The final weekend of 2006 will see moviegoers catch up on a jam-packed slate of holiday leftovers as no new films open on Friday.
Look for the top ten to be filled with all the same movies as last weekend, although the award-winning musical "Dreamgirls" which opened nationally on Monday should climb higher on the charts in its first full weekend of wide release. With Christmas activites finished and New Year’s Eve celebrations only affecting late shows on Sunday night, ticket sales should be robust with most films seeing either small declines, or modest boosts in their four-day grosses.
Paramount and DreamWorks are enjoying their ride to the $100M mark with the critically acclaimed "Dreamgirls" which has just entered its second stage of release. The PG-13 musical began its run with an exclusive ten-day engagement in three theaters with $25 tickets that resulted in a lucrative $852,000. Then on Monday, the Jamie Foxx–Beyonce Knowles pic expanded into 852 locations across North America for the Christmas holiday. Moviegoers rushed out and spent $8.7M for a stunning one-day average of $10,242 per theater. Tuesday saw sales drop 34% to $5.8M which still led to a remarkable two-day start of $14.5M and $17,051 average.
Thanks to strong reviews, solid starpower, Oscar buzz, and five Golden Globe nominations, "Dreamgirls" looks ready to make an even bigger splash this weekend with the long four-day holiday weekend. With the 1960s storyline bringing in older adults and young stars like Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson attracting teens and younger adults, the Bill Condon-directed film is bringing in business from all sectors. Competition for the African-American crowd will continue to come from Will Smith‘s "The Pursuit of Happyness," but the extended holiday period is giving fans the time to eventually see both. Long-term strength looks promising too as Paramount will expand the pic on January 12 into more than 2,000 theaters for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday frame. The expansion will also make the film easily accessible in all markets when Golden Globes are awarded on January 15. For the final weekend of the year, "Dreamgirls" may sing to the tune of about $22M and propel its cume to $47M with much more to come.
For those who are naughty and not nice, MGM offered up the horror remake "Black Christmas" on Monday. The R-rated pic about a killer who preys on a sorority house during the holidays bowed to a respectable $3.3M on Christmas Day and followed that up with a 46% drop on Tuesday to $1.8M for a two-day start of $5.1M from 1,258 theaters. Fright flicks usually do not do well at this time of year, but Wes Craven‘s "Scream" hits a decade ago made many studios wonder if they could also tap into riches when the target audience is on vacation and horror competition is low. "Black Christmas" should burn through much of its audience of high school and college kids during the week and have one last weekend of decent biz before fizzling away. A four-day tally of $7M could await giving the slasher flick $15M in eight days.
After directing the third "Harry Potter" extravaganza, Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron returns to the screen with a much more mature film in "Children of Men." The futuristic drama takes place in London in 2029, eighteen years after the human race lost its ability to reproduce, and tells of a man who protects the only pregnant woman in existence. The R-rated drama starring Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, and Michael Caine opened on Christmas Day with a powerful $180,000 from 16 theaters for a sensational $11,250 one-day average. Reviews have been strong for the Universal release which will add some more dates on Friday. "Children" has already grossed $32M overseas since its top spot debut in the U.K. in September and subsequent openings in Mexico, Europe, and other parts of the the world.
Also in limited release, Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, and Emily Watson star in "Miss Potter," a new biopic on the author of children’s book author Beatrix Potter. MGM is releasing this PG-rated film from Chris Noonan who has not directed a film since 1995’s "Babe." Zellweger nabbed a Globe nod in the Best Actress – Drama category.
Acclaimed actresses Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett both earned Golden Globe nods for their performances in "Notes on a Scandal" which Fox Searchlight platformed on Wednesday. Also opening is the R-rated fairy tale "Pan’s Labyrinth" from Spain which is a Globe nominee in the foreign language category. Directed by Guillermo del Toro ("Hellboy," "Blade II"), the Picturehouse release bows on Friday and has already won other foreign lingo awards from various critics groups.
The wide releases are the ones that hope to give the holiday season a boost over last year. The top five films from the crucial November-December corridor, as of the end of Christmas weekend, have grossed a combined $574M which is a considerable 25% drop from the corresponding films of 2005 which had tallied $766M at this point.
The limited release newcomers won’t be making much of a dent on the national scene. Among wide releases, last week’s champ "Night at the Museum" should remain in the number one spot for a second weekend in a row with Ben Stiller welcoming in 2007. The Fox comedy’s powerful $42.2M four-day debut was better than expected and pulled in significant business from the non-family crowd. With fantastic midweek grosses and "Dreamgirls" being the only new element of competition this coming weekend, "Museum" should easily continue as the most popular attraction. The PG-rated comedy followed up its stellar Xmas frame with a hefty $13.5M haul on Tuesday and hopes to get close to the $80M mark by the end of its first full week in theaters. The four-day New Year’s weekend could bring a gross of around $40M which would give the effects-driven pic a towering $120M after only 11 days.
Will Smith will try to hold onto the number two spot and fend off what should be a strong challenge from "Dreamgirls." "The Pursuit of Happyness" was bumped down to number three on Christmas Day thanks to the national opening of the acclaimed musical, but rose back up to the runnerup spot on Tuesday with $7.1M beating the $5.8M of "Dreamgirls." "Pursuit" raked in $68M in its first dozen days and will try to smash the century mark by the end of the holiday frame. Jamie Foxx and company will, however, provide some direct competition for African-American patrons. Feel-good movies should still be in demand so Smith could find himself with about $25M this weekend for "The Pursuit of Happyness" which would boost the cume to $106M.
In its first full week of release, Sylvester Stallone‘s underdog hit "Rocky Balboa" has punched up a solid $31.2M for MGM defying all odds. The PG-rated drama saw its biggest gross on its opening day last Wednesday as the built-in fan base came out early, but it still has been posting solid daily numbers of around $4-5M ever since. This weekend, "Rocky Balboa" might score another $16M over four days and see its winnings climb to $55M.
Universal has counterprogrammed all the feel-good family-friendly films with its espionage thriller "The Good Shepherd" and has been banking some respectable numbers. With $18.3M in its first five days from just over 2,200 theaters, the Matt Damon–Angelina Jolie drama has been holding its own as the adult alternative for serious moviegoers. A $13M gross over four days could await "The Good Shepherd" which would raise its sum to a decent but not spectacular $38M after 11 days.
LAST YEAR: The New Year’s frame looked suspiciously like the Christmas one with the notable musical chairs played by the top two pics. Disney’s "The Chronicles of Narnia" reclaimed the number one spot in its fourth weekend grossing $33.7M over four days inching up 6% from the prior session. After two weeks on top, Universal’s "King Kong" settled for second place and took in a four-day tally of $31.8M which was off 4% from the Santa frame. The combined cumes by the end of the weekend totaled a mammoth $401M. The two comedies that opened in third and fourth remained in their respective spots. Jim Carrey‘s "Fun With Dick and Jane" slipped 2% to $21M while Steve Martin‘s kidpic sequel "Cheaper by the Dozen 2" climbed 23% to $18.9M. Rounding out the top five was Jennifer Aniston‘s "Rumor Has It" which collected $11.8M over four days in its first full weekend of release. It bowed on Christmas Day which fell on the previous Sunday. Moviegoers spent a staggering $188.8M on the Top 20 over four days to close out the 2005 movie year.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com