The last wide entries of 2019 hit tracking today with projections for the 5-day Christmas holiday as follows: 20th Century Fox/Blue Sky’s animated feature Spies in Disguise ($23M-$30M), Sony’s Greta Gerwig directed Little Women ($19M-$35M), and A24’s Adam Sandler crime thriller Uncut Gems ($15M).
Distribution sources always say that people don’t begin to go to the movies until after Christmas, however, Disney’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the exception to that rule (and possible even Jumanji: The Next Level with a $30M+ start, maybe more). Skywalker is still looking at a $200M+ debut, though some firms are playing it safe and calling it lower at $175M when it opens on Dec. 20.
Still, every day is like a Friday at the B.O. between the Christmas and New Year’s weekend stretch. Fandango reported earlier this week that 93% of 18+ moviegoers will see at least 2 movies during that period, with 34% expecting to see at least 4 movies.
While Sony expects $16M-$17M for Little Women, there is a plenty of good will working in this pic’s favor, coupled with the fact that it’s an awards season darling and sitting with a pretty 96% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. While there is Universal’s Cats in the marketplace (which will bravely open against Star Wars on Dec.. 20 in an effort to get females and a $15M-$20M opening), there is so much traffic at this time of year, that you can double up on demos on the marquee and product and still clear a great multiple, often 8x-plus a pic’s opening. The only thing that works against you is if a studio has a bad movie and Little Women is not expected to be a Charlie’s Angels. Also, never underestimates the social media power of former Harry Potter alum and Little Women star Emma Watson with close to 115M followers across Instagram, Twitter and Facebook; she’s opened movies from Noah ($43.7M) to Beauty and the Beast ($174.7M) in the post Potter era. Also working in favor of Gerwig’s revisionist Little Women is that it’s PG rated.
Lionsgate/Bron Studio’s Fox News women vs. Roger Ailes pic Bombshell also dares to counterprogram Star Wars on Dec. 20 and it’s seeing a $7M-$12M start. Pic has no RT score yet.
Fox has counter-programmed with a family title in the holiday space before, with sleepers like Ferdinand against Star Wars: Last Jedi ($13.4M opening, $84.4M domestic, $296M global) and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip in the shadow of 2015’s Force Awakens ($14.2M opening, $85.9M domestic, $234.7M global).
Uncut Gems will look to stoke arthouse filmgoers and males with Adam Sandler’s 180 degree performance as an ambitious jeweler who lives on the edge. The Safdie Brothers directed movie is at 95% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Sandler won Best Actor at the National Board of Review earlier this week as well as the Safdies and Ronald Bronstein for their screenplay. The pic was also named as one the org’s top ten movies. Uncut Gems also has five Independent Spirit noms including best director and Sander as lead actor.
Christmas falls on a Wednesday this year and the last time that occurred was in 2013 when the post Christmas frame (Dec. 27-29) was ruled by Warner Bros.’ The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug ($29M second weekend, $48.8M 5-day). The 5-day openers back then were Paramount’s Wolf of Wall Street ($34.1M), Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty ($25.3M), Universal’s 47 Ronin ($20.6M), Warner’s Grudge Match ($13.1M), and Open Road’s Justin Bieber‘s Believe ($4.2M).
Following each notable opening weekend posted by a Star Wars movie in previous Decembers, they’ve been followed by rich second weekends including Force Awakens ($149.2M), Rogue One ($64M) and Last Jedi ($71.5M). Look for Rise of Skywalker to land somewhere in that range during its second go-round.