December 2009 Forecast
By Michael Lynderey
December 4, 2009
Increasingly, the season's really big blockbusters are being launched in November, with the more unpredictable titles reserved for December. That happened in 2008, and it's looking to be true again in December 2009, the last month of the decade. But December movies are notorious for growing unexpectedly monstrous legs, so it's hard to peg down exactly how high some of these titles are going to go. However, there's one particular film that appears to have a slight advantage over the rest, at least in theory...
1. Avatar (December 18th)
I guess if you're writing a preview of December 2009, you kind of have to put Avatar at #1, don't you? Even if you don't really feel like it? Even if you think there's a chance that those vicious Chipmunks might re-enact their '07 coup, or that people will really dig The Lovely Bones - all while Avatar is ignored by the masses, who frankly can't come up with a reason why they should get out there and see it? So here it is - the much-anticipated follow-up to the shocking box office events of spring '98, when Titanic repeated at #1 again, and again, and again. There're a lot of flashy special effects, some considerable buzz, and a lack of competition in the big action department, so Avatar ought to do at least fairly well. If there's a real audience embrace of the picture, we could see some legs drag it on to the next level. But for now, I'll go with my gut.
Opening weekend: $56 million / Total gross: $177 million
2. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (December 23rd)
You know, you and I might theoretically disapprove of those film execs who greenlit a sequel to the Chipmunk monstrosity - and then went ahead and named it "the Squeakquel", no less - but think about it this way: if you were running a major film studio, and a totally non-descript children's movie got out there and grossed a staggering two hundred and seventeen million dollars, what would you do? Make a sequel, too, of course. Don't try and deny it. And so here it is, Alvin and the Chipmunks Part II, ready and willing to take advantage of the lucrative Christmas box office slot. If I was Fox, I'd move this one to December 11th, and get those two extra weeks of holiday box office. Either way, this is going to be preternaturally big, though I do think it'll be one of those kids' sequels that comes in under the total of the first one, like the follow-ups to Scooby-Doo, Agent Cody Banks, or Cheaper by the Dozen. After all, there must be balance in the universe, and if this particular Squeakquel passes $250 million, things could get seriously out of whack.
Opening weekend: $55 million / Total gross: $176 million
3. The Lovely Bones (expands December 25th)
Peter Jackson returns with this scrumptious-looking modern fairy tale, a project that looks like a very crafty Oscar-bait combination of a star director, cast, and concept. The Jackson name hovering above all those nifty special effects is going to get this a decent opening, and give it some appeal to those who don't usually watch December dramas. Stars Rachel Weisz and Mark Wahlberg are well chosen, Stanley Tucci seems exceptionally creepy as the supporting killer, and Saoirse Ronan looks to take Dakota Fanning's place as the go-to child actress for Serious Movies. But the key factor here is the reviews, which are going to make the difference between good and great box office.
Opening weekend: $27 million / Total gross: $144 million