While some of the Holiday Forecast picks are locks (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, etc.), there are a handful of fringe titles (Unbroken, Horrible Bosses, Annie, The Interview) which could wind up outside the Top 12 when all is said and done.
Which upcoming releases could move in to one of those spots? Here's a brief look at box office prospects for the rest of the movies set to open between now and the end of the year.
Dumb and Dumber To (Nov. 14): This is the movie that has the best chance of cracking the Top 12 holiday releases. The first Dumb and Dumber opened 20 years ago and earned $127.2 million; that's the equivalent over $241 million today. If the sequel sells half as many tickets, it will be one of the biggest hits of the season.
Still, there are some question marks surrounding this project. Jim Carrey and the Farrelly Brothers are both coming off a string of misses, and a late return to this lucrative franchise may cause some more cynical viewers to think twice. Previews are also hit-or-miss, and seem overly reliant on some so-so material (the phone call bit is a particularly grating example). Finally, the movie faces extremely tough competition on both sides: Interstellar and Big Hero 6 will remain competitive, while The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 will suck most of the air out of the room the following weekend.
Beyond the Lights (Nov. 14): This is a modest release from Relativity Media, whose highest-grossing movie this year is Earth to Echo ($38.9 million). Beyond the Lights could theoretically top that number, though a total over $50 million would be stunning.
The Pyramid (Dec. 5): The weekend after Thanksgiving is typically one of the slowest weekends of the year, and studios therefore tend to avoid scheduling anything significant there; recent bombs include The Warrior's Way ($5.7 million), Killing Them Softly ($15 million) and Out of the Furnace ($11.3 million). The Pyramid could do a bit better than this, though it would still be surprising if it wound up higher than recent similar movie As Above/So Below ($21.2 million).
Top Five (Dec. 12): Paramount won a very expensive bidding war for Top Five after the movie received rave reviews out of the Toronto Film Festival; the studio has moved quickly on it, and are planning to have it in theaters nationwide in mid-December. Writer/director/star Chris Rock is popular, and the trailer has plenty of laughs. Still, it feels a bit small—it's been described as very Woody Allen-esque—and probably won't find a huge audience.
The Theory of Everything (Nov. 7): The Stephen Hawking biopic had a solid debut in limited release this past weekend (over $40,000 per-theater at five locations). There probably isn't much of an audience for this, though: with awards nominations on the way, look for this to wind up in a similar range as fellow Focus Features release Dallas Buyers Club ($27.3 million).
Foxcatcher (Nov. 14): The well-reviewed true story has a fantastic cast (Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo), and plenty of awards buzz, though its disturbing story and casual pacing could turn off some viewers. Distributor Sony Classics isn't really known for turning out big box office hits, either: since 2010, their only movies to earn over $10 million are from Woody Allen.
The Imitation Game (Nov. 28): The Weinstein Company has positioned The Imitation Game as this year's The King's Speech, though it doesn't seem quite as broadly-appealing as that 2010 hit ($138.8 million). This is a wide range, but it's more likely that the World War II drama, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, winds up between Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy ($24.1 million) and Atonement ($50.9 million).
Wild (Dec. 5): Reese Witherspoon is garnering major awards buzz for her role as a woman who embarks on a journey of self-discovery in Wild. This appears to be connecting in a big way (particularly with female moviegoers), though it's important to keep expectations in check: similar movies 127 Hours and Into the Wild both topped out around $18 million.
Inherent Vice (Dec. 12): Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson has a passionate fanbase, though that hasn't always translated in to box office success: even with very positive reviews, The Master wrapped up with a modest $16.4 million. Inherent Vice seems a bit more accessible that The Master, but doesn't seem to have the awards buzz that's usually needed to propel a movie like this in January.
The Gambler (Dec. 19): After two weeks in limited release this Mark Wahlberg gambling drama will expand nationwide on Thursday, January 1st. Wahlberg is popular, and the movie looks like a good time, though it could be held back a bit by a lack of awards buzz and reviews that seem to be mixed-positive.
American Sniper (Dec. 25): The last seven movies directed by—but not starring—Clint Eastwood have all earned less than $50 million. American Sniper could buck that trend: star Bradley Cooper is immensely popular right now, and the first teaser trailer seems to have been well-received. Still, this feels like a closer relative of The Hurt Locker ($17 million) than recent modern warfare movies Zero Dark Thirty ($95.7 million) and Lone Survivor ($125.1 million); look for it to earn noticeably less than those two hits when it expands nationwide in January.
Big Eyes (Dec. 25): Director Tim Burton's return to the world of modestly-budgeted dramas is surely exciting for fans of Burton's cult classic Ed Wood. Add in Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, and this could do decent business with older moviegoers; unfortunately, very early word on this is mixed, and it sounds like it might have a tough time gaining any traction in the awards race.
Selma (Dec. 25): When the initial holiday forecast was written up, there was no trailer and no early reviews for Selma, which stars David Oyelowo as iconic civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Now that it's checked off both of those boxes, Selma is looking like much more of a contender: the trailer is a very moving compilation, while the early reviews out of the AFI Film Fest suggest this will be a major awards player. This movie should benefit from its topicality—its portrayal of civil disobedience seems especially relevant—and some savvy scheduling: Paramount has it opening nationwide a week ahead of MLK weekend.
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