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Top 10 Takeaways: ‘Rogue One’ & ‘Sing’ Dominate Holiday Box Office

Two mainstream winners outpace badly-reviewed star vehicles "Passengers" and "Assassin's Creed"; word of mouth will have huge impact on Christmas openers.

Rogue One Star Wars

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

Courtesy of Disney

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (Disney) and “Sing” (Universal) are the clear Christmas winners this year. They will leave the rest of the five new wide releases in their dust.

Parsing the Christmas numbers is always a challenge: when December 25 falls leads to multiple release scenarios. Immediate and intense word of mouth transforms results during a week (or more) where every day is Saturday, radically rearranging ranking order by the day.

To gain some perspective on the early results, we list the Top Ten in order of Sunday and projected Monday results rather than the three-day weekend to accommodate two expanding awards contenders, “Fences” (Paramount) and “La La Land” (Lionsgate). (All figures are noted.)

The holiday also showed a record number of platform studio openings, following in the wake of the huge success of “American Sniper” and “The Revenant” in recent years. More on “Silence,” “Hidden Figures,” “Patriots Day,” “Live By Night,” “A Monster Calls,” all going wide in January — as well as more specialized release — in Arthouse Audit.

“Sing”

The Top Ten

Listed in order of Sunday grosses and Monday estimates. Estimates are less reliable than normal, so actual order may change. After the ranking, the four-day Friday-Monday ranking is in parentheses. Check both the two-day and four-day gross: the two-day first, the four-day second. The PTA — per theater average — is for the two days. The % change is a three-day comparison.

1. (1) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Disney) – Week 2; Last weekend #1

Sun-Mon $57,795,000, Fri-Mon $96,085,000 (-58%) in 4,157 theaters (no change); PTA: $13,903; Cumulative: $318,084,000

2. (2) Sing (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: A ; Metacritic: 60; Est. budget: $75 million

Sun-Mon $35,130,000, Fri-Mon $56,080,000 in 4,022 theaters; PTA: $8,734; Cumulative: $76,693,000

3. (3) Passengers (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: B ; Metacritic: 41; Est. budget: $110 million

Sun-Mon $15,750,000, Fri-Mon $23,100,000 in 3,478 theaters; PTA: $4,528; Cumulative: $30,425,000

4. (6) Fences (Paramount) – Week 2; Last weekend #25

Sun-Mon $11,318,000, Fri-Mon $11,558,000 (+5,066%) in 2,233 theaters (+2,229); PTA: $5,068; Cumulative: $11,558,000

5. (4) Why Him? (20th Century Fox) NEW – Cinemascore: B+ ; Metacritic: 38; Est. budget: $38 million

Sun-Mon $11,060,00, Fri-Mon $16,715,000 in 2,917 theaters; PTA: $3,792; Cumulative: $16,715,000

6. (5) Assassin’s Creed (20th Century Fox) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 36; Est. budget: $125 million

Sun-Mon $9,085,000, Fri-Mon  in $15,000,000 in 2,970 theaters; PTA: $3,724; Cumulative: $22,492,000

7. (8) La La Land (Lionsgate)  – Week 3; Last weekend #7

Sun-Mon $7,901,000, Fri-Mon $9,700,000 (+40%) in 734 theaters (+534); PTA: $10,764; Cumulative: $17,582,000

8. (7) Moana (Disney)  – Week 5; Last weekend #2

Sun-Mon $5,894,000, Fri-Mon $10,447,000  (-42%) in 2,687 theaters (-900); PTA: $2,194; Cumulative: $183,479,000

9. (10) Collateral Beauty (Warner Bros.)  – Week 2; Last weekend #4

Sun-Mon $5,015,000, Fri-Mon $7,060,000 (-40%) in 3,028 theaters (no change); PTA: $1,656; Cumulative: $18,062,000

10. (9) Office Christmas Party (Paramount)  – Week 3; Last weekend #3

Sun-Mon $4,645,000, Fri-Mon $7,250,000 (-40%) in 2,441 theaters (-769); PTA: $1,903; Cumulative: $44,289,000

A Good — Uneven — Christmas

With five new wide releases opening over three separate days (three last Wednesday, one Friday and one Christmas Day, plus a doubling of another of the Top Ten’s films runs on Sunday), and what is normally the biggest day of the week, Saturday, coinciding with Christmas Eve and thus way down, it’s tough to make head-to-head comparisons with most past years. The equivalent weekend last year, with December 25 falling on Friday, was over $100 million higher for the Top Ten. But this year’s total is 50 per cent better than in 2011 when Christmas also fell on Sunday.

It’s all good enough to guarantee that the 2016 box office will surpass 2015’s $11 billion total. The figure through today’s estimated numbers are $75 million below the full figure for last year, with the remaining six days certain to surpass that figure.

The overall picture this year has been radically different, though. (We will detail all in our year-end wrap on Friday.) And the holiday also differs. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is dominant while falling short of “The Force Awakens” last year. But the next-best holiday film, “Sing,” is ahead of any other Christmas release of the year. The rest? The expansion of “Fences” could end up far ahead of more expensive “commercial” releases “Passengers” and “Assassin’s Creed” as well as mid-budget family comedy “Why Him?”

Four January wide-release studio films —”Patriot’s Day” (Lionsgate), “Hidden Figures” (20th Century Fox), “Silence” (Paramount) and “Live By Night” (Warner Bros.) —  had limited openings, with the first two looking strong ahead. “La La Land” also should continue as a strong performer ahead. (More on these in Arthouse Audit.)

fences

“Fences”

Paramount Pictures

The Holiday Winners 

With different release dates and expectations, budgets and futures, and with the impact of word of mouth still to come, some early results are in.

“Rogue One” has a domestic gross of $318 million through 11 days. (Yes, “Force Awakens” grossed $571 million through its second Monday.) But “Rogue One” is ahead of any other Christmas release (in adjusted grosses, “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King was at $272 million through December 26) and has a week of prime holiday ahead. It should end up as the #1 film released in 2016 (it’s about two-thirds of the way to passing top-ranked “Finding Dory”‘s $486 million.

And it’s doing this against a stronger main competitor this year (even if the rest are a bit weaker). “Sing,” despite Saturday, is $11 million ahead of the four days of “Daddy’s Home,” last year’s biggest opener. And its family appeal could get it even closer to “Rogue One” for the rest of the holiday. Figure with decent play into January it will easily pass $200 million. Universal’s Illumination animated unit strikes again, and with worldwide success ahead as well and a modest $75 million budget, it’s a clear winner for them.

“Fences” is earlier in its run. But coming in fourth overall for Christmas Day, with anticipated continued strong response, puts the August Wilson adaptation ahead of two of the other new releases (“Assassin’s Creed” and “Why Him?) with a chance of surpassing “Passengers” next weekend. And it’s playing on only 2,233 screens, by far the fewest among these titles. And with Oscar nominations ahead, it is certain to be around when all but “Rogue One,” “Sing” and “La La Land” are long gone. Is it “The Butler,” which got to $116 million after a $24 million opening weekend? That might be more than its reach. But expect it to have a good return on its investment (a $24 million budget) apart from the prestige it earns Paramount.

“La La Land” early on looks like it could be headed to a $150 million or better total, assuming multiple Oscar nominations come through. But all signs are that this is the strongest general-audience Oscar contender at awards time since “Silver Linings Playbook” three years ago. And that reached $132 million without winning Best Picture.

Jennifer Lawrence in “Passengers”

Sony Pictures Classics

What Two Big Budget Losers Have in Common

Though the remaining holiday period will add some elevated gross to both “Passengers” and “Assassin’s Creed,” both $100-million-plus films are clear disappointments. Both opened last Wednesday, with enough returns to project weak totals for both, perhaps $75 million for Sony’s Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt science-fiction romance and not much more than $50 million for Warner’s video game cinematic adaptation with Michael Fassbender.

Both films are rolling out with less than the usual parallel international runs, with most major countries yet to open. With those domestic projections, and $175-250 million worldwide totals for each, if you add marketing expense to those budgets, prospects are low to break even.

Give credit to their respective studios for trying to turn out quality efforts. Both have top casts who boast wide-audience success as well as quality film appearances. Both have directors — Morten Tyldum (“Imitation Game”) for “Passengers,” Justin Kurzel (“Macbeth”) for “Assassin’s Creed” — who are pulled from the specialized world. But both Pratt and Lawrence are testing the waters as marquee draws in a non-franchise big-budget enterprise.

And although mass-audience films often achieve success without strong reviews, clearly the strong negative response hurt “original” — if derivative — “Passengers.” Few stars carry movies anymore. Will Smith used to be the biggest movie star in the world. With so many other options at this time of the year, both films needed to connect immediately, and didn’t.

It’s hard to build up too much sympathy for films that more resemble product than art. But the sad reality is the relative failure of these two, particularly after having been given major holiday playtime, will make it even harder for not-established titles with high-end budgets to be green lit.

Why Him?

“Why Him?”

The Rest

“Why Him?” needs a bit longer to show its trajectory, but it’s already ahead of the game with its $38 million budget. Its Christmas Day gross was about $800,000 better than “Sisters,” last year’s biggest comedy (which had opened a week earlier). But the James Franco-Bryan Cranston family comedy could prove to be an alternative for moviegoers as the holiday continues. Comedy “Office Christmas Party” maximized its gross by going early, with a domestic ultimate total of around $60 million, with equal or better foreign results (about even so far) making it a mixed success.

Will Smith’s “Collaborative Beauty” has yet to see any upbeat word of mouth to make up for his worst-ever opening last weekend. It will be an early fatality right after New Year’s.

“Moana” suffered a hit from “Sing” far more than Disney’s massive hit “Frozen” encountered three years ago when it landed the #2 spot the weekend after Christmas despite having opened at Thanksgiving. Still with strong box office days ahead “Moana” should settle in around $250 million and likely more worldwide.

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (Warner Bros.) didn’t quite make the Top Ten. But it now looks, in something of an upset, like it could match or top  “Moana.” It is already over $215 million and could near $250 million. It’s huge overseas — already over $500 million — which means that the studio’s gamble to extend the J.K. Rowling empire beyond Harry Potter did pay off.

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