December 28, 2014



UPDATE:  The release of THE INTERVIEW continues to be improvisational, and contrary to regular practice–as well as Sony’s previously expressed plans–the studio announced on Sunday that in addition to its $2.8M take from independent theatres, the film earned $15M from online viewing in the Wed-Sat period.  However, Sony didn’t specify how that amount was divided between $5.99 rentals and $14.99 purchases.  Nor did it provide any day-by-day breakdown, so we don’t know if (as might be expected) THE INTERVIEW landed with a huge splash on Wednesday and then quickly trailed off.  The upshot is that while $15M is a big number for 4 days of online availability, we still don’t know enough to make any informed guesses about where THE INTERVIEW will end up in ultimate revenues. 

One of the reasons studios love this time of year is its consistency:  nothing in Saturday’s Top 10 dropped more than 13% from Friday, and the estimates for Sunday have every film slipping 20-25% for the day.

WIDE RELEASE:  THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES (New Line/MGM/Warners) was easily on top for the 3-day weekend at $41.4M.  That’s down 24% from last week’s opening but non-holiday weekend, and it’s better than the 30% drop that Return of the King had in 2003 when it played with the same release pattern (opening 8 days before a Thursday Christmas).  The Armies 12-day total of $168.5M is ahead of the 1st 12 days of An Unexpected Journey ($168.2M) and The Desolation of Smaug ($140.6M), but that stat is less meaningful, because those movies opened a few days earlier, and hadn’t yet hit their respective holiday periods.  (Armies is running about 25% below the 12-day total of Return of the King.)  However one shakes the numbers, there’s no question that the Hobbit trilogy is exiting with high box office success.  Overseas, Armies remained huge with a $89.2M weekend, putting its international total at $405.1M.  Once again, release patterns are different, but that appears to be on par with where Desolation of Smaug was at this point of its release.

The Hobbit was expected to be the biggest hit of the season, but where this holiday is overdelivering is in the #2-3 slots.  UNBROKEN (Universal/Legendary) broke far beyond expectations with a $31.8M 3-day weekend (down 12% on Saturday and another 20% on Sunday) and $47.3M since Thursday.  It should go over $100M by the end of the holidays and play well into January (facing direct competition from American Sniper after that movie goes wide on January 16).  The question now is whether this level of success will raise Unbroken in the eyes of Oscar voters after the critics groups mostly ignored it.  (So far, Unbroken is only in Spain and the UK beyond the US, where it has $2.7M.)

Right behind Unbroken was INTO THE WOODS (Disney), with a 3-day weekend at $31M (down 13% on Saturday and 23% on Sunday) and $46.1M since Thursday.  Woods, like Unbroken, had a moderate production budget, and it doesn’t face any fresh family competition for the entire month of January, so it should be by far the most profitable venture in bringing Stephen Sondheim to the screen.  (Which probably doesn’t mean anyone should expect a swift movie version of Assassins.)  Woods is just barely behind the 4-day Christmas opening of Les Miserables, which had $48.8M at this point in its run and made it all the way to $148.8M in the US.  (Les Mis, though, at $293M overseas, was far stronger internationally than Woods can realistically hope to be–Woods will be releasing outside the US gradually over the next several months, and so far has $2.7M in a few scattered territories.)

The holiday’s other openings were considerably weaker.  THE GAMBLER (Paramount) had a $9.3M 3-day weekend (down 2% on Saturday and 25% on Sunday) and $14.3M since Thursday, and may hit $35M by the end of the holidays.  BIG EYES (Weinstein) earned $3M over 3 days (up 6% on Saturday and down 25% on Sunday) and $4.4M since Thursday, aiming for $10M by next Sunday.  Neither was particularly expensive for its studio (and Big Eyes, which opened in an oddly mid-sized 1307-theatre launch, didn’t have major marketing dollars behind it), and barring unexpected awards success, they’ll fade quickly.

The holdovers behind Hobbit were led by NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB (20th) and ANNIE (Sony/Columbia).  Museum climbed 21% from last weekend to $20.6M ($55.3M to date).  That’s far below the 10-day totals for its predecessors ($115.8M and $104.2M), and Museum was an expensive production, so it’ll need overseas help to break even.  So far, that’s uncertain:  this weekend, it took in $30.3M in 40 territories for a $48.6M total.  Annie grew by 5% from last weekend to $16.6M ($45.8M to date), and with parents desperate for family-friendly holiday fare, it could crawl to $100M before it’s done.  Overseas, it had a quiet $5.9M weekend in 21 territories.

After 6 weeks in theatres, THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART I (Lionsgate) is still a force, with a 3-day weekend at $10M and $306.7M to date.  It continues to be on the track of Guardians of the Galaxy as the year’s #1 movie in the US.  Mockingjay‘s worldwide total is $670M, with $363M overseas after a $7.9M weekend (and China/Japan still to open in 2015), still some way from Catching Fire‘s $440M overseas total.

THE IMITATION GAME (Weinstein) had a superb expansion into semi-wide (747 theatres) release with a $7.9M weekend and a per-theatre average that was similar to those in the top 3 slots.  By the end of the holidays, Imitation could be vying with Chef as the #2 indie release of the year behind Grand Budapest Hotel, with tons of awards-fueled potential upside.  WILD (Fox Searchlight) also added to its expansion very well with a $5.4M weekend ($16.4M to date) that suggests it, too, is benefiting from strong word of mouth.

EXODUS: GODS & KINGS (20th) is fading fast, down 17% from last weekend despite the holiday to $6.8M ($52.5M so far) and in desperate need of huge overseas success.  It’s now in 39 overseas territories, where it earned $31M this weekend for an unmemorable $97M total.  TOP FIVE (Paramount) added a few more theatres from last weekend but only rose 6% to a $3.8M weekend ($19.3M so far).

LIMITED RELEASE:  THE INTERVIEW (Columbia/Sony) is losing its curiosity value, and it managed a $1.8M 3-day weekend at 331 indie theatres ($2.9M since Thursday), giving it a lower per-theatre average than The Imitation Game had at more than twice as many theatres.  The numbers that really matter for The Interview, its VOD sales, are being kept quiet by Sony (which is to say that they haven’t been hacked yet).

AMERICAN SNIPER (Warners) had a spectacular start in 4 theatres, averaging $152.5K, the 2d-best of the year behind Grand Budapest Hotel.  The studio couldn’t have asked for better, and now it too will be hoping that Oscar voters are paying attention.  SELMA (Paramount) was solid but not in Sniper‘s league, averaging $31K at 19 theatres.  INHERENT VICE (Warners) more than tripled its theatre count to 16 and climbed 38% from last weekend for an OK $12.5K average.  MR. TURNER (Sony Classics) increased its theatres from 5 to 24 and more than doubled last weekend with a $10.5K average.  FOXCATCHER (Sony Classics) and BIRDMAN (Fox Searchlight) were very stable–more impressive for Birdman, since it shed a third of its theatres–respectively down 1% with a $3K average and down 5% with a $2800 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."