Hollywood just can’t catch much of a break right now. Early estimates for Wednesday’s openers are in, and while a couple of them are certainly respectable, one has a lot of work to do ahead of it while the rest of the market continues to suffer greatly during this crucial time of year for the movie industry.
The bright spot so far: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol expanded from its IMAX-exclusive sneaks yesterday and in doing so grabbed the #1 spot for Wednesday with $8.9 million from 3,448 theaters (including $2 million from Tuesday night previews). That’s a relatively strong start for the film in its conventional run, and thanks to excellent reviews and word of mouth thus far its arguably the movie every other one is now chasing for the holiday/winter crown. With its Wednesday start, look for a small bump today followed by a Friday that might come close to $10 million. The three-day weekend might be able to hit $30 million.
David Fincher’s adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo had a fine start yesterday as well, grossing $5.1 million from 2,914 locations (including Tuesday night previews). The nature of the film as an adaptation of a popular book from a semi-popular director makes it a contender for some minor front-loading, particularly because of the release timing. With Christmas just a few days away, this isn’t the type of film that is likely to see a lot of benefit from the typically family-driven crowds at multiplexes. Still, even with a (-15%) and (-43%) drops on Thursday and Saturday respectively, its probably headed toward $14-15 million for the three-day weekend and from there could enjoy healthy legs via the adult audience looking for a less action-driven thriller over their holiday vacation.
The Adventures of Tintin got off to a very slow start, banking a small $2.3 million on Wednesday. Given the family appeal of the film, all is not yet lost and the chance for legs still exist. The outlook isn’t promising, though, and we can partly blame a horrid domestic marketing campaign for that. The high-profile collaboration between Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson seems to have relied on its Internet buzz from the film community alone to generate awareness, a tactic which has proven to utterly fail. Its on track to pull about $9.1 million this weekend should it follow the pattern laid out by Cheaper By the Dozen 2 back in 2005 when Christmas fell on the same day on the calendar.
Next up for release on Friday is We Bought A Zoo, the latest from director Cameron Crowe. Being billed as the true “feel good” family film of the holidays, Zoo recalls to mind the surprise success of Marley & Me back in 2008. That film opened on Christmas Day (a Thursday that year) to the tune of $14.4 million. While Zoo might not quite reach that height, it does have the potential to crack $10 million for the three-day weekend. If any family film is going to break out this season though, I’m betting Zoo is the one.
Meanwhile, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows looks to pull in close to $19 million for the three-day weekend. This would put its ten-day tally just shy of $80 million, a figure which the first Holmes managed to surpass in half the time (five days). Being overshadowed by the better-received Ghost Protocol certainly isn’t helping matters for the Downey, Jr. sequel.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked looks to be on target for a second weekend of approximately $13 million. Similar to Holmes 2, this one is also trailing far behind that of its predecessor which banked $133 million in its first ten days (albeit, with a Christmas Day release). As it currently sits around $33 million through Wednesday, Chipwrecked may struggle to eclipse $50 million in the same time frame.
Two more films will call Christmas Day their opening day. First up is Steven Spielberg’s other film this holiday season, War Horse. The film has received a much stronger push than Tintin — which is odd, considering Horse needs to make exponentially less money to be considered a financial success — while also being the center of a fair amount of awards buzz. Being a family-friendly film does have its advantages, though the lack of any recognizable stars and subject matter (which is arguably difficult to sell to kids and teens) does pose a bit of a hindrance in the potential for a big hit. I’m looking for an opening day close to $4 million.
Lastly, we have The Darkest Hour — a PG-13 sci-fi thriller that has left many of us scratching our heads and asking, “Why, Hollywood?” Opening in 2,200 theaters on Christmas Day, this low profile release from Summit Entertainment will likely be yet another victim of a market that is tired of paying for sub-par cliched flicks. Still, credit the studio for showing some cojones — albeit, perhaps out of naivety — by thinking this could compete with films like Ghost Protocol and Sherlock Holmes 2. I’m expecting a soft opening day around $1.5 million.
In conclusion, get ready for another depressed weekend. The top 10 might crack $100 million for the weekend, but considering that falls behind the $125 million (adjusted for inflation) same weekend in 2005 (a year that was plagued by a slump of its own), its not much to get excited about.
The perpetual limbo of the state of the American economy is undoubtedly having an effect on the money that audiences are willing to shell out for movies carrying higher ticket prices these days, but there is comfort to be found in the fact that several of these new releases boast strong reviews and/or word of mouth already. Nevertheless, even those two elements haven’t proven to help things as much as we might normally expect. In turn, this year’s holiday/early winter box office market is making 2010′s already slump-riddled season look a bit brighter.
3-Day Weekend Projections (Dec. 23 – 25, 2011)
1. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol – $28.5 million (+281.6%) (REVISED w/ Wed. actual)
2. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – $18.6 million (-53.1%)
3. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – $14.5 million (NEW) (REVISED w/ Wed. actual)
4. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked – $13.1 million (-43.6%)
5. We Bought A Zoo – $11 million (NEW)
6. The Adventures of Tintin – $9.1 million (NEW)
7. War Horse – $4 million (NEW; Sunday only)
8. The Darkest Hour – $1.5 million (NEW; Sunday only)