December 10, 2011



NEW YEAR’S EVE (Warner Bros):  So much for that franchise.  New Year’s was expected to have a softer start than Valentine’s Day, which opened on a holiday weekend that included the titular day itself.  But there’s “soft” and then there’s a 65% decline from Valentine’s opening day.  New Year’s will have a longer playing time than Valentine’s did, probably hanging in a large number of theatres for 4 weeks.  The trouble is that by the time holiday moviegoing seriously begins, New Year’s will already be out of gas, unless it gets a word-of-mouth Christmas miracle.  The picture should still turn a profit for Warners, but don’t hold your breath for “Arbor Day.”

THE SITTER (20th) :  And the answer to whether Jonah Hill can open a movie on his own is… no.  The picture was low-budget, so Fox won’t get hurt by it, but the attempt to make some quick money by counterprogramming the season’s franchises and family fare didn’t work.  The good news for Hill is that his next pictures are the high-concept 21 Jump Street, and Neighborhood Watch, which puts him back into an ensemble where Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn will be doing the heavy lifting.
THE DESCENDANTS (Fox Searchlight):  Increasing theatre count by 50% didn’t yield much payoff:  the likely $5K average for the weekend is lower than what Juno ($10.5K), Black Swan ($8700) and The King’s Speech ($6500) did in parallel spots of their releases.  Descendants, and Searchlight, will be hoping for some big critical help next week, as the Los Angeles Film Critics, Golden Globes and American Film Institute all announce their choices.
HUGO (Paramount):  Very similarly, while a big 800-theatre increase will keep the weekend total fairly stable, the per-theatre number is crashing to a very mediocre $2300.  Things will only get tougher as major holiday competition starts to flood in, so the critics will again need to help out.
OTHER HOLDOVERSNew Year’s Eve hit BREAKING DAWN PART 1 (Summit) right in its target audience, and after running day-to-day ahead of New Moon all week, on Friday BD1 went back down to virtually even.  It now seems clear that the picture won’t reach New Moon‘s $296M total.  Meanwhile, audiences finally discovered ARTHUR CHRISTMAS (Sony)… 3 weeks late.  It’s heading for an excellent 15% drop, but the numbers are already so low that the final total will be more of a moral victory than a financial one.
TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER SPY (Focus):  Off to a great start, with a likely $80K average in 4 NY/LA theatres, one of the year’s highest.  Of course, the question is how broad the appeal of the film’s labyrinthine plot and low-key storytelling style can get.  
YOUNG ADULT (Paramount):  A somewhat less impressive likely $40K average at 8 theatres, particularly because the presence of Charlize Theron and the curdled comedy genre were supposed to make this one an easier sell.  The question isn’t whether Theron will be nominated for Actress awards where as long as there are multiple nominees, but whether, in this year of Meryl Streep, Michelle Williams and Viola Davis, she can actually win anything.
SHAME (Fox Searchlight):  Almost doubled its theatre count to 21, and will still fall for the weekend, with a good but not great $13K average.  This film is the poster child for needing some award and nominations help.
THE ARTIST (Weinstein):  A very, very slow expansion boat for this speciality item.  It added 11 theatres for a total of 17, and should have a fairly solid $17K average.
MY WEEK WITH MARILYN (Weinstein):  Held at 244 theatres, and still not setting marquees on fire with a likely $3K average.  

It’s hard to overstate how important next weekend is to Hollywood, as it heralds the arrival of 2 1/2 of the season’s biggest franchises:  wide releases of the latest chapters of the SHERLOCK HOLMES and ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNK series, as well as a 5-day “preview” in 400 IMAX theatres only, of MISSION IMPOSSIBLE:  GHOST PROTOCOL (in the 43 “real” IMAX houses, Warners will also unveil the 8-minute extended trailer for THE DARK KNIGHT RISES).  Comparisons for MI4 are fruitless because of the odd release strategy, but last time around Sherlock (which opened on Christmas Day) made $62M in its first 3 days, while Alvin (which opened on the Wednesday before Christmas) made $76M in its first 5 days.  Young Adult will also begin its expansion, and on the limited release side, Roman Polanski’s CARNAGE will enter the game. 

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."