December 2009 Forecast
By Michael Lynderey
December 4, 2009
8. Sherlock Holmes (December 25th)
It looks like I'm in the minority here, but I'm getting an increasingly bad feeling about the box-office prospects of this tentpole. On the one hand, people love Robert Downey Jr. now, no doubt about that. Rachel McAdams is a feisty female lead, Jude Law and Mark Strong are good support, and Guy Ritchie appears ready to take his act to the big-budget leagues. The trailers, for their part, do an excellent job of redefining the character - they're charming, light, and funny. But... but... but... it creeps up on me - this feeling of box office doom - and I can't quite put my finger on it. Are people really going to turn out in droves to see a Victorian-era mystery? On Christmas Day, no less? Sure, that trailer had some good laughs, but the plot seems a little murky, and as for kids - well, do they have any reason to see this? That very last shot in the trailer - "beneath this pillow lies the key to my release" - got some good laughs, but it's not exactly a warm invitation to family audiences, is it? Would parents really risk finding out what's under that pillow, when they can just as well take the kids to see the pesky musical rodents playing right down the hall?
Opening weekend: $25 million / Total gross: $73 million
9. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (limited on December 25th; expands at some point in our lifetime)
Now this is the month's absolute wild card. Parnassus may well be a $100 million earner. When you think about it, how could it not be? It's Heath Ledger's last film, it's got stars like Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell, and the trailer is properly laced with special effects paraphernalia that feel right at home in the post-Lord of the Rings holiday season. Sure, the whole thing has a distinctly odd air about it - it's a Terry Gilliam film, after all - but that could be part of the appeal. The January expansion seems a little late in the game, though.
Total gross: eh, $65 million, for now
10. Up in the Air (limited release on December 4th; wide by January)
You know it's Christmas when George Clooney's back in town with yet another try for Best Actor. Playing out like a younger, sleeker version of About Schmidt - man re-evaluates the value of his life while traveling cross country - Up in the Air is Jason Reitman's follow-up to Juno, and it's clear that he's taking up the mantle of Alexander Payne in making these Oscar-season dramedies. Early word from the Toronto fest is good on this, and Clooney's name ought to be able to carry it to a decent enough sum (especially since I suspect he'll be the front-runner for that aforementioned Academy Award in just about no time).
Total gross: $60 million
11. Invictus (December 11th)
Here's a hefty dramatic combo - Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, and Matt Damon. That said, and as is often the case with Eastwood, Invictus looks blatantly uncommercial - almost offensively so. Even the title is uninviting. So will the film receive unanimous critical acclamation, followed by a slow but decidedly determined climb to a total gross of no less than one hundred million dollars? Maybe. Stay tuned.
Total gross: $51 million