The post-Thanksgiving weekend is no longer ignored like it used to be, if you count the release of films with recognizable names in “not being ignored,” but it's still the rare first weekend of December that sees anything that's got high hopes behind it. You can probably guess where I'm going with this.
Weekend Forecast for December 4-6, 2015
By Reagen Sulewski
December 4, 2015
While not our only wide release, Krampus is the only one with major studio backing. That it's a semi-satirical Christmas-themed horror film should tell you what Hollywood thinks of this weekend. That said, it's a film that does have some potential to please people that are actually in the market for that sort of thing, even if it's not a very large one.
Directed by Michael Daugherty, whose only other feature directing credit is on the Halloween anthology Trick 'r Treat (you didn't see it), it's a take on the German holiday spirit of the same name, a demon that's something like the yang to Santa's yin – taking presents away from naughty kids, and worse. It's the “and worse” part that we're dealing with, as he descends upon a bickering set of families one Christmas after one naughty kid accidentally brings his wrath down upon them. It's a funny set of people involved, including Adam Scott, David Koechner, Toni Collette and Allison Tolman, which lends some light-hearted edges to a film that's darkening up the holiday spirit a bit. Need I remind you that the film's marketing features a bloody hook?
Christmas-y horror ranges from the light and breezy PG Gremlins to the dark and bloody Black Christmas, and I don't think it's a coincidence that the more success of those is the one that leans towards family friendliness (and of course, wasn't actually released at Christmas, but there you go). The concept of Krampus, while an ancient one in folklore, is kind of trendy now, which should help, but will probably be about as dated as man-buns and Imperial IPAs in a few years. Strike while the iron is hot, I suppose. But it's really also playing just to the bah humbug crowd, and to those that can stand for horror movies at the same time. That's not the largest overlap on the Venn Diagram ever.
Comparisons aren't easy to come by, but I lean towards other mostly-ironic films like Snakes on a Plane or Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer, which leaves us with a bit of a range but not much chance for a breakout. With just okay reviews, I'd be looking at an opening weekend of about $12 million
Opening in national release is The Letters, the film for everyone who wanted to know about Mother Teresa's correspondence with a priest. Where does the lineup start? Released by Freestyle Pictures, a company whose slate pretty much defines the word “hodge-podge” with things like Zombeavers and InAPPropriate Comedy sitting side beside Left Behind and God's Not Dead, it's hitting 1,000 venues, but without a lot of support and with terrible reviews, knocking it for a cable-TV like product and a stultifying plot. There's probably a market for a non-hagiographic film about Teresa, but this film isn't that. This should be an afterthought at best and open to under $2 million.
Thus, Mockingjay Part 2 gets at least a third weekend at the top of the box office after its somewhat surprising win last weekend. The Good Dinosaur's failure to reach Pixar potential combined with a slightly-less-than-expected drop-off for Katniss and company led it to a second weekend at the top with $52 million, perhaps salvaging a rather disappointing start for the final film in the franchise. It's still $30 million behind pace, of course, but any positive news will be seized upon. In this third weekend, we can expect a pretty hefty fall thanks to the weekend itself to about $21 million.
With $39 million, The Good Dinosaur is Pixar's lowest opening weekend since 1998, with A Bug's Life's $33 million. This is not quite a disaster yet, but it does point to a weakness in the assumed strategy that Pixar quality will just carry the day without any effort. They are rapidly losing ground to the Minions of the animated world, and need to get back to their brilliant idea factory. Perhaps this one can be excused as the “throw away” after Inside Out, but what really makes Pixar special is its sheen of invincibility. I'd look for just $18 million this weekend.
Creed worked itself into Oscar talk with a $29 million start over Thanksgiving, which might say more about the decision making behind Oscar ballots than it does about the film, but anyway... The seventh film in the Rocky franchise quite definitively marked a breathing back to life of the nearly 40-year-old series, by finally acknowledging that trying to drag around the broken down body of Stallone is kind of pointless. It should hold well, but that doesn't mean much for this weekend, and I'd look at about $15 million.
Spectre, Peanuts and The Night Before were the clear benefactors of a holiday weekend that allowed for multiple film viewings, and each had great holdovers of 25 percent or less. Don't expect that to continue, but Spectre should still be at $8 million, with Peanuts at around $6 million and The Night Before at $5 million.