Top Five could theoretically make a run at second place this weekend. After premiering to rave reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, the Chris Rock comedy sparked an intense bidding war among prospective distributors. Ultimately, Paramount Pictures wound up getting it for $12 million, which is virtually unprecedented among festival acquisition deals.
Three months after the acquisition, Paramount is releasing Top Five in to 979 theaters. The movie has a lot working in its favor, including great reviews (92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), a star-studded ensemble cast, and some broadly entertaining previews. Still, the theater count is fairly modest—Exodus will be in nearly four times as many locations—and Rock is untested as a leading man.
At less than 1,000 theaters, the absolute best-case scenario is around $15 million (that's a massive $15,000 per-theater average). Paramount is more realistically expecting $6 to $8 million, which would put it in third or fourth place. From there, they'll try to leverage word-of-mouth in to strong holds throughout the holiday season.
Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice opens at five theaters in New York and Los Angeles this weekend ahead of a nationwide expansion in early January. Anderson's last movie, The Master, averaged a massive $147,262 at five locations on its opening weekend (likely the same five that Vice is at).
The Master had a lot more working in its favor, though. It opened in September, which is a light season at these arthouse theaters: in comparison, Vice is facing The Imitation Game, Wild (2014), Foxcatcher and more. The Master also had stronger reviews, along with a Scientology angle that generated a ton of curiosity among the New York / Los Angeles audience.
Still, a new Anderson movie is an event in these markets, and Vice will almost certainly average at least $40,000 per-theater this weekend.
A few days ahead of its domestic debut, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies rolls in to 37 international territories this weekend. That list includes France, Germany, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, the U.K. and Japan. Look for it to have at least $100 million in the bank by Sunday.
The movie expands in to South Korea, Italy and Spain next weekend, and then reaches China in late January. The previous installments in the trilogy each reached $700 million overseas, which is a likely outcome for the final chapter as well.
Forecast (Dec. 12-14)
1. Exodus - $29 million
2. Mockingjay - $11 million (-50%)
3. Top Five - $8.2 million
4. Penguins - $7.1 million (-35%)
Bar for Success
While Exodus: Gods and Kings has a lot of international potential, it ought to be earning at least $100 million at the domestic box office as well. A $30 million start should be enough to get it there, given how well December releases typically hold. Meanwhile, Top Five needs at least $5 million this weekend; if it gets to $10 million, it's in great shape.
Discuss this story with fellow Box Office Mojo fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @boxofficemojo, and follow author Ray Subers at @raysubers.
• Last Weekend's Report: 'Hunger Games' Leads One of the Worst Weekends of the Year
• Last Weekend's Forecast: 'Mockingjay' to Three-Peat On Quiet Post-Thanksgiving Weekend