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Box Office: "WRECK" THE HALLS
Source: Jeff Bock
Date: Nov 1, 2012
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Check your local Target aisles...yup...welcome to Candy Cane Lane. The day after Halloween is now officially the kickoff of Christmas craziness: the stockings have already been hung, shiny new fruitcakes glisten and glow, and hark, everywhere you turn...visions of peppermint bark!  Oh, and even though you won't have a tree for over a month, as always, there's enough tinsel to build an ark.  Tinseltown is in full yuletide swing, too, as this weekend represents the official start of the lucrative holiday season. Ho-Ho-Ho and away we go.

Disney's "Wreck-It Ralph" will light up the leader-board with the high score this weekend, but the real question is--just how high will the big guy climb? Animated movies geared towards families have traditionally been unstoppable the first weekend of November, and they tend to play solidly through the end of the year.  The Mouse House hasn't shied away from the fact that this is a video game movie. Let's face it, they can't.  

Even with the massive popularity of video games today, the crossover from bits to flicks hasn't gone smoothly in Hollywood, as we still haven't seen that huge box office behemoth that bridges the gap. In fact, the only real hits have come from this concept: Hot Chick Kicks Ass. Yes, the spandex sisters--Angelina Jolie in "Tomb Raider" and Milla Jovovich in the "Resident Evil" franchise--have been the lone successes, while "Super Mario Bros," "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within," "Doom," "Prince of Persia" have all underperformed or outright flopped.

So, is "Wreck-It Ralph" the chosen one that finally connects with the multiplex masses? Disney obviously like a challenge; remember, common wisdom in Hollywood said a pirate movie would never deliver a box office bounty but Disney keelhauled that myth with that little multi-billion dollar "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise.

There isn't much difference between a Disney animated movie and a Pixar one these days, as "Tangled" really was the first that to blur the lines between the two, and ended up with a Pixar-size gross of $590 million worldwide. But still, there is that golden seal of approval that endlessly charms families of all ages, and snares moviegoers from 6 to 60. That won't necessarily be the case for "Wreck-It Ralph" which does have strong reviews and looks alluring, in a poignantly hipster sort of way, but it is certainly geared very heavily to young boys and their dads more than, say, fans of Rapunzel.

Princess movies are Disney's bread-n-butter, and Nintendo's Princess Peach and Princess Zelda are unfortunately nowhere to be found here. Still, ever since Pixar has overseen Disney Animation, toons have given males and females equal screen time, like with “Tangled.” In 3,600+ arcades, expect audiences to plug in about $40 million worth of quarters into Disney’s slots, and “Wreck-It Ralph” will easily go on to join the $100 million club when all the holiday scores are tabulated.

Paramount's "Flight" drops into a sparse 1,800+ theaters this weekend, but the Denzel Washington drama should nail the landing with a spectacular per theater average and around $17 million. A decade ago, director Robert Zemeckis also turned an unlikely film concept into a hit, when his last live-action film, “Cast Away,” washed up $233 million over the 2000 holiday season.

Since that time, Zemeckis has been tinkering with motion-capture animation, his biggest hits coming with “The Polar Express” and “Disney’s A Christmas Carol,” while “Beowulf” floundered and “Mars Needs Moms” crashed and burned down his house of pixels. Hopefully with the ultimate success of “Flight,” Zemeckis will also return to more live-action films, or even mesh the two with a “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” sequel.  

RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan does his best impression of Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" with his martial arts mash-up, "The Man With the Iron Fists." Or maybe it's his best impression of Stephen Chow's "Kung Fu Hustle." Wait…Russell Crowe stars? This may be just a bit too weird for general audiences—check that—a lot too weird. 

In just 1,800+ theaters, Universal's alternative programming will likely make fanboys swoon and tweet undying allegiance to the clan of Wu-Tang, but families will stay away from the bloody R-rated adventure in droves. Box office boot to the head: $8 million.  

Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath may bombard the box office to some extent, but with the NY marathon looking like it will still happen, the old adage—the show must go on—seems very timely here. I think we may see a minimal 5% drop in attendance for the debuts of  “Wreck-It Ralph” and “Flight,” but nothing that will ultimately affect the bottom line.

 WEEKEND ESTIMATES

1.       Wreck-It Ralph - $40M

2.       Flight - $17M

3.       Argo - $8.5M

4.       The Man with the Iron Fists - $8M

5.       Cloud Atlas - $6M

 

 


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