December 17, 2011



The last 2 weeks of the year will almost certainly bring better news for Hollywood, for reasons of tonnage alone:  there are 6 wide openings to come next week, compared to only 3 in the final weeks of 2010.  But for now, the stocking-stuffer of choice is coal.
SHERLOCK HOLMES:  GAME OF SHADOWS (Warners):  The point here isn’t a potential 20% domestic shortfall on one movie that may well be made up overseas, where the market is booming for big-budget action.  The scary thing, not just for Warners but for all the studios, is that with increasingly rare exceptions, the US audience seems to be less interested than it used to be in the giant product that’s been the cornerstone of the industry for more than 3 decades.  Other than Harry Potter (a special case, as the 8th and final chapter in a continuing saga), virtually every franchise entry this year has underperformed its predecessors domestically.  Will those ticket-buyers come back?  We’ll find out in 2012, when huge additions to the Marvel, Batman, Spider-Man, Twilight, Lord of the Rings and other franchises are rolled out.

ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNKS:  CHIPWRECKED (20th):  Ironically, all the family movies that crashed into each other over Thanksgiving weekend so as to avoid this presumed juggernaut could have spaced themselves out a little.  The moment seems to have passed for the squeaky threesome (6 if you count the Chipettes)–although, again, Mitch Metcalf’s anticipated $140M US gross, combined with homevideo (people still buy DVDs for kids) and overseas boxoffice, will keep this franchise profitable.
MISSION:  IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL (Paramount):  Some good news, albeit loaded with asterisks.  A $24K weekend theatre average in 423 theatres is a terrific number… but by confining itself to Imax and other large-format screens, the studio boosted the ticket price considerably.  And don’t forget those Dark Knight Rises extended trailers in the 70mm houses.  Nonetheless, an excellent start for an industry that needs one.
YOUNG ADULT (Paramount):  Last time around, Paramount unveiled Jason Reitman’s Up In the Air in the fall at Toronto and other festivals, and felt like the movie had peaked too soon and left potential awards on the table when it finally opened in December.  So this time, they kept Reitman’s Young Adult under wraps until awards season.  Unfortunately, the move seems to have backfired:  apart from some (well-deserved) attention to Charlize Theron, the movie is getting limited acclaim, and with a likely $3200 average in about 1000 theatres, it may be doomed by New Year’s.
CARNAGE (Sony Classics):  Despite impeccable credentials (Polanski, the Foster/Winslet/Walz/Reilly combo, Tony Award-winning source material) and some strong reviews where it’s supposed to count, the film is headed for a deeply unexciting $17.5K average at 5 NY/LA theatres.
HOLDOVERSNEW YEAR’S EVE (Warners) should slide less than 50%, but that’s not nearly enough to save it.  THE SITTER (20th), as expected for its genre, will have a deeper slump and head for the exits.  THE DESCENDANTS (Fox Searchlight) continues to do no better than OK; despite a great deal of awards love this week, its per-theatre average will be around $3500.  HUGO (Paramount) and ARTHUR CHRISTMAS (Sony) are both holding well, but at very low numbers, around $1200-1400 per theatre, and THE MUPPETS (Disney) took a bigger fall to hit the same neighborhood.  The Weinstein Company continues to play a very slow hand with MY WEEK WITH MARILYN and THE ARTIST, neither of which expanded this week, and had modest per-theatre dips.  (Both will go wider on Dec. 23.)   Fox Searchlight did expand SHAME from 21 to 51 theatres, and as a result, the per-theatre average will drop sharply to around $6K.  
Next week, as noted, the holiday avalanche arrives.  On Wednesday, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (Sony) and THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN (Paramount) open for their very different audiences, along with the wide expansion of MI4.  Those are followed on Friday by WE BOUGHT A ZOO (20th).  Then Christmas Day brings WAR HORSE (DreamWorks/Disney) and Summit’s counterprogramming THE DARKEST HOUR.  Plenty for families, with a couple of dark dramas for the adults.  Will it work?  Stay tuned.

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."