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Grading Mojo's Holiday Forecast

by Ray Subers
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

March 11, 2014

Back in November, Box Office Mojo made specific box office predictions for the upcoming holiday season. Now that the awards season is over, these titles are finally wrapping up their runs, so it's time to assess how we did.

For each title, we will list the domestic forecast, the actual gross (in most cases an estimate) and the percentage difference [(Actual-Forecast)/Forecast]. Each prediction will be assigned a grade on the following arbitrary scale: A (less than 10% difference), B (10-19.9%), C (20-29.9%), D (30-39.9%) and F (over 40%).

As usual, there were some spot-on predictions (Catching Fire, The Wolf of Wall Street), some misses (Anchorman 2, American Hustle) and some disasters (Frozen, Grudge Match).

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Forecast: $400 million
Actual: $424 million (est.)
Difference: +6%
Grade: A

Six months ago, anyone could have told you that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was going to be a huge hit. Few expected it to do this well, though: Catching Fire is the first sequel ever to out-gross a predecessor that earned over $350 million at the domestic box office.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Forecast: $230 million
Actual: $258 million (est.)
Difference: +12%
Grade: B+

The first Hobbit earned $303 million, but received lukewarm word-of-mouth. As usual, this meant a decline at the domestic box office, though it wasn't quite as steep as anticipated. Chalk this up to the loyalty of the Lord of the Rings fanbase, and the appeal of finally getting to see the dragon Smaug in action.

Thor: The Dark World

Forecast: $220 million
Actual: $206 million (est.)
Difference: -6%
Grade: A

Thor: The Dark World
got a bit of an Avengers bump (14 percent), though it wasn't on par with Iron Man 3 (31 percent). This isn't surprising given a so-so marketing effort, middling reviews, and the fact that the first Thor was already in 3D.


Forecast: $185 million
Actual: $405 million (est.)
Difference: +119%
Grade: F

"Frozen is going to earn over $300 million at the domestic box office." If someone said that last October, we all would have called them crazy, so the fact that this is going to wind up over $400 million is unexpected to say the least.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Forecast: $165 million
Actual: $128 million (est.)
Difference: -22%
Grade: C+

The original Anchorman is one of the most quotable movies ever, and its fanbase is a vocal one. Unfortunately, that fanbase also isn't as broad as anticipated: while word-of-mouth wasn't great, the real issue for Anchorman 2 was that interest wasn't all that high to begin with. Ultimately, it did see slightly higher attendance than the original, though it was a marginal increase.

Saving Mr. Banks

Forecast: $130 million
Actual: $83 million (est.)
Difference: -36%
Grade: D

There were two incorrect assumptions made about Saving Mr. Banks: that it would be a go-to choice for families over the holidays, and that it would be an awards contender. It wound up being a bit too dark for families—and Frozen was more of a powerhouse than expected—and the awards didn't really pan out.

The Wolf of Wall Street

Forecast: $125 million
Actual: $118 million (est.)
Difference: -6%
Grade: A

Prior to release, there was some concern that a three-hour runtime and mildly pornographic content would keep The Wolf of Wall Street from connecting with general audiences. The controversy surrounding the movie made it a must-see, though, and this became the third $115 million movie in a row from Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio.

American Hustle

Forecast: $120 million
Actual: $151 million (est.)
Difference: +26%
Grade: C

Coming off The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, it was clear that director David O. Russell was becoming a box office draw. Even with a cast made up of all-stars from those movies, though, it was tough to foresee Hustle's success: over $150 million for an R-rated period drama is pretty remarkable.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Forecast: $95 million
Actual: $62 million (est.)
Difference: -35%
Grade: D

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
had an A-list comedy star (Ben Stiller) and strong early trailers. Unfortunately, it got squeezed out by tough competition: Hustle and Wolf appealed to adult audiences, while Frozen monopolized families.

Grudge Match

Forecast: $80 million
Actual: $29.8 million (est.)
Difference: -63%
Grade: F

In hindsight, this was probably the worst prediction in the history of Box Office Mojo. Whoops.

Ender's Game

Forecast: $75 million
Actual: $61.7 million
Difference: -18%
Grade: B-

Considering this prediction was made after Ender's Game's opening weekend, it really should have been closer. There was an expectation that it would hold a bit better; unfortunately, fans of the book rushed out to see it on its first weekend, and underwhelming word-of-mouth kept more skeptical viewers from checking it out in coming weeks.

Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas

Forecast: $70 million
Actual: $52.5 million
Difference: -25%
Grade: C

The Christmas season seemed like a perfect fit for prolific writer/director Tyler Perry's popular Madea character. Either that assumption was incorrect, or Perry's brand is on the decline: ultimately, Madea Christmas was one of the lowest-grossing Madea movies yet.

Other Titles

The forecast included predictions for movies we expected would earn over $70 million. Lone Survivor and The Best Man Holiday weren't on the list, though both wound up over $70 million. Lone Survivor is on track for around $126 million—more than any of its comparable titles—while The Best Man Holiday closed just over $70 million.

Discuss this story with fellow Box Office Mojo fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @boxofficemojo, and follow author Ray Subers at @raysubers.

Related Stories:
Holiday 2013 Forecast
Grading Mojo's Summer Forecast
Strong November Falls Just Short of Record
Summer 2013 Sets New Record with $4.76 Billion
Summer 2013 Forecast

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