Part two of our Christmas Week box office coverage sees us examine the Christmas Day releases. This year, four films have chose to forgo a weekend release for their wide release, and instead have aimed for those post-presents family crowds, which are numerous enough to make Christmas Day one of the most lucrative days of the year at the box office.
Box Office Forecast for Dec. 24-27, 2007
By Reagen Sulewski
December 23, 2007
[tm:4008_]Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem[/tm] may not seem like the most holiday-appropriate fare, but it does still come from one of the most successful action franchises in movie history, and it can probably open just about whenever it wants. Following up on the $80 million earning Alien vs. Predator, this sequel moves the action from Antarctica to small-town North America, putting humans directly in the crossfire of a war between the seemingly unstoppable Aliens and the ultimate hunters, the Predators.
AvP:R (as all the cool kids will be calling it) is opting for gore to bring people in – it's a hard-R rated film and its red-banded trailer was one of the bloodiest things I've ever seen outside of an Evil Dead film. This is both a good thing and a bad thing, as it's self-limiting, but will probably attract a good number of action hounds.
That's about all it has going for it, as the star power is, if anything, even less than the star-free Alien vs. Predator. But, with the combination of two classic franchises, this could behave similarly to the Resident Evil films, which have a dedicated group of first weekend fans, but disappear from the box office quickly. Over the three days prior to the weekend, expect a take of about $16 million.
Family audiences get yet another choice for holiday week viewing, with the launch of [tm:337[tm:2838_]9[/tm]_]The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep[/tm]. Essentially a retelling of the Loch Ness Monster Legend, it stars Alex Etal (who you may or may not remember as the wide-eyed rapscallion from Millions) as a boy in WWII Scotland that finds a mysterious egg-like thing. When it hatches to produce something that looks like a cross between a hippo, a horse and a giraffe, well, then he has the best friend a boy could ever have! If only he didn't have to keep it completely secret, and if only it wasn't doubling its size every week.
The Water Horse belongs to that vague "secret friend" genre of kids films that includes such movies as E.T. and The Iron Giant, and are often some of the most thematically successful children's movies, if not always the most financially so. The Water Horse should fall in between these two a little, as it's received some relatively heavy promotion, and the ads hit a lot of triggers for pre-teen moviegoers (i.e. bathroom humor, demonstrative animals). I see this one being a mild hit over the next few days, with about $14 million from the 25th to the 27th.
Among the Golden Globes nominees, [tm:1840_]The Great Debaters[/tm] was a bit of a surprise inclusion, given that until that point, just about no one had ever heard of the film. Well, that's what can happen when you have a based-on-a-true-story film directed by and starring [bp:2065_]Denzel Washington[/bp] – the accolades come flying towards you.
Washington plays a 1930s professor at a black Texas university who starts a debate club for his students and challenges them to be the best in the nation, regardless of the attitudes of a country that views them as inferior for the color of their skin. Through his work of inspiring them, he eventually gets them into the national championships, going up against Harvard.
The "great teacher lifting up underdogs" film is one with long traditions, dating back to the era in which this film is set. The Great Debaters combines it with racial politics for that extra-added bit of oomph. The big question – will anyone go see a movie that's mostly people debating?
Maybe, if Denzel Washington has anything to say about it, although it's only enough to get the film into about 1,200 venues. If it gets some serious Oscar attention down the road, this might be exactly the kind of audience-pleasing film that does well each January, but this seems fairly middle-of-the-road to me. I'd look for about $5 million over its first three days.
Finally, there's [tm:2765_]Juno[/tm], expanding to just under 1,000 venues on Christmas Day, although it's already making its impact on just a few hundred. Coming in with some of the biggest buzz for an indie film in quite some time, Juno stars Ellen Page as the titular character, a 16-year-old who gets pregnant by her quasi-boyfriend (Michael Cera, of Arrested Development and Superbad).
Rather than go in for an abortion, she decides to audition a seemingly perfect couple to adopt her child (Jason Bateman and [bp:185_]Jennifer Garner[/bp]), who are perhaps a bit more screwed up than they seem on the outside. Hilarity ensues as Juno starts to wonder about the big questions of life, like relationships, and what it really means to be happy.
Page, who you might recognize from X3 (or less likely, Hard Candy), is getting a significant amount of Oscar buzz for her role, played with an acerbic wise-beyond-her-years quality (although she's actually 20, so it's kind of true) that's pretty instantly charming. This has been a huge sensation in limited release and already cracked the top ten on Friday. Watch for this to earn about $5 million in its "opening" run from Christmas Day.