Can 'Office Christmas Party' Topple 'Moana' for #1 at the Weekend Box Office?
SATURDAY AM UPDATE: DreamWorks Pictures and Reliance Entertainment's Office Christmas Party topped the Friday box office with an estimated $6.6 million, heading toward what is expected to be a $17+ million three-day opening. At this point it is looking like that won't be enough for a first place finish as Disney's Moana is expected to bring in around $18+ million after an estimated $4.1 million Friday.

Elsewhere, Focus' expansion of Nocturnal Animals into 1,262 theaters (+1,135) brought in an estimated $1.1 million and is heading toward what looks like a $3.6 million weekend. For EuropaCorp's Miss Sloane things aren't quite as rosy as the film expanded into 1,648 theaters this weekend and is looking at a three-day right around $1.9 million after an estimated $660,000 on Friday.

Manchester by the Sea, however, is doing a little better than expected, bringing in an estimated $912,250 on Friday, heading toward a $3+ million weekend from just 367 theaters.

And speaking of performing, Lionsgate's La La Land grossed an estimated $300,000 from just five theaters in New York and Los Angeles and is looking at an opening around $850,000 for a per location average around a year's best $170,000.

You can check out all of the Friday estimates right here and we'll be back on Sunday morning with a complete wrap-up.

FRIDAY AM UPDATE: Last night Paramount's Office Christmas Party took in $950,000 from Thursday night previews in 2,429 theaters. Using the comparison from our weekend preview below, Sisters began its run last December with $769,000 from Thursday night previews before opening with $13.9 million.

We'll be back tomorrow with a look at Friday estimates.

WEEKEND PREVIEW: Much like last week, this weekend will be even a little lighter at the weekend box office as the studios make ready for the holiday rush, which begins next weekend with the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and WB's Collateral Beauty. As for this weekend, the lone new wide release is Paramount's holiday-themed comedy Office Christmas Party, while EuropaCorp's Miss Sloane and Focus' Nocturnal Animals each expand nationwide. Additionally, Lionsgate's Oscar hopeful La La Land will be released into five theaters before expanding next weekend while fellow awards season darling, Manchester by the Sea, continues to expand this weekend and could find itself in a tight race for a spot in the top ten.

For the first time in some time it isn't clear cut as to what film will be taking the top spot at the box office. Disney's Moana would appear to be a strong candidate as it should drop around 33% or so and finish the weekend with $18-20 million, nearing $150 million domestically. The question is, can Paramount's Office Christmas Party top that?

The studio is remaining cautious with their forecast, anticipating a $13-15 million opening from 3,210 theaters, but there is plenty of reason to expect a better opening performance than that. The fact it is only one of two wide release comedies this month, which should help Office Christmas Party's overall longevity, it carries the holiday theme into the Christmas season and sports a strong ensemble cast that includes the re-teaming of Horrible Bosses franchise co-stars Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman, along with Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller, Jillian Bell, Courtney B. Vance, Rob Corddry and Kate McKinnon.

Additionally, last year Universal debuted sisters as Sisters counter-programming to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The film opened with $13.9 million and went on to gross nearly $90 million. Given the holiday theme and the need for additional playdates during the season, Paramount smartly got ahead of the Star Wars hustle by releasing Office Christmas Party a week ahead of Rogue One and should expect a $19+ million opening with a chance at exceeding $21 million if all goes well.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is looking at a third place finish, likely dropping around 37% for a fourth weekend gross around $11 million as it approaches $200 million domestically. From there, fourth and fifth place could find Paramount taking home three of the top five positions at the weekend box office should Arrival and Allied manage to hold off Doctor Strange.

Arrival continues to see support from audiences and theaters alike as it once again expands into additional theaters for the fourth weekend in a row. After opening four weeks ago in 2,317 theaters, this weekend it will play in 3,115 theaters (+200), looking at a weekend around $4.5-5 million. Last weekend Allied held off Doctor Strange by just $341,514 for a fifth place finish, this weekend could be even tighter as both films look to finish around $4.3 million for the three-day.

Outside the top ten is where the most interesting action takes place. Beginning with Miss Sloane, the EuropaCorp release has played in limited theaters the past couple of weekends to so-so success, racking up $135,869 as of Wednesday, December 8. Had it been performing better it would make sense to anticipate a $5 million wide berth, similar to Woman in Gold or Ex Machina. However, this feels more closely related to 2014's A Most Violent Year, which brought in $1.5 million from 818 theaters in its fifth weekend in release after adding 750 theaters. A weekend somewhere around $2 million or so from 1,598 theaters (+1,594) seems about right.

Similarly, Focus is expanding the release of Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals into 1,262 theaters (+1,135) after it opened in 37 theaters three weeks ago and played in 127 over the last two weeks. With this kind of boost in theaters a 100% gain doesn't seem at all unreasonable, which would suggest a $1.4 million three-day. However, while they don't necessarily cater to the same audience, Queen of Katwe debuted in 52 theaters just a few months ago and then expanded into over 1,200 theaters and brought in $2,009 per theater over the weekend. Should Nocturnal Animals manage to top $1,600 per theater it could also be in line for a spot in the top ten.

Then we come to Manchester by the Sea, which recently won Best Film from the National Board of Review, was nominated for five Spirit Awards, racked up nine awards from the New York Film Critics and received eight nominations at the Critics Choice Awards. Playing in just 156 theaters last weekend it brought in $2.27 million for an eleventh place finish. This weekend it expands into 368 theaters (+212) and based on the performance of past films that have followed similar release patterns and success we're anticipating a $2-2.5 million weekend for Manchester. Don't expect it to do any less than $2 million and given its recent accolades that number could climb even higher.

In limited release the highest profile title of the bunch is most certainly Damien Chazelle's musical La La Land starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, which is being looked at by many as a front-runner for Best Picture at this year's Oscars. The film has already received its share of accolades since debuting in Venice where Stone won Best Actress followed by a People's Choice win at the Toronto Film Festival, 12 Critics Choice Awards nominations and winner of Best Film from the New York Film Critics as well as serving as a runner-up to Moonlight from the Los Angeles critics.

As for what to be looking for this weekend, La La Land is debuting in five theaters and the question is to wonder if it can topple Moonlight's year's best per theater opening average of $100,519 after it opened in four theaters in October. We're betting it will.

Elsewhere, Yash Raj will debut Befikre in 284 theaters where the film could grab as much as $1.2+ million; Viva Pictures' The Bounce Back debuts in 615 theaters and is targeting a $1.3 million opening; Focus is expanding Loving into 446 theaters (+126); Fox Searchlight's Jackie expands into 26 theaters (+21); and The Weinstein Co.'s Lion expands into 15 theaters (+8).

This weekend's forecast is directly below. This post will be updated on Friday morning with Thursday night preview results followed by Friday estimates on Saturday morning, and a complete weekend recap on Sunday morning.

  • Office Christmas Party (3,210 theaters) - $20.0 M
  • Moana (3,755 theaters) - $18.9 M
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (3,626 theaters) - $11.4 M
  • Arrival (3,115 theaters) - $4.9 M
  • Allied (3,018 theaters) - $4.4 M
  • Doctor Strange (2,579 theaters) - $4.3 M
  • Trolls (2,786 theaters) - $3.0 M
  • Manchester by the Sea (0,368 theaters) - $2.4 M
  • Hacksaw Ridge (2,277 theaters) - $2.3 M
  • Miss Sloane (1,598 theaters) - $2.0 M

Discuss this story with fellow Box Office Mojo fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @boxofficemojo and author Brad Brevet at @bradbrevet.