Box Office Beat: Weekend of December 21

Danny Baldwin's Box Office BeatHello and welcome back to Box Office Beat, the column in which I predict the upcoming weekend’s box office results. After several weeks in a row of only one or two new wide releases, moviegoers have a bevy of fresh choices to pick from this time — five, to be exact. That makes my load pretty heavy, so let’s get right into crunching numbers…

Jack ReacherThere is no question that “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” will be #1 for the second weekend in a row, so the real battle is for the #2 slot. My gut is that the victor will be the crime-drama “Jack Reacher,” starring Tom Cruise. Some may argue that Cruise’s public image has suffered since Katie Holmes left him, thus resulting in lower box office numbers, but I strongly doubt it. “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” grossed $209m a year ago, which was long after “Tom Cruise is a weirdo” talk began.

The best comparison for “Jack Reacher,” I think, is Cruise and writer/director Christopher McQuarrie’s last collaboration, “Valkyrie,” which opened to $21 million. I know what you’re thinking: What does a World War II thriller have to do with a crime/action hybrid? Well, in addition to Cruise, both films share an older-skewing male audience, a PG-13 rating, and a December release. Perhaps “Jack Reacher” will even experience a slight bump on “Valkyrie” for two reasons: 1) It’s opening in almost 25 percent more theaters and 2) It’s based on a popular book series, giving it a built-in audience. But I’m not going to be too bearish, simply because there’s a lot of competition for moviegoers right now. I’ll stick with $21 million.

This is 40If “Jack Reacher” fails to perform well, then Judd Apatow’s “This is 40” is the next likeliest second place finisher. Still, the reviews and reception for the film have been much more in line with Apatow’s “Funny People” ($22.7m) than his more popular “Knocked Up.” I get the feeling that the older portion of the filmmaker’s audience will show up, but younger viewers might be put off by the premise, which centers around aging. In fact, “This is 40” is unlikely to even match “Funny People,” because lead Paul Rudd is nowhere near as popular as Adam Sandler. My prediction is a slightly underwhelming $16 million.

The Guilt TripTwo new releases already opened yesterday (Wednesday). “The Guilt Trip,” a road-comedy starring Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen, pulled in an even $1 million. That’s not a great start when you consider that “Hope Springs,” which had a similar target audience, opened to $2.3m on a Wednesday and ended up grossing only $14.7m over the weekend, which would be a disappointment for this film. Granted, “Hope Springs” was released during the summer, when weekday movie attendance is higher. But still, I can’t see “The Guilt Trip” nearing (much less surpassing) that film’s gross when comparing Wednesdays. I can only see “The Guilt Trip” mustering around $8.5 million, not a good sign for its overall prospects.

Monsters, Inc. 3-DDisney’s 3-D conversion of Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.” also opened on Wednesday, to $778,000. That small gross was to be expected, as most kids don’t get out of school for Christmas break until Friday. A good comparison of a kid-oriented animated film released on a Wednesday is “Shrek 2,” which pulled in $11.8m on opening day and then $108.0m on opening weekend. That’s a multiplier of 9.15. But “Monsters, Inc.” should have an even higher multiplier because there was no “rush out and see it” factor, as all fans have already seen the movie. I’m going to guess the weekend is 12 times Wednesday, which computes to $9.3 million.

Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away 3-DLastly, there’s “Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away 3-D,” opening in a modest release of 840 theaters. I honestly couldn’t be more clueless about this one; I have never seen anything performed by Cirque du Soliel. But given that they sell out arenas with their act, I assume there’s an audience for this movie. It just seems more like a “One Night Only” event than a real release. Out of complete obliviousness to this thing’s potential, I’m going to predict it does a so-so per-theater-average in the range of $3,300, which translates to a weekend of $2.8 million.

My prediction of what the full top 10 will look like:

  1. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” … $42.3m -50.0%
  2. “Jack Reacher” … $21.0m
  3. “This is 40” … $16.0m
  4. “Monsters, Inc.” (3-D reissue) … $9.3m
  5. “The Guilt Trip” … $8.5m
  6. “Lincoln” … $6.0m -14.7%
  7. “Rise of the Guardians” … $5.7m -20.2%
  8. “Skyfall” … $5.2m -20.7%
  9. “Life of Pi” … $4.3m -20.6%
  10. “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2” … $3.5m -31.9%