4th Writethru Sunday AM: Disney’s Moana presides over her third No. 1 weekend in a row with an estimated $18.8M after surging 108% yesterday thanks to Saturday matinees. Comparing the first 19 days of Moana to Frozen, the Oceania princess’ estimated running cume of $145M is pacing 4% ahead of Disney’s ice sisters who ended their run at $400.7M.

And Paramount’s frosh entry Office Christmas Party kept up the noise without faltering, with a 3% hike over Friday sending its weekend to an estimated $17.5M, besting its projections by $2.3M. It’s the third raunchy party pic of the year after Neighbors 2 ($21.8M opening) and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates ($16.6M), and gross-wise its debut falls right in between them. The question, as we detail below, is whether this T.J. Miller/Jennifer Aniston/Jason Bateman/Kate McKinnon comedy ensemble can make plenty of moola back before it becomes as stale as egg nog.

Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone - La La Land.jpeg
Lionsgate

Given the lack of major studio wide entry competition, specialty distribs took the advantage to either open or expand, and the one title that’s packing people at five theaters in New York and Los Angeles is Lionsgate/Summit’s La La Land. This morning, the distributor reports that the Damien Chazelle-directed original musical beat the opening of Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel ($811K at four sites) with $855K and a per theater of $171K. That’s easily the best of opening theater PTA of 2016, blowing away the $100,5K minted by A24’s Moonlight. La La Land‘s per theater is also an all-time opening weekend record for a five theater opening beating The Master‘s $147k. Outside studio fare, it’s the third highest opening PTA after Kevin Smith’s Red State ($204K) and Grand Budapest Hotel ($202K), however, some claim it’s the second best because Red State played Radio City Music Hall during its opening weekend and charged $43/a ticket.

Friday chalked up a huge $300k (includes $64K previews) while Saturday took in $299K. Overall, an amazing start for a movie that’s been considered risky since it’s an original musical not based on a pre-existing property (a la any Broadway adaptation). Not to mention, La La Land  is a leading best picture contender this year, and this type of start is very promising. Pic apparently sold $100K in advance ticket sales at the Hollywood Arclight before Friday. La La Land has a Rotten Tomatoes that’s certified fresh at 96%. And as this pic gradually widens, that rating is only going to supply foot traffic to La La Land‘s auditoriums.

On the upside, for Paramount/DreamWorks-Reliance’s holiday bacchanal, is the fact that its beating its $13M-$15M weekend projection.  Office Christmas Party‘s current forecasted opening is 68% better than the FSS of Seth Rogen’s R-rated holiday comedy last year, The Night Before ($9.9M, A- Cineamscore, final domestic $43m).

Office Christmas Party
DreamWorks

Paramount took strides to show in their trailers that this movie was a modern holiday It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World with a huge comedy ensemble (I even heard that they shot scenes at the last minute and added some comedians in smaller parts to make it more comedically epic); and that alone distinguishes the pic from other party-hardy movies that have preceded it this year. According to CinemaScore 63% bought tickets to Office Christmas Party because they like raunchy pics.

Despite this, the ensemble assembled here might have featured too many faces that were cult draws or had too much niche appeal wedged in with leading thesps Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston. In terms of the cast’s draw, CinemaScore shows OK numbers, but not through-the-roof. Aniston/Kate McKinnon/Olivia Munn pulled in 31% of the crowd, while actors T.J. Miller/Bateman accounted for 22% of business. Compare this to Sisters where 71% of the audience bought tickets because it was a Tina Fey-Amy Poehler pairing. Overall, Office Christmas Party gets a B CinemaScore which is in line with a number of other bacchanal comedies including last year’s Sisters, this year’s Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, and 2014’s Neighbors.

But how much money can Office Christmas Party sleep its way to before the end of the year?

Some box office analysts are eager to comp Office Christmas Party to last year’s Sisters which did a 6.3x multiple of $87M off its $13.9M opening. However that’s an apples-to-oranges comparison. Sisters was pure counterprogramming to the biggest movie of all-time, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and it was squarely aimed at older women who had no interest in going to that bigger movie immediatelySisters also starred two very solid TV personalities with huge followings, not to mention it wasn’t saddled by a holiday theme. Nor is the PG-13 Boo! A Madea Halloween a great comp either for Office Christmas Party. That Tyler Perry movie drew predominately African Americans and amassed $73M in seven weeks off an A CinemaScore.

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016)
Universal Pictures

It’s been a hard road for R-rated comedies this year, and party hardy ones have had it harder. Audiences have shown little tolerance for them: Neighbors 2 fell flat with a 2.5x of $55.3M off a $21.8M opening while Mike and Dave did a 2.8x of $46M from a $16.6M opening. Maybe Office Christmas Party can prove them wrong. It does have the holiday season multiple on its side (most of these ho-ho comedies do an average 4.5x), plus 18-24ers gave the pic an A-, while under 18 gave it an A+. That audience will become more available in the weeks to come and there’s really nothing else out there like Office Christmas Party.

Cost-wise, Office Christmas Party cost $45M, $20M more than Rogen’s The Night Before, and industry estimates peg the pic’s P&A at $35M. All in for the weekend, with non-Paramount territories, the global launch for this raunch was $33.9M.  Earlier this weekend, Fandango noticed that Office Christmas Party was outpacing this year’s R-rated comedies, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising at the same point in the Fandango sales cycle.

According to ComScore, Office Christmas Party is pulling in 50/50 males-females, 69% over 25 with only a meh 55% recommending it to their friends. Breaking down CinemaScore we see a 56% turnout among guys, 83% over 25.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros.’ Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them stands within nickels and dimes of a $200M running cume, just $700K shy.

Amy Adams - Nocturnal Animals.jpeg
Merrick Morton/Focus Features

Thanks to the lack of new big studio titles in the marketplace, the bottom half of the top 10 chart is alive with indie fare. Among those to crack the list is Focus Features’ Tom Ford-directed thriller Nocturnal Animalswhich expanded from 126 to 1,261 and made $1.1M on Friday, on its way to $3.19M weekend. Cume by end of today through four weekends should stand at $6.2M. The movie cost under $23M, and Ford said at a Nocturnal Animals lunch on Thursday that it’s been wonderful working with the studio classic label. He had concerns prior to production in regards to working with a major studio and tried to hold on to Nocturnal Animals‘ foreign rights, however, ultimately sold worldwide to Focus for $20M at last year’s Cannes Film Festival with the label committing to an eight-figure P&A. At this point those total costs are a big mountain for Nocturnal Animals to climb and profit from. In regards to its Rotten Tomatoes rating, the movie doesn’t boast the best for an awards contender with 72% fresh. A want-to-see among upscale adults could pervade should the pic gain traction during awards season (Michael Shannon is rumored to be a lock for best supporting actor). PostTrak shows a 50/50 male-female split, 80% over 25, but it’s a hard movie for some to swallow (it is a bit David Lynch in tone between its fat lady opening credits and its redneck terror on the side of the road drama): PostTrak total positive score is at 73% with a 44% definite recommend (not good).

Amazon’s Manchester by the Sea via Roadside Attractions goes from 156 to 368 locations for a $3.1M fourth weekend, +37% from a week ago.

Manchester has crossed over to a broad audience and the movie is working strongly in all locations,” said Bob Berney, Amazon Studios’ chief of marketing and distribution this morning, “The film is # 1 or #2 in 227 of the complexes we are playing in and we’re in the top 10 with only 366 theaters.  The strong critical reaction and awards are wonderful but the real story is that Kenny Lonergan’s film is connecting deeply to audiences across the country and it’s doing fantastic business.”

Jessica Chastain - Miss Sloane.jpeg
Kerry Hayes

EuropaCorp’s Miss Sloane isn’t looking so hot with a $655K Friday and a FSS $1.9M off 1,648 runs (tracking indicated $3M-$5M) in 11th. It’s a shame because Miss Sloane is earning an 83% positive score and A- CinemaScore. It’s interesting, the grades for these politically-charged movies are through the roof, however, few show up for them. Forty-five percent came out for the subject matter, and 45% bought tickets because of Chastain. Snowden went through something similar earlier this fall, earning an A CinemaScore, and then tanking at the B.O. with $21.6M domestic B.O. off a $40M production cost.

CinemaScore shows 59% females, 99% over 25. PostTrak observed an older female crowd as well with 53% females, 90% over 25). What’s hurting Miss Sloane is that there’s too much competition on the specialty sector this weekend, with many titles boosted by a collection of kudos. Essentially, this $13M budgeted movie went too wide, too fast, but I don’t think it had a choice. If Chastain doesn’t get any nominations this coming week from SAG or Golden Globes, it’s truly over for this movie, and the best bet for EuropaCorp to get any money back was to take Miss Sloane as wide as they could.

The weekend box office for the period of Dec. 9-11 based on industry estimates as of Sunday AM (still waiting on Disney):

1). Moana  (DIS), 3,875 Theaters (0) / $4.1M Fri  /$8.6M Sat/$6.1M Sun/ 3-day cume: $18.8M (-33%)/Total: $145M/Wk 3

 2.) Office Christmas Party  (PAR/DW), 3,210 theaters (-156) /$6.7M Fri.  /$6.8M Sat/$4M Sun/ 3-day cume: $17.5M /Wk 1

3). Fantastic Beasts…  (WB), 3,626 theaters (-362) /$2.8M Fri./$4.8M Sat/$3.1M Sun/3-day cume: $10.8M (-40%)/Total: $199.3m/Wk 4

4). Arrival  (PAR), 3,115 theaters (+200)/$1.55M Fri/$2.5M Sat/$1.55M Sun/3-day cume: $5.6M (-23%)/Total:$81.45M/ Wk 5

5).Doctor Strange  (DIS), 2,763 theaters (-172) /$1.2M Fri /$2.1M Sat/$1.3M Sun/3-day cume: $4.6M (-31%) /Total cume: $222.4M/Wk 6

6). Allied (PAR), 3,018 Theaters (-142) /$1.19M Fri/$1.76M Sat/$1.05M/3-day cume: $4M (-43%) /Total: $35.6M/Wk 3

7).  Nocturnal Animals (Focus), 1,262 theaters (+1.135) /$1.1M Fri /$1.3M Sat/$773K Sun/3-day:$3.19M (+356%)/Total: $6.2M/ Wk 4

8.) Manchester by the Sea (RSA/AMZ) 368 theaters  (+212)/$913K Fri/$1.4M Sat/$850K Sun/3-day: $3.155M (+37%)/Total: $8.3M/Wk 4

9) Trolls  (DWA/20th Century Fox), 2,786 theaters (-370) /$625K Fri/$1.5M Sat/$975K Sun/3-day cume: $3.11M (-34%) /Total Cume: $145.5M/Wk 6

10). Hacksaw Ridge  (Lionsgate), 2,277 theaters (-217) / $672K Fri /$1M Sat/$604K/3-day:$2.3M (-31%)/Total: $60.9M/ Wk 6

11) Miss Sloane (EUR) 1,648 theaters  (+1,644)/$660K /$750K Sat/$490K Sun/3-day: $1.9M (+4377%)/Total: $2M/Wk 3

Notables:

La La Land (LG) 5 theaters/$300K Fri/$299K Sat/$257K Sun/3-day: $855K/$171K PTA/Wk 1

Jackie (FSL)26 theaters/$146K Fri./$204K Sat/$145K Sun/3-day $495K (+66%)/Total cume: $860K/Wk  2

Lion (TWC) 15 theaters (+8)/$43K/$73K Sat/$55K Sun/3-day $171,9K/Total cume: $494K /Wk 3

PREVIOUS Friday AM: Paramount’s DreamWorks/Reliance all-star comedy ensemble Office Christmas Party began jingling with $950,000 in box office change last night at 2,429 theaters from shows starting at 7 PM.

Office Christmas Party
DreamWorks

With Office Christmas Party the only major studio wide entry, the notion is that the specialty side of the business will get room to breath, with Lionsgate/Summit’s La La Land opening in five locations and expansions in the works for Fox Searchlight’s Jackie, EuropaCorp’s Miss Sloane and Focus Features’ Nocturnal Animals.

Meanwhile, how does Office Christmas Party‘s Thursday night compare to other R-rated comedies?

Well, it beats last year’s Sisters which made $769K on its Thursday night in the shadow of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Sisters was squarely aimed at those older women sidestepping Star Wars, and it grossed $4.96M on its first Friday and a weekend of $13.9M. Office Christmas Party also bests the preview night for The Night Before which bowed before Thanksgiving last year to a $550K Thursday night and produced a $3.56M Friday and $9.88M weekend. The all-star comedy is just under the $1M preview cash made by Horrible Bosses 2, which also starred Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman. That R-rated comedy sequel grossed a $4.2M Wednesday and $15.5M FSS.

For some time, tracking has projected that Office Christmas Party will open to $13M-$15M for a potential second-place spot this weekend. Disney’s Moana is expected to hold No. 1 for a third weekend in a row with $18M, which will take its running cume by Sunday to $144.2M.

Paramount is hopingOffice Christmas Party like Sisters will have long legs at the B.O. in the face of Rogue One, which opens this coming Thursday night. More specifically, similar to Lionsgate’s Boo! A Madea Halloween, the hope is it makes a ton of cash in the next three weeks. Sisters churned out a 6.3x multiple off its three-day opening for a final domestic take of $87M. That Tina Fey-Amy Poehler movie had slightly better reviews at 60% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes versus Office Christmas Party‘s lump-of-coal 44% rotten rating. Sisters earned a B CinemaScore, while Seth Rogen’s The Night Before received an A-. His movie ended its run with 4.4x multiple off its FSS with $43M.

Heading into the weekend, social media monitor RelishMix reported Office Christmas Party possessed a social media universe close to 40M across Facebook, YouTube views, Twitter and Instagram, which is good. The movie is getting strong video views with clips receiving around 40K-70K daily views. Viral rate of those videos is moderate at 7-to-1, with fans sharing trailers and interviews with the massive cast.

Awards-season leading contender and original musical La La Land is finally opening after becoming a sensation on the fall festival circuit. Searchlight’s Jackie is expanding into five more markets — Washington DC, San Francisco, Boston, Toronto, and Phoenix. Jessica Chastain gun lobbyist thriller Miss Sloane is moving from four sites to 1,600-plus theaters, and Focus’ Nocturnal Animals is upping from 127 to 1,260.