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Grading Mojo's Holiday 2014 Forecast

by Ray Subers
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
 

 
March 11, 2015

As is tradition here at Box Office Mojo, we made domestic box office predictions for holiday 2014 releases ahead of the start of the season. Now that those movies are essentially at the end of their runs, it's time to grade that forecast.

As usual, there were a healthy set of very accurate predictions (Big Hero 6, Into the Woods, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb), along with a handful that were laughably inaccurate (Exodus: Gods & Kings, Horrible Bosses 2).

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%).

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

Forecast: $385 million
Actual: $337 million (est.)
Difference: -13%
Grade: B

The previous Hunger Games movies each earned over $408 million at the domestic box office; while it was unrealistic to expect the "Part 1" penultimate chapter to reach the same level, it did experience a surprisingly steep drop from the last installment (21 percent). Of course, Mockingjay was still a massive hit, ranking second among 2015 releases behind American Sniper.

Interstellar

Forecast: $265 million
Actual: $188 million (est.)
Difference: -29%
Grade: C

We got caught up a bit in the hype here, and forgot that Gravity and Inception are the exception, not the rule. It's almost unheard of for an original movie to earn over $250 million, and when it does happen it's the result of a special combination of ingredients that's tough to pinpoint ahead of time. For what it was, Interstellar actually did quite well; with even stronger international results, this should absolutely be viewed as a success.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Forecast: $235 million
Actual: $255 million (est.)
Difference: +9%
Grade: A

The expectation here was that The Battle of the Five Armies would earn the same, or a bit less, than The Desolation of Smaug ($258.4 million). There was a major drop off from the first to the second installment—with casual fans of the Lord of the Rings trilogy bailing after the sub-par first outing—and then the franchise leveled off for the final installment. While the prediction was a bit too low, it was still generally in line with the final result.

Big Hero 6

Forecast: $215 million
Actual: $223 million (est.)
Difference: 4%
Grade: A

It was pretty clear that Big Hero 6 wasn't going to perform like Frozen; it's not exactly easy to replicate a phenomenon like that. This movie felt more like Wreck-It Ralph, albeit with a bit of a bump thanks to the increased value of the Disney Animation brand. That theory turned out to be pretty much on point.

Into the Woods

Forecast: $140 million
Actual: $128 million (est.)
Difference: -9%
Grade: A

Into the Woods
wasn't in the same league as Disney's recent spate of live-action fantasy movies like Maleficent and Oz The Great and Powerful, though it would have been unfair to expect that anyway. If anything, the slight miss here was that Into the Woods wound up on par with Enchanted ($127 million) instead of Les Miserables (2012) ($148.8 million).

Penguins of Madagascar

Prediction: $135 million
Actual: $83 million (est.)
Difference: -39%
Grade: D

The third Madagascar movie earned $216.4 million at the domestic box office back in 2012; five months ago, it was tough to fathom that its spin-off, Penguins of Madagascar, would gross a dollar less than $100 million. Even more shocking is the fact that Penguins is ending its run essentially tied with Turbo, which was a huge misfire last Summer. At least Penguins saved some face overseas, where its earned over $282 million.

Exodus: Gods and Kings

Prediction: $130 million
Actual: $65 million
Difference: -50%
Grade: F

In hindsight, it was probably unreasonable to expect Exodus: Gods and Kings to earn much more than fellow Old Testament movie Noah ($101.2 million). Still, it's pretty stunning that the big-budget Ridley Scott epic closed below past December bombs like Eragon ($75 million) and The Golden Compass ($70.1 million).

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Prediction $120 million
Actual: $113 million (est.)
Difference: -6%
Grade: A

This prediction was pretty much on the nose. While the third installment of the Night at the Museum trilogy did take a huge dive from the previous outing (down 36 percent), there was still enough interest among family moviegoers around the holidays to propel this past $100 million.

Unbroken

Prediction: $105 million
Actual: $116 million (est.)
Difference: 10.5%
Grade: B

This prediction was also more-or-less accurate; despite the lack of on-camera star power, Unbroken still earned significantly more domestically than recent World War II movies like Fury and The Monuments Men. Chalk this up to the popularity of the source material and director Angelina Jolie, and to the movie's strong appeal with religious moviegoers.

Horrible Bosses 2

Prediction: $100 million
Actual: $54.5 million
Difference: -46%
Grade: F

The first Horrible Bosses earned $117.5 million back in Summer 2011; this $100 million prediction was based on the assumption that the sequel could retain at least 80 percent of that audience. In hindsight, the three-and-a-half year gap was too long, and whatever goodwill there was from that movie was probably exhausted by Identity Thief and We're the Millers.

Annie

Prediction: $95 million
Actual: $86 million (est.)
Difference: -9.5%
Grade: A

As expected, Annie did solid business, albeit not quite on par with the season's other family-friendly entertainment.

The Interview

Prediction: $90 million
Actual: $6.1 million
Difference: -93%
Grade: F

Well-documented, very unforeseen circumstances caused a dramatic alteration to this movie's release pattern. Mulligan, please.

Other Titles

The Holiday Forecast listed all titles expected to earn over $90 million. Unfortunately, it missed two important titles.

Most significantly, we failed to predict the overwhelming success of American Sniper. The rationale at the time was that the best comparison for the movie was fellow modern warfare movie Lone Survivor, which had earned $125.1 million a year earlier. We expected that Sniper's more contemplative approach to war—covering the post-traumatic stress angle, instead of being of a straightforward action movie—would result in lower box office. We also failed to take in to account the popularity of the book upon which it's based.

Of course, even if all of that had been taken in to consideration, the best-case-scenario for this movie probably would have been around $150 million, which still would have been less than half of its expected $350 million final gross.

The other miss was The Imitation Game, which is going to ride strong awards season buzz to a final tally just north of $90 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.

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