The Christmas Box-Office Is Awash In Underperformers

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is typically the busiest week of the year for moviegoers, and this year is no exception. However, like last year, one movie is suffocating much of the box office, leaving less room for the other movies to blossom. In 2015, that movie was Star Wars: The Force Awakens and this year, it is Rogue One, which isn’t putting up quite the numbers of its predecessor, but it’s certainly doing well enough to make studios rethink their Christmas releases in future years, as Star Wars is clearly putting a dent in the competition.

With movies being released last Wednesday, Friday, and Christmas Day, box-office rankings don’t mean much at the moment, but it’s safe to say that Rogue One will take the weekend, and the holiday week. It earned close to $75 million from the Friday to Sunday period, and today’s box-office returns should put it over $300 million domestically, keeping the film on track to easily surpass Captain America: Civil War ($408 million) and Finding Dory ($486 million) for the highest grossing film of the year.

One film that has managed to break through during the holiday week is Illumination’s animated Sing, which is counter-programming nicely to young audiences. Sing, which has received modest reviews, looks like it will recoup close to all of its $75 million production budget in the Wednesday to Monday frame, and it should have a clear runway until the February release of LEGO: Batman. It’s not likely to put up anything close to Secret Life of Pets numbers, but it will be a big hit for Illumination (see also the Despicable Me/Minions franchise), which is managing to put up Pixar numbers without Pixar budgets.

The weekend’s news wasn’t as good for Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. Sony took a big gamble on the two, hoping that their combined star power could deliver huge numbers for an original film, but Passengers is not meeting expectations. Bad reviews aren’t helping, nor is the word of mouth about the dark premise of the film. The four-day total for Passengers looks like a meager $25ish million, so it’s going to need a lot of help internationally to recoup the $110 million production budget. The star power of Pratt and Lawrence may have also been somewhat illusory. Lawrence found some success with the Oscar-contending Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, but she couldn’t deliver the same numbers on her own with Joy, which we haven’t really seen Pratt so outside of either a huge franchise of the ensemble The Magnificent Seven remake, which delivered a so-so $93 million stateside.

The news for Passengers is only slightly better than the grosses for Michael Fassbender’s Assassin’s Creed, which is also underperforming and only likely to make around $23 million for the holiday weekend. The video game adaptation, which has also been met with poor reviews, cost even more than Passengers with a $125 million budget, but its prospects overseas are much higher, where even domestic bombs like Prince of Persia and underperformers like the Resident Evil movies put up double, triple or even quadruple their domestic grosses. That is to say, Assassin’s Creed will not be a smash hit here in America, but it’s still likely to do well once international grosses are accounted for.

Meanwhile, the James Franco/Bryan Cranston comedy, Why Him?, has been able to meet modest expectations and should end the holiday weekend with around $15 million, which is about what the so-so film deserves. It’s not great, but it’s a pleasantly dumb holiday diversion, if only for the fun Cranston/Megan Mullally sex scene.

The top five movies of the holiday weekend are fixed, but Christmas Day brought in a slew of other releases and expansions. Denzel Washington’s Fences opened wide, for instance, and put up a solid $6.6 million, which is better than what Passengers earned on its opening day. That film, all but assured to earn Oscar noms for Viola Davis and Denzel Washington, should continue to put up modest numbers throughout awards season. La La Land also expanded on Christmas day to over 700 theaters and earned around $4 million, which is a solid number. It should continue to add screens in the coming weeks, and is likely to a nice awards-season sleeper hit (it is a lock for Best Picture).

Several other films opened in a small number of screens (to qualify for Oscars), and we’re not likely to understand their full box-office potential until they go wider. However, on a per screen basis, Martin Scorsese’s Silence is playing slightly better than Hidden Figures, which is performing slightly better than Mark Wahlberg’s Patriot’s Day, which is performing much better than Ben Affleck’s Live by Night, which may end Affleck’s streak of critically well received directing projects (reviews have not been stellar).

Finally, it is worth noting that Dangal, an Indian Hindi-language wrestling film directed by Nitesh Tiwari, opened in 330 screens and quietly earned $4 million here in America, which is pretty decent for a film most English-speakers have never heard of.

Source: Deadline, Forbes, Box Office Mojo