The movies’ annual rite of gluttony, Thanksgiving weekend, is here, and three new wide releases — Four Christmases, Australia, and Transporter 3 — are stuffing multiplexes starting today. But can they wrest that bloody box office crown away from returning champ Twilight? We’ll see. Here are my picks for the films that will end the five-day frame triumphant…and who’ll be the turkeys. (And remember: The following predictions are for the full Wednesday-through-Sunday span.) Gobble, gobble!
1. Twilight — $43 million
Oh, please, like there was any doubt that it would be No. 1. Certainly, if this weren’t a holiday weekend, I’d argue that Twilight has some cause for concern. Why? Well, following its huge first-day gross of $36 mil, the adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s vampire-romance saga actually underperformed a tad over the rest of the weekend, banking a good but very mortal $12.4 mil on Sunday (ergo, its final premiere sum was $69.6 mil, down from the initial $70.6 mil estimate). So it’s fair to conclude that most folks weren’t necessarily going back to see the movie multiple times, and that, in turn, portends a more ordinary box office run from here on out. But, again, as I just wrote, it’s a holiday weekend, kids will be out of school, people will be bored and tired of eating leftovers, and I’d bet that by Sunday the movie will get some repeat viewers after all, if not several new ones. In many ways, Twilight‘s young-woman demographics match those of Enchanted, which played incredibly well through Thanksgiving last year.
2. Four Christmases — $29 million
Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon (pictured) star in 2008’s obligatory holiday domestic comedy, featuring five Academy Award winners (Witherspoon, Sissy Spacek, Jon Voight, Mary Steenburgen, and Robert Duvall) — not to mention the great Dwight Yoakam. Vaughn’s box office prowess is a little up in the air following Fred Claus‘ mixed bag of a run a year ago (the film opened with a disappointing $18.5 mil, but then held on very well, ultimately banking $72 mil domestically). And Witherspoon, whose last big release, Rendition, tanked, is one of those actors whom I’ve always doubted as truly a major draw (for more on that, see “Kidman, Nicole,” a few paragraphs hence). But you know what? None of this matters! It’s simple: The word “Christmas” is in this movie’s title and few other things in filmdom are stronger catnip for cinemagoers.
3. Transporter 3 — $27 million
As my colleague who sits in the next office (and who shall remain nameless because a photograph of a shirtless Jason Statham covers the name plate on her door) can tell you, nothing says “Yummy!” on Thanksgiving like the English action star. I’ll take her word for it. No doubt, a lot of ticket buyers will, too.
4. Bolt — $26 million
That it opened just out of second place, with $26.2 mil, may not matter much for the Disney cartoon — not if it sports the long legs that animated family films at this time of year (e.g. Happy Feet, The Polar Express) tend to boast.
5. Quantum of Solace — $23 million
Daniel Craig’s second outing as James Bond dropped a steep but expected 60 percent last weekend against stiff competition and under the weight of middling reviews and weak word of mouth. Thanksgiving should help give it a small boost, but Quantum of Solace (gross to date: $111 mil) could have a hard time matching Casino Royale‘s $167.4 mil domestic take, the most ever for a 007 flick.
ALSO OPENING WIDE:
Australia — $22 million
As I hinted earlier, Nicole Kidman isn’t likely to help this epic romance from director Baz Luhrmann pull in viewers. She’s a big celebrity and a good actor, of course, but Kidman has failed time and again to prove that she’s very bankable. Truly, several of her recent endeavors have been high-profile flubs (The Stepford Wives, Bewitched, The Invasion, even the indies Fur and Birth), and her biggest success as a lead actress is probably 2001’s The Others, which cashed out at $96.5 mil nearly a decade ago. Meanwhile, her costar, Sexiest Man Alive Hugh Jackman, one of my favorite movie performers, may have been featured in the hit X-Men series, but he, too, hasn’t had much success on his own (The Fountain? Deception? Um, no). And it’s hard to imagine that Luhrmann’s name is enough to draw a crowd; this is just his fourth feature film, and first since 2001’s Oscar nominated-yet-polarizing Moulin Rouge. On a weekend with at least two other female-baiting flicks (and Jason Statham’s abs), Australia could struggle to be a major contender.