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Friday Box Office Analysis

The Twelve Days of Box Office

By Tim Briody

December 26, 2009

Elementary, my dear...err, you there.

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Sherlock Holmes

Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes is Christmas Day's biggest winner with $25.5 million, a Christmas Day record. The previous record holder was 2004's holiday smash Meet the Fockers with $19.5 million. (Hold that number in your head for a few minutes as we discuss some of the other films).

Christmas Day has not fallen on a Friday since 1998 when the box office was an entirely different beast. When we look at that weekend (led by Patch Adams earning $25.3 million, ha!) there are some notable themes to pull from that data that will be recurring through this column. The first one that applies here is that this weekend's multipliers are going to be ridiculously insane. The worst weekend multiplier a new film had in 1998 was The Faculty with 2.72. Remove that and next was Patch Adams with 3.1. (Just wait until we dig into the holdovers.) Yes, I'm using 11 year old numbers, but I'd wager that Sherlock Holmes has a weekend multiplier on the lower end of that range. Of all the new releases, it's the only one that's got any sort of fanboy draw here.

Either way, a "bad" multiplier still puts it up near the top of biggest December openings ever. The bigger numbers don't translate well to this older data so we're going to nudge down the multipliers a tad here but it's still shaping up to be something kind of magical. Using a 2.7 multiplier, that would give Sherlock Holmes a weekend of $68.8 million.

Avatar

Now things get *really* interesting. James Cameron's Avatar finds itself in second on Friday with $24.3 million, now the 2nd biggest Christmas Day take ever. This number is down 9% from last week, but who really cares? It's actually got a chance now to beat last weekend's $77 million million opening and here's why: Remember I said 1998 was the last time Christmas fell on Friday? Well, the worst multiplier for a film that did not open that week was You've Got Mail with a 3.6. Avatar's multiplier last weekend was 2.87. It's officially a juggernaut, folks.

We're dealing with larger numbers here, of course (in 1998, Patch Adams' weekend take was as much as Sherlock Holmes made yesterday) but the general idea will still apply: this weekend is going to be pretty insane. Avatar is going to surpass Sherlock Holmes when the weekend estimates come in, the only question now is by how much.

Another amusing note here, even after being underestimated, Avatar missed the December opening record by just a few hundred thousand. It's going to beat I Am Legend with its second weekend. Give Avatar a weekend multiplier of 3.4 and that's a weekend of $82.6 million.




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Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

Avoiding the trap that befell some other sequels to children's films, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (sigh), earned $14.6 million on Christmas Day and had already taken in $41.4 million since its Wednesday release. It's already a big hit.

By the way, $14.6 million would be good for the second biggest Christmas Day ever if not for Sherlock Holmes and Avatar. Three of the top four Christmas Day box office earnings happening on a single day is remarkably impressive.

There's no accounting for taste and the sequel (not gonna do it again, sorry) has already been an established hit and it'll do gangbusters Saturday and Sunday as well even with the Wednesday opening. Give Alvin and the Chipmunks a three day weekend of $51.1 million which is a five day tally of $77.9 million.

If you've been playing along at home, yes, that's over $200 million for just the top three films. Just amazing, astounding stuff here, folks.

It's Complicated

Surprisingly not the Facebook movie but instead an adult comedy with Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, It's Complicated earned $7.2 million on Friday. It's a counter-programming move aimed at older audiences for whom Sherlock Holmes is too action'd up and this is good enough for what it is. A $22.3 million is pretty darn solid, all things considered.

Nine

Critically reviled, though only in 1400 theaters, Nine earned $2 million on Friday. This is pretty much what passes for a bomb on this weekend but the high tide will lift all boats. Give it $6.8 million.

Elsewhere, look for The Princess and the Frog to push 5 with its weekend multiplier, $200 million is now in the picture for The Blind Side and nobody has still heard about the Morgans.

Just when you think the box office can't surprise you anymore after covering it for nearly a dozen years, along comes something like this weekend.


Projected Estimates for the Top Ten (Three-Day)
Projected
Rank
Film
Estimated Gross
1 Avatar 82.6
2 Sherlock Holmes 68.8
3 Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel 51.1
4 It's Complicated 22.3
5 Up In the Air 12.9
6 The Blind Side 12.7
7 The Princess and the Frog 10.1
8 Nine 6.8
9 Invictus 4.7
10 Did You Hear About the Morgans? 4.4

     


 
 

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