Box Office Guru Preview: Vince & Reese Offer Holiday Cheer

Also, Australia, Transporter 3 try to gorge on the holiday leftovers.

by | November 26, 2008 | Comments

The Thanksgiving holiday weekend sees a wide variety of films in the multiplexes giving all kinds of moviegoers something to see over the extended five-day session. Leading the trio of star-driven new releases opening on Wednesday is the holiday comedy Four Christmases which is joined by the historical epic Australia and the action entry Transporter 3. Twilight will try to spend a second frame at number one and will come off of a huge opening while fellow sophomore Bolt aims for a much stronger hold. Despite the selection of offerings, the overall box office will have to work hard to match last year’s turkey frame when eleven different films grossed more than $7M each over the Friday-to-Sunday period.

Hoping to make people forget Rendition, Reese Witherspoon returns to her bread and butter – comedy – by pairing up with Vince Vaughn in Four Christmases which is the widest of the new openers and looks to have the best shot at making a play for the number one spot. The PG-13 laugher about a couple that must visit the homes of all 4 divorced parents on the same day should rake in impressive numbers this weekend. The stars certainly sell in this genre, the concept is appealing, and the holiday theme is just want people are looking for right now. Vince and Reese give the film broad appeal to many age groups and to both genders. Plus moviegoers are looking for escapism and want to spend their money to have a good time. Reviews may be bad, but effective trailers and commercials promise laughs and that’s all this film needs to make its case to the voting public.

Competition is not too strong. Role Models is the only other live-action comedy doing any business right now. Twilight and Australia will split the female vote, but June Carter can stand up to those chicks. Four Christmases is about as mainstream as any film out in theaters this weekend gets and by pleasing all the different audience segments, it should be a winner with large groups. Teens and young adults will be at the core of the success. The New Line title will be released by Warner Bros. in more than 3,200 locations and might find itself in the neighborhood of $26M over the Friday-to-Sunday period and $36M over five days.

Reese and Vince in Four Christmases

Hugh Jackman was just named People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive. Could it be coincidence that his new film opens at the same time? That pic would be Australia starring the X man opposite Nicole Kidman in a historical epic that mixes a love story with a little history lesson on that land Down Under around the start of World War II. The PG-13 film from director Baz Luhrmann is an old school piece of filmmaking and should skew older and more female. But the big-budget Fox production has five factors working against it at the box office.

First, the subject matter is a problem since Americans really aren’t very interested in learning about the history of Australia. Second, these stars may grace every magazine cover around, but they often do not sell tickets unless the project is truly exciting. Also competition is a factor since Four Christmases is clearly the more fun option this weekend and it has more cross-gender appeal to satisfy couples. Add in a running time that nears three hours when including trailers plus reviews that can be described as mixed at best, and it’s easy to see that it will be an uphill battle.

The kickoff of holiday shopping over Thanksgiving weekend also will help to keep women over 30 busy during the coming days. But the long weekend does give people extra time on their hands so Australia may reach its audience over time and not immediately in its first day like a certain vampire love story. Fox needn’t worry as Yanks represent the gravy for this movie. The bulk of the business will come from the U.K., Europe, Asia, and Australia and this particular slice of entertainment will sell much better outside of North America. Landing in 2,617 theaters, Australia might take in about $15M over the weekend and $22M over the Wednesday-to-Sunday period.

Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman in Australia

Jason Statham returns in his signature franchise with Transporter 3 which took a detour off the Fox lot and settled into Lionsgate territory. The shift in distributors makes sense given the new home’s strong track record with films that skew towards young men. The PG-13 actioner has a very specific audience in mind and is not likely to convert new followers. Transporter 2 bowed three years ago with $16.5M over the Friday-to-Sunday portion of its four-day Labor Day opening weekend, although Fox launched it in 700 more theaters than what Lionsgate has in store this week with the new installment. Statham’s last pic Death Race debuted to $12.6M in August. Transporter 3 will no doubt pull in a large share of its five-day gross in the first two days meaning that comparing Friday-to-Sunday takes across various Statham flicks would not tell a real story. Quantum of Solace will provide some direct competition, but overall the film should be welcomed given all the female-skewing films filling up multiplexes. Landing in 2,626 locations, Transporter 3 may debut with a $14M weekend and $22M across five days.

Jason Statham and some unfortunate extra in Transporter 3

For the first time in five years a woman directed the number one film at the box office thanks to Catherine Hardwicke‘s Twilight dominating the multiplexes last weekend. A disproportionately large part of the fan base came out on its opening day which accounted for half of the weekend bow. That signals a steep sophomore decline but Friday’s holiday will help to prevent a ridiculously hefty dropoff. New films from Reese and Nicole could pull away the vampire love story’s female audience too. A 60% fall could result giving Twilight about $28M for the Friday-Sunday span and around $115M after ten days.

The superspy known as Bond was met with a crushing 60% decline last weekend in its second mission but should stabilize this week and pull in some dollars from older adults that have more leisure time due to the holiday. The new releases should all have some impact though. Still, a 40% drop could occur putting Quantum of Solace at roughly $16M for the frame and $136M after 17 days.

Bolt had a slower than expected start last weekend but Disney is hoping that its crowd was just waiting for the turkey frame to go out and see the TV star pooch. Family films routinely have the lowest declines over Thanksgiving thanks to strong Friday sales so a 20% weekend dip may be in order. Declines for recent animated flicks during this particular holiday include 16% for Bee Movie, 11% for Happy Feet, and 15% for Chicken Little. That would leave Bolt, which seems like a less liked piece of entertainment, with around $21M over three days and a respectable ten-day start of $57M.

LAST YEAR: Disney’s princess comedy Enchanted ruled the weekend which was the post-Thanksgiving frame as overall ticket sales were sliced in half compared to the previous holiday session which fell earlier on the calendar. The Amy Adams hit grossed $16.4M and was followed by fellow holdovers Beowulf with $8.2M, This Christmas with $7.9M, and Hitman with $6M. Debuting in fifth was the Hayden Christiansen thriller Awake with a weak $5.9M on its way to $14.4M for MGM.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,