruitville Stn, 12 Years and now Medea Christmas, “uh, we’re good, thanks.”

  19. Lane Myers says:

    What movie are multi-generation families going to see together over the holidays? R-Rated AH? WOWS? Anchorman? Ronin? Unlikely. Maybe Mitty. Banks looks like the only movie my mom, my wife, and my teenage daughter can all go to. Reviews have been solid, so I’m guessing I’ll be fine with it. I could be wrong — has anyone here seen it yet? DP?

  20. Nick Rogers says:

    Lane: I think Mitty is the default choice for that audience, as I suspect the Banks audience will skew a bit older. I’ve seen both and certainly have my preference, although neither is bad.

  21. LexG says:


    “I don’t know where I want to sit until I get inside and see what I’m up against.” Yup, that’s my biggest thing with assigned seating. It seems like 99% of people love it, at least per Yelp… But 99% of people go to movies in groups or on dates once in a blue moon. Other than the “ducking in at the trailers” instead of getting there a half-hour early benefit you rightly discuss, there isn’t much upside to reserved seating for the matinee lone wolf whose preference is to sit as far as humanly fucking possible from any other person. There’s also that weird thing where Arclight, for example, tends to place people huddled together, so there could be 11 people at a matinee of Delivery Man, and they’ll assign, or some douche will pick, a seat right near you when there’s a whole theater to spread out in. I always feel like a jerk for getting up and moving over at least a handful of seats, but experience has taught me it’s the safe bet.

  22. Nick Rogers says:

    Lex: I think Grudge Match skews older, too. If nothing else, Of Monsters and Men & Arcade Fire music in the trailers and TV spots will make teens think they might enjoy Mitty.

  23. Joe Leydon says:

    LexG: At the risk of spoiling — the ending is sufficiently satisfying for the movie not to be a downer. The movie will make you sad only in the sense that you realize that, career-wise, Paul Walker wanted to do other things, the movie shows was he was capable of doing other things — but now he won’t. As I’ve said before: There are few things in life more tragic than a promise forever unfulfilled.

  24. Joe Leydon says:

    And by the way, LexG: When you do see American Hustle, you’ll note that Amy Adams reveals her bare feet a lot.

  25. LexG says:

    But it’s Amy Adams, the worst actress alive.

  26. movieman says:

    The one holiday release that seems positively doomed–and therefore immune to the traditional Xmas bounce accorded even the most marginal-sounding releases–is “Believe.”
    Who the hell is going to see that thing?
    Isn’t Justin Bieber pretty much over at this point?
    A Miley Cyrus concert flick could have made some (minor) waves dropping on Xmas Day, but Bieber? Do even tweener girls give two shits anymore?
    It’ll be lucky to post the numbers that Cirque du Soleil thing did last December.

  27. EtGuild2 says:

    Speaking of morbidity, it’s interesting that Weinstein is holding MANDELA at 4 theatres instead of jumping on the expansion in the wake of recent events.

  28. movieman says:

    Aren’t they planning to go “‘Philomena’ wide-ish” w/ “Madela” on Xmas Day?
    I know that it’s opening here on the 25th.

  29. movieman says:

    Wasn’t that the reason behind Weinstein moving “Osage”‘s “wider-than-a-platform” Xmas Day release to January 10th?
    I thought so anyway.

  30. EtGuild2 says:

    Yup, they’re using the “Silver Lingings” playbook so to speak. It’s just interesting that they stuck with it light of recent events.

  31. jesse says:

    I don’t think it was such a dumb move for the Madea Christ movie to come out on 12/13. There were the two other Christmas movies aimed at African-American audiences taking up November dates. Madea movies and Perry movies in general have always been extremely frontloaded, so the usual Christmas-movie stumbling blocks (that is, a drop in interest circa 12/26) was probably not much of a concern here. Madea movies tend to make something like 70%+ on the first two weekends, so 12/13 + 12/20 plus some Christmas week business doesn’t make this any stupider than putting out one of these in the spring, on the face of it. All that was missing here was the $25 million+ opening weekend. But it will probably also have better legs than the typical Madea movie, so doesn’t it more or less even out? Even if it’s the first one not to clear $50 million, is a $43-million-grossing Tyler Perry movie going to break the bank for him, especially with the DVDs it’ll sell next Christmas?

    In retrospect, Thanksgiving weekend would have made a lot of sense; Madea would have crushed Black Nativity, which did no business anyway… but I understand how getting some space in between those movies probably seemed like a smart idea at the time.

    Also, what’s with calling Tangled and Frozen the highest and potentially highest in-house Disney grossers? Are we only counting WDFA since the inception of that Steamboat Willy logo and just ignoring Aladdin and The Lion King? Aren’t those numbers 2 and 1, respectively??

    And good god, Lex… of all the legit-hammy actresses out there, you focus on Adams, who can be reasonably subtle and quite rangey-y, and is also SMOKING HOT in every scene of American Hustle?

  32. cadavra says:

    BANKS will play swell across the board except for the Sandler/Rogen crowd and the blow-shit-up types. The WOM will overcome the presumed “ick” factor. And GRUDGE MATCH will tap into that PARENTAL GUIDANCE audience looking for simple, goofy fun with two long-time stars sending up their iconic roles, plus Kevin Hart will bring in some urban folks. And both films were made for a price, so they’ll be fine.

    ETA: Just now saw a spot for the LONE RANGER DVD. They’re selling it hard-action, with only one long shot of the heroes and no mention of Depp’s name. NOW they do this!

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