December 23, 2017

EARLY FRIDAY BOX OFFICE: “Last Jedi” Rules Holiday, “Jumanji” Solid, “Pitch Perfect 3″” OK, “Greatest Showman,” “Downsizing” & “Father Figures” Flop


A general note:  the last time December 22 fell on a Friday was in 2006, and a look at that year indicates what box office patterns may be between now and January 1.  We can expect most films to have a relatively mild Saturday uptick (up to 30%) then plunge by 50% or so on Christmas Eve.  Most titles will zoom on Christmas Day, doubling or more, with the exception of some family movies whose audiences are observing the holiday.  After that, things should explode, with many films in the December 26-January 1 period earning 2x the amount that they took in December 22-25, and some family movies even higher than that.

For the third consecutive year, one mega-franchise is dominating multiplexes.  We’ve reached the part of the calendar where a day-to-day comparison of STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (Lucasfilm/Disney) with The Force Awakens breaks down, because Force Awakens had already reached Christmas Day on its 2d Friday.  According to preliminary numbers at Deadline, Last Jedi fell 74% from its opening day to $27.1M, which was a steeper drop than Force Awakens‘ 59% and Rogue One‘s 68%.  It’s a bit of a surprise that Last Jedi is proving to be more front-loaded than its predecessors, and may reflect some of the movie’s polarizing plot turns.  Nevertheless, there’s nothing to weep about here, as Last Jedi should have a $110M 4-day weekend, and will likely be past $600M in the US by January 1, with an ultimate total midway between the last 2 installments at $700M or so, and the same amount or better overseas.  It will have to console itself with being one of the top 6 or 7 films in worldwide box office history.

2d choice for most audiences is JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE (Columbia/Sony), which had a $12.4M Friday, and had already earned $16.4M on Wednesday and Thursday.  Jumanji could reach $50M for the 4-day weekend, and have $160M by the end of the holidays, eventually reaching a healthy $200M in the US, with solid international prospects that would make it profitable on $250M in production/marketing costs.

PITCH PERFECT 3 (Gold Circle/Perfect World/Universal) had a $10.7M opening day (including $2.1M from Thursday night), down an alarming 62% from Pitch Perfect 2.  That one didn’t have the benefit of a Christmas week opening, so Perfect 3 will certainly make up ground, but at this point it’s headed for a $35M 4-day weekend and $100M by New Year’s, which means it will likely end up far below Perfect 2‘s $184.3M US total.  The Pitch Perfect franchise has also been US-centric (Perfect 2 only earned 36% of its worldwide total overseas), which means that with $150M or so in production/marketing costs, this may be the right time to end the saga, as the ads have been promising.

There’s a common misunderstanding that because holiday week box office is so high, films opening at this time of year can’t fail, but several titles this season are proving that false once again.  THE GREATEST SHOWMAN (TSG/20th) cost at least $200M all-in, and its Friday was a measly $3.2M (it had already earned $4.8M on Wed-Thurs).  It’s heading for a $13M 4-day weekend, and perhaps $45M by the end of the holidays, nowhere close to breakeven, and with questionable overseas prospects.

DOWNSIZING (Annapurna/Paramount) is Paramount’s third late 2017 prestige wide release, after mother! and Suburbicon, to drop dead at the box office.  It’s the most expensive of the three, with at least $150M in production/marketing costs, and a $2.3M opening day might bring it to $10M by Monday and $30M by January 1.  Ironically (although not for Paramount), even though it’s director Alexander Payne’s most costly project, it’s likely to end up earning less than his more modest The Descendants ($82.6M) and Sideways ($71.5M).

FATHER FIGURES (Alcon/Warners) is presumably in the holiday line-up because Sisters proved 2 years ago that there was a $87M-sized market for R-rated comedy among the broader entertainments.  But even with relatively modest costs (perhaps $85M in production/marketing), Father Figures isn’t touching the Sisters numbers.  Its awful $1.4M opening day (compared to $5M for Sisters) might bring it to $6M by Monday, and $25M by January 1, with little likelihood of success overseas relying on Ed Helms and Owen Wilson as stars.

A pair of awards contenders widened to semi-wide release for the holidays with moderate results.  DARKEST HOUR (Focus/Universal) is now in 806 theatres, and with a $1.3M Friday, it may have a $3.5M 3-day weekend, a bit less than the $4.1M Lady Bird earned in 791.  THE SHAPE OF WATER (Fox Searchlight) expanded to 726 theatres, and after a $900K Friday, it’s on track for a $2.5M 3-day weekend, so far not breaking through to a general audience.  (Call Me By Your Name also had a key expansion to 114 theatres, but no preliminary numbers are avaiable for it.)

Non-Star Wars holdovers are aimed at families.  COCO (Pixar/Disney) climbed 7% from last Friday thanks to schoolchildren on break seeking entertainment, up to $2.4M.  It should have a $9M 4-day weekend and be at $190M or so by January 1.  FERDINAND (Blue Sky/20th) slipped 19% from last week’s opening day to $2.9M, and should also earn $9M over the 4-day weekend, with $50M by New Year’s Day.

THE POST (DreamWorks/Reliance/Participant/20th) had a lower-key opening in 9 theatres than might have been expected, with a 3-day per-theatre average around $65K.  (We don’t have early numbers for the limited opening of Hostiles or Happy End.)


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."