December 21, 2013



OPENINGS:  ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES (Paramount) eked out a Friday victory over The Hobbit, $8.7M to $8.6M, but Hobbit will likely take the weekend fairly easily, with perhaps $30M  to $27M for Anchorman.  Thanks to the holiday week coming up (Anchorman could take in $65M between Christmas and New Year’s), the comedy should top $100M, with a good shot at getting past 2010’s The Other Guys and 2007’s Blades of Glory (both at $119M), although Will Ferrell’s high-water marks of Elf ($173M) and Talladega Nights ($148M) are likely out of reach.  In addition, Anchorman 2 will crush the international result of the first movie, which in 2004 made a puny $5.3M overseas.

AMERICAN HUSTLE (Sony), with no franchise behind it, no high concept, and stars who (supporting actress Jennifer Lawrence aside) have shaky box office track records, had a higher per-theatre average than Anchorman 2, with $6.3M on Friday at 2507 theatres, and might even touch $20M for the weekend.  This should just be the start for Hustle, which could be at $70M by New Year’s, with its expected rush of Oscar nominations still weeks away.  It’s the third offbeat hit for David O. Russell after The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, and solidifies the recent sense that the Oscar race could come down to the exuberant Hustle versus the austere 12 Years A Slave.

SAVING MR. BANKS (Disney) is having a softer expansion to 2110 theatres, with a $2.9M Friday and maybe a $10M weekend.  Disney very much wants to be in the Oscar race with this one, but critical support has been mushy, and the movie is going to have to prove itself with word of mouth if it’s to become the “popular choice.”

WALKING WITH DINOSAURS (20th) would face quick extinction if not for the oncoming holidays, after a $2.1M Friday that was only 40% of what Frozen made on its 4th Friday in wide release.  Even so, it may only reach $7.5M for the weekend and $30M by New Year’s, not much for a film that will cost $200M when worldwide marketing costs are added in.

HOLDOVERS:  THE HOBBIT:  THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (Warners/MGM) took a big 72% hit from last Friday, about the same as last year’s An Unexpected Journey did on its second Friday–so any hope that strong word of mouth would narrow the gap between the two seems to be in vain.  Smaug looks to be around 15-20% behind Journey when its US run is done, which will put it at $240M-260M.  Still, no reason to cry for Peter Jackson or Warners, as the film is already over $300M worldwide and will probably end up around $850-900M at least, with Journey‘s $1B not out of reach if Smaug overperforms internationally.

FROZEN (Disney), on the other hand, is clearly benefiting from phenomenal word of mouth, as it held even in its 4th Friday of wide release at $5.1M, an amazing accomplishment.  It’ll pass Tangled‘s $200.8M total by Dec. 25 or 26, with a solid week of holiday riches ahead of it, and might reach $250M before it’s done, not far from Monster University‘s $268.5M crown as the biggest animated hit of 2013.

THE HUNGER GAMES:  CATCHING FIRE (Lionsgate) dropped 40% Friday-to-Friday.  It’s running $19M ahead of the first Hunger Games, but the gap is steadily narrowing–however, the holidays should help keep it on top.  It’s likely to be a close race between Catching Fire, Hunger Games ($408M) and Iron Man 3 ($409M) for franchise and 2013 bragging rights.

A MADEA CHRISTMAS (Lionsgate) fell 58% from last Friday to $2.4M, better than the 65-70% drop most of the Madea movies have on their second Fridays.  The question will be whether it will hold well throughout the holidays, or because of its specifically seasonal subject, if the bottom will drop out on Dec. 26.

Among awards contenders in wide-ish release, PHILOMENA (Weinstein) took a worrisome 44% drop from last Friday to $317K at 730 theatres, and may only have a $1500 per-theatre average for the weekend. THE BOOK THIEF (20th), now at 680 theatres, may not even average $1K per theatre over the weekend.  

THOR: THE DARK WORLD (Paramount) will pass $200M in the US today.

LIMITED RELEASE:  The marquee opening was HER (Warners), which is heading for a solid but unexciting $40K average at 6 NY/LA theatres for the weekend.  THE PAST (Sony Pictures Classics), snubbed by the Academy for a Foreign Film nomination, may have a modest $9K average at 3 theatres.  The most impressive opening of the weekend is the Indian non-art movie DHOOM 3 (Yash Raj), which like Instructions Not Included earlier this year, is demonstrating the strength of its niche audience with what may be a $15K per-theatre average for the weekend at 236 theatres.

There were a few expansions by awards hopefuls.  NEBRASKA (Paramount), now at 310 theatres, may have a mild $1600 weekend average.  INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (CBS) widened to 148 for perhaps a $7500 weekend average.  Both DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (Focus/Universal) and 12 YEARS A SLAVE (Fox Searchlight) fell back to limited release, with around $1K per-theatre averages at, respectively, 330 and 301.  Both will likely remain in a holding pattern until the Oscar nominations are announced next month.    MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM (Weinstein) remained at 4 theatres and took a leap to what could be a $15K average for the weekend.

NEXT WEEK:  The holiday deluge.  Christmas Day brings something for everyone:  Martin Scorsese’s very adult THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (Paramount), Ben Stiller’s comedy THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (20th), Sylvester Stallone and Robert DeNiro in GRUDGE MATCH (Warners) for the oldsters, Keanu Reeves in 47 RONIN (Universal) for action fans, and the Justin Bieber concert movie BELIEVE (Open Road) for–well, they know who they are.  In addition, AUGUST : OSAGE COUNTY (Weinstein), THE INVISIBLE WOMAN (Sony Pictures Classics) and LONE SURVIVOR (Universal) enter limited release.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."