Although there's only one super wide release, there's little excuse for saying there's nothing to choose from over Thanksgiving weekend, with six wide releases and/or major expansions hitting the marketplace. I mean, you're still going to be seeing the Hunger Games, but you do have a choice, is all I'm sayin'.
Weekend Forecast for November 28-30, 2013
By Reagen Sulewski
November 27, 2013
Disney's Frozen is the major new option for the Turkey Day long weekend, as the company attempts to reassert that it's better than its little cousin Pixar yet again. Based on the Hans Christian Andersen story The Snow Queen, it features the voices of Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff (some dude from Glee, apparently), Josh Gad, Idina Menzel and others, as the latter turns the idyllic land of their kingdom into eternal winter. So it's off to the races to rescue summer, with adventure and chaste romance and wacky sidekicks along the way.
If this sounds a lot like Tangled to you, what with its faux-strong female lead, adjectival title and cutesy wide-eyed animation style, then, well, there are some Disney executives who'd like you to step into this not-at-all suspicious closet over in this direction here for a couple of weeks. But yes, it's very much in the way of formula, not that we expect a lot different from Disney these days. And of course, Tangled was perfectly delightful so why not make essentially that same movie again? This will probably work once or twice more before audiences tire of it, or they get lazy about the quality and we get a Hercules out of the effort.
Possibly a bad sign of that already in progress is the Josh Gad character, an animated snowman helping out our heroes to bring back summer in what seems like a monumental example of working against your self interests. While not quite to the point of being a Jar-Jar, his character seems like it's drawing up to that line of being incredibly annoying in the service of being comic relief – to the point where that character is more prominent on the poster than the leads. Reviews are still mostly positive, so formula fatigue hasn't kicked in just yet.
In the same spot three years ago, Tangled managed $68 million over five days, and if anything, the marketing for Frozen has been even more intense for this film. While that might be viewed as a sign of weakness, there's also the notion to think about that Tangled was kind of a new direction for Disney, and had to be validated by audiences. Now that they're familiar with it, there'll be less hesitation, or so the theory goes. And what with the most recent family film being a horrible disappointment, there's a built up demand for family films. Expect around $55 million over three days and $75 million over the whole weekend.
The mostly openly seasonly-themed film of this period is Black Nativity, and is an adaptation of the stage musical by the same name. Kasi Lemmons, probably best known as the director of Eve's Bayou (or maybe as Jodie Foster's best friend in The Silence of the Lambs). Jennifer Hudson, Forrest Whitaker, Angela Basset, Tyrese Gibson, Mary J. Blige and Nas make up the most notable members (and really, isn't that enough? What more do you monsters want of casting directors?) of the ensemble cast, which tells the story of a young mother who sends her son to spend time over the holidays with her estranged parents. Something something family church singing inspiring family everyone cries.
Comparisons for this are a little hard to come by, as this musical doesn't have as much presence as things like Chicago or Les Miserables. In some ways it seems to play a bit like a musical version of a Tyler Perry movie, with its direct appeals at morality and family. There's also a facile comparison to make to Dreamgirls based on Hudson's presence, but to be fair, that's what a number of moviegoers might do too, even though thematically there's nothing in common here. However you might want to slice it, there should be enough for around a $15 million three day total, and $21 million over five days.
In what seems like a MadLib of actors, Homefront stars Jason Statham, James Franco, Kate Bosworth and Winona Ryder in a script by Sylvester Stallone, in the genre best described as “Justice Porn.” Statham plays an undercover DEA agent somewhere in the south, whose family is dragged into a series of feuds when his daughter fights back against a school bully. The bully's dad (oh, and local meth producer), Franco, discovers Statham's undercover status and starts a mini-war. Cue time for butt-kicking.
There's little here to separate this from a lot of Statham's other films other than a slightly higher quality of co-star – and I suppose the setting is a bit novel, like Deliverance without the canoeing. If you can really tell the difference in quality between this, and Safe, and War, and Parker and any number of other Staham films, then you are probably the world's greatest Jason Statham and/or James Franco fan. This should earn about $8 million over three days, or $11 million over five.
Expanding into wide and wideish release are three other films: The Book Thief, Philomena and Oldboy. The first is a drama about a young girl, adopted by protective foster parents during World War II, who rescues books from Nazi book burning parties and uses them to bond with the Jewish refugee they're hiding in their basement. It's happy fun times all around. Might as well make this a triple feature with 12 Years a Slave and a snuff film. A interesting film for Oscar purposes, since it also stars Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson, this will probably earn about $3 million this weekend.
Philomena is a strange candidate for expansion, seeing how its main appeal is an Oscar hunting Judi Dench, and its second biggest appeal is an actor few in America have any opinion on, let alone in a serious role. Dench plays a woman who had her child forcefully taken away from her and given up for adoption many years ago, with Steve Coogan playing a journalist who publicizes her case. It's a story that seems designed to bring out the hankies, and probably earns Dench another Oscar nomination (and who knows, maybe Coogan slips in there somehow too). I'd expect about $2 million here on an expansion to 750 screens.
Not quite wide yet, but with possibly the biggest box office potential of all, is Spike Lee's English language remake of Oldboy. A Korean film about a man imprisoned for decades, it was noted for its extreme violence and disturbing plot twists, which presumably have been kept intact here, making this kind of pointless unless you like seeing Josh Brolin kick ass and be all grizzled. Which maybe you do! Opening on about 500 screens, this should pull in about $2 million this weekend.
This brings us to last weekend's champion, Catching Fire, the second film in the Hunger Games series. Slightly improving on the first film's take with $158 million, it was somehow seen as a bit of a letdown to some. What more do you monsters want?! With its second weekend being Thanksgiving, this presents an interesting possibility for the film, as often this can stave off a degree of the front-loading factor that mega-blockbusters like this suffer. Of course, we can just look to the Twilight series, which still suffered a characteristic drop despite the holiday. Optimistically, I think we can look for a $70 million weekend.
The rest of the holdovers aren't likely to have that much of an impact, though again there's always that hope that more time equals more viewers. Thor: The Dark World should surpass the total of the first Thor film in a week or two, which is certainly no disappointment for what is surely the weirdest of the Marvel sub-franchises (until Ant-Man gets made). This will include about $8 million this weekend.
Following it is The Best Man Holiday, which should pull in about $7 million in the same period, bringing its total to around $60 million, which is essentially found money on a budget of $17 million.