For the first time since Thanksgiving, a major Hollywood studio is braving the pandemic waters in support of cinemas willing and able to keep their doors open at the moment. That studio is Sony, and they’ll unleash Monster Hunter one week before Christmas in a play to attract fans of the video game franchise.
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson and starring his partner Milla Jovovich, the creative pairing sparked genre success in the past with the Resident Evil franchise. Those films’ core audiences are the target watchers for Monster Hunter, although it’s clear this new film won’t be performing anywhere near the box office standards of the near-two decades old series. While COVID-19 cases continue to set national records on a daily basis, renewed lockdowns and closures in major markets have sunk the domestic footprint of operating theaters well below 40 percent.
Still, Monster Hunter comes at a time when exhibitors need new content more than ever. The industry is still preparing for a significantly deflated (but still much needed) performance out of next week’s Wonder Woman 1984 when it launches in theaters day-and-date with a free streaming release on the HBO Max platform. The hope at this point is that any and all new films opening over this holiday corridor will help keep those cinemas afloat heading into the new year.
Monster Hunter will open at 7 p.m. on Thursday night as it rolls into 1,736 locations this weekend, including 159 IMAX venues and 383 premium large format screens.
Meanwhile, Lionsgate is also throwing a lifeline to theater owners with the release of Fatale, an adult-oriented thriller starring Hilary Swank and Michael Ealy. That pic will open in 1,107 locations this weekend, although a soft opening is expected due to a very muted marketing campaign (even relative to other pandemic-era releases).
Disney returns to the re-release game after sitting out last week, this time bringing The Muppet Christmas Carol into an estimated 725 theaters. The original run of the classic holiday family movie opened to a $5 million weekend in December 1992 before finishing with $27.3 million domestically and $32.4 million globally.
Ticket sales for re-releases have been hit or miss in recent weeks when compared to the more “successful” pandemic-era re-issues of films like Hocus Pocus, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Nightmare Before Christmas during early fall. It’s natural to expect another quiet weekend for Muppet, although Elf, The Polar Express, and Christmas Vacation have proven to be solid attractions from the Warner Bros. camp over the past few weeks.
All in all, many holdovers should experience relatively soft declines this weekend. The Croods: A New Age doesn’t face new competition in any direct manner, but it will be releasing at home via Premium Video On-Demand this Friday. Although most theaters are holding onto the film (Showtimes Dashboard estimates only a 10 percent decline from last weekend’s total booked showings), a slight hit at the box office is likely — especially with it losing premium format screens to Monster Hunter.
Wonder Woman 1984 Opens Internationally
Not to be excluded from pre-weekend notes is the anticipated release of Wonder Woman 1984 in various countries outside North America this week. An estimated 32 markets will be launching the film by Friday, some of the most significant being Brazil, China, Japan, Mexico, and Spain. When the studio initially announced its global release plans last month, key territories like France, Germany, and Italy were included for this initial overseas rollout, but the latter three are in the midst of another round of cinema closures due to the ongoing pandemic surge.
Warner Bros. has not confirmed any additional background notes or expectations for how the film will perform. The studio notably limited its box office reporting on Tenet to only Sunday and Monday updates over the past few months, so its reasonable to expect something similar may occur with the DC sequel given the many unknowns of the global market and the eventual impact of its day-and-date streaming release in North America next Friday (Christmas Day).
This Weekend in Box Office History…
Star Wars: The Force Awakens officially turns five years old. Upon its massively anticipated debut on December 18, 2015, the film became the first in history to reach $100 million in a single day with $119.1 million. That included the highest-ever Thursday night preview gross at the time with $56 million.
By the end of opening weekend, the seventh film in live-action Star Wars canon achieved an historical record opening of $248 million domestically. It went on to earn $936.7 million in North America and $2.07 billion globally. The latter mark currently ranks fourth all-time worldwide, while Force Awakens remains the highest-grossing film in domestic history to this day.
|Film||Distributor||3-Day Weekend Forecast||Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, December 20||% Change from Last Wknd|
|Monster Hunter||Sony / Columbia||$3,000,000||$3,000,000||NEW|
|The Croods: A New Age||Universal Pictures||$2,000,000||$27,000,000||-34%|
|Half Brothers||Focus Features||$390,000||$1,900,000||-21%|
|Elf (2020 Re-Issue)||New Line Cinema (Warner Bros.)||$305,000||$2,600,000||-24%|
|The War with Grandpa||101 Studios||$210,000||$18,200,000||-20%|
|The Polar Express (2020 Re-Issue)||Warner Bros. Studios||$195,000||$655,000||-20%|
|The Muppet Christmas Carol (2020 Re-Issue)||Walt Disney Studios||$190,000||$190,000||NEW|
|National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (2020 Re-Issue)||Warner Bros. Studios||$180,000||$845,000||-25%|
All forecasts subject to change before the first confirmation of weekend estimates from studios or alternative sources.
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