The monster called Krampus may be truly evil and eat little kids, but at least it brings some life into the usually very sullen post-Thanksgiving weekend frame at the box office.
Krampus Breathes Life into Post-Turkey Frame
By John Hamann
December 6, 2015
When was the last time a new release was #1 at the box office over the post-Thanksgiving Day frame, even for a day? It was a dozen years ago in 2003, when Tom Cruise's The Last Samurai earned only $24.3 million over its opening weekend, against a $140 million budget (it went on to find a profit theatrically thanks to a $480 million worldwide gross). Since then, studios have laid low over the post-turkey frame, either releasing low-risk films or dumping product, hoping their garbage will cash in over Christmas. This weekend's new film is Krampus, which peaks on Friday but doesn't hit number one. Still, it does provide us with something we don't usually see during the post-Thanksgiving date on the calendar - success. We also get the massive pullback for holdovers this weekend, as movies try to survive, so they can position themselves for the lucrative Christmas season.
The top film this weekend is almost Krampus, but not quite, as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 enjoys the last frame a Hunger Games film will finish at #1. After a three-day Thanksgiving frame that brought a massive $52 million, Katniss and friends are pushed down hard this frame. Mockingjay Part 2 earned $18.6 million off a nasty 64%, but really on par with other post-turkey frames. Last year, Mockingjay Part 1 earned $57 million over the long weekend and then fell 61% the following weekend, earning $22 million. This also shows how Part 2 continues to lag against Part 1 and begs the question as to whether Part 2 will make it to $300 million. My money is on no - the domestic total stands at $227.1 million, and Star Wars is likely going to eat it alive.
It is unfortunate that The Hunger Games franchise is going to go out somewhat softer than the franchise started. The series peaked with Catching Fire and its $425 million domestic gross and $440 million overseas gross. Mockingjay Part 1 brought the series back to earth somewhat, with $337 million domestic and $418 million overseas. Part 2 is not going to match either of those numbers, as it has $227.1 million domestic and $297 from international venues. Still, the series is going to earn almost $1.5 billion domestically over the four parts and average a $350 million finish. Not bad for an out-of-nowhere franchise.
Second this weekend is Krampus, the holiday-themed horror film. This is an interesting experiment from Universal and Legendary Films, as Christmas-themed horror is about as rare as an Easter-themed horror movie - they just don't happen. 2010 cult hit Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale changed that when the Finnish film found an audience through VOD and became a success. A few years later brings Krampus, a film that I consider to be a $15 million experiment, hoping to cash in on the memories of Gremlins, which opened to $12.5 million and went on to earn a staggering $150 million in 1984 dollars. Thirty years later, Krampus is less a family film and more of a teen film, keeping the PG-13 rating, but with a much darker 2015 look. Universal managed to roll out an effective marketing campaign, and the experiment worked.
Krampus got started on Thursday, earning a measly $700,000, which made me wonder if this was going to get any attention during the weekend. On Friday, the horror release earned $6 million, finishing at $1 against Mockingjay Part 2. Typical for horror, Krampus wilted over the remainder of the weekend, but managed a decent weekend take of $16 million from 2,902 theaters. Considering the weekend it opened in and the subject matter, I think this has to be considered a large success and another feather in the cap of Universal. The studio of the year still has another release to come on December 18th, when Tina Fey and Amy Poehler appear in Sisters, counter-programming against Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Krampus cost only $15 million to make, and director Michael Dougherty used those funds well, attracting talent like Toni Collette and Adam Scott. Surprisingly, it received better reviews than most horror films, earning a 65% fresh rating at RottenTomatoes. It also managed a strong-for-horror B- Cinemascore (think of the C ratings for the last Paranormal Activity movie and Victor Frankenstein). This kind of success could make it a story in the lead-up to Christmas if it can hang on next weekend.
It was a close race between Krampus, Creed and The Good Dinosaur, as all three did more than $15 million at the box office. Creed is currently in that third spot, but positioning could change after actual box office numbers are released tomorrow. The latest film in the Rocky saga was coming off a brilliant opening frame where it earned $29.6 million over three days and $42 million over five. This weekend, Creed earned a somewhat stunning $15.54 million - stunning because it fell only 48% during a weekend where 60%+ drops can easily be the norm. Word-of-mouth is obviously strong for Creed, which is exactly what it needs this time of year . It should finish with an extremely strong multiplier, if it can survive the face-off against The Force Awakens. The $35 million Warner Bros. film has now earned $65.1 million, and $100 million should be in the bag. The question now is whether the A Cinemascore, great reviews, and potential Oscar push can propel it to $150 million.
Estimates are currently putting The Good Dinosaur in fourth. The Thanksgiving Pixar entry fell more than other Pixar releases did in the Thanksgiving follow-up. In its second frame, The Good Dinosaur took in $15.51 million, and fell 60%. It's been more than 15 years since the last Thanksgiving release for Pixar, as Toy Story 2 was the last in 1999. That film opened to $57.4 million and declined 52% to $27.8 million in its second weekend. A year earlier, A Bug's Life fell 48.5%.
The point is that these Pixar releases can see big drops in their second weekends and still survive. The Good Dinosaur is not going to be one of Disney's biggest grossers, but it still stands to earn $150 million at the domestic box office, if the Chipmunks movie opening against The Force Awakens crashes and burns (my fingers are crossed). I expect Dinosaur to have a very good frame next weekend, and then start to drop off. So far, The Good Dinosaur has earned $76 million, but must be making a few folks at Disney nervous, as it cost $200 million to produce. It has earned about $55 million overseas and is going to need a lot more.
Spectre gets hammered as the top portion of the box office blows away the bottom tier. James Bond earned $12.9 million last weekend, but in this frame, Spectre took in only $5.4 million, dropping a severe 58%. Still ahead of the lesser Daniel Craig Bond films, but well back of Skyfall, Spectre has earned $184.5 million so far and has added almost $600 million overseas.
The Night Before holds a lot better than Spectre, as it takes advantage of being the top comedy this weekend. The Seth Rogen film earned another $4.9 million, dropping a strong 41%, as it uses its Christmas theme to stay in the game. The domestic total for the Sony release has reached $32 million, and has yet to see much action overseas.
The Peanuts Movie sees the same struggles that The Good Dinosaur did this weekend, as it falls hard versus Thanksgiving weekend. The Fox/Blue Sky feature earned only $3.5 million, dropping a hurtful 64% compared to the long weekend, when it earned $9.7 million. The total to date for The Peanuts Movie has reached $121.4 million, with a wide release still to come overseas.
Spotlight adds a few more screens and is able to keep momentum going somewhat. This weekend, the Oscar chaser took in $2.9 million and dropped 45%. With more and more award announcements coming, Spotlight will ride that wave, meaning it should enjoy a healthy December. So far, Spotlight has earned $16.6 million.
Brooklyn is in the same boat as Spotlight. It added a few screens this weekend, took in $2.4 million and fell 38%. The Fox Searchlight release has now earned $11.2 million.
The Secret In Their Eyes spends its last weekend in the top ten, as it earned only $2 million this weekend, declining 56%. The Julia Roberts film is a disappointment, as it has earned only $17.2 million.
Opening on only 305 screens was Spike Lee's adaptation of the Greek play Lysistrata by Aristophanes. It earned $1.3 million, good for a venue average of about $4,100. That's not a huge start, but the film does have decent reviews and is fairly topical given its anti-gun leanings.
Finishing outside the top ten this weekend is The Letters, the new faith-based film about Mother Teresa. Despite going out to 886 theaters, the Freestyle Releasing flick could only manage a weekend take of $802,000. Faith-based films are obviously touch-and-go, and despite having a cast that includes Max Von Sydow and Rutger Hauer, this one still died due to awful reviews.
In limited release, both Macbeth and Youth opened, with the Shakespeare adaption getting five venues and the Michael Caine/Harvey Keitel starrer four venues. Macbeth garnered a venue average of $13,574, while Youth averaged $20,000. These are okay scores, with the real tests are still to come.
Overall, the box office had a decent return in what is a historically rough frame. This weekend, the top 12 films earned an okay $92.9 million, compared to last year, when the top 12 could only muster $70.2 million. As for the release schedule, you know how this goes. Next weekend is In the Heart of the Sea, Ron Howard's semi-prequel to Moby Dick, and the expansion of Legend, Tom Hardy's Kray brothers film. After next weekend, all bets are off, as Star Wars: The Force Awakens finally hits movie theaters.