December 26, 2013



DEC. 26 UPDATE:  A mere adjustment to overaggressive estimation or an early sign, in this instant word-of-internet age, that audiences aren’t having a good time?  The major change from last night’s early numbers is that THE WOLF OF WALL STREET slipped to $9.2M, falling behind THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG for 2d place on Christmas Day.  Today’s box office result will be crucial in tipping whether mainstream audiences have the stamina and tolerance for Martin Scorsese’s 3-hour exercise in excess.

HOBBIT 2, for its part, was up a bit from the early estimate to $9.3M, although still below the $11.2M that AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY made last Christmas Day.  ANCHORMAN 2 was just about on estimate at $8.1M, while THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY was up slightly to $7.8M and AMERICAN HUSTLE close to estimate at $7.4M.  The good news for HUSTLE was that the arrival of WOLF, which aims at the same adult audience, didn’t seem to hurt it at all.

There was definitely some audience interest in 47 RONIN, up significantly from its initial estimate to $7M, although that’s still not a tremendous number considering its costs (and we’ll see how it holds up on Day 2).  Universal as reportedly already taken an (undisclosed) write-off on the movie, not exactly a sign of studio confidence.  FROZEN was still only moderately up from Dec. 24, but stronger than originally estimated at $6.4M.  SAVING MR. BANKS was on estimate at $5.1M.

GRUDGE MATCH underperformed even its blah estimate, slightly below $4M.  The Justin Bieber BELIEVE concert movie was on estimate, for what it’s worth, at $1.3M.

MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM (Weinstein) widened to 975 theaters and didn’t generate much interest on the crowded holiday, with $1.3M and a $1300 per-theatre average.  HER (Warners) had a more modest expansion to 47 theatres with a solid $5500 average.  LONE SURVIVOR (Universal), at just 1 theatre each in NY and LA, launched very well with an $18K average.  THE INVISIBLE WOMAN (Sony Pictures Classics) was more modest with a $4K average at 3 theatres.

Among other holdovers, A MADEA CHRISTMAS (Lionsgate) had an impressive 127% hike for the day to $3M, but its post-Christmas fate is the question.  INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (CBS) more than doubled its take at 160 theaters to $450K, a $2800 per-theatre average.   

The Christmas Day openings can expect to drop 30% or so today, while holdovers should be steadier, and family movies like FROZEN (and even WALKING WITH DINOSAURS) may even go up.


Preliminary numbers at The Hollywood Reporter show the holiday box office season kicking off in fine style.  Leading the pack is Martin Scorsese’s THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (Paramount/Red Granite), overperforming with perhaps $10M in Christmas Day ticket sales.  That’s nowhere near last year’s massive Christmas Day openings of Les Miserables ($18.1M) or Django Unchained ($15M), but it’s an excellent start for a 3-hour long, hard R-rated opus.  The key question will be how frontloaded the polarizing Wolf turns out to be, since early response from exit poll responders was less than enthusiastic.

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (Warners/MGM) was behind Wolf at around $9M, up about 80% from Tuesday’s take and much more likely to remain stable throughout the holiday week.  Smaug. however, continues to run behind last year’s An Unexpected Journey, which made $11.2M on Christmas Day.  ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES (Paramount) is next at $8M, almost triple its Tuesday business and a great sign for a movie that seemed to be in danger of mildly underperforming.

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (20th) and AMERICAN HUSTLE (Sony) are reportedly just about tied at $7.5M.  For Mitty, that’s the solid but unspectacular start that was anticipated, about $1M better than last year’s Christmas Day debut of Parental Guidance, which ended up with $77.3M.  (But Mitty is a much more expensive production than Guidance was.)  For Hustle, it’s another terrific day–if that number holds, it’ll be up 150% from Tuesday, and already at $34M.  (It’ll pass the total of 12 Years A Slave, perhaps its main Oscar competition, on Thursday.)

A $6.3M opening day for 47 RONIN (Universal) falls into the category of “could have been worse,” although it still doesn’t hold out much hope for the picture to make more than a dent in its giant production and marketing costs.

FROZEN (Disney) didn’t have much of an increase, up about 25% to $6M, although it may continue to rise as it reaches the weekend–and in any case, it’s already at $210M, so its hit credentials are firmly in place.  SAVING MR. BANKS (Disney) is still in the second tier of holiday movies, but it had a big holiday bump, up 150% to $5.2M, and should hold well through New Year’s.

The best to be said for GRUDGE MATCH (Warners), with a $4.5M opening day, is that with its older audience, it could build through the holidays.  Well, actually the best to be said is that it wasn’t Justin Bieber’s BELIEVE (Open Road), which started with just $1.2M–that’s only at 1000 theatres, but it still suggests his fans have decided to start his just-announced retirement earlier than he’d planned.


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."