Forecast: Eight Nationwide Releases Crowd Theaters This Christmas
Afraid of opening any of their end-of-year titles ahead of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the major studios instead decided to pack the long Christmas weekend with eight nationwide releases. In comparison, the last time Christmas fell on a Tuesday there were only five new entries.

While the abundance of new material does mean there's plenty for audiences to choose from, it also means that at least a few of these movies are going to get seriously lost in the pack. Coming off its $84.6 million opening weekend, it's a foregone conclusion that The Hobbit will once again lead the box office, though it could yield the top spot on Christmas Day to Django Unchained or Les Miserables.

It's important to remember that around the holidays, movies have very strong multiples and often end up with five to seven times as much as their opening weekend gross, and therefore lower-than-normal grosses this weekend shouldn't be seen as an immediate sign of failure. Because of the staggered release schedule (Dec. 19, Dec. 21, and Dec. 25), we're going to forgo official predictions and instead offer brief analysis in order of release date.

December 19

The first two movies, The Guilt Trip and Monsters, Inc.'s 3D re-release, are also two of the weakest offerings this season.

Monsters, Inc. (3D) is Disney's third 3D re-release following the enormous success of The Lion King 3D last year ($94.2 million). Unfortunately, that performance seems to be specific to The Lion King's appeal, and Disney has failed to replicate it with Beauty and the Beast ($47.6 million) and Finding Nemo ($40.9 million) this year. Even with the dearth of family-oriented content in the marketplace, Monsters, Inc. 3D seems poised to continue this downward trend; the movie opened to just $778,913 on Wednesday, which is a tiny fraction of the opening day gross for those other 3D re-releases. With kids off from school and little competition, Monsters Inc. 3D will hold well through the end of the year, but its five-day opening weekend is still likely to wind up below $10 million.

Barbra Streisand/Seth Rogen mother-son road-trip comedy The Guilt Trip also opened on Wednesday and earned just over $1 million at 2,431 locations. This is the first of Paramount's three brand-new nationwide releases debuting over a three-day period, which is odd to see from a lean studio that's only releasing 14 major movies this year. Thanks to the appeal of the two leads, The Guilt Trip could have been a solid selection for older family audiences over the holiday, but it's getting such a light push that it's not going to really register. Paramount is expecting $8-10 million through its first five days, which seems reasonable given the movie's Wednesday performance.

December 21

After headlining last Christmas's biggest movie, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol ($209.4 million), Tom Cruise is giving it another try in Jack Reacher, which hits 3,352 locations on Friday. While it doesn't have the sequel advantage, Jack Reacher does come with a built-in fan base courtesy of Lee Child's best-selling book series featuring the title character. Unfortunately, Cruise's casting remains controversial among die-hards—Reacher is an imposing force at 6'5", while Cruise is 5'7" on a good day—so they probably won't be rushing out to theaters. Additionally, with its dark palette and 90s-style action the movie's marketing has been generally uninspiring. Paramount is expecting $12 to $15 million for the weekend, which would put the movie on track to possible match Valkyrie's $83.1 million total (a Christmas release starring Cruise and written by Reacher's writer/director Christopher McQuarrie).

Judd Apatow's fourth directorial effort, This Is 40, opens at 2,912 locations on Friday. The movie is the "sort-of sequel" to Apatow's Knocked Up, and follows the lives of Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) five years after that movie. The Apatow brand gets tossed around a lot, and while it's been attached to a few major hits (last year's Bridesmaids most recently), it's also been tied in with major bombs Wanderlust ($17.3 million) and The Five-Year Engagement ($28.7 million) this year. Reviews for This is 40 are middling (59 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and the challenges of middle-aged married life isn't going to be remotely appealing to Apatow's younger fan base. Universal is hoping for low-teen-millions for the three-day weekend.

Cirque Du Soleil: Worlds Away, Paramount's third nationwide release this weekend, will be playing at noon and 7 p.m. in around 800 locations. By pushing the specific showtimes, Paramount is trying to make it in to a movie-going event, and it is a solid option for families who have seen Monsters, Inc. enough times on DVD. With the light release and very little marketing, though, it's likely going to end up near the bottom of the Top 10.

Continued with a look at 'Les Miserables,' 'Django Unchained,' 'Parental Guidance' and a handful of limited releases >>

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:

Last Weekend's Forecast: 'The Hobbit' Expected to Set December Opening Record

Holiday 2012 Forecast