High-stakes post-holiday business is in full swing. The weekend after Christmas should total a little below $200 million, about $30 million ahead of last year. Most of the difference comes from the $72 million second weekend for “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” which grossed about $25 million more than last year’s “Aquaman.”
“Skywalker” is clearly a success, although it’s a clear drop from the previous two main-canon entries released in late December 2015 and 2017. Helping bolster the results is the strong continued showing of Sony’s “Jumanji: The Next Level.” Disney, with “Frozen II” and “Spies in Disguise” (20th Century Fox officially) accounted for just over half of the business.
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The same studios took third and fourth place with “Little Women” and “Frozen II” nearly tied in estimates. Greta Gerwig’s film looks like the only other December release to have a shot at $100 million domestic.
Mostly because of “Skywalker,” the last couple of weeks will shave the downfall from 2018 by about $100 million. All told, we’ll end the year down by 4%. More key indices of what this means, good and bad, later this week.
“Skywalker” fell 59% in its second weekend and is $1 million ahead of “Jedi” (which dropped 67%). However, “Jedi” opened earlier, and completed its second weekend before December 25 — days far more challenged than the weekend right after. It also started off 25% better.
By December 29, 2017, “Jedi” grossed $484 million; “Skywalker” sits at $362 million. “Jedi” added another $148 million to its haul before it finished. “Skywalker” has Monday through Wednesday this week to add high-end numbers to its totals, but from then on it likely falls. Competition is particularly strong by the second weekend in January.
Some industry sources say this will come close to “Jedi,” but it’s hard to see anything close to that happening. My sense is it will end up in the range of $500 million-$525 million. That’s a huge number, but as the finale of the reboot trilogy it’s a bit below optimum. The blame in part could be the calendar: It opened five days later than “Jedi,” and had a finite number of days to thrive.
The third weekend of “Jumanji: The Next Level” saw an excellent 33% uptick. At $175 million, it has a long way to reach the surprising $400 million of “Welcome to the Jungle” in 2017. But it should get far closer to that number than expected; this franchise will likely become a regular feature in upcoming holidays.
“Frozen II” is alone among the sequels as it heads to an increase above its predecessor. It’s already achieved the adjusted domestic total for the 2013 entry, and has near certainty of hitting $500 million — possibly higher than “Skywalker.” The rich get richer.
Some are expressing surprise at the performance of “Little Women.” It is clearly stellar so far, particularly when its appeal skews to one gender (70% female initially) and not necessarily appealing to a maximum swath of moviegoers. But its $29 million total so far ($16.5 million projected for the weekend) is exactly on target from our prediction. More importantly, it has performed consistently daily so far (Sony now delays Cinemascore results until Monday after opening, but anything less than A- would be a surprise).
This sets the film up for a strong hold that could see it catapult to a domestic $100 million. It opened with an even stronger relative result in the much smaller U.K/Ireland territory ($6.3 million in four days). Even at $40 million and with holiday positioning this was a risky venture for Sony; now, it looks like a good bet. Following “Lady Bird,” Gerwig rises to the top of contemporary directors both in critical and commercial success. And she is just getting started.
“Spies in Disguise” from Blue Sky Animation — a company inherited by Disney in its Fox acquisition — is lagging behind its previous Christmas release “Ferdinand.” Its weekend gross is behind what the earlier film did in its third weekend right after Christmas.
This opened on Wednesday, but clearly is feeling the impact of the “Frozen”/”Jumanji” combo as well as “Skywalker.” The production company’s films — the “Ice Age” franchise among them — usually do much better internationally. Its opening overseas in about half of the markets so far is $16 million. Stakes are high, since Disney has plenty of animation options; if this doesn’t perform (budget unknown, but previous efforts mostly cost $100 million or more), it could affect Blue Sky’s future.
Though it grossed less than the two brand-new Christmas Day releases, the performance of “Uncut Gems” is the player that’s thoroughly beaten expectations. After only five days of wide play (it started in five theaters), it already is at $21 million. This defies its Cinemascore response (C+, usually a sign of a quick death), with the days after that initial polling showing steady response.
What does this tell us? Better to be polarizing, with a big part of the audience loving it as much as other hate it. Also, Adam Sandler stretching himself brought elevated interest to this. Combine that with A24’s proven chops at taking edgy original projects and maximizing them, and this becomes more easily understood.
But even “Uncut Gems” fell shy of what is becoming a really big story with “Knives Out.” It opened at Thanksgiving with hope for some decent business before giving way at Christmas. Instead, it ended up at #6 this weekend, with a 55% gross increase despite losing a quarter of its theaters. The comedy/mystery is now at $110 million, with another $20 million-$25 million possible.
Behind it are #8 “Cats,” down 27% after a weak opening. Expect at most one more week before disappearing into whatever cinematic feline cult fate awaits it. “Bombshell” at #9 also dropped 8%, with a clear need to get some awards attention in order to stick around. Clint Eastwood’s underperforming “Richard Jewell” rounds out the list, though at least it rose 17%.
“Knives Out,” “Uncut Gems,” and “Little Women” could also see their Oscar chances bolstered by public response. Credit all three distributors for playing their late-year releases right.
The Top Ten
1. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Disney) Week 2; Last weekend #1
$72,000,000 (-59%) in 4,406 theaters (no change); PTA: $16,341; Cumulative: $361,797,000
2. Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony) Week 3; Last weekend #2
$35,300,000 (+33%) in 4,227 theaters (no change); PTA: $8.351; Cumulative: $175,457,000
3. Little Women (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: unreported; Metacritic: 91; Estimated budget: $40 million
$16,525,000 in 3,308 theaters; PTA: $4,995; Cumulative: $29,000,000
4. Frozen II (Disney) Week 6; Last weekend #3
$16,500,000 (+27%) in 3,265 theaters (-600); PTA: $5,054; Cumulative: $421,291,000
5. Spies in Disguise (20th Century Fox) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 54; Estimated budget: $100 million
$13,200,000 in 3,502 theaters; PTA: $3,769; Cumulative: $22,099,000
6. Knives Out (Lionsgate) Week 5; Last weekend #5
$9,725,000 (+55%) in 2,022 theaters (-513); PTA: $4,810; Cumulative: $110,237,000
7. Uncut Gems (A24) Week 3; Last weekend #15
$9,553,000 (+3,587%) in 2,341 theaters (+2,336); PTA: $4,068; Cumulative: $21,077,000
8. Cats (Universal) Week 2; Last weekend #4
$4,830,000 (-27%) in 3,380 theaters (no change); PTA: $1,429; Cumulative: $17,820,000
9. Bombshell (Lionsgate) Week 3; Last weekend #6
$4,700,000 (-8%) in 1,480 theaters (no change); PTA: $1,429; Cumulative: $15,631,000
10. Richard Jewell (Warner Bros.) Week 3; Last weekend #7
$3,010,000 (+17%) in 2,502 theaters (no change); PTA: $1,203; Cumulative: $16,064,000
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