Box Office Results for December 16, 2011

This weekend, three big Hollywood sequels led the North American box office pumping in some badly needed new content but that didn’t stop the overall marketplace from suffering double digit losses over last year and the year before.  Studios are hoping that audiences are just busy right now with holiday shopping and end-of-year activities and that their films will be well-positioned to take advantage of the extra free time people will soon have in the days ahead.

Doing what its predecessor couldn’t, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows debuted at number one with an estimated $40M from 3,703 theaters for a solid $10,807 average.  The $145M-budgeted Warner Bros. sequel debuted 36% below the $62.3M of Sherlock Holmes, which launched in second place behind 20th Century Fox‘s Avatar on the Christmas frame two years ago over what was the largest weekend in box office history.  Since audiences are historically less available in mid-December, the follow-up was never expected to open at the same heights.  Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows earned good reviews from critics and an encouraging A- grade from moviegoers polled by CinemaScore.  Sales on Saturday, however, showed virtually no growth over Friday’s opening day.  The marketplace for adults will get crowded very quickly in the days ahead so early positive buzz will be crucial as audiences start making up their decisions for what to see over the upcoming holiday break.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows entered only six international markets day and date with domestic and grossed an estimated $14.7M from 2,113 screens including $5.8M in the United Kingdom where it ranked number one by a wide margin.  Italy was close behind with $5M while Korea and Germany open later this week.

Opening in second place was Fox 2000 and Regency‘s kidpic threequel Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, which took in an estimated $23.5M from 3,723 locations for a $6,312 average.  It was well below the debuts of its two predecessor as Alvin and the Chipmunks gave families something new and fresh on the same weekend of 2007 with a $44.3M debut while Alvin adn the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel launched over the lucrative Christmas frame with $48.9M in 2009.  Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked opened while kids were still in school and parents were busy with holiday shopping so it was expected to have a softer bow.  Last year this weekend, Warner Bros.’ Yogi Bear bowed to $16.4M and finished with over six times that amount after playing through the holidays.

But while the start was slower, the road ahead looks promising since most films rolling into theaters this holiday season are aimed at adults and there are no new G-rated films for kids opening for the rest of the year.  FOX is hoping to capture the family crowd as more children get out of school and more parents get time off to take trips to the multiplexes for some holiday fun.  PG-rated competitors will include Steven Spielberg‘s The Adventures of Tintin from Paramount and Columbia, which is based on a brand that is less familiar to American kids, and Cameron Crowe‘s We Bought a Zoo starring Matt Damon.  Both films may be PG-rated, but are less zany for kids looking for laughs, and more Awards contenders for adults.  Studio research showed that females made up 54% of the crowd and the film earned a good B+ overall grade from CinemaScore.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked opened overseas on 3,800 screens in 38 markets and grossed an estimated $14.5M with only a handful of the major markets debuting like the United Kingdom, Korea, and Spain.

Paramount and Skydance found themselves in third place with a unique limited release of its action tentpole Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, which grossed an estimated $13M from only 425 locations, which included about 300 IMAX venues plus other large-format sites.  The $145M-budgeted Tom Cruise spy flick averaged a sensational $30,588 per location helped by the higher ticket prices.  Including the first shows on Thursday evening starting at 6:00pm, the total was $13.6M.  It was a sensational start for an unorthodox move designed to showcase the action film with limited availability in only the biggest possible screens in hopes of sparking strong word-of-mouth that would fuel interest for the film’s regular nationwide run, which begins this Wednesday.  Adding to the grosses was the special prologue for the DC tentpole The Dark Knight Rises, which played on select full large-screen film-based IMAX sites.

The tactic was needed for three reasons.  First, the franchise is old having been around for over 15 years with Mission: Impossible III underperforming in 2006 due to the sour taste Mission: Impossible 2 left in people’s mouth.  This helps to event-ize the film adding to the excitement.  Second, Cruise has suffered from serious popularity issues over the last several years with many moviegoers being repelled just by his name alone.  He is not the box office draw that he used to be and this special IMAX release allows action fans to focus on the high-octane entertainment and thrills they get.  And third, the marketplace for grown-up fare will be super-competitive this holiday season so this release aims to get buzz soing so audiences choose it first instead of other franchise offerings flooding theaters.

Overseas results were spectacular with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol ruling the international box office with an opening of an estimated $68.2M from 6,079 theaters acros 36 markets with many seeing the IMAX version open a few days ahead of conventional screens.  Leading the way was Korea with a stellar $11.1M, Japan with $9M, Russia with $6.1M, and India with $4M.  Cruise and company have been on a worldwide tour hosting premieres and generating plenty of publicity to help drive in business.  Much of Latin America will see openings this coming week including Mexico and Brazil.

With box office down once again versus last year, 3D became a much smaller part of the picture this year.  Last year, four of the top five films this weekend enjoyed 3D surcharges.  But this frame, the top seven films were all presented in 2D only and just two new openers for the rest of the year will be a 3D one – Paramount and Columbia’s The Adventures of Tintin and Summit and New Regency‘s The Darkest Hour.

Dropping from first place was the star-packed holiday comedy New Year’s Eve, which fell a reasonable 43% to an estimated $7.4M giving New Line a mere $24.8M in ten days.  A final gross near the $50M mark seems likely.  Fellow underperforming sophomore comedy The Sitter tumbled 55% to an estimated $4.4M bumping its ten-day take to only $17.7M.  Look for 20th Century Fox to end its run with the Jonah Hill pic at $30M.  The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 followed with an estimated $4.3M, off 45%, putting Summit’s total at $266.4M.

Four films each squeezed into the $3-4M range filling up the rest of the slots in the top ten with estimates that were within $200,000 of each other.  Final grosses to be reported on Monday should show a change in the chart positions.

Taking seventh place, for now, was the Charlize Theron film Young Adult with an estimated $3.7M while expanding nationwide from eight to 986 theaters in its second weekend.  Averaging a dull $3,702 per site, the $12M-budgeted Paramount and Mandate film fell below the wide breaks of past end-of-year expansions for director Jason Reitman.  His last film, Up in the Air, also released by Paramount, fared much better with $11.3M and $5,947 average from 1,895 theaters over the Christmas holiday frame in 2009 while 2007’s Juno did $10.6M and a $10,436 average on the session in between Christmas and New Year’s.  Both widened later in their runs in their fourth round.  Paramount reported a projected 17% Saturday-to-Sunday decline for Young Adult, which was very modest so the final gross and chart position may out lower.  Total stand at $4.1M, including the limited run and a wider release is planned for January 13.

Paramount and GK’s acclaimed Martin Scorsese film Hugo, which earned three Golden Globe nominations including Best Picture and Best Director, dropped 40% to an estimated $3.6M giving the pricey train station saga $39.1M to date.  With chipmunks stealing away kids, Arthur Christmas fell by its largest amount yet falling 45% to an estimated $3.6M giving Sony Animation and Aardman only 38.5M so far.  The 3D toon grossed an additional $9.7M overseas this weekend to raise the international sum to $72.8M and global tally to $111.3M.  Rounding out the top ten was Walt Disney‘s The Muppets with an estiamted $3.5M, down 51%, for a $70.9M total.

With moviegoers about to get extended breaks from work and school this week, the marketplace is about to get awful crowded, awful fast.  Studios are hoping to mine the riches as weekday sales will soon start to get stronger with an assortment of high-profile films hitting theaters in the coming days.  Wednesday will see Columbia and MGM‘s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in 2,800 locations while Paramount and Columbia debut Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin in 3,000 houses and Paramount and Skydance expand Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol into a full wide release in 3,400 total sites.  On Friday, 20th Century Fox opens the Matt Damon starrer We Bought a Zoo in 3,000 theaters, which will be followed on Sunday by the Christmas Day bows of Spielberg’s Oscar hopeful War Horse from Touchstone, DreamWorks, and Reliance in 2,300 and Summit and New Regency’s suspense thriller The Darkest Hour in 2,200 locations.  Plus, many awards contenders will open or expand throughout the next two weeks.

Opening to good but not stellar results in platform release was the Sony Classics release Carnage with an estimated $86,000 from five houses for a $17,139 average.  Based on the hit play about two sets of parents dealing with trouble between their kids, the Roman Polanski film starring Jodi Foster, Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly, and Christoph Waltz earned good reviews but has not been a major player during awards season outside of its recent double Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress – Comedy or Musical for Foster and Winslet.

Other indie films continued to expand.  The Working Title and Studio Canal thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy widened from four to 16 theaters and grossed an estimated $452,000 for a strong $28,250 average and $852,000 cume.  The Artist, which led all films with six Golden Globes nods, expanded slightly from 16 to 17 sites and collected an estimated $287,000 with a $16,882 average.  The Weinstein Co. has taken in $1.3M so far.

David Cronenberg‘s A Dangerous Method took in an estimated $159,000 from 17 playdates for a $9,353 average while the Michael Fassbender drama Shame averaged $5,980 with an estimated $305,000 from 51 locations.  Totals stand at $728,000 and $1.2M, respectively.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $107M, which was down 14% from last year when Walt Disney Pictures’ Tron: Legacy opened in the top spot with $44M; and down 15% from 2009 when 20th Century Fox’s Avatar debuted at number one with $77M.


December 16, 2011 to December 18, 2011 Top Ten



1.   Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

2.   Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

  • $23,500,000
  • Fox 2000 Pictures (Fox) and Regency Enterprises

3.   Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

  • $13,000,000
  • Paramount Pictures (Viacom) and Skydance Productions

4.   New Year’s Eve

  • $7,420,000
  • New Line Cinema (TimeWarner)

5.   The Sitter

  • $4,400,000
  • 20th Century Fox (Fox)

6.   The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1

  • $4,292,000
  • Summit Entertainment

7.   Young Adult

8.   Hugo

  • $3,650,000
  • a Paramount release (Viacom)
  • GK Films

9.   Arthur Christmas

  • $3,600,000
  • Sony Pictures Animation (Sony) and Aardman Animations

10. The Muppets

  • $3,454,000
  • Walt Disney Pictures (Disney)


December 17, 2010 to December 19, 2010 Top Ten



1.   Tron: Legacy

  • $43,600,000
  • Walt Disney Pictures (Disney)

2.   Yogi Bear

  • $16,705,000
  • Warner Bros. Pictures (TimeWarner)

3.   The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

4.   The Fighter

5.   The Tourist

  • $8,700,000
  • a Columbia release (Sony)
  • GK Films

6.   Tangled

7.   Black Swan

8.   How Do You Know

  • $7,600,000
  • Columbia Pictures (Sony)

9.   Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

  • $4,845,000
  • Warner Bros. Pictures (TimeWarner)

10. Unstoppable

  • $1,800,000
  • 20th Century Fox (Fox)


December 18, 2009 to December 20, 2009 Top Ten



1.   Avatar

  • $77,025,000
  • 20th Century Fox (Fox)

2.   The Princess and the Frog

  • $12,186,000
  • Walt Disney Animation Studios (Disney)

3.   The Blind Side

4.   Did You Hear About the Morgans?

5.   The Twilight Saga: New Moon

  • $4,408,000
  • Summit Entertainment

6.   Invictus

  • $4,203,000
  • Warner Bros. Pictures (TimeWarner)

7.   A Christmas Carol

8.   Up in the Air

  • $3,210,000
  • Paramount Pictures (Viacom)

9.   Brothers

  • $2,889,000
  • a Lionsgate release (Lions Gate Entertainment)
  • Relativity Media

10. Old Dogs

  • $2,341,000
  • Walt Disney Pictures (Disney)

~ by Matt Whitfield on December 20, 2011.

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