By Gabe Toro | The Playlist December 18, 2011 at 1:58PM
And the hits keep coming for this mediocre year at the box office. Or not coming, that is. After December began with the two lowest grossing weekends of the year, many predicted salvation from “Sherlock Holmes” and “Alvin And The Chipmunks.” Previous entries in their series’ grossed $524 and $443 million worldwide, respectively, so there’s no reason to think they wouldn’t bust that block. Particularly notable was how both the original 'Sherlock' and “The Squeakquel” opened within two days of each other, both grossing over $200 million in the States while “Avatar” was in theaters. Being upgraded from everyone’s second choice to the top attraction was meant to flatter everyone.
“Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows” took this weekend, though looks like it will land in the vicinity of $40 million, a far cry from the first film’s opening take of $62 million. Warner Bros. clearly got cocky this time around, eschewing a major star for the pivotal antagonist role of Moriarty (Jared Harris got the call) and burying any sort of plot synopses, marketing the picture by relying on the pyrotechnics and the star power of Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. Consider the hiring of a “Sherlock 3” writer enormously premature, as this second go-round is going to need the heavy-duty repeat business the first one didn’t utilize in order to carry on.
Even with that massive first film take, it’s hard to say audiences were enthused about another 'Sherlock.' Downey is approaching Johnny Depp-territory as far as stretching his blockbuster shtick as far as he can go. Whereas Depp has the kid audience and the awareness of a couple of decades of solid filmmaking, Downey still hasn’t completely shaken his bad boy image, and there’s an entire generation who still thinks of him as his 1990’s itineration - which is to say, working intermittently and moving in and out of jail. Downey has nothing to worry about, and he’s got two more Marvel projects in the next two years, but we wouldn’t be surprised if the WB cools on a third installment. How about… “Sherlock Jr.”?
In recent years, this holiday period has boasted massive debuts from the likes of “Avatar,” “I Am Legend” and “Tron: Legacy.” Fox was hoping “Chip-Wrecked,” the third Chipmunks movie in five years, would open in a similar fashion. Instead, expect the kid-flick to earn $23 million, falling quite short of the second film’s $49 million take. Even with the added “Chip-Wrecked” premise, three “Alvin” movies in five years is an awful lot for even the most ardent fan. While this isn’t always the case when it comes to unwanted sequels, we’re willing to believe some just simply put their feet down and said no. Or raised the white flag. Or suggested they would call their lawyers.
Oddly enough, the biggest blockbuster success story of the weekend may be the lowest grossing of the three of them. Paramount made the risky decision to debut “Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol” on 425 IMAX screens, and the film earned a savage $31k per-screen average on its way to $13 million. Much of that no doubt comes from Batman fans, as the six minute “The Dark Knight Rises” teaser was attached to IMAX prints. Why Warner Bros. would attach footage of their most anticipated movie next year to a Paramount release on the same weekend they were releasing their own blockbuster, we’ll never know. Well, maybe we will know, when some WB exec writes a tell-all book about that time a Paramount suit pulled them out of a burning building, or helped them ditch a dead hooker. Hollywood - a place of magic.
'Ghost Protocol' may have done brisk business on IMAX screens, but we’ll see how it does on regular screens without the benefit of Batman. Though it certainly has the momentum, and already has grossed $68.2 million from 6079 thtrs in 36 mkts world so it's sitting pretty out of the gate. This was a franchise left for dead after part three, and the upcoming competition will be tough. “The Adventures Of Tintin,” “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” and “We Bought A Zoo,” “War Horse,” "Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close" and “The Darkest Hour” all arrive in theaters next weekend when 'Ghost Protocol' goes wide.
Last week’s winners, “New Years’ Eve” and “The Sitter” took big hits, and look like they’re not long for the holiday marketplace. See you on cable, fellas! Also done is “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part One,” which actually will not approach the $300 million the last two films earned stateside, though its worldwide numbers are already approaching $700 million. Every day is “Treat Yo’Self” Day at Summit.
Oh, and if you’re looking for some sort of Golden Globe bump, look elsewhere. “Arthur Christmas” was only barely lapped by awards fave “Hugo.” The Scorsese picture is going to seriously struggle to get to $50 million domestic. The news is worse for “Young Adult,” which expanded into 978 theaters after last weekend’s eight screen debut, scoring a dreadful $3.7 million. You can point to a lot of things, but this weekend, we’re gonna lean on Blame The Title. Meanwhile, "The Descendants” actually dropped out of the top ten. It’s week five, so Fox is going to be patient with 'Descendants,' as it's not yet on a thousand screens, but it’s not exactly scoring solid per-screen numbers.
In limited release, the biggest debut aside from "Mission: Impossible" went to "Carnage," which averaged $17k on five screens for an $86k gross. It failed to beat out current arthouse champ "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," which collected $452k in its second weekend at sixteen locations. Other indie releases include "My Week With Marilyn," which The Weinstein Company is expanding heavily, though the film only collected $586k at 244 locations. An expansion onto four hundred engagements approaches next weekend, though, at $6 million, it might be tough to see the film crack eight digits.
At fifty-one locations, "Shame" is still doing sturdy business, with a $305k take in weekend three, adding to a $1.3 million total. Also picking up steam is "The Artist," which collected $287k at fifteen locations and maintains a strong per-screen number. Meanwhile, feeble opening numbers greeted "Cook County" and "Corman's World." The films brought in $8.1k and $7k on five and two screens respectively. Support your local arthouse theater, boys and girls.
1. Robert Downey Jr.’s B-Level Franchise (WB) - $40 million
2. Alvin And The Chipmunks: Shit-Wrecked (Fox) - $23.5 million
3. Mission: Impossible Colon Movie Film For Theaters (Paramount) - $13 million
4. New Ear Sieve (WB) - $7.4 million ($25 mil.)
5. The Stander (Fox) - $4.4 million ($18 mil.)
6. The Twilight Saga: Part Four Part One Of Two (Summit) - $4.3 million ($266 mil.)
7. Young Adult (Paramount) - $3.7 million ($3.6 mil.)
8. Hugo (Paramount) - $3.7 million ($39 mil.)
9. Arturo Kwanzaa (Sony) - $3.6 million ($39 mil.)
10. The Muppets (Disney) - $3.5 million ($79 mil.)