The Twelve Days of Box Office Day Five
By David Mumpower
December 26, 2013

His movie made a lot more than that.

Christmas ordinarily contains an entire day’s worth of yuletide glee for Hollywood studios. Alas, Santa was less kind than usual this year. The 2013 occurrence of Christmas featured a lot of coal and not enough toys. We will be evaluating the aftermath of December 25th for another 10 days. What can be stated with certainty right now is that A) Bieber Fever is dead B) There were at least 42 Ronin too many and C) Everybody held a grudge against Grudge Match.

Let’s start at the top. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is going to wind up as the least popular of the five Peter Jackson adaptations of Tolkien. Despite its flaws, The Hobbit is still the class of Christmas, winning for the fifth consecutive day this week with $9.3 million. In the process, The Hobbit increased 77% or $4 million from Christmas Eve. It also effectively reached $150 million after 13 days in theaters. That is the good news. The bad news is that last year’s iteration of The Hobbit had earned $30 million more during the same timeframe. Even the strongest Tolkien supporters would be hard pressed to argue this as a positive. And this is as good a time as any to mention that The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King garnered $232.8 million in 13 days…a decade ago. The brand is shrinking, folks.

The Wolf of Wall Street almost overtook The Hobbit yesterday, grossing $9.2 million. The latest title from the team of Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese comes with a hefty price tag of $100 million yet its prospects seem largely positive at the moment. The heavily marketed film with a superlative cast earned more than the oftentimes associated American Hustle has grossed in any day thus far during its release.

There are a couple of points worthy of caution, though. Christmas Day releases frequently max out on their first day, never again matching that performance during the rest of their domestic run. Even more alarming is the news that The Wolf of Wall Street received a Cinemascore of C. Just to be clear, that system grades on a curve so anything lower than a B+ is not well received. A C grade is heinous. 76% of Rotten Tomatoes critics give the movie thumbs up, so there is a real disconnect between them and opening night viewers.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues has provided an entertaining roller coaster ride this week. It lost over half its box office from Monday to Tuesday. Yesterday, Christmas inflation helped the Will Ferrell comedy to gross almost as much as the previous two days in combination. Its $8.1 million represents a solid 190% increase from Tuesday’s weak showing. Anchorman 2 has a running totally of $56.7 million after eight days in release. While many decry this amount as disappointing, the sequel’s ancillary revenue streams are tremendous. Plus, its budget is impressively modest at $50 million. No matter how much we have all grown to loathe the omnipresent Ron Burgundy in recent days, the movie is a solid performer.

The other new release yesterday whose producers are not considering suicide is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The special effects laden film earned $7.8 million during its first day in theaters. Given its $90 million production, the Ben Stiller remake needed a strong start to sustain its box office longevity. This title represents one of the better holiday options over the next ten days so it should survive despite tremendous market competition. Its B+ Cinemascore is also what passes for a positive right now.

So those are the top four films on Christmas Day. Let’s address the elephants in the living room before we discuss the titles that were already in release prior to yesterday. 47 Ronin, already a shocking disaster overseas, managed only $7 million during its North American debut. Why is that total a disappointment if Walter Mitty’s is not? Well… The price tag for 47 Ronin is $175 million or approximately $3.7 million per Ronin. So if the film had been entitled 20 Ronin at that same cost per Ronin, it wouldn’t be doing too shabby.

I know I’m being silly right now but where else am I supposed to go with this one? Keanu Reeves, who made hundreds of millions with The Matrix trilogy, hasn’t been seen since another December release, The Day the Earth Stood Still. And that film was a box office disappointment as well. North America is over Keanu.

Arguably, Grudge Match’s performance is better. The $40 million production started with $4 million yesterday, which seems fine until we remember that Christmas Day may be its best day. I suspect that this odd high concept release should earn enough over the next 10 days to mitigate the initial disappointment. The key is whether the negative buzz of its box office overwhelms its earning potential. Oddly, Grudge Match and 47 Ronin were both well received by early adopters as each one earned a B+ Cinemascore. Among the Christmas openers, the only movie that people disliked was the one that those same people chose to see more than the rest. Stuff like this is what drives movie makers insane. Well, insane-ier.

The rest of the top ten is comprised of American Hustle in fifth place, Frozen in seventh place, Saving Mr. Banks in eighth place and Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas in tenth place. As predicted yesterday, Madea did spike thanks to its holiday theme, improving from $1.3 million on Christmas Eve to $2.9 million on Christmas Day. American Hustle and Saving Mr. Banks did even better. The Sony film spiked 155% to $7.4 million, its best day thus far. With $5.1 million yesterday, the Disney movie about Walt Disney finally showed signs of life as well. To put yesterday’s performance in perspective, consider that it earned right at $10 million during its opening weekend.

Frozen is the more complicated prospect. Whereas every other title in the top ten gained at least 77% yesterday, the latest Disney Animation gem increased “only” 33% from $4.8 million to $6.4 million. In the process, the film that was in second place on Christmas Eve fell to seventh place on Christmas Day. This sort of behavior is not wholly unexpected as its Monday increase was so strong that simply maintaining for the rest of the week is an accomplishment in and of itself.

If we keep our eye on the ball here, what is germane to the Frozen discussion is that the film has earned $210 million in 34 days of domestic release. Tangled, the obvious comparison, was at $146.9 million after the same length of time. In another few days, Frozen’s pace will be more directly comparable to Monsters University, which wound up with a domestic take of $265 million. Just roll that around in your head for a second. Frozen isn’t The Lion King, but it’s the next best thing.