As we discuss the estimates for this weekend, please note that late December releases tend to have the strongest legs of the year. For reasons I elaborated on last month, the pre-Christmas December weekend is (in my opinion) the very best weekend on which to open your film. So the usual math rules won’t apply for a couple weeks. Even the films that seemed to have poor or disappointing openings may well have ridiculous holiday legs.
The top new release of the weekend was Paramount’s Anchorman 2:The Legend Continues. The Will Farrell sequel has thus far earned a somewhat classy $40m since debuting on Wednesday, with $26.7m for the Fri-Sun portion of the weekend. It’s a solid total, and one that shows the somewhat entrenched nature of the Ron Burgundy fan base. Considering the first Anchorman opened with $29m back in 2004, one might have expected a bigger upswing if only due to inflation. Paramount hesitated for years on green-lighting a sequel, partially due to budget concerns about the now more famous cast and partially due to the fact that the original earned just $5m overseas. The $50m sequel won’t necessarily have to break out beyond its hardcore fan base even if the film does end up a bit front loaded.
But fortunately this is the pre-Chrismas December weekend we’re talking about, so Anchorman 2 will probably not be very front loaded. It should have little problem crossing $100 million domestic and $150m isn’t completely out of the question for the moment. If it has a similar 5-day weekend-to-multiplier total as King Kong, it gets to $125m domestic. If it plays like the somewhat front-loaded Return of the King, it ends with $119m, while a leggy Fellowship of the Ring type run gets it to an implausible $170m. Heck, for it to fall below $100m, it would have to do less than 2.56x its opening five-day debut, which is all-but unheard of during this season.
Here’s an insane example of December legs. Remember that Hugh Grant/Sarah Jessica Parker flop Did You Hear About The Morgans? It got terrible reviews and opened on the same day as Avatar with a $6.6m weekend. It still pulled a 4.39x weekend multiplier and made it to $29m domestic. The closest thing to normal legs in December is Eragon, which grossed $75m off a $23m debut on this weekend back in 2006. Such a total would give Anchorman 2 $98m. That seems like the worst case scenario for the comedy sequel, but solid reviews and some buzz worthy elements that weren’t revealed in the trailer (imagine that…) should keep it in play during the uber-busy holiday weekend. Oh, and I’m sure it will make more than $5m overseas this time around.
Sony's American Hustle expanded into wide and scored big, earning $19.1 million on its first wide-release weekend. The Columbia Pictures/Annapurna Pictures caper film was sold on pure combined star power, with its media friendly stars (Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jeremy Renner) making the rounds and strong reviews closing the sale. This is a big win for the would-be Oscar contender and immediately puts it near the top of the front runners chart. This is easily David O. Russell’s biggest weekend, and it’s somewhat insane that we’ve reached the point where he is a bonofide populist filmmaker, but The Fighter ($96m), The Silver Linings Playbook ($132m), and now American Hustle show him as someone who can mix artier sensibilities with old-school star power in a commercially pleasing package. We’ll see how audiences respond to its somewhat less-crowd pleasing elements, although it’s certainly a safer consensus choice over the holiday that the uber-hard R-rated Martin Scorsese’s Wolf Of Wall Street.
20th Century Fox has a genuine miss on its hands with Walking With Dinosaurs. The $85 million animated film earned just $7.3m on its first weekend, with little hope that it will grow much over the holiday. The reviews are terrible and Frozen just can’t be stopped. Fox is only on the hook for distribution as the film was independently financed, but someone somewhere is on the hook for that budget. Of course, I don’t say to play “doom-sayer” and watch it open with $6m and end up with $60m ala Mouse Hunt back in 1997 on this very weekend. But Gore Verbinski’s Mouse Hunt is one of the greatest movies ever made (slight exaggeration), so let’s just hope for the best and see how this plays out. Charlotte’s Web debuted with $11m over this weekend in 2006 and ended with $82m (I’m telling you, this weekend is magical), so all hope is not lost. And don’t discount Fox’s international muscle.
Also expanding wide after a limited debut last week is Saving Mr. Banks from Disney. The fictionalized “making of Mary Poppins” picture earned $9.32m over its first wide release weekend, giving it $9.95m total and $15.4m worldwide. If this weren’t late December, the film would be in trouble. But the holiday rush means that the Emma Thompson/Tom Hanks film could well earn $10m next weekend and another $10m over New Years, ending the year with around $50m with more to come if Oscar smiles. This one will play older (61% of its audience was 35 years or older), so the interested parties won’t necessarily rush out on opening weekend. So yeah, this could easily be one of those films that opens with under $10m but crawls its way to over/under $100m over the course of the next three months.
The big limited release debut was Spike Jonze’s Her. The Warner Bros. release kicked off its release with $361,473 thus far for a $60,246 per-screen average over five days. The Fri-Sun weekend was $257,815 for a $42,969 per-screen average. That’s a fine debut, but the film doesn’t go wide until January 10th of next year. Her was never going to be a mega blockbuster, and how well it does as a wide release will depend on how much Oscar love it can snag in next month’s nominations. Also debuting in limited is Dhoom 3, which scored the biggest opening weekend gross for a Bollywood film ever with $3.31 million on 236 screens. Expanding a little overseas was Warner Bros.’ 47 Ronin. The very pricey Keanu Reeves action fantasy has earned $6.2m from four international markets, including a mediocre $3.5m from Japan. The film opens in America on Christmas day.
Once again topping the weekend box office is The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The Warner Bros. release earned $31.45 million. That’s down 57%, which is slightly more than the 56% that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey dropped on its $36m second weekend. The film has now earned $127.5m domestic, $16m of that in IMAX, compared to the $150m ten-day total for The Hobbit 1. This means that it will certainly end up grossing noticeably less than the first film, around $250 million domestic, which of course is not unexpected. The film crossed $300m worldwide yesterday so it’s still a pretty big hit.
In other holdover news, Frozen dropped just 15% for a $19.1m third weekend, bringing its cume to $191m, or past Wreck It Ralph. It should surpass Tangled‘s $200m total by Christmas day or soon after, and it’s amassed $344m worldwide thus far. Thor: The Dark World has now earned $626m worldwide, including indeed crossing the $200m mark domestically. Nebraska earned $580k at 310 theaters for a $4.386m cume. Bad Grandpa has now grossed $100.8m domestic. Universal’s The Best Man Holiday now sits with $69.8m while Sony’s Captain Phillips has $104.28m and Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 has $115m. Warner Bros.’ Gravity has $253m domestic and is pretty much done barring an Oscar-centric rerelease. Inside Lewlyn Davis expanded to 148 screens and earned $1.06m over the weekend for a somewhat underwhelming 7,169 per-screen average.
That’s it for this weekend. Join us next time for the insanely crowded Christmas weekend. We’ll see Universal’s 47 Ronin (review tomorrow), 20th Century Fox’s The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty (review if I have time, but it’s very good), Paramount’s The Wolf Of Wall Street, and Warner Bros.’ Grudge Match (haven’t seen it). And opening in limited are Open Road Films’ Justin Beiber: Believe on 1,000 screens, and limited debuts of Universal’s Lone Survivor, and Weinstein Company’s August: Osage County (review if I have time, but it’s also pretty darn good). Oh, and Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom is expanding to 850 screens too. I may have to break the weekend review into two parts…