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Pre-Holiday Box Office: 'Zero Dark 30' 'Amour' Openings Boost Oscar Chances; 'Guilt Trip' 'Monsters 3D' Start Slow

Photo of Tom Brueggemann By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood December 20, 2012 at 3:04PM

Four new films opened midweek, during the pre-Christmas period when most people postpone their moviegoing until the holiday. "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Amour" both opened well in limited release in NY/LA, particularly for the date. The two wide studio releases -- "Guilt Trip" and 3-D rerelease "Monsters 3D" fell far short of similar recent openings on a pre-Christmas Wednesday.
Emmanuelle Riva and Jean Louis Trintignant of "Amour"
Emmanuelle Riva and Jean Louis Trintignant of "Amour"

But most important is the historical precedent on which Sony seems to be basing the release pattern. It goes back 11 years, but the circumstances are similar. They also released Ridley Scott's "Black Hawk Down" (Muslim world military recreating of an actual mission, with emphasis on procedural issues over character-driven story lines). In that case, they platformed over the post-Christmas weekend, and grossed around $180,000 in four theaters, on the way to a total gross (opening wide three weeks later) of $109 million. Ticket prices are considerably higher today, but even if "ZD30" reaches these levels, it would be a very successful film (with an estimated budget of $45 million).

The best comparisons to "Amour" are limited - only "Letters from Iwo Jima" is at all similar, and that Clint Eastwood-directed film came with much greater initial advertising expenditures than the more pin-pointed efforts of Sony Pictures Classics. But the best comparison, although early, is quite favorable. A $5,000 opening per screen average Wednesday, under normal multipliers, should lead to a weekend PSA of somewhere between $20-25,000. Last year, "A Separation," which went on to win nearly all foreign language film awards, including the Oscar, and grossed $7 million - extraordinary for a subtitled film these days - had a PSA of $19,000, but opening after Christmas, a much better weekend usually. So the initial indication is quite strong for this.

For all these films, and particularly at this time of the year, the first day grosses are only the early indication. But based on history, they do offer strong suggestions of what is ahead. Because of that, Sony and Sony Classics, even though there films were limited, are likely much happier today than Paramount and Buena Vista with their results.

This article is related to: Box Office, Box Office, Box Office, Zero Dark Thirty, Amour

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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.