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The Box Office Buster (Dec. 1-3)

by Erik Childress

Borat and the Penguins crossed the $100 million mark this Thanksgiving weekend while the cult of Tenacious D turned out to have less members than Jonestown in 1978. When your 5-day weekend is frontloaded with a take of just over a million, chances are you won’t be doing cock push-ups for a while. The morning after the 5-day weekend is certainly one of coyote ugly proportions as the following weekend traditionally sees a sharp drop-off. The studios know this and used to avoid this weekend like the plague. Now they treat it as January-come-early and dump their garbage hoping to turn a quick buck with what are little more than sneak previews of soon-to-be-released DVDs. Of course, no one would ever accuse someone of exploiting the birth of Christ for monetary advancement, right?

(COUGH: New Line) Hey, how’s it going? No studio has yet found a way to work that hardcore Christian niche the way The Passion of the Christ did two years ago. Then again, no studio has gone right to the big stories of the Bible and found a way to create one without resorting to DeMille-esque budgetary astronomics. Films like Facing the Giants or One Night with the King played directly to their little religious niche crowds but had no hope of selling tickets to more than the 700 members of that club. But here’s a bright idea. Mel Gibson made $370+ million by beating the shit out of Christ and killing him; albeit brilliantly so. Why can’t a studio play to the Big Fat Greek Wedding PG-crowd and create the ultimate prequel. It can be less Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and more City Slickers II, resurrecting the most beloved character from the previous film. As Dumb and Dumberer and their recent unpleasantness with The Hobbit has proven, New Line certainly isn’t above beating a dead Messiah. Or not beating him. How great will the returns be though? Will it surprise everyone and rise to over $30 million this weekend on the eve of the greatest shopping period of the year? Is this thing being advertised on nothing but Christian stations? Cause I haven’t seen one ad for it. Are priests encouraging or warning parishioners that The Nativity Story is from the director of Thirteen and Lords of Dogtown? Catherine Hardwicke has gone from slutty teenage girls to virginal ones with arranged marriages and I think it will be good for about $16.2 million.

MGM will challenge the virginal Mary directly with slutty teenage girls and a resurrection synonym, but only half of their titular characters. National Lampoon’s Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj has Kal Penn but no Ryan Reynolds. Shame on those who made the $21.3 million grossing original a hit on video and gave the brand name formerly associated with Animal House & Vacation (but lately Gold Diggers and Pledge This with Paris Hilton) a 17th minute of theatrical clout and the career of Ryan Reynolds. Way to pick and choose there, everyone. Opening in about the same amount of theaters in 2002, Van Wilder started with $7.3 million. Reynolds’ co-star Kal Penn went on to star as a silent film actor in Superman Returns and as the latter half of the Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle duo; a much funnier film that opened lighter ($5.4 million) and finished even lighter ($18.2 million). Again, congratulations to young America. As I have no faith in them and even less faith in a film directed by Mort “Boat Trip” Nathan (other than to see the unbelievably beautiful Lauren Cohen), I’m imagining a $6.1 million start to the rise.

Take a minute with me now, would you, to welcome Fox’s new horror division (Fox Atomic) to the game alongside their new religious-themed division. Is that enough for a irony triangle? Get me three more points this weekend to flip and we can start talkin’ Hanukkah. Fox Atomic is releasing Turistas this weekend AND it has actually screened for critics against all cynical expectations to the contrary. That’s something Taj’s rise can’t say. We’re 11 months removed from Hostel and only four away from the sequel, so does that make Turistas a ripoff or a warm-up? It’s biggest star going in is Las Vegas’ Josh Duhamel but may be Melissa George’s nipples coming out, even if they don’t technically come out. We’re coming off a pretty bad year for horror and the last one released, The PG-13 Return with Sarah Michelle Gellar hasn’t cracked $8 million since opening Nov. 10. Of course, that was also one of the dullest films on record for any genre, including home movies. The core audience may decide to go with just the boobs of National Lampoon this weekend, since Turistas only offers up a pair. Scratch that. Two women. Six breasts. I keep forgetting about the hooker. Must be all that denial of my Vegas desert activities. Take that any way you wish and decide for yourself if you want boobs or wise men to kick off December.

Pending a glorious outpouring for baby Jesus, it will be a penguin who shall lead them for a third straight weekend as Happy Feet approaches the $125 million mark in its third week. Bond’s Casino Royale will have $115 million just around the corner. Denzel Washington’s Déjà vu will be approaching, if not surpassing $45 million, but is likely to come up third behind previous Tony Scott collaborations, Crimson Tide and Man on Fire. The holiday disaster, Deck the Halls, will be taking quite the dip and nestle in around $25 million for its 10-day. Fox’s better comedy, Borat, will be seeing the biggest decline of its run but also hitting the $115 mark. The Santa Clause 3 is going to claw its way out of the Top 10 as it makes a run for $75 million. Finally, Stranger Than Fiction (holding up better than expected over the holiday) will be in the vicinity of my $37 million final prediction. That does it for the Top 10 which is likely to lose two of the holiday openers and a third (Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny) that couldn’t even crack in its first effort. The Fountain is going to see a Solaris-like plunge this weekend and there aren’t enough baby boomers out there to save Bobby.

Box Office Top Ten Predictions (Nov. 22-27)
1. Happy Feet - $18.2

2. The Nativity Story - $16.2

3. Casino Royale - $14.3

4. Déjà vu - $10.8

5. National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj - $6.1

6. Deck the Halls - $5.8

7. Borat - $4.4

8. The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause - $3.9

9. Turistas - $3.2

10. Stranger Than Fiction - $3.0


(Stats through Nov. 26)
1. Charlotte’s Web ($205.8 million)
2. Happy Feet ($174.3 million) ($100.1 million to date)
3. Blood Diamond ($131.3 million)
4. Night at the Museum ($125.6 million)
5. The Pursuit of Happyness ($119.2 million)
6. Casino Royale ($103.8 million) ($94.2 million to date)
7. Dreamgirls ($90.7 million)
8. The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause ($83.5 million) ($67.1 million to date)
9. The Holiday ($79.3 million)
10. We Are Marshall ($74.6 million)
11. Eragon ($65.9 million)
12. The Nativity Story ($60 million)
13. Déjà Vu ($58.2 million) ($29.0 million to date)
14. The Good Shepherd ($55.2 million)
15. Borat ($54.8 million) ($109.2 million to date)
16. Flushed Away ($48.7 million) ($57.3 million to date)
17. Rocky Balboa ($46.1 million)
18. Deck the Halls ($45.7 million) ($16.8 million to date)
19. Stranger than Fiction ($37.8 million) ($32.7 million to date)
20. Apocalypto ($36.7 million)
($30-$39 million)
The Good German
Bobby ($6.1 million to date)
Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny ($5.1 million to date)

($20-$29 million)
Black Christmas
A Good Year ($6.5 million to date)
Babel ($15.1 million to date)
The History Boys ($142,000 to date)
Children of Men

($10-$19 million)
DOA: Dead or Alive (Taken out of the holiday season)
Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj
The Fountain ($5.4 million to date)
The Return ($7.6 million to date)
Unaccompanied Minors
Fast Food Nation ($780.000 to date)

($5-$10 million)
Let’s Go to Prison ($2.4 million to date)
Harsh Times ($3.1 million to date)
For Your Consideration ($3.1 million to date)
Pan’s Labyrinth
Factory Girl
Breaking and Entering
Notes on a Scandal

($5 million or less)
Volver ($1.3 million to date)
Copying Beethoven ($163,408 to date)
Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus ($90,368 to date)
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

(Data courtesy of Box Office Mojo)

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originally posted: 11/28/06 10:06:43
last updated: 11/28/06 14:25:21
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