After last weekend's punt by most studios, there's a bit of a sneak back in for this frame. One wide release and a few expansions claim some territory before the holiday's 500 pound gorilla comes in to squash everything around it – though as with Christmas weeks, there'll be space enough for all.
Weekend Forecast for December 9-11, 2016
By Reagen Sulewski
December 9, 2016
The sole new wide release is the generically titled Office Christmas Party, this year's wacky, R-rated, adults-gone-wild holiday-themed movie. T.J. Miller stars as the branch manager of an office owned by his sister (Jennifer Aniston), whose brain wave is to throw a great big smash up of a Christmas party in order to attract a big client (Courtney B. Vance) in order to avoid the shutdown of their branch. With a bunch of buttoned-down office workers given the chance to let loose, over the top shenanigans ensue.
A comedy such as this is going to live or die based on the funny people in it, and this film has some very funny people indeed. SNL's breakout star, Kate McKinnon, leads the supporting cast, but Jason Bateman, Vanessa Bayer, Rob Corddry, Olivia Munn and Matt Walsh are also on hand to lend their considerable chops (Okay, Munn's a stretch. But still). Aiming for Hangover-like craziness, the movie's plot itself is kind of incidental to letting these people loose to do their thing. The ads are sharp, but perhaps show the only real funny bits, as the reviews thrash it as an overstuffed and flailing comedy that doesn't really hold together as a movie. In my opinion, that's clearly missing the point, as this is really more of a skit-comedy film tied together with a loose plot, though there's no reason that can't fail, either.
Last year's The Night Before debuted to just $9 million, but had a more drug-fueled debauchery to it and may have been a bit of a turn-off for mass audiences (not to mention that people are just plain tired of Seth Rogen). Office Christmas Party has a more palatable cast and a more acceptable range of misbehavior, similar to Old School, that should serve it well, to the tune of about a $17 million opening weekend.
Increasing to a moderately wide release are two films, Miss Sloane and Nocturnal Animals, both in pursuit of Oscar glory. Miss Sloane stars Jessica Chastain as a sought-after Washington lobbyist, flipping her usual script and arguing for gun control law despite a high dollar offer from the NRA. The film then works through the nuts and bolts of how laws proceed through Congress, although I think none of us are really all that surprised that gambling is going on in this establishment this time. Directed by John Madden of Shakespeare in Love fame, it's a variation on the legal procedural and the political thriller, a kind of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington with all the starry-eyed idealism washed away. That's not necessarily a good recipe for a hit other than the superlative leading turn by Chastain, who is in the thick of things for a Best Actress Oscar. After pulling in about $100,000 on 10 screens last weekend, its jump to 1,500 or so venues should bring it about $5 million this weekend.
Another major expansion is coming for Nocturnal Animals, fashion designer-turned-writer/director Tom Ford's second film. Starring Amy Adams in a potentially Oscar-nominated turn, it follows her character as she deals with the fallout of her divorce and her ex-husband's seemingly threatening novel. Set both in the here and now and in the world of the novel, it's a twisty-turning revenge tale that digs deep into feelings of jealousy and possessive love. Also starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Isla Fisher, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Armie Hammer, Michael Sheen and Laura Linney, it's a high-profile and super-stylish cast – but in a film that looks pretty ponderous and pretentious. After earning about $700,000 last weekend, it should bring that up to about $2 million this weekend in 1,200 venues.
Moana will likely cede its top spot after two weekends in first place, having earned about $125 million so far. Disney's Pacific Islander adventure film should run solidly through the holidays, though, and while it doesn't appear to have a Frozen-like run in it, it's a prime candidate for a good Christmas week bump. For now, give it about $16 million.
We continue with more family entertainment, with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, sitting at about $190 million after three weeks. The Harry Potter spin-off could use some help from the holidays and might have an outside shot at $250 million, which would be a minor win after its slightly disappointing start and failure to restart Potter mania. I'd expect about $11 million this weekend. Arrival has strangely added more venues in each of its last two weekends, a curious pattern for a film now in its fifth weekend of release. It should manage about $5 million this weekend, with the Brad Pitt/Marion Cotillard drama Allied sliding in just below that.