Here’s your estimated 4-day box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. Rogue One – $64.3 million ($439.7 million total)
2. Sing – $56.4 million ($180.0 million total)
3. Passengers – $20.7 million ($66.0 million total)
4. Moana – $14.3 million ($213.3 million total)
5. Why Him? – $13.0 million ($37.5 million total)
6. Fences – $12.7 million ($32.4 million total)
7. La La Land – $12.3 million ($37.0 million total)
8. Assassin’s Creed – $10.8 million ($41.9 million total)
9. Manchester by the Sea – $5.4 million ($29.6 million total)
10. Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them – $5.4 million ($225.4 million total)
The Big Stories
Christmas came early for Hollywood this year. That was the actual Christmas, though — the one with all the presents and merriment. Hollywood’s real present came afterwards as the 2016 box office passed the $11 billion mark for the second straight year on the 26th and then surpassed last year’s $11.12 billion on the 28th. Despite not having the greatest of holiday seasons in retrospect, this total was aided in part by nine films grossing over $300 million this year. Giving that some further perspective, there were only nine $300 million grossers from 1980-2001. There have only been three years with five or more films reaching that landmark and the record was six in 2015. With a number of big holiday releases expected to continue drawing audiences in January, not to mention the films slated to expand next month, there is hope that the total could actually reach $12 billion.
An Old Hope
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story saw an unfortunate bump in its attendance last week with the passing of Carrie Fisher. Even yours truly attended for a second time Tuesday evening, which was the second highest Tuesday gross ever in December (The Force Awakens was first) and the 7th highest ever. Estimates are now pointing to the film as reaching over $439 million through Monday which will put it in the top 13 of all-time domestic grossers. All signs suggest that $500 million is inevitable; the 7th film ever to reach that milestone in the U.S. Is $600 million in the cards? At the moment it is about $20 million off the pace of Marvel’s The Avengers, which grossed its final $160+ million from May 22-Sept. 13. Rogue One has another week of Christmas vacation for schools in some part but otherwise will have to make its cash in January; a month where Titanic made $188.2 million back in 1997. As Princess Leia would say, “Hope.”
Doctor Strange and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them remain your second and third best U.S. grossers for the holiday, but maybe not for long. As this column has stated for weeks, Moana was on a path to $230 million and is estimated at over $213 million as of this Monday. Good enough for fourth place currently but now it upped its endgame to potentially somewhere around $245 million, which should be more than good enough to best Doctor Strange as Marvel’s latest is looking to come in under $235 million; better than Thor: The Dark World but less than Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
This would give Disney the top three films of the holiday season were it not for Illumination’s Sing, which as I expected is laying waste to family wallets at the moment. In 13 days it is at $180 million. That is about $45 million less than Illumination’s current U.S. champ, The Secret Life of Pets, had at this point and $54 million behind Minions; both of which had summer days to push them well over $300 million each. As reported last week, Sing was destined to become the highest-grossing animated film ever released in December by a wide margin, so there is no real precedent for its prospects going forward.
Only eight films ever released in December went on to pass $300 million. Two are Star Wars, another two came from the mind of James Cameron and the other four are of the Tolkien variety. Sing is within a million of the pace of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, whose 13th day of release came on Dec. 26. That film finished its run with $303 million and Sing’s weekend haul is well ahead of it. So once again, “Hope.”
Not Singing Their Praises
Between Passengers, Assassin’s Creed and Why Him?, the three films could not even total 90% together at Rotten Tomatoes. Nor can their total grosses equal that of Sing.
The biggest disappointment of the three is clearly Sony’s Passengers. Critics have once again been blamed for its poor performance by pointing out its misleading trailer campaign as well as its rapey vibe, but it has been holding steady if just not spectacularly after its second weekend. At $66 million through Monday it will be $3 million off the pace of Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb which finished with $113 million. As Passengers is also about $3 million off that film’s weekend pace too it may be headed for a rough landing. Until the overseas numbers come in, the final word on the film’s impact on Sony’s bottom line for 2016 will yet to be written. But if it fails to reach $100 million in the U.S. which is a real possibility it’s going to take about $235 million in international dollars to put in the black column.
That is likely where Fox’s Assassin’s Creed is headed. Try finding a positive word said about this thing on Twitter. The 17%-rated, “B+” Cinemascored video game adaptation has at least surpassed 47 Ronin at the U.S. box office. Can it grab the $113 million the Keanu Reeves bomb did overseas, though? (It has made over $44 million to date.) It won’t be as big a bomb but any film needing to gross over $300 million outside the U.S. just to break even is not going to look good for any studio.
Fox’s self-competitor, Why Him?, certainly will not be doing that kind of business overseas ($14.3 million so far) but it may actually outlast and outgross Assassin’s Creed in the U.S. It has already jumped into the top ten and is close to the pace of Fox’s $50 million bomb Exodus: Gods and Kings, which made $65 million in the U.S. Even with that total it will still have to reach $50 million internationally otherwise Fox will be headed into 2017 with seven straight losers, with Gore Verbinski’s ambitious A Cure for Wellness on Feb. 17 and the “R”-rated Logan to kick off March. Though one film of theirs may be able to break the losing streak before then.
Your Oscar Players
Three likely Best Picture contenders remain in the top ten this week. The clear champion now and perhaps on Oscar night too is Damien Chazelle’s La La Land. Marginally expanded to an even 750 theaters this week, it is estimated to have over $37 million by Monday night. That is halfway to surpassing Boo! A Madea Halloween as Lionsgate’s top grossing film of 2016. That would also put it into the Top 15 all-time for the studio; a list that currently includes four Hunger Games, two Divergents, two Saws, two Expendables, two Tyler Perrys, a Twilight, a Now You See Me and Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. In other words, an old-fashioned musical with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone making that list is incredibly impressive.
Paramount is likely thinking the same thing about Denzel Washington’s Fences, which is expected to be over $32 million on Monday. It is already in wide release so its numbers aren’t quite as impressive as La La’s, but the film has already surpassed Denzel’s directorial debut, The Great Debaters, and is likely headed past Ava DuVernay’s Selma from 2014 which barely squeaked out a few Oscar nods. Fences is all but certain to do much better all around, including winning at least one for Viola Davis. She would beat Michelle Williams out for Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea, itself possibly headed for wins for Best Actor (Casey Affleck) and Original Screenplay for Lonergan. With over $29 million expected by Monday it is already the top-grossing Sundance film for 2016 and now has its eyes set to supplant Brooklyn’s $38.3 million as the top-fest grosser from last year.
Your Limited Players
Awaiting their expansions in January to help inch the box office towards its $12 billion target are a great number of acclaimed titles. Leading the pack in just 25 theaters is Fox’s Hidden Figures, which is expected to have $2.6 million after Monday. Peter Berg’s Patriots Day has made over $680,000 so far in just seven theaters. In 2013 his Lone Survivor (also with Mark Wahlberg) made $355,434 in its first 15 days in just two theaters and opened to $37.8 million in its wide expansion. So watch for Patriots Day’s numbers on Jan. 13-15.
Only in four theaters are an interesting five-some of titles. Martin Scorsese’s Silence is currently your leader with over $337,000. Pedro Almodovar’s Julieta is around $223,000. Mike Mills’ 20th Century Women is at $213,000 and J.A. Bayona’s A Monster Calls is at an unfortunately paltry $79,000 before it goes wide this week. Tucked in there is also Ben Affleck’s Live By Night. Warner Bros. kept this from most critic’s group, not even giving it a chance for award consideration. As the film sits at 35% at Rotten Tomatoes, one can start to see why. This is a major disappointment given Affleck’s track record as a director, especially coming off the Oscar-winning Argo. With only $124,000 in limited release so far, look for Patriots Day to win that battle of the Bostonians when both open wide on the 13th.
– Erik Childress can be heard each week evaluating box office on WGN Radio with Nick Digilio as well as on Business First AM with Angela Miles and his Movie Madness Podcast.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]
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