The Twelve Days of Box Office: Day Four

By Tim Briody

December 26, 2014

That's the fact, Jack!

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Christmas Day brought some highly anticipated releases to the theaters and after spending the morning opening presents, audiences headed out to the movies for a shockingly strong Christmas Day of box office.

The surprise big winner among Christmas releases is Unbroken, the WW2 film directed by Angelina Jolie. The story of Louis Zamperini (who actually passed away in July at the age of 97, perhaps making the film slightly more notable) opened to a rather strong $15.5 million on Thursday. Considered a weak Oscar contender and given mediocre to poor reviews by critics (51% at Rotten Tomatoes), Unbroken was supposed to land in the middle of the pack when it came to this year’s crop of Christmas movies. It certainly makes things more interesting when we’re wrong. Audiences seemingly wanted an inspirational and uplifting movie (featuring torture, but I guess in this context it “builds character”) and this is certainly the best option out there. The calendar configuration is favorable here and Unbroken is positioned to land with well over $40 million for the weekend.

For reference, the last time Christmas Day fell on a Thursday was 2008, when Marley & Me led an underwhelming crop of Christmas releases with $14.3 million and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button behind it with $11.8 million. Marley & Me went on to win the holiday season with $143 million. Friday’s box office should be largely similar to the grosses on the 25th, as looking back to then everything (except the utterly DOA The Spirit) fell no worse than 15% and virtually everything had less than a 5% decline.

Into the Woods is not far behind Unbroken with $15 million on Christmas Day. This is not as much a surprise as Unbroken’s Thursday, the musical was supposed to be the big holiday movie (at least on Christmas Day). Generally well reviewed and with a well stocked cast, it was appointment viewing for Stephen Sondheim fans and looks to be the family movie of choice (though it might be too dark for the younger set) over the next 10 days. Still, the edge might end up with Night at the Museum.


The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies is not far behind the two new releases with about $13 million on Thursday. This puts it at $127 million after nine days of release. Comparisons to the other Hobbit films are difficult as the previous two films played in theaters for two weekends prior to reaching Christmas and Battle of the Five Armies came out on a Wednesday, but for the sake of it, An Unexpected Journey was at $137 million at this point while The Desolation of Smaug was at $116 million. It’s early yet, but a year ago I predicted the final Hobbit entry to better the performance of the second movie and so far that seems to be the case. If it shows sustained double digit million earnings over most of the next week, that will absolutely be the case.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb gets a big Christmas bump to $7.3 million, its best single day after a week in theaters. Christmas does weird things at the box office and this is proof. A franchise that was landing with a thud seemingly gets a second life and while it’s not going to be a runaway success like the previous films, it’s going to be far less of a disaster should it prove to be a viable family option. It might also draw in those who want to see the final on film performance of Robin Williams.

Fifth place sees the other Christmas Day release, The Gambler with Mark Wahlberg. With $5 million, it’s smack in the middle of the pack riding largely on Wahlberg’s star power. That’s all it’s got going for it and while the next ten days will send it to a respectable box office total, it’s probably not something you’ll remember existed six months from now.

In the bottom half of the top ten, the biggest story is The Imitation Game, expanding on Christmas Day from 34 theaters to 747 theaters and earning $3 million, virtually doubling its box office total in a single day as it’s now earned $6.7 million after a month in limited release. Starring likely Best Actor nominee and perennial winner of the We Still Can’t Believe It’s Actually His Name Either Award Benedict Cumberbatch, the Alan Turing biopic is the highest profile awards contender in release (though Unbroken’s performance suddenly improves its chances at nomination slightly) and that will send it to a solid holiday performance in the next ten days.

Finally, we have The Interview, arguably the Christmas release with the most awareness after the numerous headlines and backlash regarding Sony pulling it from the schedule only to cave at the last moment. In just over 300 theaters, it earned $1 million on Friday, not even sniffing the top ten. Suddenly the highest profile day and date release in film history, The Interview will be interesting to watch over the next week. My guess is Christmas Day is the best day of its run provided it doesn’t expand any further and it finishes with under $4 million for the weekend.



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