The weekend after Thanksgiving is typically a quiet one at the box office, and over the last few years the major studios have mostly avoided releasing any new movies during this period. This year, at least, The Weinstein Company and upstart distributor LD Entertainment are giving it their best shot with Killing Them Softly and The Collection, respectively. With Brad Pitt playing a ruthless hitman, Softly has the most potential, though it's going to be hard to get near the top of the chart against strong holdovers like The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 and Skyfall.
The weekend after Thanksgiving wasn't always such a dead zone; back in 2003, for example, The Last Samurai and Honey opened to $24.3 million and $12.9 million, respectively. In recent years, though, it's become a dumping ground, and no movie has opened north of $10 million since Aeon Flux ($12.7 million) in 2005. In fact, this will be the third year in a row that the Big Six studios avoid the weekend altogether: in 2010, Relativity Media's The Warrior's Way was the only new nationwide release, and last year there wasn't a single new nationwide movie.
With Brad Pitt's box office clout, Killing Them Softly could be the movie that once again cracks the $10 million ceiling for post-Thanksgiving releases. Pitt has a knack for pushing challenging movies to solid grosses: last year, he helped Moneyball score one of the best openings ever for a baseball movie with $19.5 million. However, Killing Them Softly director Andrew Dominik's last project, 2007's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, also starred Pitt and only went on to gross $3.9 million at the domestic box office, meaning Pitt is far from invincible. Jesse James never received a nationwide push, though, while Killing Them Softly is rolling out in to 2,424 locations with support from a moderate marketing campaign. In many ways, this feels similar to last year's Drive: both are R-rated crime flicks from acclaimed (but relatively unknown) directors starring an attractive leading man playing a bit against type. Drive wound up with $11.3 million in its opening weekend, which is a reasonable target for Killing Them Softly.
At 1,403 theaters, The Collection is trying to appeal to horror fans who feel neglected around this time of year (there hasn't been a new horror release in over a month). The movie is the sequel to 2009's The Collector, which debuted to $3.6 million at 1,325 locations on its way to a $7.7 million total. With a light marketing push it's possible that The Collection matches its predecessor, though it won't get much higher. Forecast (Nov. 30-Dec. 2) 1. Breaking Dawn Part 2 - $18.3 million (-58%) 2. Skyfall - $18 million (-49%) 3. Lincoln - $16.7 million (-35%) 4. Life of Pi - $14.3 million (-36%) 5. Rise of the Guardians - $14.2 million (-40%) -. Killing Them Softly - $9.5 million (new) -. The Collection - $2.4 million (new) Bar for Success While R-rated crime movies are a tough sell, Killing Them Softly has Brad Pitt and over 2,400 theaters and therefore needs at least $10 million to get a pass. The producers of The Collection can't possibly have expected it to perform much better than its predecessor, so as long as it opens near that movie's $3.6 million it should avoid excessive ridicule.