The short holiday boxoffice season is always one of the year's most lucrative. The seven-week period, which runs from mid-November through New Year’s weekend, contributes a proportionately high percentage to the annual total. While most of the films released during this holiday season will break even, that's not what their studios had in mind. In the end, there was only one blockbuster plus a few high-profile hits and many disappointments in relation to cost. And several out-and-out flops will wind up in the red at the end of their runs.
This season's biggest boxoffice winner, Summit’s “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1,” cleaned up domestically with a blood-tingling $276.1 million — more than $100 million ahead of its closest rival at the boxoffice. The fourth film in the romantic vampire franchise based on Stephenie Meyer's global bestsellers and starring Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart scored even better internationally, taking in an impressive $381 million. That's a worldwide total of a $657.1 million.
Considering that the Bill Condon-helmed “Breaking Dawn” carried a modest production budget of $110 million, “Breaking Dawn Part 1” was by far the most profitable film released during the holiday period. Altogether, the four “Twilight” films have a combined worldwide gross of around $2.46 billion.
Two sequels freighted with high expectations, Warner Bros.’ “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” and Paramount’s “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” should end up in the black. Both delivered at the boxoffice, but as they were released late in the season it remains to be seen how high they will ultimately go.
“Ghost Protocol’s” worldwide boxoffice gross is already more than double its reported production budget of $145 million. The Tom Cruise vehicle directed by Brad Bird boasts a North American gross of $141.2 million through the New Year’s weekend and some $221.3 million internationally, for a combined $362.5 million to date.
“Sherlock Holmes” sleuthed $136.5 million domestically, and the film’s international run hasn’t kicked into gear yet with just $106 million so far (six major markets are yet to release), for a combined worldwide tally of $242.5 million. A clue to “Sherlock’s” ultimate profitability: the first “Sherlock” traveled well — its international gross was more than $100 million higher than domestic. With a reported budget of $125 million, the Robert Downey Jr. film from director Guy Ritchie should prove a revenue-generator for Warners.
Relativity’s “Immortals” managed to work its way into the black thanks to international sales. The disappointing domestic cume reached $82.2 million, while the international gross pulled in around $114 million so far, combining for a worldwide total of $196.2 million. With reported production costs of $75 million, the sword-and-sandal actioner proved to be a modest hit.
While several films were released too late in the season to declare where they will wind up, one late entry, Paramount/Sony's $130-million “The Adventures of Tintin" (December 21) is already a hit thanks to its stellar $260.5 million foreign gross to date. Sony wisely released the Steven Spielberg/Peter Jackson performance-capture collaboration internationally in late October, where the title is better known. So far domestic grosses are modest at $50.8 million.
The holiday season’s biggest disappointment relative to cost was Paramount’s “Hugo.” The well-reviewed PG family adventure from producer Graham King and renowned director Martin Scorsese carried the highest price tag of the holiday releases: $155 million. Domestically the film went out as a platform release that slowly went wide, which was a smart strategy considering that a glut of family-oriented films hit theaters in wide release over the holidays.
But the plethora of family films proved too intense, as “Hugo” gleaned around $50.2 million domestically, and just $7.7 million internationally, for a combined total of $57.9 million, far short of its production budget. It has yet to roll out in many international markets. Awards recognition could help, but "Hugo" is not likely to recoup its costs.
Fox’s $75-million animated sequel “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked” and Disney’s live-action “The Muppets” performed best among the over-saturated holiday family films. "Chipwrecked" opened weakly but improved its presence in the market. “Chipwrecked” is already in the black at the boxoffice, taking in $97.4 million domestically and $80 million internationally. The previous “Chipmunk” film also did well overseas, grossing slightly more than stateside.
“Muppets” has grossed $83.7 million so far off a modest $45 million budget. The Jim Henson-created characters have yet to open wide internationally as the film has only picked up around $7 million overseas.
Sony/Aardman’s $85-million “Arthur Christmas” disappointed domestically, grossing $46.1 million, but luckily it scored an estimated $90 million overseas to date. Warner Bros.’ $135-million “Happy Feet Two” flopped with just $60.9 million, especially relative to the first “Happy Feet," which took in an impressive $198 million domestically. “Happy Feet Two” has taken in around $61.5 million internationally so far.
Outright flops were Summit’s “The Darkest Hour” and Fox’s “The Sitter,” which never made it out of the starting gate at the boxoffice with tallies of $14.2 million and $24.6 million, respectively. Even though neither film had a large production budget, both films will land in the red.