Weekend Forecast for December 23-25, 2011 Part 2
By Reagen Sulewski
December 23, 2011
Now the fun begins. Three more films add themselves to the Christmas week slate over the next three days, adding to the Holiday glut that started last Friday and was added to with three films on Wednesday. In all, as many as ten films could be significant players over the next week and a half.
First, the new arrivals. Friday brings Cameron Crowe's first film in six years, We Bought a Zoo. One of the odder premises in some time, it stars Matt Damon in an adaptation of Ben Mee's autobiographical book about his family's purchase of a rundown zoo in the English countryside following the death of Damon's character's wife. Annnnnnd that's pretty much it for plot. It's not going to get much plainer than the title, there.
Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Patrick Fugit and Elle Fanning round out the cast, though the appeal is Damon plus a bunch of cute, cute animals. This is filling the Marley & Me slot of “family film with animals”, which fairly inexplicably dominated the 2008 Christmas season to the tune of a $36 million opening and $143 million total. Jennifer Aniston chasing an unruly Labrador puppy down the beach is apparently just what people wanted. There's a significant difference here in that this book wasn't nearly as popular as Marley & Me, and that we're losing focus on a particular animal for the multiple ones in the zoo. Porcupines-lessthansign-puppies, apparently. Hopefully we can count on a bit more insight from Crowe than David Frankel on the therapeutic value of animals, but I don't know that that's going to help on the first weekend. I'd look for an opening weekend of $19 million.
War Horse is the bigger of the two films opening on Christmas Day, thanks in large part to its director, one … Steven Spielberg. Perhaps you've heard of him. Having exhausted every plausible World War II story, he's moved backwards to World War I, following a young man (newcomer Jeremy Irvine) who enlists in the British Army on the eve of the Great War after his beloved workhorse is sold for use in battle. A somewhat episodic film on the horrors of war and the devotion of a boy to his horse, it's not exactly something that screams blockbuster – but then there's that Spielberg name. The ads definitely have that touch that he brings to his films which has made him the biggest name in directing, but he's not without his missteps – see Amistad, The Terminal, Always… and you'd be one of the few that did. Overall, though, it's hard to think of anyone with a more consistent and excellent track record at delivering hits, and if there's anyone who can get people see a movie with no significant stars and that's mostly about a horse, it'd be him.
The last time we had a calendar configuration like this was 2005, when the unremarkable Rumor Has It and the totally forgotten Wolf Creek were the only films to skip the weekend and open on Christmas Day. One of the most significant December 25th openers in recent years is Ali, with brought in $10 million when Christmas fell on a Monday … and then promptly fell to Earth. It's kind of an apples and oranges comparison, but there's not nearly the hype here that there was for Ali, nor is it as friendly a concept. For its one day, I'd look for about $6.5 million.