Image Credit: DisneyLast weekend was supposed to be the weekend that helped rescue this year’s slumping holiday season, but The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Tourist arrived with less fizzle than a glass of Pellegrino. This weekend will try to set things right. While it’s unlikely that the frame will be able to match the same weekend from a year ago, when Avatar debuted to $77 million, it should at least be an improvement over last week. Disney’s TRON: Legacy will easily lead the pack, which also includes the introspective family film Yogi Bear, the romantic comedy How Do You Know, and the expansion of indie sensations The Fighter and Black Swan. And although the weekend before Christmas can be tough on the box office due to an explosion of last-minute holiday preparations (I still need to track down one of those blasted Sing-a-ma-jigs), there’s truly something here for everyone. My predictions, stat:
1. TRON: Legacy: $45 million
The $170 million sequel to the 1982 cult film opens this weekend at 3,451 locations, with 70 percent of those theaters screening the film in 3-D. The drums for this computer-set epic have been banging since 2008’s Comic-Con, and Disney has done a splendid job of emphasizing the film’s hypnotic visuals and groovy soundtrack while not reminding moviegoers that the original TRON was something of a disappointment. Early reviews have been mediocre, but this is one of those “I-want-to-see-it-for-myself” spectacles that should be immune to any form of naysaying, at least initially. And all those 3-D screens (plus 234 IMAX theaters) will help boost its totals. Don’t expect Avatar numbers, but an opening of about $45 million seems well within reach.
2. Yogi Bear: $21 million
I keep telling myself that this movie can’t possibly exist. But here it is, and no matter how discouraging the reviews are, if your kid is into the idea of watching a tie-wearing animated bear eat worms, you’re totally seeing Yogi Bear. Don’t even fight it — just give in. The 3-D component will give the PG movie a modest bump (nearly 60 percent of theaters are projecting Mr. Bear with an added dimension), and parents with young children may perceive TRON: Legacy to be a little too intense. But regardless of how Yogi Bear opens this weekend, count on it to perform particularly well the week after Christmas.
3. The Fighter: $13 million
David O. Russell’s boxing drama, starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, rapidly expands from four sites to 2,503 theaters this weekend. The Oscar-hopeful is riding a wave of positive reviews and Best Picture nominations from the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice Awards, and Screen Actors Guild (for the film’s ensemble cast). Additionally, I’ve been told that it’s playing surprisingly well with women. Expect The Fighter to perform similarly to Million Dollar Baby, which expanded to 2,010 theaters in January 2005 for a weekend tally of $12.3 million.
4. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: $12 million
After its disappointing $24 million debut last weekend, there’s only one direction Dawn Treader can go from here. The first two Narnia movies, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian, dropped 51 percent and 59 percent, respectively, their second weekends. Dawn Trader should hold up a smidgen better — figure a 50 percent drop for $12 million.
5. How Do You Know: $10 million
James L. Brooks’ $100 million romantic comedy, starring Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, and Jack Nicholson, looks like it may struggle this weekend. Reviews have been mixed, and Brooks’ last film, 2004’s Spanglish, opened to only $8.8 million. Still, this is one of the few moviegoing options particularly geared toward women, and the star-studded cast has been doing its part to plug the flick. (I cherished Jon Stewart’s interview with Rudd, which was almost entirely devoted to discussing the actor’s 5’10” height.) However, if How Do You Know really fails to find an audience, fifth place could easily be snatched by Tangled, The Tourist, or Black Swan, the last of which expands to 959 theaters this weekend.