Weekend Wrap Up: Audiences Return to Middle-Earth

After two absolutely dead weeks at the box office, the stage was set for The Hobbit to come in and rescue the box office. While it certainly did so, the end result still came off as a bit disappointing.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

As expected, The Hobbit is easily the number one film this weekend. It debuted to a robust $84.8 million, good for a new December opening weekend record. However, impressive though that number may seem, it has to be taken with a few caveats. Let’s compare it to the last Lord of the Rings film, Return of the King. ROTK opened to $73 million nine years ago. You’d think that the additions of IMAX, 3-D and almost a decade of ticket price inflation would’ve allowed The Hobbit tosoar much higher. What’s more, ROTK opened on a Wednesday, so it had two days to burn off demand before the weekend proper. Had ROTK opened on a Friday like The Hobbit, I imagine it would’ve managed around 85 million, or similar to The Hobbit.

One simple thing that could’ve worked against The Hobbit is that it’s just simply not as good as the original trilogy. Take its weak 65% at Rotten Tomatoes, for example. Furthermore, I don’t the story of dwarves trying to reclaim their home was as interesting to audiences. Add in the fact that lots of people are confused about the very nature of the franchise (a friend of mine had no idea this was the first in a trilogy until about five minutes before we saw The Hobbit on Friday night).

Anyway, moving away from all that negativity, Gandalf and friends are still set up very nicely. It should hold well next weekend and then play extremely well during Christmas week and through New Year’s. The Hobbit is a much more family friendly tale than the original trilogy–Tolkein wrote it as a children’s book after all–and this time of year is very kind to family films. $300 million in total isn’t out of the question.

Staying in second place, Rise of the Guardians held well, dropping 29% to $7.4 million. After its very disappointing debut, ROTG has rebounded well, and as a very family friendly film, plus being pretty much the only film in theatres that deals with Christmas itself, I think it will do great business from now until January. It’s got $71 million in the bank, and with Christmas up ahead, $100 million is certainly possible.

Dipping just 19%, Lincoln moves up to third place after finishing fourth last weekend. Pulling in $7.2 million, the Oscar hopeful lifted its sum to $108 million. In fourth, Skyfall dropped 35% to an even $7 million. With $272 million in the bank, it’s got an outside shot at being the highest grossing film of the holiday season. Lincoln and Skyfall should also do well over Christmas, as they will be among the primary choices for adults not interested in the more kiddie-oriented fare.

Life of Pi stays steady in fifth place, easing 35%. $5.4 million this weekend brings it to just under $70 million. $100 million is possible, but it’s really going to do well over Christmas. Breaking Dawn Part 2 dropped 44% to $5.2 million. Sitting at $277 million, it will soon overtake Breaking Dawn Part 1 and has a decent shot at surpassing New Moon, though it will really have to stretch to get over $300 million and I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Down 33%, Wreck-It Ralph looks like it might just hang around to benefit a bit from the Christmas boost. Then again, Disney is about to throw all its advertising and theatres to Monsters Inc. 3D. Anyway, Ralph is up to $169 million, and hey, he’s even in a real video game now!

Eighth place goes to Playing for Keeps, which dropped only 44%, which is a far better hold than I would’ve expected. Then again, romcom fans do love seeing the same recycled garbage over and over again. Anyway, it made $3.2 million and has $10.8 million in the bank. Hard times for Gerard Butler. Anyways, Red Dawn also dropped 44% and pulled in $2.4 million. Its 41 million total isn’t great, but it’s far from a catastrophe. See, kids, sometimes putting your awful film on the shelf for two years and hoping its lead actor gets famous really can pay off!

After two weeks outside the top ten, The Silver Linings Playbook rejoins the top ten by dropping just 4%. Such a good hold is odd because it’s not like it added any theatres. Maybe that word of mouth is finally gaining some steam. Anyway, a $17 million total isn’t too bad at all.

So, there you have it. After three weekends in a row of just one new wide release, next weekend we get five. Although, two of them are opening on Wednesday. And despite this glut of newcomers, The Hobbit is almost guaranteed to hold on to the top spot.

Cirque Du Soleil: Worlds Away: Gotta be honest. I had no idea a Cirque Du Soleil film was coming out. Its only releasing in about 800 theatres, so I’m guessing probably only around 2 or 3 million next weekend.

The Guilt Trip: I like Seth Rogen, but this one just seems like it’s going to miss the mark. It’s opening on Wednesday, so I’ll say about 8 million over the weekend itself.

Jack Reacher: A friend of mine has repeatedly said that Mark Wahlberg would be better suited to this role and I can’t help but agree. But anyway, Tom Cruise has fully regained his public good will over the last few years after the whole couch-jumping thing, so…. 11 million?

Monsters Inc. 3D: Looking at some of Disney’s other 3D re-releases, I’m inclined to think this one should do a bit better, what with the Holiday season and all. So I’ll say 16 million over the weekend.

This is 40: The cleverly marketed “sort of sequel” to Knocked Up, I feel like this one could be a surprise hit if it’s actually funny. People generally are looking for more upbeat pictures, and comedies fit the bill. It is opening directly against The Guilt Trip, but since This is 40 looks way funnier, I think it will handily win the comedy battle and open to about 18 million.

Next weekend should be a fun one, so I’ll be back next Sunday to cover it all. Until we meet again.

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