Weekend Wrap-Up

Skyfall Wins a Lost Weekend at the Box Office

By John Hamann

December 9, 2012

They take this business very seriously.

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James Bond doesn’t fear The Hobbit, but it would appear everyone else does.

With only a turd of a film called Playing for Keeps opening this weekend, one has to wonder what the studios were thinking, literally abandoning a weekend in December, and only two-and-a-half weeks before Christmas. Some blame Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, which takes over cinemas next weekend, and is sure to be huge. Some blame an early Thanksgiving, which opened an extra weekend prior to Christmas. And finally, some blame greed, as four films open on the 21st and three more on the 25th, aligning themselves for the holiday box office lottery. The Hobbit excuse I understand, but only to a point, as the biggest Ring flick, Return of the King, opened to $72.6 million, or currently the 47th biggest of all time. The weekend before Return of the King opened, Something’s Gotta Give debuted, and became a $125 million earner. Get my point?


The second and third excuses are interesting. If a film opens this weekend, it would be the ninth film to open between now and Christmas Day. The odds of succeeding would be low unless you were an event picture like The Hobbit or Les Miserables. The benefit would be an extra weekend to work alone, before the big Christmas two week spectacular at the box office. A middle-range film is going to be almost automatically sixth before the big day arrives, as The Guilt Trip, Jack Reacher, Monsters, Inc. 3D and This Is 40 should all do decent business. Studios would be taking a big risk dropping a picture into this weekend, so I do buy that excuse, although it pains me to do so. With an earlier Thanksgiving this year, turkey holiday debuts will not see the benefit that a normal Thanksgiving release would over the Christmas season. This leaves those films opening over the next 14 days in a prime position - or mayl leave us with a weak holiday season.

All we are left with this weekend is a repeat of the last two, and brings a big down weekend when the box office had been on a roll following Thanksgiving. It also leaves us with an interesting story this weekend, as Skyfall is the number one picture, returning to the top in its fifth weekend. Skyfall earned $11 million to return to the top this weekend, falling 34% compared to the previous frame. It is extremely rare in this box office age for a film to open at #1, spend three weekends at #2, and then move back into top spot. We’ve heard of films languishing in lower spots and then moving to the top (The Blind Side took three weekends to get to #1), but probably the best example of this is The Passion of the Christ, which spent its first three weekends in the #1 spot, and then spent three weekends out of the top spot but in the top five before returning to the top in its seventh weekend. Another example is Mel Gibson’s Signs. That movie opened at #1 and then spent two weekends at #2 (ironically versus Die Another Day) before returning to the top for two consecutive weekends. For this feat to happen in today’s box office, you either have to be Christ or the devil (Mel Gibson) I guess.

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