Weekend Box Office – SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS Leads with $40 Million; ALVIN 3 Gets CHIPWRECKED; MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 4 Starts Strong

     December 18, 2011


Looks like holiday cheer was not enough to pull the box office out of its recent slump.  Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows came out on top with $40 million from 3,703 locations while Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked claimed second with $23.5 million from 3,723.  Needless to say, neither sequel was able to meet the expectations their predecessors set on Christmas weekend back in 2009.  Meanwhile, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, took in $13 million from just 425 locations – making Tom Cruise the big winner of this weekend’s box office derby.  It’s like a little Christmas miracle.

Title Weekend Total
1 Sherlock Holmes 2 $40,020,000 $40
2 Alvin & the Chipmunks 3 $23,500,000 $23.5
3 Mission: Impossible 4 $13,000,000 $13
4 New Year’s Eve $7,420,000 $24.8
5 The Sitter $4,400,000 $17.7
6 Breaking Dawn Part 1 $4,300,000 $266.4
7 Young Adult $3,650,000 $4
8 Hugo $3,625,000 $39
9 Arthur Christmas $3,600,000 $38.5
10 The Muppets $3,454,000 $70.9

sherlock-holmes-2-movie-poster-robert-downey-jr-02This year has seen its share of huge sequels: seven of 2011’s top ten films were franchise-based.  Of course, slapping “Part 2” on a poster does not always guarantee a blockbuster (this summer’s The Hangover Part II not withstanding) but chances are, if an original  film is a hit, the sequel has a good chance of pulling in comparable grosses.

Unfortunately, that formula did not prove out with this Friday’s release of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.  The Original Sherlock Holmes was a surprise hit in 2009, debuting on Christmas Day (a Friday) and earning $62.3 million by the end of its first weekend. To give you some idea of how impressive that number was at the time, $62 million was only good enough for second place; top honors that week went to Avatar.  Two years later, Warner Brothers opened its sequel a week earlier.  With Christmas falling on next Sunday, the new release date presumably allowed the film space to build its audience before hopeful-Holiday blockbusters like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo entered the fray.

The holiday season is far from over, but it looks like Sherlock Holmes 2 will not have that huge head start the studio hoped for.  Still, it’s too early to write the film off.  Granted, A Game of Shadows did not land with Spider-Man 2-type authority; but, considering that New Year’s Eve garnered first place last weekend with just $13 million, it’s hard for me to paint Sherlock Holmes 2 as a total dud.

I have no such reservations concerning Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrescked.  On the same weekend in 2009 that Sherlock Holmes opened, the last Alvin and the Chipmunks sequel pulled in $48.8 million for third place.  Needless to say, December 2009 was a good month for the movie business.  Alvin’s “Squeakquel” went on to gross almost $220 million in the US alone.  All that from a CGI-animated film that cost a reported $75 million.  Chipwrecked was not just a given – its creation was ordained by God. Unfortunately, with this weekend’s debut representing less than half of the Squeakquel’s start, it looks like God (and the rest of America), will not be fighting for Alvin sequels much longer.

mission-impossible-ghost-protocol-imax-posterBut where some sequels fall, others rise.  This weekend, the title of most successful sequel goes to Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.  Though in just 425 locations, its per-screen average of $30,000 is one of the most impressive I have seen for a mainstream Hollywood release this year.  The secret to that number lies in the fact that most of those 425 venues were IMAX locations; which are a bit pricier than your average theatre for those that don’t know.  There’s also talk that Ghost Protocol benefitted from the six-minute preview of Warner Brothers’ The Dark Knight Rises that IMAX ran in about 40 of its locations.  I usually don’t mind belittling Tom Cruise but, to say that the IMAX success of Ghost Protocol is based on something other than the film itself (which currently has a 95% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes) feels mean.  M:I 4 will go wide next week.  Perhaps by then we can add it to the list of disappointing holiday sequels but, for now, let’s give Mr. Cruise a moment to celebrate.

Another favorite Hollywood punching bag – screenwriter Diablo Cody – can join Tom Cruise in this weekend’s winners circle.  Her film Young Adult broke the top ten with an estimated $3.6 million from just under 1,000 locations.  Considering the Jason Reitman film cost just $12 million, I’d say that’s a pretty good start.  Meanwhile, any hope that New Year’s Eve would rebound after its abysmal debut are fading fast.  The film dropped 43% this weekend and has yet to break the $30 million that many believed it would earn in its first three days.

Christmas comes but once a year, and next weekend Hollywood is hoping for a box office gift that would be big enough to offset the lump of coal it’s been getting for the past few weeks.  Along with the wide-release of Mission: Impossible 4 and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Steven Spielberg will debut his long-awaited Adventures of Tintin on Wednesday.  Of the two new films, neither is a sequel so I’m thinking they should be safe…


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