Christmas weekend 2014 was the highest grossing three-day weekend of the year at the box office. In 2015, the weekend before Christmas and the weekend of Christmas were the two highest-grossing weekends of the year. Could 2016 repeat that trend? Four new wide releases — three debuting that Wednesday, one opening that Friday — will try.
Sony’s sci-fi romance drama Passengers stars arguably the two biggest stars at the box office of the past three years, Universal’s animated Sing goes for the family audience, Fox’s historical action epic Assassin’s Creed adapts one of the highest-selling video games of all time, and Fox’s comedy Why Him? aims for laughs. But will any of them be able to unseat the previous weekend’s guaranteed-first-place Star Wars spinoff Rogue One from the top spot?
[Note: two films, Fences and Gold, are currently slated for wide release on Sunday, December 25 — Christmas Day. Boxoffice Pro will not yet be offering box office predictions for those two titles, but we’ll be watching to see how/if their release strategies shift closer to release.]
- Every November, FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten uses data to quantitatively determine the 100 biggest movie stars. Last year, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt ranked #1 and #11. If anything, Pratt seems likely to break into the top 10 in next month’s rankings, given the success of his The Magnificent Seven in September alongside the presumed fall of a few stars ranked above him last year who haven’t had box office success in the past 12 months, like Hugh Jackman and Bradley Cooper.
- Just to reiterate that point, both lead stars produce box office hits as does nobody else in the business today. Everything Jennifer Lawrence has touched this decade has either made at least $150 million — the four films in the Hunger Games franchise, the three films in the X-Men series — or earned her an Oscar win or nomination: Joy, American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook. Chris Pratt starred in the second-highest grossing film of this decade, Jurassic World, and the $333 million-earning Guardians of the Galaxy.
- Passengers is about a spaceship carrying the remnants of humanity after Earth is destroyed, with everybody surviving in sleeping chambers until they can settle a new planet, when two — and only two — of the passengers accidentally wake up and start to fall in love. The film sits at the nexus of three genres: drama, sci-fi, and romance, and could appeal to fans of all three accordingly. It brings to mind the record-breaking box office of drama / sci-fi / romance Avatar in 2009.
- More than any of the other four films released this weekend, Passengers seems likely to be harmed most at the box office by the competition with Rogue One, a fellow sci-fi drama. Also, to a lesser extent but still worth noting, is the competition from that month’s sci-fi drama release The Space Between Us, about a human born and raised on Mars who travels to Earth for the first time as a teenager.
- Combining two of the biggest Hollywood stars of the moment for a romance doesn’t always produce box office success. Two examples: Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp made a fair-but-underwhelming $67.6 million with 2010’s The Tourist, while Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts earned a similar $66.8 million with 2001’s The Mexican.
- This animated film about a singing competition starring animals combines a variety of musical genres in an A-list voice cast: Matthew McConaughey as a koala who judges the contest, Scarlett Johansson as a punk rock porcupine, Seth MacFarlane as a mouse who sings old jazz standards, and Reese Witherspoon as a pig who’s also a pop star.
- With 41.8 million YouTube trailer views in five months as of this writing, this film has by far the most YouTube views for any trailer of a film debuting this weekend. (Passengers has 13.5 million, while Assassin’s Creed has 17.1 million.)
- Sing will face competition from fellow animated musical Moana, that one with the Disney brand behind it and the biggest music star of the moment Lin-Manuel Miranda writing the songs. Although Moana will have been out for a month by the time Sing is released, Disney’s previous animated musical Frozen had one of the longest theatrical releases of any film this decade and earned $28.5 million in Christmas weekend, its fifth weekend of wide release. If Moana can replicate Frozen‘s success, Sing could fall by the wayside.
- Singing competitions on television have had a rough year, with American Idol ending after 15 seasons and The Voice sliding to its lowest ratings yet. Although it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, since those are live action while Sing is an animated comedy, it may indicate an audience no longer as into the general concept of singing competitions as they might have been a few years back.
Assassin’s Creed (Fox)
- The video game franchise on which the film is based has sold an astounding 93 million copies since its 2007 original release, making it one of the most successful series in gaming history. If that audience can be tapped into as game adaptation Angry Birds was able to in May en route to $107.5 million dollar box office, that would be a big win.
- Michael Fassbender stars a time-traveling man in the present who’s forced to relive the memories of a 15th century Spanish assassin, alongside Marion Cotillard. In the past year, he’s earned $155.4 million in X-Men: Apocalypse and earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his title role in Steve Jobs. (Although Fassbender’s September release The Light Between Oceans was a box office dud with $12.5 million, that wasn’t expected to be a huge hit.)
- Gaming adaptations aren’t always successful. World of Warcraft also had several million active users when June’s Warcraft only earned $47.2 million at the box office. Will audiences beyond the existing fanbase turn out?
Why Him? (Fox)
- The comedy about a middle-aged man who develops a hatred and rivalry with his daughter’s new boyfriend represents one of two comedies with a wide release this December. And the other, Office Christmas Party, seems unlikely to make much money after December 25, for obvious reasons — leaving audiences looking for a post-Christmas comedy no other choices but the December 23 release of Why Him?
- Bryan Cranston and James Franco could make a great comic pairing, with Cranston in his first comedic role since his breakout Emmy-nominated performance on television’s Malcolm in the Middle, following a decade of dramatic roles in television’s Breaking Bad and his Oscar-nominated turn last year in Trumbo.
- Cranston’s most recent starring role in July’s The Infiltrator was a box office disappointment with only $15.4 million. Franco, meanwhile hasn’t had a live-action film released in more than 1,000 theaters since 2013’s Homefront with $20.1 million.
Check out the official Boxoffice Pro long range forecast in the table below. Shawn Robbins and Jesse Rifkin contributed to this report.
|Title||Release Date||Distributor||Opening Weekend||Cumulative|
|Why Him?||Fri, Dec 23||Fox||$11,000,000||$54,000,000|
|Assassin’s Creed||Wed, Dec 21||Fox||$13,000,000*||$56,000,000|
|Passengers||Wed, Dec 21||Sony / Columbia||$38,000,000*||$177,000,000|
|Sing||Wed, Dec 21||Universal||$24,000,000*||$115,000,000|
|Rogue One: A Star Wars Story||Fri, Dec 16||Disney||$135,000,000||$405,000,000|
|Collateral Beauty||Fri, Dec 16||Warner Bros.||$13,000,000||$75,000,000|
|The Space Between Us||Fri, Dec 16||STX Entertainment||$8,000,000||$45,000,000|
|Office Christmas Party||Fri, Dec 9||Paramount||$17,000,000||$70,000,000|
|Miss Sloane||Fri, Dec 9||EuropaCorp||$8,000,000||$26,000,000|
|Kidnap||Fri, Dec 2||Relativity Media||$7,000,000||$19,000,000|
|Incarnate||Fri, Dec 2||High Top Releasing||$4,500,000||$9,000,000|
|Moana||Wed, Nov 23||Disney||$65,000,000*||$285,000,000|
|Allied||Wed, Nov 23||Paramount||$14,000,000*||$68,000,000|
|Bad Santa 2||Wed, Nov 23||Broad Green Pictures||$10,000,000*||$34,000,000|
|Rules Don’t Apply||Wed, Nov 23||Fox||$5,000,000*||$19,000,000|
|Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them||Fri, Nov 18||Warner Bros.||$78,000,000||$210,000,000|
|The Edge of Seventeen||Fri, Nov 18||STX Entertainment||$13,000,000||$58,000,000|
|Bleed For This||Fri, Nov 18||Open Road Films||$6,500,000||$18,000,000|
|Friend Request||Fri, Nov 18||Freestyle Releasing||$2,500,000||$5,000,000|
|Arrival||Fri, Nov 11||Paramount||$27,000,000||$95,000,000|
|Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk||Fri, Nov 11||Sony / TriStar||$18,000,000||$75,000,000|
|Almost Christmas||Fri, Nov 11||Universal||$16,500,000||$46,000,000|
|Shut In||Fri, Nov 11||EuropaCorp||$5,500,000||$13,000,000|
|Doctor Strange||Fri, Nov 4||Disney||$88,000,000||$274,000,000|
|Trolls||Fri, Nov 4||Fox / Dreamworks||$30,000,000||$110,000,000|
|Hacksaw Ridge||Fri, Nov 4||Lionsgate||$10,000,000||$38,000,000|