By David Poland firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday Box Office Estimates by Smaugy
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.