Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Lucasfilm/Disney)
Pitch Perfect 3 (Universal)
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Sony)
The Greatest Showman (20th Century Fox)
Ferdinand (20th Century Fox)
(Note: The above numbers are all based on four-day box office including Christmas Day on Monday.)
Welcome to the final weekend preview of 2017. If December started out slow and quietly with very few new releases before Star Wars: The Last Jedi, things are about to explode, as seven new movies are being released over the coming week, some stronger than others, while a couple specialty releases will expand nationwide. In other words, hold onto your hats… this is going to be a lengthy preview this week.
With Christmas Day on Monday, there’s a chance people might use Friday and Saturday for travelling, which will definitely cut into the weekend box office. Similarly, many people may have to do some last-minute Christmas shopping this weekend – some might go see a movie afterwards while others might need to save their money. These are two of the possible reasons why opening a movie right before Christmas rarely works out unless you’re Star Wars, Lord of the Rings or Avatar.
The last time Christmas Day fell on Monday was in 2006 when Fox’s Night at the Museum made $42 million in its first four days including Monday. That same year, Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa made $26.7 million after opening on Wednesday. Neither of those movies went up against a Star Wars movie. Because of this, we should expect smaller openings for most movies but then a nice bump on Christmas Day, and then the week after that, the stronger movies should continue to do very well.
Before we get to all those new movies, let’s talk about Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It’s obviously going to be #1 again and should be good for around $100 million (or more) over the four-day weekend. Unfortunately, we can’t even use The Force Awakens as a comparison because its second weekend started with Christmas Day on Friday, which means it was already receiving the bump movies get over the holiday break. Because of that, The Force Awakens just dropped 40% in its second three-day weekend. Because The Last Jedi has a lot more competition this week, not to mention the pre-Christmas activities mentioned above, The Last Jedi should have a substantial 55% drop for its second four-day weekend but the $100 million it makes leading up to Christmas Day will put it back in first place.
That leaves the rest of the top 10 for new and other returning movies, and it’s likely the new movies are going to win out, but how much might they make against Star Wars? Read on…
Let’s start with one of the bigger movies opening Wednesday, of which there are two. Sony’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle stars Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan and Nick Jonas, which is a fairly impressive cast put together by director Jake Kasdan (Bad Teacher, New Girl). This is very much the type of movie that does well over the holiday break being a PG action-adventure-comedy starring some big name talent that has a wide enough reach that Jumanji could end up being the biggest holiday release following Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Johnson and Hart co-starred in last year’s Central Intelligence, which opened with $35 million during a plum summer release and grossed $127 million domestically. Since then, Hart has provided his voice for last summer’s hit The Secret Life of Pets and this year’s Captain Underpants, and released a second concert film, Kevin Hart: What Now? Johnson had the hit Disney animated movie Moana which grossed almost $250 million over the holidays in 2016, then he followed that with The Fate of the Furious, which topped out at $225 million and the summer flop Baywatch, which grossed $58 million. Although Johnson’s career has been up and down, he’s generally been anchoring bigger releases, and it’s paid off for the studios who work with him. Hart has only had a couple $100 million hits, but he’s had more than a few that have come very close, and he continues to have a strong audience. Either way, both actors are clearly still box office draws with the right movie.
Jack Black ends up stealing much of Jumanji, and he may be heading for a comeback after not appearing in a movie since Kung Fu Panda 3 in late Jan. 2016. (He did star in the Sundance movie The Polka King, which will get released on Netflix on Jan. 12.) Black has already had enough family hits like the Kung Fu Panda movies, Sony’s Goosebumps and Disney’s The Muppets, that we can probably forget all about the dreadful 2010 Christmas release Gulliver’s Travels.
Sony did an interesting initiative with Jumanji, having free screenings on Dec. 8 for Amazon Prime users and those screenings all sold out to the tune of $2 million, which will probably be folded into Jumanji’s Wednesday box office gross. (There won’t be Tuesday night previews from what I can tell.)
With that in mind, Jumanji should be good for an $8 to 10 million opening Weds, then it will dip on Thursday, pick back up on Friday, then down at least on Sunday and then there’s no stopping it after that. Either way, it should be able to make around $40 million over the four-day weekend, and watch this one really explode in the week after Christmas that should put it well over $100 million by year’s end.
|Opening Weekend||Current Gross||Total Facebook Likes||Twitter Activity (Past Week)|
|Star Wars: The Last Jedi||$220m||$241.6m||19,469,423||1,300,213|
|Pitch Perfect 3||N/A||N/A||6,070,806||16,526|
|Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle||N/A||$2m||324,125||47,646|
|The Greatest Showman||N/A||N/A||123,753||13,838|
We’ll get back to the other Weds. opening, as I want to switch over to Universal’s Pitch Perfect 3, which should be the biggest movie of the weekend considering that Pitch Perfect 2 grossed $184 million after an opening weekend of $69.2 million. That probably won’t happen this time although the entire cast from the previous movies including Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Anna Camp and Brittany Snow. Wisely or not, Adam Devine decided to move on.
It’s only been two and a half years since the previous movie, which is a good amount of time to build anticipation while still maintaining interest, but for some reason, this sequel reminds me of Sex and the City 2. That was a sequel to a huge hit movie based on the popular HBO show, but fans of the show probably realized they had used up every possible joke and plotline between the show and the first movie
Directed by Trish Sie (Step Up All In), the threequel will probably be as big a draw for women (and male a cappela fans – I actually know a couple), but expect many of the biggest aca-fans to be out in force Thursday and Friday nights to see the movie with their friends and work colleagues. That should be enough to bring in $15 to 17 million domestically Friday and between $45 and 50 million for the four-day weekend.
What happens after this weekend might be a different story depending on how well fans like the sequel, but Pitch Perfect 3 is not the best holiday fare only because it’s not something that might interest the whole family. (I can only speak for myself but I would go see Father Figures before I go to see Pitch Perfect 3.) Because of this, Pitch Perfect 3 will probably top out around $130 or 140 million, less than its predecessor, but still not awful as long as they kept the budget in the same $30 million range.
On Wednesday, Fox is releasing the musical The Greatest Showman, starring Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron and Zendaya (Spider-Man: Homecoming). You really have to wonder what Fox is thinking, because Pitch Perfect 3 is already likely to be the first choice for musical fans. Directed by first-timer Michael Gracey after Bill Condon left this to make Beauty and the Beast, the Fox musical is opening with very little buzz, mainly since it only started screening for critics recently and reviews are heavily embargoed. (There will be no Tuesday previews for this one either.)
It’s not uncommon for musicals to open over the holidays—Chicago, Dreamgirls and Into the Woods all did well opening around Christmas. Unfortunately, The Greatest Showman has a lot of competition and not being based on an already popular Broadway musical (as those other three were) will keep it from opening nearly as big. Figure on The Greatest Showman making less than $15 million over the three-day weekend, but business should pick up on Christmas Day and the week that follows so that it could end up with around $60 million or more by end of year.
|Star Wars: The Last Jedi||93%||55%||7.8||86||A|
|Pitch Perfect 3||42%||N/A||N/A||43||N/A|
|Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle||81%||N/A||6.9||58||N/A|
|The Greatest Showman||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
The other two movies opening Friday may have a harder time taking business away from the above films as they open in less than 3,000 theaters. The bigger-profile of the two is Oscar-winning filmmaker Alexander Payne’s sci-fi comedy (?) Downsizing, starring Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis, Christoph Waltz and even Udo Kier. It’s a strange premise that involves people shrinking down to miniscule size in order to save the earth (and live better at the same time), and it won’t be for everyone. Payne’s movie opened at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals where it was received mostly with indifference, but undaunted, Paramount has kept its holiday release in order to be considered for awards with newcomer Hong Chau benefitting with Golden Globe and SAG nominations this past week. Considering that Damon’s last movie Suburbicon made just $5.8 million total — you read that right — one probably can’t count as much on his starpower to sell this odd premise, though there should be enough interest for the movie to make $7 million over the three-day weekend and $10 million including Monday. From there, it’s probably all downhill.
The R-rated comedy Father Figures (formerly called Bastards) has been moved around the release schedule all year until its eventual release on Friday. Starring Owen Wilson, Ed Helms, Glenn Close, Ving Rhames and J.K. Simmons, it’s a fairly high concept R-rated premise directed by long-time cinematographer Lawrence Sher. With no reviews yet and most press screenings not happening until Weds. night (never a good sign), one wonders how many people have evern heard of this movie. Also, who needs this with Daddy’s Home 2 still in theaters? Opening against so many stronger films will make this the weekend’s weakest link as it grosses around $6.5 million over the three-day weekend (or less) and $9 million including Christmas Day (when the movie should play well). After that, it’s likely to drop off because there’s so much competition over the holidays including…
Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World – yup, it’s done!–is the only new wide release opening Christmas Day. Michelle Williams is doing double-duty with The Greatest Showman, starring in this crime-drama about the kidnapping of JP Getty’s grandson in the early ’70s, with Christopher Plummer playing Getty and Mark Wahlberg as his “associate” assigned to get his grandson back. By now, you’ve probably heard about how Kevin Spacey was replaced in the movie with Plummer following his sex scandal. That probably was a wise decision by Tom Rothman and TriStar Pictures as it was to release the movie on Christmas Day, since it’s a movie that will appeal to older single guys, who often have nothing better to do on Christmas than go to the movies. It also offers more prestige than some of the above movies thanks to a couple recent Golden Globe nominations, and reviews so far have been very, very good.
Scott’s film won’t have previews on Christmas Eve, but it should make $3 to 4 million on Monday. That might not be enough to get into the Top 10 against movies playing all four days. It will be interesting to see how well the movie does over the coming week, because it’s opening mainly on the buzz created by Scott’s reshoots and the Golden Globe noms. It also might have a harder time holding up against more family-friendly holiday fare.
On Christmas Day, STXfilms will release Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut Molly’s Game into over 200 theaters. Starring Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom, along with Idris Elba and Kevin Costner, the movie already received two Golden Globes, for Sorkin’s script and Chastain’s performance, but it’s going up against much stronger films both in wide and limited release. Because of this, it might not make much of a mark over the holidays, but it should be good for a couple hundred thou on Christmas Day. Hopefully, it will build enough word-of-mouth for its nationwide expansion on Jan. 5.
Also on Christmas Day, Focus Features will open Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film Phantom Thread, starring Daniel Day Lewis, with plans to expand in early 2018. The second collaboration from the duo after Day Lewis’ Oscar win for There Will Be Blood, in this one Day Lewis plays iconic (and fictitious) English fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock, a strange individual who falls in love with an East European waitress (Vicki Krieps), bringing her into his house where she must contend with his disapproving sister (Leslie Manville). The movie’s received fairly decent reviews so far thanks to critics’ adulation towards PT Anderson, but I’m not sure the movie will connect with regular moviegoers, so it could be similar to other PTA films that play well in big cities but not so much when expanded wider.
Focus Features will also expand Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour, starring Gary Oldman, nationwide on Friday, as will Fox Searchlight expand Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water. It’s hard to tell how well either movie will do opening against such strong competition, but del Toro’s film will probably do significantly better nationwide with the filmmaker’s strong fanbase outside bigger cities. It also has received much more awards attention from the Golden Globes, the Critics Choice and local critics groups, so there will be more interest in it.
I know this has been a longer than usual read, but let’s get to the rest of the limited releases between now and year’s end…
On Friday, 20th Century Fox will open Steven Spielberg’s The Post, starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, into nine theaters in select cities ahead of its nationwide release on Jan. 12. It should do very well in limited release with all the buzz that’s been generated over the past month or so, including the Golden Globe nominations. It will be interesting to see if Fox can expand the movie in a similar way as Warner Bros. did with Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino and American Sniper, both which did better outside of limited release. This one might be catering more towards bigger cities, although you can’t deny the draw of Streep and Hanks. Will talk about this one more in the new year.
Entertainment Studios picked up Scott (Black Mass) Cooper’s new film Hostiles, starring Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike, out of TIFF in Sept. and the fledgling distributor is giving the film a limited release on Friday, hoping it will generate enough business and word-of-mouth over the holidays to expand in the new year. Hostiles hasn’t exactly made huge waves in its festival release and reviews are mixed, but if Entertainment Studios can figure out how to market this, they could do decently in the Midwest and more rural areas.
Michael Haneke, the award-winning filmmaker behind Amour and White Ribbon, returns with Happy End, released in New York and L.A. by Sony Pictures Classics. It reunites him with Isabelle Huppert for the fourth time in this family drama dry in Calais with the recent refugee crisis as its background. Haneke’s latest film co-stars Jean-Louis Trintignant (Amour), Mathieu Kassovitz, Fantine Harduin, Franz Rogowski, Laura Verlinden and Toby Jones.
Vertical Entertainment is releasing Gilles Paquet-Brenner’s Crooked House (Vertical), a lower-budget Agatha Christie adaptation than Murder on the Orient Express, this one starring Glenn Close as Lady Edith, the matriarch of a wealthy family whose brother, a wealthy billionaire, is murdered in that house. Along comes Max Irons as detective Charles Hayward, who is brought in by the victim’s granddaughter Sofie (Stefanie Martini) to solve the crime amidst the usual domestic squabbles. I quite liked this film, more than Murder in some ways, because the cast (which includes Christina Hendricks as the murdered man’s trophy wife) just does a lot with far less money than Murder, and it offers some fun twists and turns.
Possibly one of the bigger specialty release over the holidays will be the Bollywood film Tiger Zinda Hai from Yash Raz and director Ali Abbas Zafar, which is the sequel to 2012’s Ek Tha Tiger, which grossed $2.3 million in North America, which actually isn’t a lot compared to other Bollywood imports. It has Indian agent Tiger and Pakistani agent Zoya teaming up against the militant Iraqi messiah Abu Usman, and Yash Raz will release it in more than 300 theaters Friday.
Netflix is going to try to take business away from all the above with Bright, which reteams Will Smith with his Suicide Squad director David Ayer for a fantasy buddy cop film that pairs Smith with an Orc partner, played by Joel Edgerton.
Next Weds, Dec. 27, Magnolia will open the potential foreign language Oscar nominee In the Fade from Fatih Akin, starring Diane Kruger as a woman who loses her husband and daughter in a terrorist bombing by white nationalists and swears to get revenge.
Finally, on Dec. 29 (a week from this Friday), Sony Pictures Classics is opening Paul McGuinan’s Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, starring Annette Bening as Gloria Grahame who had an affair with the younger Peter Turner (Jamie Bell) in 1978 Liverpool, which became the basis for Turner’s memoir. It will open in New York and L.A.
That’s it for this year but check back over the weekend for an update and next Monday for a recap of how things went at the Christmas box office. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!
(Sources: boxofficemojo.com, rottentomatoes.com, imdb.com, metacritic.com. Figures represent numbers at time of writing, and may have changed. Tracking Board does not report Rotten Tomatoes user ratings for movies that have not yet seen wide release.)
Edward Douglas | East Coast Editor