Box Office Predictions: December 21-23

We’re doing the box office predictions a day earlier than normal in Todd Thatcher blog land, because two of the four new films opening during this frame open tomorrow.

Both the Seth Rogen-Barbara Streisand comedy The Guilt Trip and Disney’s 3D re-release of Monsters Inc. open tomorrow to try and get a jump on the pre-Holiday box office frame.

On Friday, the Judd Apatow “sort of” Knocked Up sequel This Is 40 and the Tom Cruise action thriller Jack Reacher join the fray. Even with four new high-profile titles joining the fray, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is widely expected to retain its place at #1 for its second weekend. The real question is: how far will it drop? The film made over $84 million this past weekend and normally, a 50% drop would not be out of the ordinary. However, due to the holiday time frame, it may not quite drop that far.

It’s indeed that holiday time frame that makes it difficult to predict the openings of the new movies. The four opening this weekend will very likely occupy slots 2-5. The order will be interesting to see. High-profile December openings usually achieve a “slow burn”, where its actual opening doesn’t seem too big, but it’ll continue to experience smaller than normal dropoffs in following weekends. That is likely to be the case again this year and I would expect none of the new entries to gross over $20 million over the weekend.

Tom Cruise will have a real test of his box office strength with Reacher. His star has waned a bit in the last few years. For instance, 2010’s Knight and Day was a disappointment financially and this summer’s Rock of Ages didn’t perform well. He did have a massive hit a year ago with the fourth Mission: Impossible. His new film doesn’t have the built-in audience as his Ethan Hunt franchise. Reviews have been solid, but the trailers for Reacher don’t seem to set it apart too much from the crowd, in my opinion.

This is 40 is director Judd Apatow’s first film in three and a half years and reunites Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, reprising their roles from 2007’s smash Knocked Up. Apatow’s last film, 2009’s Funny People, was a box office dud. I expect This is 40 to be neither a smash or a dud and fall somewhere in the middle. Its reviews have also been pretty positive.

I expect Disney’s 3D version of 2001’s Monsters Inc. to perform with roughly the same opening that their 3D Finding Nemo did in September, when it grossed $16 million.

Finally, The Guilt Trip doesn’t look very good, frankly, and its reviews have mostly reflected that. I don’t think it will perform as well as This Is 40, unless Rogen and Streisand’s fans really get out there. Not so sure.

And with all that said, here is this weekend’s box office predictions:

1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Predicted Gross: $49.1 million (representing a drop of 42%)

2. Jack Reacher

Predicted Gross: $17.6 million

3. This Is 40

Predicted Gross: $15.7 million

4. Monsters Inc.

Predicted Gross: $12.3 million (predicting $16.2 for 4 day gross)

5. The Guilt Trip

Predicted Gross: $8.9 million (predicting $11.6 for 4 day gross)

I’ll be back Sunday with results and even more predictions on either Monday or Tuesday, because even more movies open on Christmas, including Les Miserables, Django Unchained, and Parental Guidance. Stay tuned. Tis the season for LOTS of movies coming out at the same time!

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