Between strong holdovers and big-budget studio newcomers, who will reign supreme over the last four-day weekend of 2016?

By Joey Nolfi
December 22, 2016 at 04:10 PM EST
Kerry Brown; Illumination Entertainment; Sony Pictures

There’s a lot to see this weekend. By Christmas Day, audiences will have six new wide releases to choose from, ranging from likely Oscar contenders (Fences) to raunchy laughers (Why Him?) and space-themed popcorn epics fronted by A-list movie stars (Passengers). Between strong holdovers and big-budget studio newcomers, who will reign supreme over the last four-day weekend of 2016? Here’s how the holiday box office showdown could play out:

1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – $90 million

After notching the third highest opening weekend of the last 365 days, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will repeat at the top of the domestic chart over its sophomore frame. The blockbuster action movie, a prequel to the original Star Wars film series, has pulled in solid numbers throughout the week, earning $17.6 million on Monday and Tuesday, though it dipped to just under $15 million on Wednesday. Still, the film has made $388.2 million around the world thus far – an impressive haul that helped make Disney the first studio in history to pass the $7 billion global mark in a single year.

Audiences are still hungry for more Star Wars, with many viewers reportedly returning for repeat viewings through the week, meaning we’ll likely see Felicity Jones and Co. sitting pretty once again with a four-day holiday haul somewhere between $85-$100 million.

2. Sing – $42 million 

Universal’s latest animated venture will likely hold a tune at No. 2 on the weekend chart with cross-demographic appeal and the strongest reviews of any new wide release hitting theaters this week. Though it won’t reach such lofty heights as the studio’s previous releases like The Secret Life of Pets or MinionsSing benefits as the sole family-targeted picture landing amid a sea of adult-oriented actioners (Passengers, Assassin’s Creed) and expanding, prestigious awards-bound dramas (Fences, La La Land). Sing should easily snatch the runner-up spot with a four-day total approaching a number in the mid-$40 million area.

3. Passengers – $35 million 

Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt have been touted as two of the most bankable stars in Hollywood, though neither has yet to sell a major motion picture on their respective names alone, without the help of a major franchise’s built-in audience (or large ensemble cast) backing them up. Passengers will serve as the ultimate test for both actors’ box office clout. If the $120 million sci-fi film, from director Morten Tyldum, can transcend its generally negative critical reviews (audiences have consistently proven they’re less likely to care about a film’s “quality,” as determined by film journalists, if the concept is right), it’s looking at a debut in the $30-$40 million range over the four-day period, which will prove, once and for all, whether the film’s leads can attract an audience.

4. Assassin’s Creed – $21 million 

With roots in mega-popular video game series, Assassin’s Creed is the latest in a long line of major studio adaptations that hail from digital, interactive source material. Keeping up with tradition, the film has also earned scathing reviews – as most movies based on video games have in the past. Critics have lampooned the film, while fans of the Assassin’s Creed series have taken issue with the movie’s deviance from the game’s beloved storyline. As the successful Resident Evil movies have proven, however, video game movies can find their own audience, and with an attractive cast – including Marion Cotillard and Michael Fassbender – Assassin’s Creed could do just that as it storms into wide release. The film made a decent $4.6 million over its Wednesday debut, though films in the subgenre tend to be front-loaded, poising it for a four-day debut between $18-$22 million.

5. Moana – $13 million 

Though Sing poses a significant threat to the reigning animated champion, Moana‘s strong word-of-mouth should keep audiences interested over its fifth weekend in theaters. Holidays mean more schoolchildren are out of class, which will work in Moana‘s favor, as it remains, after Sing, the most prominent family-oriented flick in wide release.

Outside the top five, La La Land should see an uptick in ticket sales as it continues to generate Oscar heat, while Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea should hold steady in the $3.5-$4.5 million range in its second week at 1,206 locations. Fellow awards contender Fences could pull in anywhere between $6-$10 million over its wide debut on Dec. 23, likely falling behind the James Franco/Bryan Cranston comedy Why Him?, which will land in the $10-$13 million range as it opens Friday at 2,916 theaters.

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