Holiday Box Office Preview: Will the Season Set a New Record?
Peter Jackson Unveils Final 'Hobbit' Behind-the-Scenes Blog (Video)
This story first appeared in the Nov. 30 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
The annual holiday traffic jam at the box office is creating both high hopes and frayed nerves around Hollywood. Eight "event" movies will open between Dec. 14 and Dec. 25, and many believe this year could see record grosses thanks in part to Christmas and New Year's Day falling midweek on Tuesdays, not to mention the Dec. 14 release of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. But there also are risky plays, with the other films each vulnerable in its own way. "Studios try to cram in as many movies as they can, and there are always casualties -- always," warns one veteran studio executive.
The 2012 holiday calendar touts roughly the same number of big titles as last year, even with Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty bumping its nationwide release until Jan. 11 and The Great Gatsby moving to May. The Hobbit is the biggie, considering the final Lord of the Rings, released in December 2003, grossed $1.4 billion globally when adjusted for inflation.
There's a glut of comedies this holiday season. Paramount's The Guilt Trip, starring Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen, opens Wednesday, Dec. 19, followed two days later by Universal's This Is 40, Judd Apatow's sort-of sequel to Knocked Up (minus Rogen). Starring Billy Crystal, Bette Midler and Marisa Tomei, 20th Century Fox's Parental Guidance then debuts on Christmas Day.
Some observers believe the three films will compete for the same audience, but the respective studios insist their comedies will lure different demographics. The Guilt Trip, rated PG-13 and directed by Anne Fletcher (The Proposal), is targeting grown children and their parents who are looking for something to do together. The R-rated This Is 40, reuniting Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, hopes to skew younger, despite its themes of midlife angst. Game Plan director Andy Fickman's Parental Guidance, rated PG, is a family play, with Fox hoping to repeat the success of Marley & Me, which grossed $242.7 million globally after opening on Dec. 25 in 2008.
The trio of comedies won't just be vying against one another. Disney and Pixar hope to woo families with the 3D rerelease of Monsters, Inc., opening Dec. 19, while Tom Cruise's Jack Reacher, based on the popular book series, debuts Dec. 21 and aims to be an all-audience action thriller. Opening opposite Parental Guidance on Dec. 25 are Quentin Tarantino's ultra-violent Django Unchained and the musical Les Miserables, from The King's Speech director Tom Hooper.
Paramount's Jack Reacher, featuring Cruise as a hard-boiled former military investigator, and The Weinstein Co.'s Django, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz, will compete for males. Last December, Cruise restored his star status with the better-than-expected performance of Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol ($694.7 million globally). Based on that success, Paramount relocated Reacher from February 2013 to Christmas, though it's not clear if the film will be hurt by fallout from Cruise's divorce from Katie Holmes.
"The primary audience is more male, but men will bring women," says Megan Colligan, Paramount president of domestic marketing and distribution. "It's a his and her movie."