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Weekend Box-Office Analysis (December 7-9, 2012)

Even though this weekend will certainly go down as the year’s most wasted opening slot, the Top 12 still amassed $73 million (down 31.2% from last weekend) thanks to holdovers showing good staying power. It was enough for the weekend to be up 7.6% from the same three-day frame last year when New Year’s Eve opened to disappointing numbers on top. On top of that, the yearly box-office of 2012 has broken the $10 billion barrier – faster than in any year before. 2012 is still tracking 6.6% ahead of 2011 and will almost certainly go down as the biggest year in box-office of all time. Given that it had movies like The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, the final Twilight film and The Hobbit on its release schedule, that probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise.  What needs to be noted, though, is how unnecessarily empty this weekend was. Even though one can argue the decision, it is understandable that most studios don’t want to open high-profile movies on the post-Thanksgiving weekend (though Behind Enemy Lines and The Last Samurai have shown that the right movies can perform there well too). However that was last weekend. We are now two weeks past Thanksgiving and yet the only movie that received wide release this weekend was a low-profile, critically lambasted, dumped comedy without any real box-office draws. At the same time none of the Oscar hopefuls (Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook) received an expansion. The result is obvious and sad. If the estimates hold, this weekend’s number 1 movie will be the lowest-grossing #1 movie in December since 1994 – and that unadjusted for inflation! You’d have to go back all the way to 1983 to find a worse-attended December top spot opener.


After three patient weeks in the runner-up position, Skyfall reclaimed the top spot with $11 million in its 5th weekend, making it the first movie since 2010’s How to Train Your Dragon to place first in its 5th weekend. Skyfall was able to benefit from a total lack of competition and lost just 33.6% of its last weekend’s audience and brought its total to a tremendous $261.6 million, a number that previously seemed unimaginable standing next to a James Bond-flick. Skyfall was able to widen the gap between it and Quantum of Solace to more than $104 million. It is also less than $500,000 away from passing The Amazing Spider-Man to become not only this year’s 5th-biggest movie, but also Sony’s 4th-biggest film ever domestically (only behind the original Spider-Man trilogy). Skyfall is already close to hitting an opening-to-total multiplier of 3 and it still has a bright future ahead thanks to its terrific word-of-mouth and the huge amount of coverage it receives due to its impressive box-office success. The film is tracking around $13 million ahead of Inception in the same time frame, but is trailing Iron Man by $14.5 million now. It will be severely hurt next weekend by the loss of its remaining IMAX screens to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. On top of that, The Hobbit will be a four-quadrant-hit, cutting right in to Skyfall’s audience and taking away its must-see film event status. However, I expect the flick to recover nicely over Christmas and play well into January which is mostly devoid of PG-13 films. The film will get above $280 million before the end of the year ad should slowly but surely catch up to Breaking Dawn II. I expect around $300-305 million at the end of its run.


Climbing up the charts once again, DreamWorks’ Rise of the Guardians narrowly missed the top spot with $10.5 million from Friday-to-Sunday, down mere 21.3% from last weekend for this weekend’s best hold in the entire Top 12. The film can clearly benefit from its Christmas theme, but also from being the only film on release this year that has any Christmas theme to it. After 19 days the movie has collected $61.9 million in total, which is still an embarrassing number for the $145 million tent pole. Paramount and DreamWorks can now only count on incredible Christmas legs and the film’s terrific WoM (“A”-CinemaScore) to push it above the $100 million-mark. Next weekend, it’ll face direct competition for 3D screens and family audiences from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, but I believe the Christmas theme will keep the film afloat, even if the holdovers around it might falter. It’s only direct competition this month remains the Monsters Inc. 3D re-release in two weeks. Thanks to January not offering any competition, it should be able to edge past $100 million and wind up with around $100-105 million.


After three weeks on top of the box-office, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 dropped two slots down to #3, decreasing 47.2% in the process. The film took in $9.2 million over the weekend (the best 4th weekend of the franchise) for a running total of $268.7 million, making it the 4th-biggest film of the year and the 56th-biggest hit of all-time domestically. The movie is showing better longevity than the other Twilight sequels. After four weeks, it is more than $8 million ahead of its predecessor and has finally pulled ahead of New Moon (by around $1.5 million). Nothing suggests that it will fall behind again, meaning that it should be good for a $295+ million finish. In that case, I am positive that Summit/LionsGate will do anything in their power to ensure that Breaking Dawn II will pass the $300 million mark, even if just barely.


Right behind it, Lincoln held on to #4 of the box-office with a $9.1 million weekend cume (down 31.9%). The movie currently stands at $97.3 million. Disney has shied away from further expansion for now. In fact, the movie actually lost four theatres this weekend and is currently playing at 2,014 locations. Obviously the studio is waiting for the awards buzz to fully kick in. It should see an expansion after the announcement of the Golden Globe nominations this week and possibly another expansion once the Oscar nominations are made known next month. At this point the movie should be considered a lock for at least $150 million with $160-170 million appearing to be the likely finish if it doesn’t win Best Picture and $180+ million if it does.


Life of Pi delivered yet another great hold at #5, dipping just 31.7% to $8.3 million and pushing its domestic cume to $70.9 million after 19 days in theatres. Like Rise of the Guardians and Wreck-It Ralph it will benefit from the lack of direct competition in January. However, it should also garner a lot of awards buzz to additionally inflate its gross. However, it might take it all the way until next month until its good legs will kick in. A final gross above $100 million seems like a sure thing. It will wind up with around $105-110 million.


The only wide opener this weekend was the terribly-reviewed Playing for Keeps. The $35 million production starring Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel and Uma Thurman bowed at #6 with $6 million drawn from 2,837 theatres for a pathetic PTA of $2,115. The same weekend last year saw another romcom with a big names-cast disappoint in its opening as New Year’s Eve didn’t even make one-third of Valentine’s Day’s opening weekend. Playing for Keeps has been much better received by moviegoers, who have awarded it a “B+”-CinemaScore, but most of all it has shown that no member of its cast is a reliable box-office draw. For Gerard Butler, it’s the second flop this year after Chasing Mavericks which will wind up with less than $6 million in total. New Year’s Eve achieved a very good multiplier after its soft opening, however I expect Playing for Keeps to start losing its theatres and screens much faster (due to its anaemic PTA). Moreover, New Year’s Eve was able to benefit from its day-focused theme. Playing for Keeps will find its way to $20-25 million in the best-case scenario, making the $35 million production a bomb for the studio. Then again, it never seemed like FilmDistrict had much confidence in its potential to begin with.


Wreck-It Ralph continued climbing the yearly chart as it fell 29.4% (second-best hold in the Top 10) to $4.9 million and #7 on the weekend. It brought its running total to a very respectable $164.4 million, making it 2012’s 12th-biggest film. However, the gap between Ralph and Tangled (Disney’s current top-grossing non-Pixar CG-animated flick) has shrunk to just over $3 million. By the next weekend, Tangled will probably pull ahead and never look back. Even with the lack of competition in January, I still expect this to go no further than $190 million, even if everything goes right. This is still a great performance, though it needs to be put into perspective given the $165 million price tag.


Red Dawn was able to reap the benefits from not having any direct competition this weekend and held on to the 8th spot of the charts with a solid 34.4% drop. After a $4.3 million third weekend, the remake of the 1980s movie can boast a $37.3 million total. The film should start losing theatres and screens rather quickly last weekend and by the time the Christmas boost kicks in, it’ll probably be gone from the majority of theatres. Therefore, I expect it to miss $50 million, but a $48 million total still means that it has performed much better than similar action-oriented Thanksgiving releases such as Transporter 3 ($31.7 million) or Ninja Assassin ($38.1 million).


Flight occupied #9 once again after dipping 30.1% to $3.1 million. It has accumulated $86.2 million so far. Flight is already its star’s Denzel Washington’s 8th-biggest movie ever in North America and should pass $90 million within the next two weeks. Then the battle for $100 million will begin. It’ll depend entirely upon whether this film will be able to build enough Oscar buzz for Washington’s performance or not. Currently I think it’ll get close enough for Paramount to give it a slight push to $100 million.


As expected, Killing Them Softly plummeted to #10 this weekend, losing 59.7% of its audiences for the worst drop in the Top 12. The “F”-CinemaScore is certainly showing. The movie gathered $2.7 million over the weekend and brought its running total to $11.8 million. The film will lose most of its theatres over the next two weeks and should barely crawl to $15 million by the end of its run.


Silver Linings Playbook remained at #11, dropping 27.6% to $2.2 million for a total of $14 million. The Weinstein Company still hasn’t bothered to expand the film beyond its 371 theatres, so it pulled the best per-theatre-average in the Top 12. Given how slow this weekend was, it would have been perfect timing for the movie to go wide. Now it seems that the Weinsteins are apparently waiting for Christmas (which is crowded as it is!) to expand their Oscars hopeful. I think that move will cost them quite a bit. What could have been a $100 million crowd pleaser now will probably end up with no more than $50-70 million.


Anna Karenina added another 38 theatres this weekend, bringing its theatre count to 422. Nevertheless, it still dropped 31.5% to $1.5 million for a total of $6.6 million. I don’t think the flick will stick around for much longer, probably heading towards a $15-20 million finish.


In an attempt to benefit from a slow weekend and push the film’s Oscar chances, Open Road Films re-expanded their successful cop thriller End of Watch back into 1,249 theatres. However, most audiences weren’t very interested. The film just made it to #15 with around $0.7 million earned for a mediocre $587 PTA. At least its total arrived at $40 million.

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