Thanksgiving Bountiful at the Box Office
By John Hamann
November 30, 2008
The 2008 version of the Thanksgiving box office weekend was a wild ride. We had three openers hitting screens over the holiday weekend. They included Australia, an epic, star-driven picture with Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman, Four Christmases, a silly, 88-minute comedy from Warner Bros., and Transporter 3, an unnecessary sequel with Jason Statham. On top of the new stuff, we have the three huge holdovers that all opened above $60 million: Twilight, Quantum of Solace, and Madagascar 2. With all of these big films, why does the story of the weekend focus on none of them? Read on to find out!
Our number one film of the Thanksgiving weekend is Four Christmases, the awful new holiday comedy starring Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, and a slew of other recognizable names. Number one with a rocket, Four Christmases pulled in $31.7 million over the three-day portion of the weekend, and a surprisingly large $46.7 million since opening on Wednesday (where have all the vampires gone?). Out to 3,310 venues, Four Christmases wasn't the widest film in release (it was the fifth biggest), but it worked well with the venues where it was playing. While it didn't open to the heights of something like How the Grinch Stole Christmas ($55 million), it did beat some other big Christmas titles like Elf ($31.1 million) and Home Alone 2 ($31 million in 1992 dollars). Four Christmases even came close to taking down last year's Thanksgiving champ, Enchanted, which took in about $34.4 million last year, and will be third biggest Thanksgiving opener on the books.
Four Christmases opened on Wednesday in second place with $6.1 million, behind Twilight $(8.1 million Wednesday), and just ahead of Bolt ($5.1 million). It wouldn't be close after that. Thanksgiving Thursday was big for this one ($8.9 million), and Friday's gross of $12 million cemented the win. While no budget data is available, a good guess puts the cost of this one at around $50 million, a figure Four Christmases will have earned by Tuesday.
For Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon, this opening will put them back on top in the comedy world. Witherspoon hadn't done comedy since Just Like Heaven in September 2005, and that one opened to a lower-than-expected $16.5 million, well off the $35.6 million debut of Sweet Home Alabama in 2002. For Vaughn, Four Christmases washes away the disappointing opening of last November's Fred Claus ($18.5 million), but not the critical stink. At RottenTomatoes, Four Christmases was the bottom feeder of the weekend, with only 27 reviews out of 108 coming up positive (25% fresh). Some of the reviews I have read suggest a 0% rating might be more appropriate, as I've heard this one is akin to torture. The good news is that I will only have to write about it for the next five weekends.
The surprise of the weekend is our second place finisher, Disney's Bolt, as the CGI dog managed to move from third spot last weekend to second spot this weekend. Bolt, which opened to $26.2 million last frame, actually increases on that take slightly as it pulls in $26.6 million from only three more screens than it had last weekend. Obviously, with vampires dominating cineplexes last weekend and interest in Twilight quickly waning, exhibitors put Bolt into some larger venues to take advantage of this kid-friendly weekend. We haven't had a Thanksgiving hold like this since Santa Clause 3 increased its take to $9.9 million from $8.3 million (a 20% increase) from the weekend previous in 2006. This is the reason why that release date prior to Thanksgiving is so important. Bolt made $10 million over Wednesday and Thursday, and then managed to increase its take over the previous weekend. Now, after two weekends, Bolt has earned $66.9 million and should now play strongly until Christmas, where it will reap the benefits of a strong release date once again. I'm now looking for Bolt to finish with about $150 million.