Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend Predictions (11/23 - 27): The Muppets, Arthur Christmas, Hugo

1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I - $40m 3-day / $62m 5-day (-71.0%)

Breaking Dawn Part I has followed closely with New Moon in term of daily percentage changes: Sat-to-Sun - -33.9% vs. -34.2%; Sun-to-Mon - -62.7% vs. -62.3%.  New Moon did face less new competition on its Thanksgiving week with Old Dogs and Ninja Assassin grossing $45.4m combined over 5 days, but it had to deal with much stronger holdovers, especially in The Blind Side, so overall expect Breaking Dawn to continue follow a similar trajectory.  In the end, it is likely to not only miss the $300m mark, but also gross less than New Moon's total of $296.6m.

2. The Muppets - $35m 3-day / $50m 5-day ($10,174 PTA)

There are many positives pointing to an excellent start by The Muppets:

a. Over 6,000 tweets on Monday alone and around 17,000 user ratings already at Flixster. For a family film, both are very strong. For example, Happy Feet 2 last week translated 9,300 Flixster ratings on Thursday into a $21.2m weekend.

b. It accounted for 31% of the ticket sales at Fandango on Tuesday.

c. MTC tracking put it at $31.5m while RS gave it high-$20s for the 3-day portion. Although the difference is not large enough to strongly indicate an opening higher than MTC's figure, a number below RS' is also unlikely.

d. The reviews are simply terrific. In fact, as of now, it remains perfectly fresh at RottenTomatoes with 59 reviews, and the average stands at 8.1.

As we could see from the all-time best Thanksgiving opening chart, Disney has a good track record for the frame. I do not expect another Tangled (and certainly not Toy Story 2), but a $35m 3-day and $50m 5-day similar to what Enchanted achieved looks very reasonable.

3. Happy Feet Two - $18.5m 3-day / $25m 5-day (-12.9%)

The original Happy Feet declined only 10.8% on its Thanksgiving weekend.  However, it enjoyed better word-of-mouth as well as faced much weaker competition, with only Deck the Halls targeting its demo, so expect the sequel to drop a little harder.

4. Arthur Christmas - $11m 3-day / $15m 5-day ($3,258 PTA)

Not much to say about the film other than I don't really like the signs for it: MTC tracking came in significantly lower than RS' (10.5 vs. mid-teen), low number of Flixster ratings (around 5,000), and weak advance sales.

-. Hugo - $5m 3-day / $7m 5-day ($3,915 PTA)

Financier Graham King's insistence on releasing Hugo this week may end up ranked as one of the very worst release date decisions of the year, if not many years.  The marketing effort has not been there to support generating the necessary buzz for the well-reviewed but harder-to-sell film from Martin Scorsese.  As a result, Hugo may perish before the excellent reviews could kick in to help its legs.  Paramount did realize the difficult task it is facing and limited the amount of theaters this week to 1,277 to leave space for expansion, but if the initial per-theater-average is mediocre, there might not be an expansion at all.

This will also be a week for the limited releases to shine.  Last week's darling The Descendants will continue to shine, and joining it includes The Artist, A Dangerous Method, and My Week with Marilyn, all fresh at RottenTomatoes.  I am most interested in The Artist's performance since on paper, it is the hardest one to sell being both black-and-white and silent, but it is also the one with the most Oscar buzz, with many predicting a Best Picture nomination coming in February.

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