The Man with the Iron Fists (Nov. 2): The inexpensive kung fu flick is getting a light release, and Universal seems content to target only the most die-hard fans of the genre. As a result, the best-case scenario is a final gross somewhere in the league of Ninja Assassin's $38.1 million.
Lincoln (Nov. 9 limited, Nov. 16 nationwide): History buffs and die-hard Steven Spielberg fans will rush out to see Lincoln, for sure. Mainstream audiences, though, are likely going to be too tired of the real life drama of the 2012 presidential election, and will skip a movie that primarily features old white men arguing in closed rooms.
Red Dawn (Nov. 21): The 1984 original earned $38.4 million: even with Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson (who barely figures in the trailer), this long-delayed remake is still going to have a tough time matching that figure.
Killing Them Softly (Nov. 30): Similar to last year's Drive, Killing Them Softly is a fairly mainstream crime movie that established strong buzz with a Cannes Film Festival premiere. Drive fizzled with just $35 million; thanks to Brad Pitt, Killing Them Softly could get a bit higher, but not by much.
Playing for Keeps (Dec. 7): Gerard Butler has consistently shown that he's not much of a box office draw outside of genre fare, and Silver Linings Playbook is still going to be the go-to date night choice when Playing for Keeps opens, so it's unlikely this makes much of an impact.
Zero Dark Thirty (Dec. 21 NY/LA, Jan. 11 nationwide): Movies set in the modern-day Middle East are a tough sell, as The Hurt Locker proved in 2010 ($17 million). That movie's director, Kathryn Bigelow, is taking on Zero Dark Thirty, which will make much more than Hurt Locker thanks to that movie's awards success and the appeal of seeing the hunt for Bin Laden documented. It's good that the movie is avoiding the crush of holiday releases by waiting until January to expand, though that plan could backfire if it doesn't draw the critical and awards acclaim that Sony is surely hoping for.
Monsters, Inc. 3D (Dec. 21): The dearth of family offerings this Holiday season, along with the somewhat timely nature of this re-release (prequel Monsters University is on the way in June) means Monsters Inc. 3D should wind up higher than Beauty and the Beast 3D ($47.6) and Finding Nemo 3D ($40.5 million). Still, audiences have clearly shown there is a cap for 3D re-releases, and so this is going to miss the Top 12.
The Guilt Trip (Dec. 25): Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand are an appealing pairing, but it feels like this comparatively small movie is going to get lost amidst the bigger releases—are people really going to choose this over This is 40, for example?
Parental Guidance (Dec. 25): The goal here is probably to replicate the success of Cheaper by the Dozen, which opened on Christmas Day nine years ago and earned $138.6 million domestically for distributor 20th Century Fox. There's an off chance that family audiences buy in to Parental Guidance as well, though ultimately it looks like the kind of movie that just can't get much attention in a crowded season. Limited Releases Compared to past years, 2012's Holiday season is very light on limited release movies with major box office potential. Anna Karenina (Nov. 16) is visually intriguing but has been getting odd mixed reviews that suggest it won't play outside of art houses. Hitchcock (Nov. 23) is going to get a good push from veteran indie distributor Fox Searchlight, though it's hard to imagine it being this year's The Artist. The buzz on Hyde Park on the Hudson (Dec. 7) is pretty bad coming out of festival screenings, so it probably won't make much of an impact. The Impossible (Dec. 21) is one of the biggest movies ever in Spain, but U.S. audiences may be hesitant to watch a tsunami movie following the Hurricane Sandy disaster. Promised Land (Dec. 28) has a pretty impressive pedigree (Gus Van Sant and Matt Damon), but it's going to take fantastic reviews and major awards buzz for people to turn out to this frakking drama. Finally, the Cirque Du Soleil (Dec. 25) movie has a chance at tapping in to the "3D concert" movie grosses, though it's hard to tell if Paramount is really going to push it what with Jack Reacher and The Guilt Trip also on the schedule around this time.