As the film industry’s focus turns to awards season, Jennifer Aniston’s Office Christmas Party will face off against prestige titles as this week’s most prominent new wide release. Joining the seasonal comedy in theaters across the country is Jessica Chastain’s Miss Sloane, while strong Thanksgiving holdovers like Moana, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Arrival, and Allied make the weekend rounds yet again.
Here’s how the Dec. 9-11 weekend box office showdown could play out:1. Office Christmas Party – $18.5 million
Looking to capitalize on holiday-themed hilarity in the weeks leading up to Christmas, Office Christmas Party hits 3,210 theaters as the biggest comedy on the market until the Bryan Cranston/James Franco laugher Why Him? drops on Dec. 23. Paramount’s marketing campaign has been aggressive — especially online — and the film boasts an impressive ensemble cast of contemporary comedy staples like Kate McKinnon, Jason Bateman, Vanessa Bayer, and T.J. Miller, which should be enough to boost the film to a solid opening number (with long legs to follow through the traditionally lucrative holiday stretch).
Unless audiences are dissuaded by the film’s middling critical reviews (or simply worn out from Christmas fare, as both Bad Santa 2 and Almost Christmas failed to crack $50 million earlier this year), look for Office Christmas Party to gross anywhere between $15-20 million this weekend.2. Moana – $18 million
It’ll be a fierce battle for the weekend crown, and Disney’s Moana could slip to the runner-up slot over its third weekend if Office Christmas Party opens well. Using Disney’s Frozen — which also opened during Thanksgiving week in 2013 — as a barometer, Moana is poised to shed 25 to 35 percent this weekend, which would put it in direct competition with Office Christmas Party‘s potential gross.
The animated flick, which features the voices of Auli’i Cravalho and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, has made $124.8 million in North America thus far and a further $59.8 million overseas for a worldwide haul of $184.5 million, pushing Disney’s record-breaking year at the box office even higher ahead of the studio’s release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in the coming days.
As the biggest family animated picture in release, Moana should pull in $18-21 million this weekend.3. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – $10 million
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter spin-off (based on her first screenplay) cast a spell on audiences at the domestic box office, tallying $187 million thus far, and will add around $10 million to its total this weekend as it drops one rung to No. 3 on the North American chart. Worldwide, the $180 million production has earned $611.8 million through Wednesday, making it the lowest-grossing entry in the cinematic Potterverse, though it is the third highest-grossing Warner Bros. release of the year, falling behind Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ($330 million) and Suicide Squad ($325 million).4. Arrival – $5 million
Denis Villeneuve’s critically lauded sci-fi drama continues to make bank and reap pre-Oscar accolades, landing a spot on the AFI top 10 list one day before heading into its fifth weekend in wide release. The Amy Adams-starring film over-performed to the tune of $24 million during its premiere three-day frame, and has fallen slightly every week since. It should continue the trend this weekend, likely grossing an additional $4-6 million by Sunday.5. Allied – $4.2 million
Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard’s first onscreen pairing faltered over the Thanksgiving holiday, pulling in $17.7 million across the five-day frame, slightly below expectations. The film has earned a little more than $31 million during its domestic run, and a further $26 million overseas. That’s still a far cry from recouping its ambitious $85 million production budget, but due to a lack of competition in the field of adult-leaning historical dramas, the film should see another relatively slight dip in grosses from week 2 to week 3, finishing the weekend somewhere in the $4-5.5 million range.
Outside the top 5, Miss Sloane widens to 1,598 locations, which should see its solid per-theater averages in limited release ($19,932 for week one, $11,213 for week two) cut exponentially. The John Madden-directed political drama has received positive reviews for Chastain’s leading performance, and EuropaCorp is looking at a muted opening in the $2-4 million ballpark.