After a rollercoaster of a year, 2012 went out with a bang. As usual on the last weekend of the year, all movies could greatly benefit from strong holiday business, leading to increases across the board. No film in the Top 12 fell harder than 15% and five out of nine holdovers in the Top 12 increased over their previous weekend. Overall the Top 12 cume jumped 63% to $163.8 million. It’s a 17.3% increase over 2011’s final weekend when Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol led the charts. Overall 2012 finished with a tremendous $10.834 billion, up 6.5% from 2011, 2.5% from 2010 and 2.3% from 2009, making it the biggest year in box-office of all time. It was a year of many superlatives as for the first time ever three movies reached more than $400 million in a year. Once Skyfall and The Hobbit pass $300 million, it’ll also be the year with the highest number of $300 million-grossers. It has also been a terrific year for animated fare with six animated movies grossing more than $140 million domestically and a seventh crawling its way to $100 million right now. With such huge breakouts as The Hunger Games, Ted, The Avengers and Skyfall, 2012 will be a tough act to follow and might not be outdone by several years to come.
For the third weekend in a row, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey led the box-office, though its triumph over Django Unchained was a very narrow one. Down just 13.5% from its previous frame, the fantasy prequel delivered $31.9 million over the three-day frame for a running total of $221.6 million after mere 17 days on release. It was a higher third-weekend gross than that of the other Lord of the Rings-movies, but it must be mentioned that they haven’t been aided by a holiday weekend in their third outing, but in their second. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is now tracking $51 million behind Return of the King and around $22 million behind The Two Towers, however still $32.5 million ahead of The Fellowship of the Ring which will be catching up very quickly soon. The film’s legs have been good so far, though not overly remarkable. It is behaving pretty much just as most expected of it as far as legs are concerned; it’s just the opening that underwhelmed. Unlike its three predecessors, The Hobbit won’t be able to benefit from strong Oscar buzz as a Best Picture nomination from the Academy is extremely unlikely for it. However, another circumstance must be factored in this time – with January almost entirely devoid of any family-oriented fare or even simply PG-13-movies, The Hobbit should play very well throughout the month remaining the must-see theatrical event all the way into February. Warner Bros. can thanks other studios for their bad scheduling that will allow for prolonged legs for all movies not rated R.
Therefore, a $300+ million finish is still extremely likely for The Hobbit, the question remains whether or not it’ll pass the unadjusted total of The Fellowship of the Ring ($315.5 million). Even if it does, it still means that it has sold far less tickets considering that The Fellowship of the Ring adjusts to more than $430 million and that doesn’t even take the IMAX or 3D surcharge into consideration. Even in the best-case-scenario, The Hobbit probably won’t even see 70% of the admissions that any of the other three Lord of the Rings-movies have seen. Nevertheless, even nowadays a $300 million total is nothing to scoff at and that is the number that The Hobbit needs to save face (keep in mind: prior to the film’s release, many expected an easy $400+ million finish). Right now, it looks likely to pass Fellowship’s final gross thanks to the aforementioned lack of PG-movies in January. With some luck, it’ll find its way to around $315-325 million, which means a healthy opening-to-total multiplier for it.
Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained narrowly missed the top spot, settling for #2 with a still-great $30.1 million from 3,010 theatres, averaging $10,008 per venue. Since its Christmas Day opening, the spaghetti-western-cum-blaxploitation flick brought in $63.4 million which is terrific for an R-rated feature after just six days on release. With $15 million on its opening day, it delivered the third-biggest Christmas Day opening (behind Sherlock Holmes and Les Misérables) and by far the biggest Christmas Day gross ever for an R-rated movie (previously held by Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem with $9.5 million). Even though Les Misérables opened higher on the first day, Django Unchained has been catching up ever since and topped it over the Friday-Sunday period. After just six days, the movie’s already the 10th-biggest western ever domestically. The film is also the last proof that 2012 has been a tremendously successful year for R-rated movies. The R-rated box-office was up 24.5% from 2011 with 18 R-rated films opening above $20 million and 20 R-rated movies ending up with more than $50 million. Django Unchained is well on its way to become the 7th $100 million-grossing R-rated film of 2012, making 2012 the year with the highest number of R-rated $100 million films since 1999! Compared to the rest of Tarantino’s body of work, it is well ahead of everything else too, currently tracking $13 million ahead of Inglourious Basterds after the same period of time. Basterds went on to finish with $120.5 million, making it Tarantino’s biggest film ever. However, all signs point to Django eclipsing it.
While Tarantino hit it big with Pulp Fiction ($107.9 million) in 1994 he still hasn’t immediately become a draw outside of movie fans circles as seen by the underperformance of his follow-up Jackie Brown ($39.7 million). It wasn’t until Inglouirious Basterds that he really hit it big and broke into mainstream, (though the Kill Bill films certainly paved the way). With Basterds Tarantino has become a bigger household name as ever before. A similar thing has occurred to Martin Scorsese with The Departed and the Coen brothers with No Country for Old Men. All of them are respected filmmakers that took a long time to really become commercial draws and break into mainstream big time. The results are showing with Django. Interestingly enough, the Coens’ big breakout hit following No Country for Old Men (disregarding A Serious Man here) was also a December-released western, True Grit.True Grit became a tremendous hit, grossing $171.2 million and becoming the 2nd-biggest western of all-time unadjusted for inflation. Django Unchained is tracking $20 million ahead of True Grit after six days, but the gap will certainly narrow very fast. True Grit’s advantage over Django was that it was PG-13, whereas Django is rated R and will thus face very stiff competition all throughout January. Like True Grit, Django Unchained will also receive an awards boost, though it probably still won’t be enough to bring it to similar heights. On the other hand, Django is a certain lock to beat Inglourious Basterds and become Tarantino’s highest-grossing film in North America. Word-of-mouth is on its side (it scored an “A-“-CinemaScore) and provided it can survive the hordes of R-rated competition, it should be well on its way to a $140-155 million finish.
Les Misérables took the third spot over the weekend with a very impressive $27.3 million from 2,814 locations for a per-theatre-average of $9,695. The movie proved itself to be expectedly frontloaded so far. It easily won Christmas Day with $18.1 million, the highest opening day ever for a musical and the 2nd-biggest Christmas Day opening of all-time. However, it fell off rather quickly, though its current six-day gross of $66.7 million is hardly anything to complain about. Les Misérables can boast a huge fanbase which obviously sormed out to see the film. We clearly haven’t seen a musical of this magnitude since Chicago which made $170.7 million back in 2002. In Les Misérables a perfect storm came together. It is an adaptation of a hugely beloved Broadway musical based on an extremely well-known literary classic. The movie is directed by a recent Oscar-winner who has previously delivered another beloved hit (The King’s Speech) and has a star-studded cast to boot (Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Amada Seyfried among others). On top of that, even though the film’s reception is not as overwhelmingly glowing as the studio might have hoped for, it is strong enough to remain a contender in the Oscar race. While it won#t walk home with a Best Picture win like Chicago did, it is still extremely likely to score many nominations, including that for the big prize. Therefore, it still has a very long run ahead, especially considering that the PG-13 film will also somewhat benefit from the lack of other PG-13 movies in January (though not as much as many other films considering its audiences are mostly adult to begin with). The movie scored a great “A”-CinemaScore and an even better “A+” from female audiences which made up 67% of its opening audiences. With Oscar nominations still ahead, Les Misérables will easily end up with a $140-150 million total, probably elevating itself in the Top 3 of the most successful musicals ever unadjusted for inflation.
For all the huge, yet expected success stories of The Hobbit, Django Unchained and Les Misérables, the really surprising breakout success of December looks to be Parental Guidance. The Bette Midler/Billy Crystal-starrer placed fourth on the weekend with $14.6 million. From its 3,367 theatres, it delivered a PTA of $4,323. Since its surprisingly potent $6.3 million Christmas Day opening, the family comedy has grossed $29.3 million. Ever since the Cheaper by the Dozen remake broke out big time back in December 2003 and grossed $138.6 million, Fox made it a tradition to release family-oriented movies in the second half of December, most prominently their Alvin and the Chipmunks-series. With the exception of Gulliver’s Travels the strategy has paid off, delivered them hit after hit each year. Parental Guidance is no different. With its $25 million production budget it is already a bona fide success and will be able to benefit from the lack of competing family films more than any other flick throughout January. This way it will stick around in theatres far longer than usual for this type of film and make it all the way to $70-75 million.
The Tom Cruise vehicle Jack Reacher dropped three spots to #5 and eased 10.6% in its second weekend for a three-day take of $13.6 million. In its first ten days, the adaptation of Lee Child’s bestselling series accumulated a solid, if unremarkable, $44.2 million. This is certainly not another Mission: Impossible hit for Cruise, but then again, no one expected it to be. Comparing it with another middle-of-the-road December-released Cruise flick, Valkyrie, it is tracking around $13 million behind. Valkyrie went on to finish with $83.1 million and while Jack Reacher will certainly narrow the gap, though it is uncertain whether it will be able to close the gap completely. The movie enjoys solid WoM as indicated by its “A-“-CinemaScore and its PG-13-rating might prove beneficial in a month crowded with R-rated releases. However, while rated PG-13, it is still a movie mostly playing to adult male audiences (76% of its opening weekend audiences were over the age of 25 and 60% were male). This is exactly the target audience of films such as Broken City, The Last Stand, Gangster Squad and Parker – all to be released in January and likely hurt Jack Reacher despite the difference in the MPAA rating. Right now, I see it making it to $80-85 million which is certainly solid for a movie like this, but questionable whether it is enough for Paramount to give the sequel a green light, especially since they’ve already got another much more lucrative franchise starring Tom Cruise on their hands.
This Is 40 fared somewhat better in its sophomore frame and increased 8% over its mediocre opening. With $12.5 million at the 6th spot of the box-office last weekend, it brought its 10-day-total to $36.4 million. This is certainly still a far cry from Judd Apatow’s return to form box-office-wise, but given the film’s long running time and its lukewarm reception (“B-“-CinemaScore and mixed reviews), it still could have been far worse. This is certainly not a disappointment of Funny People’s proportions which, despite a strong cast of Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen, yielded just $51.9 million on a $75 million budget. In contrast, the budget of this Knocked Up spin-off is just $35 million and it is tracking just $4 million behind Funny People by the end of its second weekend. In the long run, it’ll surely overtake that film. I expect no less than $65-70 million in the end s the strong focus on male audiences in January will allow this more female-oriented comedy to thrive despite mediocre WoM.
Lincoln was one of the weekend’s biggest benefactors as it soared 32.8% to $7.3 million over the three-day period, placed 7th and brought its running total to $131.9 million after seven weeks in wide release. It’s simply incredible that this film will have more than $140 million in the bag before the announcement of the Oscar nominations. Whichever way the actual awards will go, it is a certain thing that Lincoln will at the very least remain the biggest frontrunner up until the ceremony. By the time the actual Oscars come along, it’ll most likely have passed $165 million. That means that even if the movie doesn’t win Best Picture, it still has a $175-180 million total locked up. With a Best Picture win, it’ll most likely hit $200 million at some point in April.
After a very mild start the weekend before, The Guilt Trip somewhat recovered and increased 23.8% in its second weekend for a $6.6 million take and a total of $21 million. At the same time it fell two spots in the Top 10. Down to #8, The Seth Rogern /Barbara Streisand-starrer is certainly performing below expectations, but the holidays will end up saving it as well as the fact that it’ll see very little competition all throughout January. The question is just how long it’ll be able to stay in enough theatres to develop some sort of legs. It will go on to finish with $43 million.
The 3D-re-release of Monsters Inc. fared best of all non-expanding holdovers as it increased 35% over the weekend for $6.4 million and a total of $18.6 million. The film’s lifetime total is now at $274.5 million. Usually 3D re-releases end up with rather miserable legs. However, in this film’s case it might be different. There is no new family-oriented film to be released until February, so it might actually hold decently over the next few weeks. It should wind up with around $38 million, meaning that it hasn’t performed that much worse than the Finding Nemo –re-issue, which added around $41 million to the film’s domestic gross. After a very underwhelming start, this can be seen as a very nice rebound, so that we’ll probably stills see several more of Disney’s 3D-re-releases.
Rise of the Guardians rounded off the Top 10, plummeting six spots from #4 all the way down to #10 as it lost 14.7% of its prior weekend’s audiences and added another $4.9 million to its gross. Its running total stands at $90.1 million after six weeks. Now with the holidays being over, a hard struggle will begin towards $100 million. Normally, I wouldn’t predict it to make it. However, the lack of family competition in January will certainly help it. I see it barely crawling to $101 million.
Skyfall lost a hefty 728 theatres and dropped out of the Top 10, but still declined merely 6.9% to $4.5 million, bringing its total cume to $289.6 million. The film’s tracking more than $12 million ahead of Inception and still has a $300+ million total locked up, which is just mind-blowing for this 50-year-old series that has never even seen a $200 million-grosser before. It’ll end up with $307 million in the bank when all is said and done.
Silver Linings Playbook re-entered the Top 12 at #12 as The Weinstein Company finally gave the film its long-overdue expansion on Christmas Day. They added 374 theatres for a total count of 745. This led to an increase of 129% over the weekend as the film’s PTA actually increased as well. After $4.1 million, its running total stands at $27.3 million. It’s pretty impressive that we film will be at well over $30 million by the time of the Oscar nominations despite having never played in more than 800 theatres. I expect a substantial expansion after the Oscar noms. It final gross will depend on whether or not Jennifer Lawrence will bag an Oscar for her performance, but right now a $70-80 million total looks likely.