‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ and ‘The Greatest Showman’ join ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ in the holiday parade on Wednesday, followed by ‘Pitch Perfect 3,’ ‘Downsizing’ and ‘Father Figures’ on Friday.
A spirited year-end battle at the box office commences Wednesday when Sony’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Fox’s The Greatest Showman, starring Hugh Jackman as P. T. Barnum, open nationwide opposite ruling champ, Disney and Lucasfilms’ Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
The crowded Christmas parade grows on Friday with the addition of Universal’s Pitch Perfect 3, Paramount’s Downsizing and Alcon Entertainment’s Father Figures. If all goes well, the lineup of films could significantly narrow the revenue gap at the 2017 North American box office, the scene of a nausea-inducing roller coaster ride for Hollywood studios and theater owners.
The Last Jedi is already proving a force to be reckoned after opening to a rousing $220 million, the second-best domestic launch of all time behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($247.9 million). Heading into the Dec. 15-17 weekend, revenue trailed last year by 4 percent. Thanks to the Last Jedi, the revenue gap is now 2.9 percent.
If the holiday titles perform well on a collective basis, domestic revenue has a shot at coming in at $11.34 billion, less than a percentage point behind last year’s record $11.4 billion. At worst, box-office observers believe the year would end up 2 percent behind 2016, helping to soothe the sting of the worst summer decline in modern times, when revenue tumbled 16 year-over-year. And all agree 2017 revenue will clear $11 billion for only the third time.
Any downturn is always worrisome, but there’s a palpable sense of relief among those monitoring the box office. “For all of the hysteria this summer where people felt the sky was falling the full year results are turning out better than most anticipated,” says Wall Street analyst Eric Handler of MKM Partners.
Internationally, revenue has been running ahead of last year by about 5 percent, but the North American box office is still prime turf for Hollywood studios, since they get more money back from domestic ticket sales. And a film’s performance in North America is still key to its overall global success in many instances.
The Christmas corridor is one of the most lucrative moviegoing stretches of the year, particularly between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is expected to win the race overall, with the Jumanji reboot/sequel tracking to take second place.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle — Hollywood’s latest attempt to revive a long-dormant property — is expected to post a six-day opening (Wednesday-Monday) of between $45 million-$60 million, with many betting on the higher end. (The Last Jedi should post well north of $100 million during the same window).
Directed by Jake Kasdan, Jumanji 2 stars Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas and Bobby Cannavale. The story follows a group of teens who are transported into the video game world of Jumanji, becoming characters of the game. The film currently sports an 83 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The Greatest Showman, earning several top Golden Globe nominations, including best picture in the musical/comedy category, is tipped to gross $20 million-$22 million in its first six days. The music-infused biographical drama about how Barnum started the Barnum & Bailey Circus is directed by Michael Gracey and also stars Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson and Zendaya. (As fate would have it, the movie opens seven months after the circus ceased operation.)
Like The Last Jedi, Jumanji 2 and The Greatest Showman are all-audience offerings targeting nearly every demo, including families.
Pitch Perfect 3, meanwhile, hopes to be a top choice for younger females, and is tracking to post a strong four-day debut in the $28 million-$32 million range.
Regular franchise stars Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Hana Mae Lee, Ester Dean, Alexis Knapp, Chrissie Fit, Kelley Jakle, Shelley Regner, Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins all return in the threequel, directed by Trish Sie. Newcomers include John Lithgow and Ruby Rose. Gold Circle Entertainment once again partnered with Universal on the film, which takes up after the Bellas have graduated from college.
The holiday season’s R-rated comedy offering is Father Figures, from Alcon Entertainment and distributed by Warner Bros. The film, following two brothers who set out to find their biological father, stars Owen Wilson, Ed Helms, J.K. Simmons, Katt Williams, Terry Bradshaw and Ving Rhames. Lawrence Sher directed.
Father Figures is tracking for a four-day opening of $7 million-$14 million.
A more serious-minded offering among the Friday titles opening is filmmaker Alexander Payne’s Downsizing, starring Matt Damon, Hong Chau and Kristen Wiig. Tracking shows the movie debuting to $10 million-$12 million. From a script by Payne and Jim Taylor, the story stars Damon as a Midwestern man who decides to be shrunk to five inches tall in order to live like a king.
Also on Friday, Fox opens awards hopeful The Post in nine theaters in select markets. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the Pentagon Papers drama stars Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks.
Scott Cooper’s Hostiles, starring Christian Bale, likewise debuts in select markets. Entertainment Studios is handling the gritty Western.
A flurry of other awards already in the marketplace will likewise look for attention, including Focus Features’ The Darkest Hour, which expands into more than 700 theaters on Friday. The period drama and Golden Globe nominee stars Gary Oldham as Winston Churchill.
On Monday, Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World opens nationwide. The movie had been set to launch on Dec. 22, but its debut was delayed after Scott replaced disgraced actor Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer, a decision that required reshoots. Sony is releasing the film domestically.