Will Disney’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens be a Scrooge, hoarding all the available screens and B.O. dollars from the competition in the coming weeks? With the Thanksgiving theatrical business expanding by 11% in this year’s frame compared to 2014 with $181.8 million — thanks to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, The Good Dinosaur and Creed — all eyes now turn to the Christmas play period.
Between December 18 and Christmas Day, eight wide entries are hitting the marquee per Rentrak’s calendar. That’s two more than last year and one short of 2011. So, are most of them doomed to fail due to Force Awakens’ Sith-choke hold on the business? Many are projecting an opening between $185M-$210M.
When Universal’s Jurassic World set the all-time opening-weekend record during June 12-14 with $208.8M, it was unopposed and repped 76% of all tickets sales for that weekend. It appeared as though there was little left for those films in the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, which posted low-double-digit grosses: 20th Century Fox’s Spy with $15.6M (2nd weekend) and Warner Bros./New Line’s San Andreas with $10.8M (3rd weekend).
However, according to exhibition and distribution insiders, it’s going to be different this time around: All boats will rise with Force Awakens‘ tide.
“There weren’t any good films around when Jurassic World opened,” explains a national chain exhibition chief. “That’s why other titles lost tickets sales to that film. It’s a much different time period during the holidays. There’s excellent movies in the marketplace.”
In fact, many predict a B.O. halo effect from Force Awakens that’s on par with the atmosphere when Avatar was in play during the 2009 Christmas frame. Despite the fact that the James Cameron film made back-to-back grosses of $77M and $75.6M in its initial two weekends, two other Christmas releases went on to post domestic B.O. cumes in excess of $200M (Sherlock Holmes and Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel) while a third legged out to $112.7M (adult drama It’s Complicated).
There’s been some talk that Disney has been making stiff demands to exhibitors for The Force Awakens, i.e. the film has to play for a four-week run in the largest auditorium. However, many exhibitors and distributors aren’t wincing at those demands. Much like Al Capone in the movie The Untouchables, exhibs respond to the will of the people. If there’s a line down the block for Force Awakens, Disney doesn’t have to worry: Theater owners will make room in their biggest auditorium for it. Heck, if there’s a number of sellouts on Force Awakens, they’ll down underperforming films on other screens to make room. Given this egg-shell game, which exhibitors play every weekend, it’s too big of a beast for Disney to seize control of its moving parts. Furthermore, exhibitors would get themselves in a lot of hot water with other studios if they give up too many screens to Disney over Christmas. If that’s the case, good luck on negotiating the terms for Warner Bros.’ Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice or 20th Century Fox’s X-Men: Apocalypse.
Some exhibs also point out that Force Awakens can’t possibly play everywhere, particularly in two- or three-player competitive zones like the Village in New York City, where there’s the Landmark Sunshine Cinema, the AMC 7 and Regal Cinemas Union Square 14, or San Francisco where there’s the AMC Metreon, Embarcadero Center Cinema and the Century Centre.
Should Force Awakens hog up 4,300-4,500 playdates, those genres that are under-saturated at the multiplex have a good shot at busting 3,000 playdates — read Paramount’s PG comedy Daddy’s Home or Fox’s under-10 demo/family title Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Road Chip. It’s the dramas such as Sony’s Concussion and Fox’s Joy that are bound to be in the 2,000 range. Universal’s Sisters is scheduled for a wide release. Even if the Tina Fey-Amy Poehler pic, which is making a play for older women, comes up short against Force Awakens on December 18, it’s all about the final B.O. figure after riding through the holidays.
The current crop of Thanksgiving titles will have a bit of a fight but should come out OK in holding a wide count: Creed should be on 2,000, while Disney’s leverage with Star Wars should also keep its Pixar film The Good Dinosaur alive in a similar amount of venues. Lionsgate’s Mockingjay – Part 2 might not be in as many theaters during the Christmas weekend as MJ1 played over the December 27-29 period (2,793 venues) given that Part 2’s grosses are off from Part 1’s numbers. Nonetheless, MJ2 also should hover around the 2K mark. Early-November holdovers including MGM/Sony’s Spectre and Fox’s The Peanuts Movie will get the short end of the stick at 1,000 runs by December 18. During the third weekend of Decembern 2012, Skyfall was in 2,365 theaters; that doesn’t look to be the case for Spectre since its total cume of $176.1M is running behind the 2012 film by 29%.
As far as Force Awakens‘ damage at the art house, where The Weinstein Co.’s The Hateful Eight (100 70MM runs), Fox’s The Revenant (four in New York and Los Angeles), Focus Features’ The Danish Girl (nationwide footprint) and TWC’s Carol will be in play — don’t count on it. The audience for specialty titles not only refuse to deal with Force Awakens — like queues at the multiplex (something that still hasn’t been solved in the wake of Avatar, with few theaters setting aside RSVP seats), but they’re also more discerning about their movie choices. Not to mention, art house chains largely confine their dealmaking to smaller distributors.
However, with a huge film like Force Awakens at the holiday B.O., it’s boom times for all.
Said Hamid Hashemi, President & CEO of iPic Theatres: “It’s a time when people will see three or four movies over the holidays. Sure, teenagers will see Star Wars multiple times, but the next film a group of moviegoers will see could be Joy or The Good Dinosaur. If Star Wars sells out, there are other titles for moviegoers to see.”
Below are the final acutals for the films at the November 23-29 Thanksgiving frame B.O., per Rentrak Theatrical:
1). The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (LGF), 4,175 theaters (0) / 3-day cume: $52M (-49%) / 3-day per screen avg: $12,456 /5-day cume: $76M /Total cume: $198.5M/Wk 2
2). The Good Dinosaur (DIS), 3,749 theaters / 3-day cume: $39.2M / 3-day per screen: $10,444 / 5-day cume: $55.5M /Wk 1
3). Creed (MGM/New Line/WB), 3,404 theaters / 3-day cume: $29.6M /3-day per screen: $8,705 / 5-day cume: $42.1M /Wk 1
4). Spectre (SONY), 2,940 theaters (-719)/ 3-day cume: $12.9M (-14%)/ 3-day per screen: $4,384 / 5-day cume: $18.2M/ Total cume: $176.1M /Wk 4
5). The Peanuts Movie (FOX), 3,089 theaters (-582)/ 3-day cume: $9.7M (-27%) /3-day per screen: $3,140 / 5-day cume: $13.6M/Total cume: $116.8M /Wk 4
6). The Night Before (SONY), 2,960, theaters (0)/ 3-day cume: $8.4M (-15%)/ 3-day per screen: $2,830 / 5-day cume: $11.7M /Total cume: $24.3M/Wk 2
7). Secret In Their Eyes (STX), 2,392 theaters (0)/ 3-day cume: $4.4M (-34%)/3-day per screen: $1,849 / 5-day: $5.9M /Total cume: $14M/Wk 2
8). Spotlight (OPRD), 897 theaters (+299)/ 3-day cume: $4.4M (+25%) /3-day per screen: $4,914 / 5-day: $5.6M/ Total cume: $12.3M /Wk 4
9). Brooklyn (FSL), 845 theaters (+713) /3-day cume: $3.8M (+230%)/3-day per screen: $4,535 / 5-day: $5M/Total cume: $7.4M /Wk 4
10). The Martian (FOX), 1,420 theaters (-666) /3-day cume: $3.3M (-13%)/3-day per screen: $2,324 / 5-day: $4.4M/ Total cume: $218.5M / Wk 9
11). Love The Coopers (LGF), 1,867 theaters (-652)/3-day cume: $3.1M (-26%) /3-day per screen: $1,644 / 5-day cume: $4.2M/Total cume: $20.5M/Wk 3
12). Victor Frankenstein (FOX), 2,797 theaters /3-day cume: $2.4M/3-day per screen: $840 / 5-day: $3.6M /Wk 1
13). Trumbo (BST), 617 theaters (+570) /3-day cume: $1.6M (+523%)/3-day per screen: $2,615 / 5-day cume: $2M/Total cume: $2.7M/Wk 4
14). Bridge Of Spies (DIS), 635 theaters (-897) /3-day cume: $1.4M (-31%)/ 3-day per screen: $2,173 / 5-day cume: $1.9M /Total cume: $67.6M /Wk 7
15). Tamasha (UTV), 182 theaters / 3-day cume: $1M / 3-day per screen: $5,528 / 5-day cume: $1.4M /Wk 1
16). Goosebumps (SONY), 614 theaters (-1,173) /3-day cume: $741K (-60%)/ 3-day per screen: $1,207 / 5-day cume: $999K /Total cume: $77.7M /Wk 7
17). The 33 (WB), 702 theaters (-1,750)/ 3-day cume: $560K (-76%) / 3-day per screen: $798 /5-day cume: $784K /Total cume: $11.3M /Wk 3
18). Hotel Transylvania 2 (SONY), 303 theaters (-525) /3-day cume: $343K (-58%) / 3-day per screen: $1,132 /5-day cume: $450K /Total cume: $167.2M /Wk 10
19). Room (A24), 175 theaters (+15)/ 3-day cume: $320K (-17%) / 3-day per screen: $1,828 /5-day cume: $412K /Total cume: $3.4M /Wk 7
20). Legend (UNI), 40 theaters (+36)/3-day cume: $298K (+243%)/ 3-day per screen: $7,444 /5-day cume: $415K/Total cume: $526K/Wk 2
Carol (TWC), 4 theaters /3-day cume: $198K (-22%) /3-day per screen: $49,443/5-day cume:$276K/Total: $583K/Wk 2
The Danish Girl (FOC), 4 theaters / $3-day cume: $187K / Per screen: $46,830 /Wk 1
Janis: Little Girl Blue (IND), 2 theaters / $3-day cume: $22K / Per screen: $10,930 /Wk 1
A Fool (Yi Ge Shao Zi) (CLE), 2 theaters / $3-day cume: $6K / Per screen: $2,870 /Wk 1