December 2016 Box Office Forecast

By Michael Lynderey

December 1, 2016

If nothing else makes you want to see Rogue One, Donnie Yen should!

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The first half of December 2016 is pretty much taking the day off, with a mere two or three wide releases of uncertain notability priming the ground for the film that will without any question dominate the month (we know this because, in a wild coincidence, pretty much the same movie dominated pretty much the same month last year). After that beast is unleashed and tamed, December zeroes in on three genre would-be blockbusters duking it out for #2, and a handful of small films left behind.

1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (December 16th)

The worst franchise of all time returns for its eighth and final installment, as Rogue One is poised to give a dignified end to the Star W... (hold on a moment, someone is trying to get my attention. What?!?).

The worst franchise of all time returns for only its eighth installment, as Star Wars fills the December special effects niche occupied for much of the 21st century by copious and pestilent Lord of the Rings sequels (and as soon as the December 16, 2014, midnight screening of The Hobbit 3 finally ends, those people are going to be really mad at me!). Rogue One stars Felicity Jones, who marks her anointment as a rising ingénue and leading actress with her first real blockbuster lead role, in what has by now become a rite of passage of sorts for up-and-coming British actors (yes, they hand these parts out beginning of school year at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London). Surrounding her is a supporting cast that's as international as every article about the film promises, going beyond the standard British lead and Australian villain to actors from Mexico (Diego Luna), Denmark (Mads Mikkelsen), Hong Kong (Donnie Yen), and past Alpha Centauri (Imperial enforcer droid K-2SO).

As a sort of prequel to the original trilogy and sequel to the prequel films, Star Wars 8 potentially promises some choice, applause-worthy (ugh) cameos for the fans, like a Darth Vader, the Ehrenreich version of Han Solo, or a grandma Ewok. As you remember, by the time of its eighth installment, the Friday the 13th series brilliantly had Jason Voorhees stow away on a school boat and attack Manhattan; so which franchise was more innovative at this point, again?

Other than all that, what are we to make of the film's box office chances? Any good? Star Wars: The Force Awakens became, both inevitably and unnecessarily, the biggest movie of all time, easily blazing past Avatar ("Miss me yet?" "Yes") to take in $936 million domestically (holy heck, that's a lot of money). That film was the answer to months and years and decades of energy and anticipation by dedicated fans, as well as so many others among the general audience, who waited to see their beloveds from the original Star Wars film on the screen again, as if nothing had changed in 38 years. That force of desire and longing (and the 92% Rotten Tomatoes score, too, I suppose) dominated the 2015 holiday season, and Rogue One, a spin-off carrying sufficient correlation to the other films, should certainly seize up on the goodwill of the recent film. It will not match its performance, I assume, because it's only been 12 months and the new film offers no direct answers and follow-up to the questions, such as they are, that were asked in Episode 7.

Still, will Rogue One take in at least half of The Force Awakens' loot? Surely. Will it win the month and the season, by far? Easily. Disney's own Finding Dory, currently the highest-grossing film of the year at a quaint $486 million, may be in its sights. Blowing up the Death Star is just the warm-up.

Opening weekend: $163 million / Total gross: $468 million? (although who really cares at this point?)


2. Sing (December 21st)

CGI showbiz musical Sing leads the attack on December 21, which between Star Wars' sixth full day and three new blockbusters may turn out to be one of the biggest box office days of the year. There is little to be said about Sing except that it is, indeed, an animated musical about ambitious auditioneers for a talent show, a sort of A Chorus Line (outdated reference?) or La La Land (too soon?) of the animated kind, although the most obvious comparison it may be going for is American Idol. Sing has, of course, assembled all the right elements to join the ever-inflating list of 2016 CGI blockbusters (Dory, The Secret Life of Pets, Zootopia), which comprise three of the year's top six, and make for a busy season at the Best Animated Film Oscars.

Sing stars anthropomorphic animals, whose voices are granted them by an A-list acting roster that can be matched this year by few films of any creed (Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton). And better yet, subsequent to its premiere at the Toronto Festival, the film has reviews that are glowing, ecstatic, uniformly positive, and many adjectives after that. More to the point, Sing comes from Illumination Entertainment, whose aforementioned Secret Life of Pets has thus far taken in $367 million (wowzers), and there is no reason at all that a film carrying so many similar elements can't at least try and match that number. This is especially because Sing is opening in one of the more lucrative release windows of the year, where it will exist as an easy consensus family film option at a time period where such are sorely required, even beyond the film ranked #1 on this forecast.

Opening weekend: $68 million (5-day) / Total gross: $262 million

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