Warning signs for this year's year-end box office prospects appeared in Friday's numbers. Even though pre-Christmas Friday was two days earlier this year (generally the closer the day is to the holiday, the fewer people are going to movies), the take for the Top Ten was only $28 million yesterday, compared to $37 million on the same Friday last year.
That's despite the #1 film for the day - "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (Warner Brothers) - grossing more (because of 3-D and other surcharges) than last year's "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol," also in its second week. But while "The Hobbit" was tops for the day, the prequel dropped a staggering $26 million from its opening day. Even with the $13-million midnight first show grosses removed, it still dropped nearly 60% - not a good sign for a film that, while its US and international take already is impressive (over $300 million), doesn't look certain to hold a #1 position indefinitely.
Four new releases plus one 3-D do-over opened this week. Given the smaller potential audience, which makes numbers smaller, some or all of these could improve starting Tuesday. But it still looks like a weaker than usual array of films so far.
Best of the bunch was the Tom Cruise-starrer "Jack Reacher" (Paramount) which came in #2 for the day with $5.1 million, a bit better than half of what "MI:GP" did last year on its second weekend. Expectations, at least domestically, haven't been high for this action effort, and it seems to be performing no better than hoped -- at least so far. As with all the openers though, any good word of mouth will have a particularly potent impact -- at no time of the year do people gather and discuss movies more than during Christmas.
Judd Apatow's family (literally) comedy/drama "This Is 40" (Universal) -- more likely to succumb to pre-Christmas doldrums because of its older appeal - managed third place at $3.7 million. Perceived comedies often perform well this time of the year, and the marketing of the film pushed similarities to his other films such as "Knocked Up." How those who sample the film over the weekend react to the comparison will have a lot to do with reaction and its further success.
Wednesday's openers - the Seth Rogen/Barbra Streisand "Guilt Trip" (Warner Brothers) and Disney's 3-D return of "Monsters, Inc." both continued their very weak performance, coming in at 5th and 7th respectively, both under $1.5 million for the day. Their prospects don't look good going forward even with the holiday bump.
The final opener is an oddball of sorts - "Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away" (Paramount) in 3-D, squeezed in as one matinee and one early evening show daily, an almost unheard of release pattern. It managed 10th place at under $1 million at only 840 theaters.
Other significant news came from grosses of new limited releases.