Here's your three-day box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - $84.7 million
2. Rise of the Guardians - $7.4 million
3. Lincoln - $7.2 million
4. Skyfall - $7.0 million
5. Life of Pi - $5.4 million
6. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2 - $5.1 million
7. Wreck-It Ralph - $3.27 million
8. Playing for Keeps - $3.24 million
9. Red Dawn - $2.39 million
10. Silver Linings Playbook - $2.08 million
The Big Stories
After two weeks of studio dumps we finally have a release worth talking about. Warner Bros. and Peter Jackson have assured us that we'll be talking about it for the next two years as well. Three hundred pages translated into likely eight-plus hours of edited film later and another trilogy is born with the hopes of generating another $2.9 billion at the global box office. The first 100 pages of The Hobbit adapted for An Unexpected Journey is off to a pretty solid start -- if you can call the biggest December opening of all-time "pretty solid" - and has given the domestic box office just the boost it needed to virtually assure it has a record-breaking year.
Can The Hobbit measure up to The Lord of the Rings?
The Hobbit's $84.7 million opening surpassed the first three days conjured up by its predecessors The Return of the King ($73.2 million), The Two Towers ($59.2) and The Fellowship of the Ring ($42.1 million). Those were the results of Wednesday-to-Friday openings, though. We shall see how things even out by next Thursday with a full week under its belt. It should still be ahead of Fellowship's first week total of $94 million, but may be falling behind the more successful second and third chapters of The Lord of the Rings which already had $123.3 and $150.1 respectively after seven days. All three films reached the $300 million mark domestically.
Amazingly enough, 15 of the 38 films to open their weekends with $80 million or more have failed to reach that milestone. While Breaking Dawn -- Part 2 is likely to come up short, Skyfall is going to give its best push over the Christmas holiday to knock the number down from 39.4% to 36.8%. That would actually make it only the second film on this list (after the first Harry Potter) to reach the big 300 in November and December. Only six films have opened in the final two months and grossed as much (Avatar, Titanic, The Return of the King, The Two Towers, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The Fellowship of the Ring).
As for the rest to start with over $85 million:
The Twilight Saga: New Moon ($142.8 million opening/$296.6 final gross), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2 ($141/$273.1+), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1 ($138.1/$281.2), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 ($125/$295.9), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ($102.6/$290), Skyfall ($88.36/$267.2), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets ($88.35/$261.9)
Two Weeks to Record-Breaking Year?
This weekend we passed last year's domestic box office tally of $10.174 billion. That is January 1-to-December 31 and not a penny before or after. There is $459 million to go in order to reach and eclipse 2009's record. We have been monitoring the progress towards this goal by how last year's holiday box office played out. For example, this year's Breaking Dawn has outgrossed last year's Breaking Dawn. Got it? Going further, Lincoln has outgrossed the late release pairing of The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse. One more? Silver Linings Playbook needs another $21 million to match The Descendants' grosses circa December 31, 2011.
So by understanding that pattern, we can pair up various releases of genres, directors, release dates or by a certain randomness. Les Miserables and Happy Feet Two may not seem comparable other than being films with musical numbers about fathers trying to do the best by their children who want to join in a revolutionary cause. Other than that, Les Miz would need to gross $60 million in a week to match the pace of its nearly random doppelganger. This might sound like it makes not a lick of sense, but there are those who speculate and those who deal with samples. The Hobbit needs another $79 million by year's end to reach its own goal (set from the combined grosses of last year's The Muppets and Chipwrecked) and then could use a few more dollars to help with the $54 million hole that Rise of the Guardians is currently leaving.
The method to this madness, remember, is just a guide to determine if 2012 has a chance at topping the record books. One film can gross more than another and match a different goal while others could fall by the wayside. Roll with it, though, and you'll be watching to see if these films can reach these goals by December 31:
Jack Reacher ~ Jack and Jill's $71.6 million
Les Miserables ~ Happy Feet Two's $60.6 million
Django Unchained ~ The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's $50.3 million
Monsters Inc. 3D ~ Arthur Christmas' $45.6 million
This Is 40 ~ New Year's Eve's $44.2 million
Parental Guidance ~ We Bought a Zoo's $36.8 million
Zero Dark Thirty ~ Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy's $3.5 million
The Impossible ~ Like Crazy's $3.3 million
See how random it can get? No worries, though -- you will notice that The Guilt Trip was not listed in there. Basically because all of 2011's late releases were used up already in this formula. We'll chalk up the Seth Rogen/Barbra Streisand road comedy as the season's big wild card. If all the other films meet these expectations, The Guilt Trip would only need $36.2 million to give 2012 its record-breaking victory. Between that and the ongoing grosses of The Hobbit, it may just be a foregone conclusion.