Weekend Forecast for December 3-5, 2010

By Reagen Sulewski

December 3, 2010

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Thanksgiving weekend offered plenty of surprises at the box office, with films both under- and over-performing expectations on one of the busiest weekends of the year. This weekend? Prepare for the opposite of that.

Thanksgiving weekend is one of the two peaks of the holiday movie season for a reason. Casual movie audiences exhaust some of their movie-going budget and need some time to recharge. Hollywood generally acquiesces by not putting up much of anything worth watching. The most successful movie to ever open in the doldrums of the week following Thanksgiving is The Last Samurai, which opened to $24 million in 2003 on this weekend, and that's the winner by a lot.

While it's most likely a coincidence, it's possible that someone at Relativity Media has a nice sense of humor, as this weekend's sole wide release is essentially the opposite of The Last Samurai. With The Warrior's Way, instead of having an American travel to Japan, we have a Korean traveling to the Old West, followed by ninjas. It's sort of like they set out to make the most ridiculous martial arts film ever that we're supposed to take at least marginally seriously (hear that, Stephen Chow?).

The Warrior's Way seems to exist in the same realm as Tony Jaa movies, like Ong-Bak or The Protector, and should bring similar numbers to those films – which is to say not great ones. Ong-Bak earned $5 million total in North America, while The Protector did manage an opening weekend of that figure. And Dong-gun Jang... well, let's just say I could have made up that name and you'd have no idea if I did or not. Opening on 1,500 screens, The Warrior's Way should start with about $4 million.

That means the top spot for the weekend is left to last week's two top films, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Tangled. If you'd asked me two weeks ago, I would have pre-called a third consecutive week for Harry Potter at the top of the charts, but a spanner has been thrown into those works by both the big opening of Tangled and Harry Potter's significantly weaker than expected second weekend. Bucking the behavior of the last Harry Potter film to open at this time of year, Deathly Hallows dropped just over 60%, acting almost as if the holiday wasn't even there.


It is, however, in line with the recent trend of Harry Potter movies, which have suffered huge second weekend drops after the mania from the hardcore fans dies out. No one brags about being the 20 millionth person to see Harry Potter, after all.

That's no reason to weep for the franchise of course, as this seventh film had a record opening and is already in spitting distance of the lowest grossing film in the series. $300 million will be reached, and $350 million is still in play, though it's looking less likely after last weekend than it was before. While that extreme drop-off does settle down in later weeks – it's influenced heavily by the emphasis on midnight screenings in the first weekend – Harry Potter films have indeed seen some pretty high drop-offs in their third, fourth weeks and so on. This makes it extremely vulnerable to the second weekend of Tangled, though Harry Potter should make it interesting with a third weekend of $22 million.

As a result of that weak second frame, Tangled came within $320,000 of an upset win. I'm reluctant to credit this film with any role in bringing Harry Potter's weekend down – I doubt there are any Harry Potter fans that treated Tangled as an acceptable substitute.

With the focus on family films over Thanksgiving, it might be reasonable to expect that category to be the hardest hit the following weekend. There doesn't seem to be an actual pattern that way though. In past years, A Christmas Carol and Enchanted have been among the better performers in this week. That still means a drop of 50% or more. Tangled has solid, albeit not spectacular word-of-mouth and should be able to approach that figure, earning it $23 million.

That's almost it for significant films this weekend, as the third best performance last weekend was by a film that's been out for a month. Megamind held strong over the holiday weekend, crossing the $125 million milestone on Saturday. The top three films of the weekend should again be family oriented, with Megamind coming in with around $6 million.

Burlesque was the best of a bad lot for the other three opening films, pocketing $12 million over three days and $17 million over five. It's hard for me to envision a scenario where this film has legs though, since even if it's intentional camp and its audience accepts and loves that, the size of the audience for intentional camp simply cannot be that large. Look for just under $5 million here.

Love and Other Drugs and Faster were both essentially failures despite their small budgets. At $9 and 8 million over three days and $14 and 12 over five days, both became also-rans in the holiday movie season. While there have been some surprisingly leggy action films this year, I don't expect Faster to be among them, and I'd figure both of these films to earn $3-5 million apiece this weekend.

Forecast: Weekend of December 3-5, 2010
Number of
Changes in Sites
from Last
Gross ($)
1 Tangled 3,603 0 23.4
2 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 4.125 0 22.5
3 Megamind 3,173 -238 6.0
4 Unstoppable 3,152 -31 5.2
5 Burlesque 3,037 0 5.1
6 The Warrior's Way 1,622 New 4.6
7 Love and Other Drugs 2,458 +3 4.4
8 Faster 2,470 +6 3.7
9 Due Date 2,450 -105 3.3
10 127 Hours 433 +140 2.0



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