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Christmas Box Office Reality: Top Dog ‘Les Miserables’ Beats Out ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Django Unchained,’ Rest of Field Shows Weakness

Christmas Box Office Reality: Top Dog 'Les Miserables' Beats Out 'The Hobbit' and 'Django Unchained,' Rest of Field Shows Weakness

After great openings days on Tuesday, both “Les Miserables” and “Django Unchained” fell 33% on Wednesday, with the result that the order of the top three films shifted from Christmas Day. “The Hobbit,” up slightly from Tuesday, edged out “Django” by a clear margin, while falling about $1 million behind “Les Miserables.” All three films though are showing great strength early in the holiday week.

The 12 days of Christmas are full of daily presents for those who watch movie box office carefully. Every day from December 25 through January 1 is a Saturday in terms of attendance and interest. But even more exciting, the results can shift day by day, as different audiences come out at certain times, and as word of mouth (more of a factor this time of year for a wider variety of movies than any other) spreads.

The top three films all are performing very well, but beyond them, weakness is apparent. The top ten films yesterday grossed around 25% less than last year, due to two factors – the lack of spark among the rest of the recent openings and weather problems in the eastern half of the country that cut into outside activities. The two-day figures for 2011 and 2012 are much closer (this year down about 7% tentatively), with 12/25 this year up from 2011.

Most years, the day after Christmas sees an increase in gross from the holiday, particularly for kids’ films (which often see a huge jump). Those that open on 12/25 usually fall, since they get a boost from core fans anxious to see them opening day. That seems to have been the case this year for “Les Miserables” and “Django.” Both scored huge numbers on Tuesday, then both fell 33%. But most of the top ten fell, reinforcing the point that this year weather took its toll yesterday. (Only “The Hobbit” “Monsters Inc 3D” and “Rise of the Guardians” — the most family-friendly titles — among the top ten rose yesterday).

So the real story is in comparing the falls while taking into account comparisons to other years, keeping in mind the weather impact. Among Christmas Day openings, “War Horse” fell 7% last year, while most other films went up on 12/26 – a normal pattern. In 2009, “Sherlock Holmes,” the record holder for a Christmas Day opening at $24 million, fell 11% its second day. “It’s Complicated,” also 2009, actually went up 17%.

The patterns this year seem to be similar to most years.  “Parental Guidance,” also opening on Tuesday, fell 32%. Three other new films from last week – “Jack Reacher,” “This Is 40” and “The Guilt Trip” – fell between a quarter and a third, less than the openers. Among the other non-family holdovers, “Lincoln” stood out, falling only 7%.

What this tells us so far among the hottest new titles is that both “Les Miserables” and “Django Unchained” remain very strong, but that “The Hobbit” is also showing strength beyond what was indicated from last weekend’s big drop. (It also of course benefits from higher average ticket prices because of 3D and other surcharges.) But the other wide openings all look weak, and this Christmas is showing warning signs of a disappointing end to an uneven year.

Among more limited films not in the top ten, Weinstein’s expansion of “Silver Lining Playbook” (theater count doubled to 745) grossed about $2 million for the two days (total now over $22 million). “Zero Dark Thirty” (Sony) is up to $956,000 in its first eight days, holding very well despite losing screens and multiple showtimes at its five prime theaters.

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