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Sherlock Holmes and Chipmunk Sequels Fail to Cure Weekend Box Office Blues

Thompson on Hollywood By Brian Fuson | Thompson on Hollywood December 18, 2011 at 1:03PM

The pre-holiday box office slump continues as shoppers stayed away from multiplexes. Three well-hyped new movies entered the marketplace this weekend, as well as some high-profile expansions –  but the estimated total for all films this weekend was $116.5 million, down some 14% from the comparable frame a year ago when all films generated close to $135 million.
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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Warner Bros. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

The pre-holiday box office slump continues as shoppers stayed away from multiplexes. Three well-hyped new movies entered the marketplace this weekend, as well as some high-profile expansions –  but the estimated total for all films this weekend was $116.5 million, down some 14% from the comparable frame a year ago when all films generated close to $135 million.

Even Warner Bros.’ “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” starring Robert Downey Jr., which checkmated the top spot with an estimated $40 million ($10,807 per theater average), came in behind expectations of $45-50 million. 

PG-13 rated action-adventure “Game of Shadows” fell well behind the first “Sherlock Holmes,” which opened with a sharp $62.3 million in 2009 -- but that film had the luxury of opening on Christmas Day, which fell on a Friday in 2009. The day after Christmas is traditionally one of the biggest movie-going days of the year at the boxoffice.

Dan Fellman, President of Domestic Distribution for Warner Bros. noted that “Game of Shadows” generated strong exits and an A CinemaScore, better than the first film's B grade, and scored a 61% fresh rating on the TomatoMeter. "It seems that the industry boxoffice continues to be effected in the weak economy,” said Fellman. “For me the question is how much can we generate prior to the Christmas holidays, which truly begins on Dec. 25."

Also falling short was Twentieth Century Fox's live-action animated family sequel “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked,”  which came ashore in the second spot with an estimated $23.5 million. The franchise had been an old reliable until now, delivering big at the December boxoffice the first two times out, opening at $44.3 million in 2007 and $48.9 million in 2009.

While family films have saturated the marketplace in recent weeks, moviegoers will return to theaters en masse over the holidays, when every day is like a weekend.  Reviews were rough on the third Chipmunk film as just 13% of reviewers gave the film a favorable Tomatometer rating.

Holding out a promising start in the third spot was “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” which racked up an estimated $13 million from just 425  mostly IMAX and large format theaters, which have higher ticket prices.  Still, the Tom Cruise-starrer generated a sterling per theater average of $30,588 and goes into wide release on Wednesday, Dec. 21.  “M:I4” generated mostly positive reviews as the Brad Bird directed actioner picked up an impressive 95% fresh Tomatometer rating with RottenTomatoes.com.

Next week will tell the holiday tale as six new films arrive or expand into wide release, including “M:I4,” all hoping to get a jump on the holiday and carve out a slice of the boxoffice pie from the lucrative holiday season between Christmas and New Years.

Expanding into wide release and landing in the top 10 this weekend was Paramount’s “Young Adult,” starring Charlize Theron. The R-rated dramedy added 978 theaters, bringing the count to 986, and grossed an estimated $3.65 million to place seventh.  The Diablo Cody helmed “Young Adult” scored a solid 81% fresh rating from mostly positive reviews and has taken in around $4.09 million to date.

Last weekend’s top grossing film, Warner Bros. “New Years Eve,” slipped into the fourth slot with an estimated $7.42 million, down 43% in its sophomore session. Garry Marshall's romantic comedy has picked up around d$24.8 million to date.

Fox’s “The Sitter” moved into the fifth spot with an estimated $4.43 million, off some 55% from its debut.  The total to date for the raunchy comedy is roughly $17.7 million.

In limited release, Focus Features’ “Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy” added 12 locations, bringing the total to 16, and grossed an estimated $480,000, averaging a sturdy $29,750 per theater. The Gary Oldman starrer had taken in close to $900,000 so far. And the Weinstein Company’s “The Artist” was in 17 locales, grossing $290,000, for a per theater average of a promising $16,882, advancing the cume to $1.3 million. Indiewood box office details are here.
 

Weekend Top Ten Box Office Chart December 16

This article is related to: Box Office, Box Office, Box Office, Sequel, Robert Downey, Franchises


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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.