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Lousy Christmas Weekend Box Office: Little Fockers Beats True Grit, Best Coens Opening Ever

by Anne Thompson
December 26, 2010 7:03 AM
5 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood

At a horrendous Christmas weekend---which saw a 44% three-day drop in grosses over last year (flush with Avatar)---sequel comedy Little Fockers beat out adult western True Grit, the best--and widest--opening ever for a Coen brothers movie. It's likely that the well-reviewed oater will have longer legs, however, as it settles in for the long Oscar haul.

At the indie box office, The Illusionist and Somewhere opened well, and two Oscar contenders, Fox Searchlight's Black Swan and Weinstein Co.'s The King's Speech, broadened effectively on Christmas Day.

Weathering lousy reviews, Universal/Relativity's Little Fockers repped the widest-appeal offering among the weakest bunch of holiday releases in recent memory. At a time when studios usually try to maximize returns on their strongest pictures, instead they offered audiences a menu of costly, tame, MOR fare--and moviegoers stayed away in droves.

Little Fockers took advantage of holiday business, jumping from $5.1 million on Christmas Eve (always a b.o. graveyard on a Friday) to $14.6 million on Christmas Day (a 188% increase). Friday and Saturday estimates for Little Fockers amounted to about 75% of the Meet the Fockers opening numbers. 57% of attendees were male vs. 43% female, while 53% were under 30. But a $100-million-plus budget means the movie has to keep chugging at the b.o. to make its money back, and pre-holiday estimates were $60 million for the five days, not $48 million. Paramount is releasing overseas.

Paramount, for one, was smiling this weekend as $38-million True Grit scored strong numbers by moving up to December 22; The Fighter also showed mass appeal as it went wide. Predictably for a western, True Grit played 65% male with 70% 25 and over. The studio fought hard and made trims for violence to get a PG-13 rating, and bet on the film playing well between the coasts. It did, says Paramount exec v-p Don Harris, who compares the film's playability to Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven, with both wide-audience and upscale Academy appeal. Christmas Eve the pic scored $5 million and jumped 118% on Saturday to $10.4 million. Cinemascore was B+ overall and A- under 25, which bodes well for the movie broadening to young and female viewers. "We're going to be in the marketplace a long time," says Harris.

Disney's ill-fated 3-D sequel Tron: Legacy fell 54% in its second frame. The studio may have offered too little, too late, on a movie that had to pop viewers' eyes out to succeed. When Fox pushed 3-D Gulliver's Travels back to Christmas Day, the studio might as well have said, "don't come, this sucks" to moviegoers. The Jack Black comedy opened to $7.2 million, the worst numbers since Fat Albert's holiday 2004 $10 million take. Nor did Warners score with holdover Yogi Bear, which has grossed only $36 million to date.

Also disastrous were two costly would-be Sony tentpoles that should have been big holiday draws, James Brooks' $110-million How Do You Know, which has fallen out of the top ten chart ($15 million domestic), and $100-million star-vehicle The Tourist ($41 million domestic total to date).

Top Ten Chart: box office estimates compare three days vs. three days.

1. Little Fockers (Universal): $34 million in its first weekend at 3536 theaters. $9620 theater average. Domestic total: $48.3 million.

2. True Grit (Paramount): $25.6 in 3047 theaters. $8402 theater average. Domestic total: $36.8 million.

3. Tron: Legacy (Disney) $20.1 million in 3451 theaters. $5826 theater average. Domestic total: $88.3 million.

4. The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage Of the Dawn Treader (20th Century Fox): $10.8 million at 3350 theaters. $3,042 theater average. Domestic total: $ 63.9 million.

5. Yogi Bear (Warner Bros): $8.8 million at 3515 theaters. $2504 theater average. Domestic total: 36.7 million.

6. The Fighter (Paramount): $8.5 million in 2511 theaters. $3385 theater average. Domestic total: $27.5 million

7. Gulliver's Travels (20th Century Fox): $7.2 million at 2546 theaters. $2,828 theater average. Domestic total: $7.2 million.

8. Black Swan (Fox Searchlight): $6.6 million at 1466 theaters. $4502 theater average. Domestic total: $29 million.

9. Tangled (Disney): $6.5 million at 2582 theaters. $2525 theater average. Domestic total: 143.7 million.

10. The Tourist (Sony) $5.7 million at 2756 theaters. $2068 theater average. Domestic total: $41 million.

Box Office Mojo takes a look at box offices of Christmas Past.

5 Comments

  • Edward Wilson | December 27, 2010 6:46 AMReply

    Pretty sure the Coens have final cut. If the movie is PG-13 it's because that was their ultimate decision not the studio's.

  • Charles Ferran | December 27, 2010 5:13 AMReply

    I agree with Edward, the Coens would NEVER let a studio bully them into making cuts they did not want to make.

  • Sergio | December 26, 2010 11:17 AMReply

    P.S. Anne is also right about Gulliver's Travels. The concept, the film, the whole marketing campaign, everything about it basically said out loud: "STAY AWAY!"

  • Sergio | December 26, 2010 10:45 AMReply

    True Grit did better than anyone expected and that's GREAT news as far as I'm concerned

  • mary | December 26, 2010 9:53 AMReply

    Fox's 2010 car wreck ends with its biggest disaster of the year ("Gulliver’s Travels")....

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