December 2015 Forecast

By Michael Lynderey

December 3, 2015

They wouldn't break your heart. Would they?

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2. Joy (December 25th)
It's still tough to pinpoint as to what's going to come in as the month's second biggest film (quite clearly not its first), and Joy is as good a guess as any (another plausible option, Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight, doesn't seem to be expanding until January). Joy is another one of those blockbuster comedy-dramas that have become one-time indie director David O. Russell's stock and trade. And more to the point, it stars Jennifer Lawrence in her third Russell film, and her first as solo headliner. Lawrence is, of course, consistently and correctly ranked as the biggest movie star in North America, and indeed since 2011 she's been featured in at least one huge movie per year, sometimes more, and if she wasn't the main draw in a few, she's certainly helped burnish them all.

Joy is just about the first film sold almost entirely on her name, with her character's moniker as the title, and according to most analysts, she'll be up there in Best Actress contention, coincidentally facing off against another character with the same first name (Brie Larson's in Room). The film, loosely based on the invention of the Miracle Mop, isn't short for talent, including Lawrence's co-star of three previous films, Bradley Cooper, and other stalwarts like Robert DeNiro, Virginia Madsen, Diane Ladd, and Édgar Ramírez (who's also starring in Point Break). Early word is good, the trailer grabs you, and I think the kind of adult audience that turned Russell's previous big-star extravaganzas The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle, into hits (each one bigger than the last, actually) will mostly come back for the fourth time out.

Opening weekend: $37 million / Total gross: $125 million


3. Daddy's Home (December 25th)
Opening against Joy is this (presumably) much less ambitious big-star comedy, pairing suburban dilettante Will Ferrell (the stepdad) up against stereotypically vulgarian Mark Wahlberg (as the birth father). The plot seems like a generically successful idea, with Ferrell and Wahlberg reuniting after their not-inconsiderable triumph in 2010's The Other Guys (although who knows? Maybe The Other Guys just did so well because The Rock was in it. Doesn't that often seem to be the case?). The type of broad comedy Ferrell has mastered almost always gets the job done at the box office (his film Get Hard finished with $90 million earlier this year), while Wahlberg's resume usually alternates back and forth between hit and miss in a surprisingly consistent manner (I think the last one, Ted 2, was considered "miss," so that's good news for this follow-up).

One key point here is the rating: while Daddy's Home may seem crude and outlandish, it has been rated PG, and is thus easily presentable to all ages without too much parental guilt. Indeed, one of the great unheralded strategies to financial Hollywood success is releasing an innocuous, family-friendly, PG-rated film with big stars on the last weekend of the year, as has been demonstrated by titles like Cheaper by the Dozen and Parental Guidance, both of which made a whole lot more money than one imagines they should have. In fact, outside of the obvious (the #1 movie on this list), Daddy's Home may even be the first choice for families throughout the last week of the year.

Opening weekend: $31 million / Total gross: $107 million

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