Since Christmas falls on Tuesday this year, the usual sources of box-office savvy have been more cautious with forthcoming weekend predictions and it’s not easy to find estimates for the weeklong haul. Nikki Finke is down sick (get well soon!) so we don’t have the benefit of the inside track she taps for ticket-sales estimates. Although a holiday release holds hugely important financial potential, historically actual Christmas Day earnings don’t come close to Friday openings for summer blockbusters — which can top $70 million in a single day. On Dec 15th The Hobbit broke the record for a December Friday with $37M. Business Week has put together a list of the Top 10 Christmas Day opening and the numbers surprised me as much as some of the titles.

1. Sherlock Holmes (2009): $24.6 million
2. Marley and Me (2008): $14.4 million
3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008): $11.9 million
4. Bedtime Stories (2008): $10.6 million (*groan*)
5. Ali (2001): $10.2 million
6. Catch Me If You Can (2002): $9.9 million
7. Aliens Vs. Predator — Requiem (2007): $9.5 million
8. Dreamgirls (2006): $8.7 million
9. Valkyrie (2008): $8.5 million
10. Patch Adams (1998): $8.1 million

The Dreamgirls figure is especially pertinent to this year’s expectations. I’ve heard teeth-gnashing reports that theaters in Manhattan screening Les Mis were already sold out hours ago for today’s showtimes. You’d have to kill someone to get a seat to Les Mis. (Email me for a hit list). It’s no backhanded compliment to say Les Mis could beat Marley and Me and clock in today with a Christmas opening north of $15M.

What are your predictions for the Top 5 earners this Christmas? My guesses after the cut.

Christmas Day
$13M – Les Mis ($45M thru the weekend)
$11M – Django Unchained ($45M thru the weekend)
$9M – The Hobbit ($40M ttw)
$7M – Jack Reacher ($20M ttw)
$6M – Parental Guidance ($15M ttw)

Pease stand well away from those numbers. They were pulled out of my butt.