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Christmas Box Office Update: ‘Force Awakens’ Soars, ‘Daddy’s Home’ Thrives, ‘The Hateful Eight’ and ‘The Revenant’ Sell Out

Christmas Box Office Update: 'Force Awakens' Soars, 'Daddy's Home' Thrives, 'The Hateful Eight' and 'The Revenant' Sell Out

Star Wars – The Force Awakens” added $49.3 million Christmas Day to its already enormous first week haul for an eight-day domestic total of $440 million. To say that this is a record single day gross for a Christmas Day doesn’t begin to describe how big this is for the date. The previous best gross was “Sherlock Homes” in 2009, which opened to $24.6 million (adjusted to current ticket prices without factoring in the extra 3D/IMAX surcharges to $27 million) which slightly topped the second Friday for “Avatar.” 

Here’s why these numbers are so impressive. Among the 100 best single day grosses (including adjusted), it is the first time one comes from not only December 25, but also any date in the lucrative Christmas/New Years period (which usually runs from 12/25 to the Sunday after New Years.

The Top Ten for Christmas day, with “Force” accounting for just over half of the total, came to $96 million. This is also a record, but not actually by all that much. That 2009 tandem of “Sherlock Holmes” and “Avatar” came to an adjusted total of $91 million, so this year is about 6% better.  And take away the top gross from last year (the opening day of “Unbroken” at just under $16 million), and the remaining nine films for this year with a $47 million combined gross took in about 16% less than what the rest did last year. So Disney is flourishing, theaters are doing well, but there was some damage to the rest of the field overall and their studios.

There were some other winners among the competitive field, both new films and holdovers. Leading the way is the far less heralded “Daddy’s Home” (Paramount) with Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, who are reliable comedy draws but join forces again. Christmas is often fertile ground for PG-13 comedies. At $15.7 million yesterday, even in second place “Daddy’s Home” marks (again adjusted) the seventh best gross ever for a film opening on 12/25, far ahead of such titles as “Django Unchained,” “Unbroken” and “Chipmunks: The Squeaquel,” all of which ended up as strong hits. 

More impressive, though much narrower, are two big-scale Western-set visual stunners that both hit their marks. The Weinstein Company’s 70mm limited 100-theater (so-called “roadshow”) release of “The Hateful Eight” managed to take ninth place with $1,905,000, with a slew of sold-out performances. The larger weekend result with provide better hints about its wider appeal (1,800 digital non 70mm dates will add on Thursday), but the initial reaction couldn’t be better.

Also stellar, but only in four New York/Los Angeles theaters, is Alejandro G. Inarritu’s “The Revenant” (20th Century Fox) with just under $172,000 and a per theater average of $43,000. That is a little less than 75% of what the ultimately massive “American Sniper” opened to exactly one year ago, also in four theaters. What makes this even more impressive is that the competition for seats and screens is much tougher this year, so this gross might be less than its potential. Again, it doesn’t guarantee wide success (that release comes on Jan. 8), but it is as good as Fox could have hoped for.

Showing promise though hardly a hit yet is David O. Russell’s Jennifer Lawrence vehicle “Joy” (20th Century Fox), curiously the director’sfirst initially wide release since “Three Kings” in 1999 (his four since then have all opened platform for awards positioning, unusual for such a commercially successful director). Its third place showing at $6.8 million is hardly stellar — it is less than half of “Unbroken” or “Into the Woods” last year. Even the mixed bag “The Gambler” last year, also a 12/25 opener, managed $5 million by comparison. But with Lawrence’s strong draw for women, the film could turn out to be a word of mouth success and sustain a successful run. Figure it as a work in progress.

The other two debuting films fell short of even “The Gambler” last year. Football drama “Concussion” (Sony) with Will Smith came in fifth with $4.3 million, edging out actioner “Point Break” (Warner Bros.) in sixth. Though both will prosper from playing during this bountiful period, each is a disappointment.

Two other pictures did relatively better. The surprise fourth place film for the day was “Sisters” (Universal), co-starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, at over $4.6 million, only down slightly from last week. Its female appeal might have made a dent in “Joy,” but meantime it looks like the year’s standout studio will manage to turn this modestly-budgeted comedy into a success.

The Big Short” (Paramount) in seventh with $3.8 million expanded after its limited first two weeks to 1,585 theaters. This positions the film to sustain a multi-week life and the potential to gain positive word of mouth among upscale audiences. Paramount got lucky with the weaker than usual holdover theater totals for an array of awards contenders (“Spotlight” and “Brooklyn” leading the way) that were unable in this unprecedented period of traffic to keep as many theaters as they deserved. “Short” as well as benefits from being the most prominent “new” offering to this audience.

Eighth place for the day was “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip” (20th Century Fox) with a little under $3.6 million. “Creed” (Sony) took tenth with $1,555,000, managing to edge out two bigger mid-November openers “Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2” and “The Good Dinosaur.”

The remainder of the weekend will tell the rest of the tale, with much more on a slew of specialized and awards titles. Among these, of note is IFC’s “45 Years,” the top art-house opener of the week. It grossed just under $25,000 yesterday in three theaters, and close to $50,000 in in its first three days. Charlotte Rampling may land her Best Actress nomination after all.

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