THURSDAY 7 AM UPDATE: Several movies opened Wednesday for the start of the all-important holiday moviegoing season as 2012 draws to a close. This is when multiples really strut their stuff. The normal multiple for a movie the rest of the year is 3x opening weekend, with a great-playing pic getting to a 4x multiple. Granted, films opening the weekend before Christmas open to much smaller box office (what with shopping, travel, family) but play to a much higher multiple. So the studios insist that a 4x multiple is the worst they’ll do, and many of their movies do 6x, 7x or 8x multiples. (Think of Fox’s We Bought A Zoo last holiday season; it opened at just $9M and then did $75M.)
No surprise, on the wide release front, Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey still rules the domestic and international box office by a lot. That’s $6.4M more from U.S./Canada for the MGM/Warner Bros/New Line epic (-19% from Tuesday’s cume) for $106.6M cume. The Middle Earth trip’s worldwide total now rounds $300M after joining the domestic $100+M club in its first 5 days of release. Quite another story is Skydance Productions’ cheap $40M comedy The Guilt Trip (2,431 theaters) pairing odd couple Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand for Paramount. Oracle scion David Ellison’s opener ranked #2 with an underwhelming $1.1M. And that’s with clear air in front of it. Given the onslaught of film openings about to take place, it’s hard to expect much. But let’s see the multiple. Problem is, audiences gave it only a ‘B-’ CinemaScore which won’t help word of mouth for a double-lame genre of road trip and mother movie. By contrast, Pixar’s Monsters Inc 3D release (2,618 theaters) has better prospects after placing #4 for about an $800K opening. Considering how little fresh family fare there is in theaters over the next holiday weeks – and wassup up with that, moronic moguls? — raiding the Disney vault for a cheap-to-add 3D premium to its 2001 hit toon is sound strategy. On the other hand, why such a low-key debut, especially when there’s a fresh prequel arriving in theaters in 2013?
But Wednesday’s most interesting opening was Sony Pictures’ Zero Dark Thirty platforming in NYC and LA before going wide on January 11th, the day after Oscar nominations are announced. Not many movies receive a publicity bonanza via condemnation by U.S. Senate heavy-hitters on the day of their debut. And film critics are giving it awards buzz. But this reteaming of The Hurt Locker‘s Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal starring Jessica Chastain in a 2 hour, 37 minute semi-fictional hunt for Bin Laden looks to have scored the biggest Wednesday limited opening ever without a stage show. (You know… Disney’s El Capitan film+stage shows for stuff like The Lion King…) Early numbers indicated a giant $124,848 its first day from just 5 runs for a per screen average of $24,969. Sony tells me that’s bigger than American Beauty (6 runs for $73K) and Little Miss Sunshine (7 runs for $66K). “Pretty spectacular,” a Sony exec gushed.
Here are the Top Five films based on Wednesday estimates. Fuller analysis on Friday:
1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (NL/MGM/WB) Week 1 [Runs 4,045]
Wednesday $6.4M, Cume $106.6M
2. The Guilt Trip (Skydance/Paramount) NEW [Runs 2,431]
3. Lincoln (DreamWorks/Fox/Disney) [Runs 2,285]
Wednesday $835K, Cume $110.3M
4. Monsters Inc 3D (Pixar/Disney) NEW [Runs 2,618]
5. Skyfall (Eon/MGM/Sony) [Runs 2,924]
Wednesday $765K, Cume $274.3M