Monday, December 3, 2018

Holiday Season 2018 Box Office Predictions

December has arrived folks and that means it's time to break out a whole bunch of annual festive traditions, like decorating your Christmas tree or sending Christmas cards or in the case of this website, doing my fifth annual Holiday Season Box Office Predictions article! Yes, for the fifth year in a row, I'll be predicting the opening weekend and final domestic grosses for the assorted movies opening in wide release throughout December. One quick note before we begin; there are currently no set release dates for wide release expansions for limited release titles like The Favourite or Mary, Queen of Scots that'll almost certainly go into wide release during December. Thus, no box office predictions will be offered for such titles.

OK, let's begin this tradition with the lone new wide release of this coming weekend....

December 7th
Schindler's List (25th Anniversary Re-Release)
Before home video took off, theatrical re-releases of beloved movies were a regular fixture at cinemas and even into the late 1990's you could still make some money off of giving your beloved motion pictures another run in movie theaters (Disney was still re-releasing their animated classics up to The Little Mermaid's November 1997 theatrical re-release and the original Star Wars trilogy topped the box office earlier that same year). But in the 21st century, such re-releases have become a rarity save for the brief period at the start of the 2010s when The Lion King 3D made it look like 3D re-releases were the way of the future. The lone new wide release of the first weekend of December 2018 is a theatrical re-release of Schindler's List, another rare instance of this trend occuring in the modern film landscape. Universal's given the title very little in the way of marketing and is only releasing it in a project 1,000 locations, so it's doubtful it makes that much impact at the domestic box office. The only real question here is if the re-release can gross the necessary $4 million to boost Schindler's List's lifetime domestic gross past the $100 million mark. I'll say it narrowly misses that, but it wouldn't be a total surprise if it managed to clear the nine-digit mark with this re-release.

Opening Weekend: $1.3 million
Total Domestic Gross: $3 million

December 12th:
Once Upon A Deadpool
20th Century Fox is releasing a PG-13 version of Deadpool for 12 days of theatrical release on December 12th, making this a strange but not unprecedented entity in the cinematic landscape (The Passion of the Christ, The King's Speech and Saturday Night Fever were all R-rated features that later got theatrical versions with softer MPAA ratings). However, the film doesn't seem like it's going to get anywhere near the box office numbers the Deadpool movies saw on their opening weekends, let alone in their long-term domestic runs and not just because it's running for less than two weeks. Marketing for the film started in earnest only two weeks ago and given the amount of family-friendly blockbusters opening around Christmastime and the fact that the R-rating was part of the characters appeal in his cinematic form, it's doubtful Once Upon A Deadpool makes much of a dent at the domestic box office.

Opening Weekend: $7 million
Total Domestic Gross: $18 million

December 14th:
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
Sony Pictures Animation has only had two movies (both of the Hotel Transylvania movies) cross $150 million domestically. That will likely increase to three with the release of this new animated Spider-Man movie, whose premise about multiple dimensions of spider-people may confuse some prospective audience members but has also ensured that there are enough unique Spider-characters in the marketing campaign for this film to stand apart from the last six Sider-Man movies Sony has released. Tracking currently has this one bowing to a $28-35 million bow but I'll go gutsy and say it beats out its tracking and also topples Sing's $35.2 million bow to score the biggest opening weekend ever for an animated movie in December.

Opening Weekend: $40 million
Total Domestic Gross: $170 million

The Mule 
Clint Eastwood brings his 21st century acting credits up to six with this new directorial effort of his. Putting Eastwood in front of the camera isn't a guarantee for box office success as seen by the underwhelming box office for Trouble With the Curve and Blood Work (I didn't even know the latter movie existed until I did research for this piece!), but the distinctive trailers for The Mule cement it as the one thriller of this holiday season and that, combined with it being Bradley Cooper's first acting role after the box office sensation A Star Is Born, should give this one a solid foothold in the marketplace. It won't match the $29.4 million Gran Torino scored in its wide release opening weekend but this one should do solid business in the weekends to come.

Opening Weekend: $18 million
Total Domestic Gross: $85 million

Mortal Engines
Mortal Engines is a new Peter Jackson movie opening at Christmastime, which sound like it should be a surefire box office hit, except Jackson is only producing, not directing (Christian Rivers is directing) and the source material for Mortal Engines is nowhere near as popular as those Lord of the Rings books. Despite having been marketed for a whole year now, the dismal early box office tracking for Mortal Engines suggests it's marketing has failed to connect with moviegoers. It looks like it'll get swallowed up by the more firmly established tentpoles opening around it and end up with a domestic gross far south of what the last two movies Peter Jackson solely produced (District 9 and The Adventures of Tintin) ended up with.

Opening Weekend: $9 million
Total Domestic Gross: $30 million

December 19th:
Mary Poppins Returns
Disney doesn't have a Star Wars movie out in December for the first time since 2014 but they'll still have what I'm predicting to be the biggest movie of the holiday season with Mary Poppins Returns. Christmastime musicals are always big money generators unless they're called Nine and a heavily promoted sequel to the original Mary Poppins (which is still renowned by families everywhere half-a-century after its release) with a cast full of beloved famous faces like Lin-Manuel Miranda is gonna easily continue that trend and then some. Look for this to easily become the second-biggest musical in history and one of the biggest features of 2018. We've got a whole bunch of family-friendly fare opening over this holiday season but it looks like Mary Poppins Returns won't have a problem soaring to the top of the pack.

Opening Weekend: $48 million
Total Domestic Gross: $325 million

December 21st:
You could practically hear the massive sigh of relief from Warner Bros. when the first box office tracking came out for Aquaman and suggested it would open to $100 million in its first five days of release. The studio smartly decided to give Aquaman a release date that would ensure it could fill the spot of PG-13 Christmastime Blockbuster that the first three Star Wars movies from Disney occupied over the last few years and, thanks to The Crimes of Grindelwald underperforming, there really hasn't been a big PG-13 blockbuster in almost three months. The marketplace is poised for the arrival of a new event motion picture like Aquaman and its box office will likely benefit accordingly. Look for this one to score the lowest opening weekend of the DC Extended Universe but the holiday break will allow it to have significantly better legs than the likes of Justice League, which it should surpass in terms of domestic total.

Opening Weekend: $70 million
Total Domestic Gross: $260 million
The sixth live-action Transformers movie would very much like to be the Wonder Woman of this franchise, a prequel spin-off centered on the audiences favorite character from past movies that ends up becoming a major sleeper hit. There's almost no way Bumblebee can become a big of a hit as Wonder Woman but it should do solid business overall and, like Aquaman, stands a good shot at surpassing the domestic total of its far more expensive predeccesor. The commercials and trailers have made sure to emphasize how different this one is tonally from the previous divisive movies while also positioning it as a family movie, the type of cinema that tends to have the strongest legs over the holiday season.

Opening Weekend: $28 million
Total Domestic Gross: $150 million

Welcome to Marwen
Robert Zemeckis has not had the best luck at the domestic box office this decade, with his last two movies (The Walk and Allied) becoming two of the four lowest-grossing movies of his career. In fact, unless Welcome to Marwen really takes off and becomes this year's Greatest Showman at the domestic box office, the 2010's will be the first decade since the 1970's to not see a single Robert Zemeckis directed movie cross $100 million domestically. Despite being the kind of inspirational drama that sometimes finds real success at the holiday season box office, Universal's confused marketing campaign, as well as the lack of general buzz its generating just two weeks out from its release, suggest that Welcome to Marwen might be the newest box office dud from Robert Zemeckis. It's a guarantee that it ends up with a higher domestic gross than The Walk but whether or not it can surpass the $40 million cume of Allied is more up in the air, though for now, I'll say it narrowly surpasses it.

Opening Weekend: $9 million
Total Domestic Gross: $44 million

Second Act
STX Films has had a rough 2018, with only the surprise success of Den of Thieves really working for the relatively new studio. The likes of Mile 22 and The Happytime Murders were outright bombs that killed off would-be franchises before they even started while films like Peppermint and I Feel Pretty fell short of expectations. Second Act will likely be the newest misfire for the studio despite being the first big starring vehicle for Jennifer Lopez in about four years. Her last two leading lady vehicles (The Back-Up Plan and The Boy Next Door) had an average opening weekend of $13.6 million and managed OK domestic cumes above $30 million but Second Act has had a far less distinctive marketing campaign so far than those two and it'll be difficult for it to stand out in a crowded marketplace even as the only romantic-comedy around. Sorry STX, looks like your rough 2018 is ending on a downer note, better luck in 2019 when you'll release movies like Uglydolls.

Opening Weekend: $6.8 million
Total Domestic Gross: $30 million

December 25th:
Holmes & Watson
We've been mostly dealing with movies here that I feel rather confident on predicting as box office hits or miss, but I could really see Holmes & Watson going either way at the domestic box office. Last year's The House hit a new domestic box office low for Will Ferrell and it wouldn't be shocking if his losing streak at the domestic box office continues because audiences feel like another Will Ferrell/John C. Reilly vehicle is too "been-there-done-that". On the other hand, the duo haven't worked together for a decade now (save for an Anchorman 2 cameo), there could be some pent-up demand for a reunion, it's also the first full-on comedy in a good long while the smart decision has been made to give this one a PG-13 rating, the MPAA rating most of Ferrell's biggest movies have been given (his only R-rated movie to cross $100 million domestically is Step Brothers). Like I said, this one's a coin toss but since I bet the farm on Ferrell's last vehicle being one of the ten biggest movies of summer 2017, this time I'll err on the side of caution and say Holmes & Watson only does so-so business over the Holiday season.

Opening Weekend: $14 million
Total Domestic Gross: $70 million
Annapurna Pictures has sunk $60 million into this Adam McKay directed movie about Dick Cheney, which feels like a strange investment given how movies of this ilk (W., Frost/Nixon, Chappaquiddick, etc.) rarely make all that much money at the domestic box office. Serious films about political-tinged issues meant to serve as a parallel with politics today strike audiences as lacking in the escapism they crave in theatrically released fare, even a star-studded affair like The Post only managed a solid but not exceptional $81.9 million domestically. In its favor is the fact that Dick's generating major early Oscar buzz, particularly for its performances, while McKay's last movie was The Big Short, which wildly surpassed box office expectations with a $70.2 million domestic gross. Could Dick be a similar surprise hit, especially since it's based on even more famous people and has an even more star-studded cast? Maybe, but I doubt it. If anything, this feels like it's poised to be a star-studded box office disappointment that just can't catch the attention of audiences looking for something more divorced from reality over the holidays.

Opening Weekend: $9 million
Total Domestic Gross: $43 million

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