Weekend Forecast for December 31, 2004-January 2, 2005

By Reagen Sulewski

December 31, 2004

This image: just too disturbing for words.

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No new wide release films greet the final weekend of the year, although five films throw in their hat for Oscar contention, with various expectations of success. These limited runs are also primers for early January expansions, but otherwise, New Year's weekend will look pretty much the same as Christmas Weekend.

Meet the Fockers ran away with the top spot last week, earning $46 million, helped in part by being the only new film open on all three days of the weekend. Let's not kid ourselves, though, as it earned more than films two through six put together in the box office. Fockers closed out Ben Stiller's tremendous year which was bookended by hits, with a couple hits (and flops) mixed in. Not stopping there, it earned over $10 million each successive weekday, very quickly breaking the $100 million mark. It should have no trouble matching and surpassing the $166 million Meet the Parents earned, and is easily the hit of December, though no Lord of the Rings. New Year's Eve is fairly obviously a dead zone at the theaters, but New Year's Day makes up for it somewhat. Look for a weekend total of about $29 million, which will place the film close to $150 million total.

Placing second was Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, which was quite heavily hurt by Christmas Eve, losing a chunk of its young audience. It fell a massive 58% from its opening weekend to $12.6 million, but recovered during the week, earning over $5 million on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. It will face a difficult dropoff in January when children's and family movies virtually fall off the end of the Earth, but for this weekend, should at least match Christmas weekend, earning about $13 million. It should break the $100 million mark shortly after the New Year.

Fat Albert was a surprise third place finisher on Christmas Week, but that is to be taken with a grain of salt considering the overall state of the box office. It was one of the few films to drop from Christmas Day to Boxing Day, and then showed one of the steepest dropoffs to the 27th. Its showing during the week has been modest at best compared to its weekend totals, and it looks like this one is in store for a short shelf life. Look for $7 million this weekend.

The Aviator, one of this year's Oscar front-runners, has not quite performed to expectations. Although its $8.6 million in two days is nothing to sneeze at, this is not the kind of thing that inspires Oscar voters (who, lest we forget, always take box office into consideration, like it or not). With weekday numbers falling steadily, this film is going to need some campaign help, though Scorsese is well liked and definitely seen as due. And let's not forget the Weinstein factor. However, for now, the box office will continue to flounder, with it earning about $7 million this weekend.

Sick of musicals, or at least, Andrew Lloyd Webber ones? You're not alone, as The Phantom of the Opera opened to much fanfare but little response, as it grabbed only tenth place at the box office, albeit on just 622 screens. It also failed to crack the top ten on any weekday during Christmas week, leading me to believe this one has not overcome its critical reception and lack of star power by way of its famous title. It's sometimes dangerous to write films off after one weekend, but with no expansion this weekend and little momentum, we can probably conclude that Phantom will not be haunting the Oscars. Give it a meagre $3 million this weekend.

Two Scarlett Johansson films are among the limited release fare this weekend. A Love Song For Bobby Long, starring herself and John Travolta and based on the Ronald Capps novel Off Magazine Street, sees Johansson playing a woman left 1/3 of a house after her mother dies, with the other two-thirds owned by Travolta and his drinking partner. Johansson has already been nominated for a Golden Globe for this film, her third in the last two years.

In Good Company obviously plans for wide release, being a rather obvious studio picture, starring Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid and Johansson. After Grace is made Quaid's boss (awk-waaaard), he falls in love with Johansson, Quaid's daughter. Tackling the idea of surrogate families in business and outside that, this is the latest film from Paul Weitz, who wants to be Cameron Crowe so bad he can probably taste it. Though unlikely to get any serious consideration, it's released here for qualification anyway.

The Merchant of Venice has at least one serious Oscar contender, Al Pacino in the title role. The adaptation of Shakespeare�s play, one of his darkest, most controversial in this day, as the film is often criticised for perceived anti-Semitic sentiment. Pacino himself is no stranger to Shakespeare, having played the title role in the experimental documentary/adaptation of Richard III, Looking for Richard.

Also opening in limited release are The Assassination of Richard Nixon, starring Sean Penn as a disturbed office supply salesman in 1974, who is seduced by violence, and Sky Blue, a Korean contender for the Animated Feature Oscar.

Forecast: Weekend of December 31, 2004-January 2, 2005
Number of
Changes in Sites
from Last
Gross ($)
1 Meet the Fockers 3,524 +6 28.9
2 Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events 3,623 0 13.1
3 Fat Albert 2,744 +40 7.2
4 The Aviator 1,796 0 7.0
5 Ocean's Twelve 3,290 0 6.5
6 The Polar Express 2,513 -130 6.0
7 Spanglish 2,489 +48 4.0
8 Darkness 1,718 +18 3.9
9 The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou 1,105 0 3.5
10 National Treasure 2,282 +81 3.5



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