By Grady Smith
Updated December 09, 2011 at 02:55 PM EST
Credit: Andrew Schwartz

You may not have a sprig of mistletoe nailed above your door just yet, but New Year’s Eve is entering theaters this weekend in advance of the annual holiday, and it’s set to take over the box office as well. Jonah Hill’s latest comedy, The Sitter, is also getting a wide release, while buzzy Oscar hopefuls Young Adult and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy are getting limited releases in 8 and 4 theaters, respectively. Here’s how I think the Top 5 movies will perform at the box office this weekend.

1. New Year’s Eve — $25 million

We live in a post-Love Actually world, and so long as movies like Valentine’s Day are earning $110.4 million, giant ensemble rom-coms (and “All I Want For Christmas Is You”) are here to stay for a while. The latest of these star-studded flicks is New Year’s Eve, made for $56 million by New Line, with Warner Brothers distributing. Since the New Year’s Eve holiday is still a few weeks away, I’m not expecting the romantic comedy to open at Valentine’s Day levels (that movie debuted with $56.3 million, but it opened on Valentine’s Day weekend).

That being said, New Year’s Eve is the clear front-runner for the weekend and also the first wide release since Breaking Dawn to target female audiences — most recent titles are all about bringing in families — so that should give it a boost. Bad reviews shouldn’t hurt New Year’s Eve too much — and with 3,505 theaters showing the film, it could pull in about $25 million and play well through the rest of the season.

2. The Sitter — $12 million

Jonah Hill will have his star power tested in a major way this weekend with The Sitter. While the actor usually appears within ensembles or as a comedic sidekick, Hill is the sole lead in The Sitter — and that could be a problem for the comedy, which hasn’t built much must-see buzz. The R-rated comedy arrives after the wave of R-rated comedies that swept cinemas this past summer. While the first few of these (Bridesmaids, The Hangover Part II, Horrible Bosses) earned huge business, box-office receipts waned for later entries (Friends With Benefits, 30 Minutes or Less), and The Sitter looks like it will fall into the latter category. Fox’s $25 million babysitting comedy may earn $12 million over its first three days.

After three weekends atop the chart, the honeymoon may finally be over for Edward and Bella. Breaking Dawn will likely decline by about 50 percent to $8.2 million, which would lift the vampire drama’s cume to $260 million after four weekends.

4. The Muppets – $7 million

After a slightly alarming 60 percent decline last weekend (partially due to the fact that the felt friends’ first weekend was super-inflated by the Thanksgiving holiday), The Muppets should fall by a much kinder 40 percent into the $7 million range.

5. Hugo – $6.4 million

Martin Scorsese’s 3-D adventure gets another expansion this weekend — from 1,863 theaters to approximately 2,600 — and a small 15 percent drop to $6.4 million should result.

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