Christmas weekend is almost always one of the most packed and highest-grossing box office frames of the year, and 2016 looks to be no exception. Universal’s animated musical Sing, Sony’s science-fiction romance Passengers, Fox’s historical action epic Assassin’s Creed, and Fox’s R-rated comedy Why Him? are all coming out in time for Christmas.
But will any of them be able to overtake the behemoth of last week’s leader, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story? Last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens declined 39.8 percent on Christmas weekend last year. If Rogue One declines by that much or by even more (such as 50 percent) from its $155.0 million opening last weekend, the newcomer competitors will probably find a first place ranking out of reach.
- This animated movie about a singing competition with animals combines a variety of musical genres with an A-list voice cast. Matthew McConaughey leads as a koala who judges the music contest, alongside Scarlett Johansson as a punk rock porcupine, Reese Witherspoon as a pop star pig, and Seth MacFarlane as a jazz-standards mouse.
- Buzz has been steadily increasing alongside one of the heaviest and most pervasive marketing campaigns of the year. When Boxoffice Pro published our long range forecast eight weeks ago, we predicted Sing would fall $14 million behind Passengers in the title for the weekend’s top new film. Since then, our prediction for Sing has steadily increased, to the point that we now project it will easily defeat Passengers. See our final predictions in the table at the bottom of the article.
- Disney’s animated musical Moana is still holding on fairly strong. After debuting at #1, it held the top spot for the two subsequent weekends as well. This past weekend in the face of the new Star Wars film, it dropped only to second place. 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. That figure is absolutely impossible for Moana to attain this upcoming weekend, also its fifth, after it made $12.7 million this past weekend, but it could still snatch some audiences away from Sing.
- The plot of Passengers follows a spaceship carrying the remnants of humanity after Earth is destroyed, with everybody surviving in sleeping chambers until they can settle a new planet — until only two of the passengers accidentally wake up and begin falling in love. The premise 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, which earned more than $600 million domestically.
- The two leads are portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, who produce box office hits as does nobody else in the business today. Everything 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 so far this decade, Jurassic World, and the $333 million-earning Guardians of the Galaxy.
- 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. A comparison is last month’s sci-fi drama Arrival. After its debut, Arrival experienced such positive word of mouth that it posted some of the mildest weekend drops of any film over the subsequent few weeks: -5.6 percent, -36.6 percent, and -23.1 percent. That is, until Rogue One came out and it fell a much larger 46.8 percent.
Assassin’s Creed (Fox)
- 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. 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.
- 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 for this one?
- Neither Fassbender nor Cotillard have had the best 2016 at the box office. Fassbender’s X-Men: Apocalypse earned $155.4 million but that was by far the lowest of the three X-Men films in which he’s appeared, while his September release The Light Between Oceans was a dud with $12.5 million. Cotillard’s Allied last month has so far earned $38.7 million and seems unlikely to crack $50 million total.
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. Its main competition in the “inappropriate comedy” space is Office Christmas Party, which has been performing fairly well relative to expectations but seems unlikely to make much money after December 25, for obvious reasons. So Why Him? might hold on well after Christmas Day, even if its opening weekend is underwhelming.
- 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.
- Playing in about 2,800 theaters this weekend, it not only will be on fewer screens than any of its three new competitors but also seems likely to play in fewer screens than several holdovers as well. Then again, fellow comedy Boo! A Madea Halloween took first place at the box office upon opening in October despite playing on fewer screens than any other film ranking in the top 10 that frame.
(Note: this will be a four-day weekend encompassing Friday through Monday, rendering exact comparisons to either last weekend or this same weekend last year inexact.)
Check out the official Boxoffice Pro weekend forecast in the table below.
|Title||Distributor||4-Day Weekend (Friday-Monday)||Domestic Total Through Monday, December 26||% decline|
|Rogue One: A Star Wars Story||Disney||$96,000,000||$324,140,000||-38.1%|
|Passengers||Sony / Columbia||$29,800,000||$40,000,000||New|
|La La Land||Lionsgate / Summit||$8,500,000||$16,500,000||107.2%|
|Office Christmas Party||Paramount||$6,870,000||$44,040,000||-20.0%|
|Collateral Beauty||Warner Bros. (New Line)||$6,040,000||$16,960,000||-15.0%|
|Manchester by the Sea||Roadside Attractions||$4,670,000||$21,280,000||10.0%|
|Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them||Warner Bros.||$4,560,000||$216,190,000||-10.1%|
Shawn Robbins, Jesse Rifkin, and Alex Edghill contributed to this report.