Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Pre-Holiday Box Office is Weak: Christmas Can't Come Too Soon for Studios, Theaters

Photo of Tom Brueggemann By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood December 23, 2012 at 1:03PM

Pre-Christmas weekends vary wildly in performance year by year, depending on where the dates fall (the closer to Christmas, the worse the business until December 25) and the strength of new openings. With the debuting films this year ranging for modest to weak, whatever strength there was came from the second week of "The Hobbit," which took a steep (but not unusual) fall from its smaller-than-expected opening. The result is a so-so total gross at best.

"Rise of the Guardians"
"Rise of the Guardians"
4. Rise of the Guardians (Paramount) Week 5 - Last Weekend: #2

$5,900,000 (-17%) in 3,031 theaters (-356); PSA: $1,947; Cumulative: $79,694,000

What do we see here? One of the biggest disappointments among Thanksgiving openings has the highest position of any of them going into Christmas. It helps that there isn't much competition for family films, as Disney's "Monsters, Inc. 3D" is not gaining traction. Still, seven 2012 animated releases have grossed $140 million or more, so this still counts as a let-down.

What comes next: This will have more than 2,000 theaters from Tuesday on (at least for matinees), so its coffers will continued to be filled for a couple weeks, with $100 million still possible.

5. Lincoln (Buena Vista) Week 7 ; Last Weekend: #3

$5,633,000 (-20%) in 2,293 theaters (+8); PSA: $2,457; Cumulative: $116,800,000

Another extraordinary hold for the film that looks increasingly like it will be hard to beat at the Oscars. This has outlasted all the other November adult-oriented releases and is primed to continue reaping much more gross for weeks to come.

What comes next: Only set to lose a bit over 300 theaters on Tuesday, this will see a pop in gross ahead. And then shortly after come the Oscar nominations. $200 million is looking more likely all the time.

6. The Guilt Trip (Paramount) NEW - Cinemascore: B-; Metacritic score: 51

$5,390,000 in 2,431 theaters; PSA: $2,431; Cumulative: $7,421,000

Its weakness immediately apparent when it opened on Wednesday, this mother/son road trip film with Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen has not gotten much better and looks likely to fall to the low end of holiday releases going forward. This is a real disappointment considering director Anne Fletcher's earlier success with "Step Up," "27 Dresses" and particularly "The Proposal," which grossed $164 million.

Ironically, this opens the same weekend as "This Is 40," which is the first of Judd Apatow's films not to star Seth Rogen. Rogen in turn continues to struggle to gain traction in live action films - most of his recent films have fallen far short of what he achieved with Apatow.

What comes next: This will tread water for the next couple weeks (getting a bit of an uptick with holiday audiences), but looks like it won't be around for too long.

7. Monsters, Inc. 3D (Buena Vista) NEW/REISSUE

$5,040,000 in 2,618 theaters; PSA: $1,925; Cumulative: $6,525,000

Coming in more than $11 million below what last September's 3D reissue of "Finding Nemo" grossed isn't an encouraging start for Disney, particularly since though this is not prime playtime, neither was early September, However, unlike with "Nemo" (which brought in $49 million in its runs), this has the bonanza of Xmas week and beyond to take advantage of, so this still could end up approaching that film's reissue haul.

What comes next: The $94 million "The Lion King" did as the first 3D redo suggested a lot of easily found money ahead for Disney, but the declining results are another sign that parents are resisting the extra expense of the format, particularly for films their kids may have already seen.

8. Skyfall (Sony) Week 7; Last Weekend: #4

$4,700,000 (-28%) in 2,365 theaters (-559); PSA: $1,987; Cumulative: $279,972,000

This amazing success comes down to earth, but is still bringing in enough to warrant a presence through the holidays, more than previous November Bond releases. This is on the verge of outgrossing "Breaking Dawn - Part 2," big as that film is (it already has worldwide), which was not expected. The full total now is just under $1 billion.

What comes next: Sony looks like it will hold on to 2/3s of these theaters next week, which will push the domestic take over $300 million by the time this is done.

9. Life of Pi (20th Century-Fox) Week 5: Last Weekend: #5

$3,800,000 (-30%) in 1,750 theaters (-798); PSA: $2,171; Cumulative: $76,156,000

Though lagging behind "Lincoln" among November-released Oscar contenders, "Pi" continues to impress by any standard except for its high production cost (around $125 million) - and even that now looks like not too high to keep this from eventually being profitable. Already above $200 million worldwide at the end of last week, with significant territories still to open, the performance so far likely has caused a sigh of relief at Fox, even if it looks marginal for the bottom line.

What comes next: Only "Lincoln" among the Thanksgiving releases will sustain most of its theaters through Christmas (which actually rarely happens most years for any film). Fox's decision to open at nearly 3,000 screens initially turns to have paid off well. Meantime, it looks like this will keep on over 1,000 through the holidays, which will allow it to benefit from increase audiences over that period catching up on current films. And then hoped for Oscar nominations a couple week later should ensure this getting over $100 million.

10. Breaking Dawn - Part 2 (Lionsgate) Week 6 ; Last Weekend: #6

$2,600,000 (-49%) in 2,000 theaters (-1,042); PSA: $1,300; Cumulative: $281,606,000

This lost a third of its remaining theaters, but with this weekend "Breaking Dawn - Part 2" has now outgrossed "Part 1," with the rest of the run likely to get it past the $300-million mark.

What comes next: Another big drop in theaters, but more presence than last year as this series comes to an end with a major success.

Paramount also opened "Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away" in 840 theaters for a daily matinee and early evening show (what they describe as "paid previews" before Tuesday's "official" opening) for $2,254,000. The film has a modest $16 million budget, and with holiday playtime and worldwide interest should end up doing OK.

This article is related to: Box Office, Box Office, Box Office, Lord of the Rings/Hobbit, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Jack Reacher

E-Mail Updates

Festivals on TOH

Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.