December 22, 2013



The box office effect of the upcoming holidays is already being seen, as studios are estimating extremely low Sunday drops from Saturday based on seasonal patterns.  With one conspicuous exception, everything in town is doing at least moderately well.

OPENINGS:  ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES (Paramount) didn’t carry off the weekend crown, and at $26.8M ($40M since Wednesday), it’s at the lower end of where it had hoped to be, its weekend below the opening of the original Anchorman in 2004 ($28.4M–but that opened on a Friday).  Nevertheless, the holidays will make it a very robust hit, especially since its only real comedy competition is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  Decimating the first Anchorman‘s international box office isn’t hard, considering that it was barely released overseas and had a total of $5.3M, so it’s not a major accomplishment that Anchorman 2 is already at $13.4M in 5 territories.

AMERICAN HUSTLE (Sony) is off to a sensational start for a film with no pre-sold elements at all, neck-and-neck at $19.1M with Frozen for 3d place behind Hobbit 2 and Anchorman 2 (Disney estimates Frozen at $100K higher, but other studios dispute that).   It’s already the biggest opener of director David O. Russell’s career, and Sony is being fairly conservative with its Sunday estimate, claiming the 2d biggest Sunday drop in the Top 10, so its number may rise.  With a pathway of awards and nominations likely ahead of it after the holidays are over, it could reach $100M+.  The immediate question will be whether the Wednesday arrival of The Wolf of Wall Street, which has a somewhat overlapping concept and set of themes–but a very different tone–will cut into its business.

SAVING MR. BANKS (Disney) had a much softer expansion into wide release at $9.3M, with an audience that skewed very old.  The movie will need to build through the holidays if it’s to develop any awards momentum.  In just a few overseas territories, it’s earned $15.4M so far.

Get out your tar pit gags, as WALKING WITH DINOSAURS (20th) is looking like–well, like a dinosaur after a $7.3M weekend.  It had a disastrous Saturday for a family movie, rising only 30% from Friday (The Croods, by way of comparison, went up 63% on its 2d day), and on top of its US woes, it took in only $13.8M from 40 territories overseas.  Holiday business will give it some semblance of dignity, but with a $200M pricetag (including worldwide marketing), it’s all but extinct.

HOLDOVERS:  THE HOBBIT : THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (Warners/MGM) took the weekend with $31.5M, a reasonable 57% drop from last weekend.  (Last year’s An Unexpected Journey fell 56%.)  It’s unlikely to catch up with Journey in the US, running about 15% behind, Overseas, it earned another $96M in 56 territories for a $276.3M total.  That’s slightly below the $288.5M Journey had overseas after 2 weeks, but Journey was in 3 additional territories, and both films had $96M Weekend 2 totals, so Smaug appears to be holding steady internationally.  It may not quite reach Journey‘s worldwide $1B total, but it’ll be close.

FROZEN (Disney) continues to hold fantastically well, down a tiny 15% to a currently-estimated $19.2M in its 4th wide weekend.  Now that Dinosaurs has been vanquished, it’s going to own the family movie slot all through the holidays, and could be near $250M by New Year’s.  It’s also taken in $152.6M overseas, where it’s having a gradual rollout over the next several months.

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (Lionsgate) stabilized, down just 36% in its 5th weekend to $8.8M.  That’s not quite the phenomenal hold of the first Hunger Games (down 31% in Weekend 5), but it continues to run almost $15M ahead of its predecessor, and while its daily numbers are below Hunger Games‘ level at this point, of course it has the holiday bonanza ahead.  Overseas it’s no contest, with Fire more than $100M ahead of Hunger Games, $393.6M to $283.2M.  Fire is $765.3M worldwide, and should top $850M before it’s done.

A MADEA CHRISTMAS (Lionsgate) had an exceptionally good hold for a Tyler Perry movie, down just 47% to $8.5M in its 2d weekend.  The question for this movie will be what happens to it on Dec. 26.  PHILOMENA (Weinstein) also held well, down 33% to $1.2M, with $13.3M earned so far.  Meanwhile, THOR: THE DARK WORLD (Disney) officially went over $200M in the US, to go with its international $426.3M, a $627M worldwide total that’s way past the first Thor‘s $449.3M.

LIMITED RELEASE:  HER (Warners) had a fine, unsensational start with a $43K average at 6 theatres.  The trick for this lovely, low-key film will be not to get lost in the holiday shuffle, so that it can have some impact before going wide in January.  THE PAST (Sony Pictures Classics) had an OK $10K average at 3 theatres.  Meanwhile, Bollywood’s DHOOM 3 (Yash Raj) came out of nowhere to score a $14K average at 236 theatres, giving it a $3.3M weekend that put it in the Top 10.

A couple of awards hopefuls expanded, to moderate results.  INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (CBS), now in 148 theatres, had a $7K average, while NEBRASKA (Paramount), widened to 310, had a $1900 average.  Contenders 12 YEARS A SLAVE (Fox Searchlight) (301 theatres) and DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (Focus/Universal) (330 theatres) had $1100-1200 per-theatre averages.  MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM (Weinstein) had an odd weekend as it remained at 4 theatres, up strongly on Friday but then down heavily on Saturday, for what ended up as a 19% weekend drop and a quiet $7K per-theatre average.


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."