Here’s your 3-day box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – $ 73.6 million
2. Frozen – $ 22.1 million
3. Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas – $ 16.0 million
4. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – $ 13.1 million
5. Thor: The Dark World – $ 2.7 million
6. Out of the Furnace – $ 2.3 million
7. Delivery Man – $ 1.87 million
8. Philomena – $ 1.75 million
9. The Book Thief – $ 1.67 million
10. Homefront – $ 1.63 million
The Big Stories
That faint sound you hear in the background may be the dwarves of Middle Earth sadly singing their song of Desolation. At least that is the story making the rounds about this week’s leader at the box office. Let’s be honest for a second and admit that The Hobbit is not The Lord of the Rings. It’s like comparing Narnia to Harry Potter. Or maybe even better, the Star Wars prequels to the original trilogy. Oops, that’s going to hit a nerve. A simple story about a journey to steal back some gold from a dragon got stretched from 300 pages to nearly nine hours and it’s made the “walking” gags of Fellowship and Two Towers look petty. However real fans feel about the latest Tolkien stretch, it’s easy to see the decline in box office and write that they have woken up to the money grab. But if you look further, it really is no big deal.
The Desolation of Doubters
An Unexpected Journey opened to $ 84.6 million on the same weekend last year. So a decline of $ 11 million was sure to raise some eyebrows. Let’s look at the bigger picture though. That $ 84.6 million was the biggest December opening of all-time. Back in 2003, The Return of the King‘s $ 72.6 million was tops in the final month. Neither Fellowship or Two Towers reached those heights and yet all four films are amongst the top ten December openers ever. The Desolation of Smaug will push its way into the top five but $ 300 million is the number everyone will be focused on.
Of the 19 films that have opened between $ 70-80 million in history, only five of them hit the $ 300 million mark (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Avatar, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Transformers & Finding Nemo.) An arbitrary statistic when nearly as many films (3) reached those heights in-between $ 60-70 million (including The Two Towers). Only six movies have ever opened in December and reached $ 300 million. Four of them are Tolkien. Two of them are Cameron. That’s a lot to live up to for Smaug. But Unexpected Journey took over two months to reach $ 300 million. Day 67 was its happy day and it was just hanging on in the weekly Top Ten over President’s Day weekend. Sure it’s going to get beaten handily by Anchorman 2 next weekend, but if it drops less than 56% then Tolkien fans can rest a bit easier that the universe is starting to get the film back on track. Anything less than $ 250 million might be a letdown here in the states. But the real money is going to be made overseas anyway. The last two Tolkien entries did over a billion dollars worldwide. Anything less than the $ 871.5 million of Fellowship and the fans may have officially spoken. But who cares?
The Desolation of Tyler Perry
It would have made me happy if A Madea Christmas had opened to over $ 30 million. That would have put the film closer on pace to the $ 100 million I’ve been saying its possible for Tyler Perry’s latest holiday-themed drag show to make. That would have made me look good professionally. But it makes me so much happier to see it be one of the weakest openings of his career. Yes, world, there apparently is a Santa Claus. And no matter what color Megyn Kelly wants Jolly St. Nick to be, he has surely saved us from the knowledge this holiday that Tyler Perry is again laughing all the way to the bank.
Madea Goes to Jail ($ 41.0), Madea’s Family Reunion ($ 30.0), Madea’s Witness Protection ($ 25.3), Madea’s Big Happy Family ($ 25.0), I Can Do Bad All by Myself ($ 23.4), Meet the Browns ($ 20.0)
Those are all the movies where Tyler put on the dress. Not one of them open to under $ 20 million. Not one of them with that hypocritical ear sore, Madea, in the title to open under $ 25. Excuse me while I kiss the sky seeing that A Madea Christmas only did $ 16 million. That’s barely half of what The Best Man Holiday opened to last month. Only Good Deeds & Daddy’s Little Girls (Perry’s third film and only second as a “director”) opened to less than A Madea Christmas. Since Perry’s films cost about a buck o’four, just a cent less than true freedom (co-star Larry the Cable Guy might back that up)
Other than grabbing as much cash as possible, the only true motive for the film’s existence is to increase the suicide rate amongst film critics this holiday season. (Unless you’re Owen Gleiberman.) Sorry Perry, but try as you might to ironically fight against the “War on Christmas,” you have failed on all fronts. If you want to do the world some good, start donating your money to filmmakers with talent.
Erik Childress can be seen each Thursday morning on WCIU-TV’s First Business breaking down the box office on the Movies & Money segment.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]