Weekend Box Office Is Punished
By John Hamann
December 7, 2008
The weekend that follows Thanksgiving in the United States is one of the worst weekends of the year to open a movie, joining Labor Day as the "Two Black Holes of Box Office". It's a curious thing, as November is a hot month, followed by December, which is one of the biggest months of the year. This weekend, the big studios mostly stayed away from opening films on this dreaded weekend, as there was only one major release that was joined by two small pictures. New films include Punisher: War Zone, an attempted franchise reboot for Lionsgate, and two films on fewer than 900 screens - Cadillac Records from Sony and Nobel Son from Freestyle Releasing. The news was mostly grim - unless you are a really bad Christmas movie.
Yes, the first box office weekend in December is a nasty place to be. Last year, Enchanted was enjoying its second weekend, having opened big over the Thanksgiving frame in 2007, to the tune of $34 million over three days and about $49 million over its first five days. Enchanted went on to become a fairly leggy release ($128 million domestic finish), and enjoyed a strong December - except for the post-Thanksgiving weekend, when it dropped a severe 52%. The post-turkey frame is hardest on children's movies, as the kids are back in school. Thanksgiving's Thursday/Friday combo easily outgrossed this entire weekend of box office ($95 million to $77.5 million). Kid flicks aren't the only victims of the turkey blues. Last year, the average percentage drop in the top ten was 51.4% - and that's indicative of the weekend - as over the second weekend in December 2007, the average drop was only 33%.
So how did it roll out this weekend? Our number one film is the same as last weekend - Four Christmases. Its drop actually beats the trend. Four Christmases grossed $18.2 million after opening with a three-day haul of $31 million and $46 million over five days. This weekend, the Vince Vaughn/Reese Witherspoon flick had a good-for-this-weekend drop of 42%. The percentage decline is really good news for the folks at Warner Bros., as like Enchanted, this is most likely going to be the worst weekend drop that Four Christmases sees prior to Boxing Day. If we look at a similarly awful movie like Christmas With The Kranks, we know these holiday films are bullet-proof. Kranks was 5% fresh at RottenTomatoes (yes, 5%), but still managed to earn $74 million domestic, after opening to $21 million. Over its run, Kranks earned more than three times its opening weekend, despite being one of the most heinous films ever. I'm looking for Four Christmases to finish with more than $100 million without sweating, and $125 million is not out of the question. After 12 days of release, Four Christmases has already earned $70.8 million.
Second this weekend is surprisingly not Bolt. Instead, it's Twilight, as the teen girl repeat viewers may be finally coming out of the woodwork. Twilight earned $13.2 million, and its weekend drop completely threw off the trend. In Twilight's sophomore frame last weekend, the teen-vamp flick got crushed, losing 62% of its opening weekend sales, despite being in the padded Thanksgiving frame, where drops should be slim. This weekend, Twilight actually improves on last weekend's drop with a plunge of 50%, something we just don't see unless a film is expanding. Summit did add 195 venues this weekend, but it shouldn't have been enough to break the trend. That means Twilight has now earned $138.6 million, and while I don't think it will reach $200 million, it is still going to be a very healthy finish for Summit Entertainment, and the birth of a what could be a very strong franchise.