December 26, 2014

UPDATED CHRISTMAS DAY BOX OFFICE: A Merry One for Unbroken, Into the Woods & The Hobbit


NOTE:  Updated throughout with official studio Christmas Day estimates.

Americans unwrapped their presents and headed out to the multiplex on Christmas Day (or to a nearby indie theatre, in the case of The Interview) according to preliminary numbers at Deadline, making for an extremely healthy holiday.

UNBROKEN (Universal/Legendary) needed a strong box office performance to counter its very mixed reviews, and that’s exactly what it achieved with $15.6M on Thursday, swamping its strong competition.  That suggests $50M+, and possibly as much as $60M, by Sunday, and a holiday period that should put Angelina Jolie’s epic of wartime suffering well over $100M.  The 4-day weekend should be neck-and-neck with THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES (New Line/MGM/Warners), which was below Unbroken on Thursday with $13.1M$12.7M (a splendid surge of 118%over 100% from Wednesday’s number), but which should probably grow again on Friday, while Unbroken is likely to remain at Thursday’s pace.  If the Armies number holds, its The Armies Christmas Day increase iswill be substantially better than the 85% rise for Return of the King, which also had a year with a Thursday Christmas in 2003, and its total is $127.1Mwill be $126.7M, putting it above either of the other Hobbit movies after 8 days of release.

INTO THE WOODS (Disney) was also ahead of Hobbit on Thursday with $15.1M$13.6M, another very strong start, but will likely slip into 3rd place for the 4 day weekend, assuming Hobbit has its Friday bump.  It’s worth noting, however, that WOODS is playing in 700 fewer theatres than UNBROKEN and 1400 fewer than THE HOBBIT, giving it a higher per-theatre average on Thursday ($6200 vs $5K vs $3400) and indeed the highest in the Top 10.  Still, a $40M+ opening will already put Woods within a day or two of passing the entire $52.9M box office for Sweeney Todd, the last Stephen Sondheim musical to hit the big screen (albeit with an R rating and a very different audience profile).  It also has a chance of exceeding $100M by the end of the holidays.

There had to be coal in somebody’s stocking, and THE GAMBLER (Paramount) is heading for a so-so $5M$4.6M Thursday and probably under $20M for the 4-day weekend.  It, too, will benefit from the week’s worth of holiday-level box-office in the next 10 days, and with a moderate budget, $50-60M by January 4 won’t be bad at all.  BIG EYES (Weinstein) opened at only 1307 theatres, so its $1.4M$1.5M Thursday isn’t as low as it looks, but it remains to be seen whether the film will have enough strength to expand beyond that limited start.

In addition to the new openings, THE IMITATION GAME (Weinstein) expanded to 747 theatres to $3.1M.  That’s the same strategy Weinstein used on The King’s Speech, but beware of box-office comparisons: King’s Speech expanded on a Saturday (which was when Christmas fell in 2010), so it only had 2 days of its weekend in wide release.

Among other holdovers, NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB (20th) had a solid Christmas Day showing, rising to $7.4M and perhaps a $30M 4-day weekend.  The sun may not be coming up for ANNIE (Columbia/Sony), which increased to $4M on the holiday, with a long weekend ahead that may not reach $20M. 

THE INTERVIEW (Columbia/Sony) is more of a sociopolitical event than a box-office one, since it was only released at 331 independent cinemas.  It grossed $1M on its first day, but that number has to be considered in the context of the previous day’s nationwide VOD streaming debut, and also the fact that many of its theatres probably had limited seating compared to the multiplexes that refused to play the movie.

In truly limited release, SELMA (Paramount) had a very good start with a $17K$16K average at 19 theatres.  It was dwarfed, though, by Clint Eastwood’s AMERICAN SNIPER (Warners), which is at only 4 theatres in NY, LA and Dallas (and has the advantage of playing at the enormous Cinerama Dome in LA), averaging a huge $60K$50K on Thursday, which will probably lead it to one of the biggest weekend averages of the year.



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."