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10 highest-grossing Christmas movies ever

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.

62 Comments on this Post

  1. filmboymichael

    I have a feeling that Les Miz COULD beat Sherlock’s record…..just a feeling, maybe it’s too much rum cake…

    so I’ll go with Les Miz opening day of 25.3 mil (gasp)

    ;-)

  2. Well, thinking of a movie to go see today, I’m drawn more to Les Mis than Django (which is very odd for me), so I say Les Mis will kill it with at least $20M.

  3. Django will be in very fine shape if it can reach those grosses, Sasha.

  4. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Just tracked this info down. Important to take into consideration the # of screens, right?

    Django is in 3,010 theaters
    Les Miserables will be in 2,808

    Sherlock was in 3,626 theaters and Christmas Day in 2009 was on a Friday.

  5. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Don’t blame Sasha for my rather extravagant weeklong estimates. I’m already starting to think those numbers look high.

    Reason being: It would be pretty amazing if Django’s final total tops $100M (Basterds hit $120M)

    So I’m afraid it’s dumb for me to expect Django will rake in half its final gross the first week. Shit. I have to sell my hair now?

  6. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    [maybe I’m not too far off. I see now Basterds earned $53M it’s first week, the end of August 2009]

  7. Pardon me, Ryan, I thought the article was written by Sasha, for some reason.

    Yeah, it’s not unusual for films released at Christmas to earn four or five times their opening three-day gross in the end – look at The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo last year, which so many wrote off after its fair but not exceptional opening.

    The theatre count doesn’t matter an awful lot once a film is in wide release, or at least in releases as wide as Les Mis’ and Django’s. Once they’re that wide, it’s only significant if a) there’s still a decent gap between the theatre counts (there’s not) or b) the screens sell out. Also, the screen count could be closer, or even swing it in favour of Les Mis. It’s not like people will go out to see Les Mis, not be able to find it in any cinemas nearby, and have to see Django instead.

  8. Films hit big in the summer then drop off quickly. The opposite is true around Christmas.

  9. rufussondheim

    I still think 100 Million for Les Miz between now and New Year’s Day is quite doable. This is the kind of movie you go out with your family to see over the holidays.

    For the day

    1) Les Miz – 22 Million
    2) Django – 10 Million
    3) The Hobbit – 8 million
    4) Jack Reacher – 3 million
    5) This is 40 – 2.8 million

    I think Parental Guidance will be lucky to get 2 million. It may as well be called Guilt Trip 2 because that’s how much people care about it.

  10. Parental Guidance does look awful, but it won’t end up like The Guilt Trip. Aside from being a movie for kids, the cast is actually going to put adults in seats AND there is no other major comedy playing. Today, Les Mis will make $18 million or more. Django will make $11 million, and PG should make $8 million. By Sunday, LM should make about $80 million. Django should get to $45 mil. Silver Linings Playbook should easily get to $40 mil by Sunday too.

  11. rufussondheim

    Oh, that’s right Silver Linings is expanding. Still not wide, but at I think like 700 screens. Don’t think that it’s going to get to 40 million by Sunday, though.

  12. Silver Linings Playbook at $40 million by Sunday? Sunday four weeks from now?

  13. I don’t think your numbers are for Les Mis are high at all. As someone said earlier half the world has seen the stage production and that will be what motivates a lot of them to go see the film. I wouldn’t be surprised if it even took in a bit more than what you think is possible. I’m not so sure about Django. I don’t think people calling to check on times and find out that Les Mis is sold out are going to run to see Django. They might however go and see a comedy like Parental Guidance or opt for the escapism of The Hobbit.

  14. I’m gonna guess but I can’t go to the movies today :(

    1)LES MIS – $28M
    2)THE HOBBIT – $19M
    3)DJANGO UNCHAINED – $14M
    4)PARENTAL GUIDANCE – $11M
    5)SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK – $4M

    (I saw JACK REACHER. It was okay-ish. The chick was distracting. Her eyes were peeled the whole time. IDK. Anyway people must have heard.)

  15. Danemychal

    I think Les Mis will challenge the Christmas Day record. Not sure what its staying power will be. Could be something that gets front-loaded with its obsessive fanbase showing up early rather than later.

  16. Variety posted thier Xmas day predictions of 8 for Les Mis, 7.5 for Django and 3 for Parental Guidance. Those numbers look fine to me.

  17. Les Miz – $21 mil
    Django – $10 mil

  18. Whoops. I thought there were midnight showings. I think I put too much. lol

  19. I went to a 10pm screening of Les Mis last night, and due to the sheer volume of ppl who turned up, they had to open a second theatre. . . they were both full! During the movie, ppl were crying (Anne Hathaway singing I Dreamed A Dream), applauding (Anne Hathaway again and Eddie Redmayne singing Empty Chairs at Empty Tables), laughing (Sasha & Helena Scenes), and in awe of this masterpiece of a film! My general point is it will do GREAT business today and in the weeks to come!! On a side note, Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, and Eddie Redmayne live up to the hype. . . I strongly believe Redmayne deserves a Best Supporting Actor Nomination, and might receive one from BAFTA :) Merry Christmas!!

  20. @ Antoinette –- There were 10pm showings last night at some theaters. I went to one. It was packed, by the way.

  21. I’m surprised Les Mis is only showing 2,800 theaters. I would expect this film to be over the 3k mark!

  22. I’m thinking something like this for today:

    Les Miserables – 17 Million
    Django Unchained – 13 Million
    Parental Guidance – 4 Million

    I could see Parental Guidance doing a bit better. It’s one of the only new options for families to see, at least ones with younger kids. I’ve also seen some sell-outs today and it’s the #3 ticket seller on Fandango right now above The Hobbit, which is impressive, IMO.

  23. Christophe

    Aren’t we supposed to have the numbers from yesterday’s 10pm/midnight screenings already? Gosh, Nikki F. is really irreplaceable, hopefully she’ll get well soon.

  24. It’s impossible to see Les Mis where I live. Completely sold out! I called in and the employee told me, Django Unchained is available lol.

  25. Christophe

    According to variety, as of yesterday, les mis was tracking to open at $8mil and hit $30mil+ through new year’s day. but that sounds ridiculously low “3-day weekend in the low teens”:

    http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118063946/

  26. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Lynne, I’m sure they tried to get Les Mis in as many venues as possible, but the competition for screens this week must be fierce.

  27. Christophe

    @Ryan
    long lines and sold out theaters are a great way to create buzz, limiting the number of screens is actually shrewd marketing for a “niche” movie like les mis.

  28. This is like Avengers + TDKR for Musicals lovers, lol! This movie is going to succeed even more, once award season officially starts.

  29. Hilarious to think that AVP: Requiem almost had the Christmas day record at time of release. That was such a god-awful film.

    In Australia, I dont think anyone goes to the movies on Christmas Day (or the week or so leading up to christmas, it’s suicide to release a film then in Australia).
    But Dec 26th (Boxing Day) is the big release day of the entire year. It’s tradition for families to go along to the cinema on this day, with a raft of new releases fighting for the biggest opening. All 3 LOTR films (and The Hobbit) released on the 26th down under.

  30. Antoinette

    @Lynne Betcha that wee babe knows all the lyrics. :D

  31. Nikki is back !!! :)

    Looks like spectacular 15-20M OD for Les Miserables, excellent 10-13M for Django Unchained !

    http://www.deadline.com/2012/12/first-box-office-1-%E2%80%98les-miserables%E2%80%99-2-django-opening-huge-on-christmas-day/

  32. Antoinette

    I gotta post M. Night Shyamalan’s tweet. It made me laugh. https://twitter.com/MNightShyamalan/status/283706050786512896

  33. Les Mis definitely would have done even better, if it was played in more venues. Les Mis and Django should trade places.

  34. I’m home for the holidays in SC.
    In my tiny hometown les mis sold out every screening today, had to buy my tix for the 11 showing hours early. Also saw Django early today and it was packed, the evening showings of it were also sold out

  35. While Avatar did not release on Christmas Day, it has a better boxoffice number than all but Sherlock Holmes: $23,095,046.

  36. rufussondheim

    Assuming 15 bucks a ticket (I-max!) then it works out to about 1.56 million people having their 2009 Christmas completely ruined.

  37. filmboymichael

    Looks like rumor is a huge 18mil opening day for Les Mis and 13 mil for Django.

  38. The rumors I’m hearing say “Les Mis” did $15 million in matinees today. So by the time the evening shows are in there it should end up between 20-25 million.

    All the showings here in Seattle were selling out.

  39. Nikki Finke: $18m for Les Miz; $14m for Django.

  40. So the best selling xmas preseller of all time could only beat uber violent and n bomb dropping Django by 3.5-4M? Hmmm…..

  41. SeattleMoviegoer

    actually, 2,800 theatres for LES MIZ is a lot for a musical. Warners never did know what to do with PHANTOM when it came out. it consistently had high per average screen grosses, but never went over 1,500 screens at any time. even tho the critic reception was lousy, people really liked it (the DVD sales were huge) and it could have made more than the $51 million ($150 worldwide) in box office gross. i think Macintosh’s marketing savvy is helping LES MIZ.

  42. Great news for Les Miz. It beat Django in less theatres, is getting an audience score of A compared to Django’s A- and exceeded the studio’s expectation of a $10m opening.

    Once again it goes to show how out of touch the critics are with the public. They are so way off!!!! Yep, seems they can appreciate men running around in tights being superhero’s but can’t quite grasp a sung through musical – go figure!

  43. Christophe

    @pj
    that’s what nikki says in the articles: pre sales and midnight screenings are not yet included in those numbers, so les mis could soar toward $25mil+ for X-Mas day and beat Sherlock’s record on a tuesday whereas sherlock had the advantage of being released on a friday.

    @seattlemg
    titanic started its run on 2674 screens and expanded to 3000+ a few wks later, we all know how that went down…

  44. Christophe

    @pj
    or maybe i’ve just misread the article on 2nd thought… but it’s still a pretty good number.

  45. Danemychal

    This is soooo not going to be another Titanic, if that’s what you are insinuating there.

  46. Christophe

    @danemychal
    I guess you can predict the future, that must be pretty cool…

    I bet that guy thought he could predict the future too when he stated that Les Mis would open at $8mil based on official studio tracking:

    http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118063946/

  47. Bob Burns

    packed theater in Birmingham…. applause, very unusual here.

    I’m a fan of the show, saw it with Wilkinson as Valjean…. but the musical is much better on film…. primarily because of the close-ups, but also because the narrative has been straightened out.

    The move from stage to film benefits the character of Marius most and that helps lift the whole musical to another level.

    This will get a lot of repeat viewings.

  48. Harmonica

    Amazing grosses for both Les Mis and Django. Les Mis will probably have much better legs than Django, and with those early first day numbers, I wouldn’t count out a U$200M final gross for the film. This will make it one of the biggest success stories of the season…much like The King’s Speech was. Déja vu?

    Django opening to similar numbers as IB on a Xmas tuesday is also very good, and if it doesn’t drop hard over the next coming weeks (no one knows if the controversy will help or limit its potential), it should at least match IB’s U$120M. Isn’t it nice to finally live in a world where Tarantino is a consistent draw? I think he, along with Nolan, is the only director whose name is a brand upon itself.

  49. Ive been following Box Office for almost two decades and I can say one thing – Les Mis will not have a Titanic type run. It will most likely fall off from such a fantastic OD – thanks mainly to its large existing fanbase.

    Still great numbers for Django and Les Mis. Also for Parental Guidance which took advantage of the dearth of family fair in the marketplace.

    Its still way too early to say where these films will end up. I suspect Les Mis may be able to have a run at Chicago’s $180m odd made in 2002/2003 though it will probably fall short.

    Django is looking very strong to be QT’s highest grosser.

  50. Terometer

    Finally, we can stop hearing those Lincoln’s pitiful boxoffice frontrunner stories. The two movies are the true boxoffice hits that people are waiting for.

  51. Yes LES MISERABLES will not be another TITANIC at the box office, but frankly how many films are?

    The bottom line is that it will amass fabulous numbers, repeat business and an enviable run that (dare I say) will probably help it during it’s awards run.

    A big box office success story in the making. Saw it a second time last night and again a sell-out with rapturous applause at the end.

  52. Christophe, you’re getting carried away.

    Gez >

    “I suspect Les Mis may be able to have a run at Chicago’s $180m odd.”

    IF it did, that would be an ENORMOUS success, with a reported production budget of $61M. Chicago set the bar on what is considered a financial victory for musicals in the modern age.

  53. rufussondheim

    Yes, Terometer, I never though Lincoln’s Bof Office was that amazing, but I bet Lincoln could get to 200 Million if it goes on to win all of the awards.

    But then it’s been so buzzed about in the media, it might have gotten all of those potential viewers already.

    If the Academy chooses to include Django, that would be 4 movies that hit 100 million at the box office, but I wouldn’t rule out Silver Linings or Life of Pi just yet as Pi is getting close and might be able to get that last 15 million or so it will need by touting it’s BP nominations. And Silver Linings has the potential (but it’s unlikely, in my opinion)

    And if The Impossible ever got a good marketing strategy, it might get there too, but the people handling their Oscar campaign are terribly inept keeping the film out of a major festival which could have helped them was not the brightest idea.

    And with Zero Dark thirty out there too, well there might be a Box Office slate with 5 or 6 films making 100 million. Wouldn’t that be a pleasure?

  54. rufussondheim

    I’ve always predicted Les Miz to do at least 200 million. Only Tero Heikkenen seemed to agree with me. It will be fun to see if it can get there.

  55. Yep Rufus, the marketing for THE IMPOSSIBLE appears rather inept at this point. Shame.

  56. “It will be fun to see if it can get there.”

    Definitely.

  57. danemychal

    Rufus, $200 mil OR it could challenge Titanic’s box office…according to Christophe.

  58. I live in Los Angeles and I wanted to try to get tickets in advance online for Django Unchained in case there was a problem. An hour before the first showing yesterday, the AMC at the Century City mall was almost sold out – just the front row was available and my partner doesn’t like that seating. Luckily the Nuart, which is not part of a mall and is just one theater (not a multiplex), had plenty of seating for its first showing, and the theater was maybe a third full.

    And we loved it! I had read the script beforehand and was pleasantly surprised that the ending is different from the “Last Draft April 26th 2011″ version of the script I read. I could see where cuts had to be made though. Just a brief “nod” to the Cleopatra Club meant no Scotty character for instance. That would have been neat. Oh well, that’s enough pining for the outdated, irrelevant script!

    To be honest, I usually don’t care for Leonardo in films (except Gilbert Grape and Shutter Island) but now I finally truly love his work in a film. Cristoph Waltz was fantastic of course in his meaty role. I wondered how the “spaghetti western” style would work in a movie about a slave but it was pulled off rather well, everything felt true to the time at least.

  59. I’ve always predicted Les Miz to do at least 200 million. Only Tero Heikkenen seemed to agree with me.

    LOL

    Yeah well anyway DJANGO UNCHAINED did amazing for an ultra-violent R in the current climate. Good for QT. Great film.

    I think the LES MIS people were dumb for not going for the record with more screens. All the sell-outs we’re hearing about meant some other film(s) benefitted from its spillover. It will get those viewers back but it’s nice to be a record breaker.

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