The top two spots at the box office this holiday weekend saw a repeat of the 2017 holiday season, with a new Star Wars movie (The Rise of Skywalker) and a new Jumanji (The Next Level) taking the first and second slots respectively. The Rise of Skywalker grossed $72 million for the weekend for a $361.8 million 10-day total, the eighth largest 10-day gross of all time. But while Skywalker had a strong weekday run, that weekend number is still below expectations, and could be a troubling sign for the film’s legs once the holiday boost wears off. Meanwhile, The Next Level grossed $35.3 million for the weekend, with the second strongest hold among all wide releases (increasing 33% from last weekend) despite being the second biggest film in release. It could be a promising sign for the film of another 2017/18 repeat, where the Jumanji film finishes second to the Star Wars film in December, but out-holds it in January with strong legs.
Opening in third place above most expectations was Little Women, grossing $16.5 million over the weekend for a 5-day total of $29 million. The costume drama opened on Christmas Day with a solid $6.4 million gross, which if it followed the 5-day multipliers of the Christmas Day openers in 2013 (the last time Christmas fell on a Wednesday) would have resulted in a 5-day total in the lower 20s. However, while most Christmas Day openers fall 10-40% on their second day, Little Women dropped only -6%, the best second day hold for a Christmas release since It’s Complicated ten years ago. While there is no Cinemascore yet for the film (scores for Sony releases tend to be delayed), the film’s 92% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes appears to indicate strong word-of-mouth for the film. Where its final total lands will largely depend on how well-received it is on Oscar nomination morning, but even if the movie were to be shut out, legs should guarantee a total above $85 million, and if the film receives a Best Picture nomination, a $100+ million total is very likely.
The next two slots are occupied by two animated films, both owned by the same conglomerate. Frozen II saw a +27% increase in its sixth weekend, grossing $16.5 million for a $421.3 million total. That is the ninth largest 6th weekend of all time, although still behind what the original Frozen made in its 6th weekend of wide release ($19.6 million). That film grossed an additional $100 million after that weekend, and while Frozen II will not make that much going forward, this second wind from the holidays gives the film a renewed chance at a $500 million total, if it can hold onto enough multiplexes into January.
It should have an easier time holding onto theaters than Blue Sky’s Spies in Disguise, which grossed a disappointing $13.2 million over the weekend for a $22.1 million 5-day total. The first Blue Sky release since its distributor Fox was bought by Disney, Spies in Disguise was moved around the schedule multiple times before landing on a Christmas Day opening, but it’s hard to not see the film as some ritual sacrifice by the Disney corporation, as the film barely received much of a serious marketing push despite having Will Smith in the lead role. The film should continue to make decent bank over the rest of the holidays before being pushed out by the new January releases and finishing with a final total around $70 million, making it one of Blue Sky’s lowest grossing films ever.
The last major wide release of the holiday season was also arguably the biggest over-performer of the week. A24 made the bold gamble to release Uncut Gems into 2,341 theaters on Christmas Day, and it paid out big with a $9.5 million weekend gross and a $19 million 5-day opening. The darkly comic thriller posted the biggest single day gross ever for the indie studio on December 25, grossing $5.9 million (including $1.1 million from Christmas Eve showings) and placing 4th for the day. The film had a steep drop-off on its second day dropping -43%, indicting some first day rush from Adam Sandler fans and also probably mixed word-of-mouth, if the C+ CInemascore and 54% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes is any indication. But that’s kind of been the A24 wide release strategy: take a challenging film with a modicum of mainstream appeal, market it aggressively to bring in solid opening weekend grosses, and hope that the moviegoers impressed by the film outnumber the moviegoers that felt bamboozled. This move also worked wonders with Hereditary last summer, which scored a D+ from Cinemascore but still rode solid legs to a $44.1 million total. Next weekend we’ll have a better idea of the legs on Gems, but a final total above $35 million should easily happen, enough to make it A24’s third highest grossing film of all time.
For the holdovers that were not sequels to juggernaut hits, the weekend was a bit of a mixed bag. Knives Out saw the best increase of any wide holdover this weekend, increasing a whopping 50% to a $9.7 million weekend gross. With $110.2 million in the bank after a month in theaters, the whodunnit now has a shot at outgrossing Once Upon a Time in Hollywood‘s $140.9 million domestic gross to become 2019’s second biggest original film, behind only Us. However, last weekend’s two non-Star Wars openers, Cats and Bombshell, didn’t see a traditional post-Christmas increase for the weekend, instead decreasing -27% and -8% respectively from last weekend to weekend grosses of $4.8 million and $4.7 million. But while Bombshell might still have enough awards buzz to keep it in theaters to get past a $30 million total, Cats will most likely start losing screens next weekend to fellow horror show The Grudge, making a final domestic total below $30 million more likely than not at this point.
Finally, a few last-minute Oscar contenders got their start in limited release. 1917 came out on top among those films, grossing $570,000 over the weekend and $1 million over five days from 11 theaters. The theater count makes it difficult to compare to other Christmas Day limited releases like American Sniper (which opened in four theaters) or Hidden Figures which opened in 25 theaters), but it is a strong start. Just Mercy had a more timid start, grossing $111,000 over the weekend and $229,000 in its first five days, giving it a much smaller per-theater-average than 1917 despite being in seven less theaters. Both films enter wide release on January 10, hoping to capitalize on some Oscar love when the nominations are announced three days later. Opening smaller still were The Song of Names ($41,156 from 10 theaters) and Clemency ($37,078 from two theaters), films that will need some long shot Oscar love in order to take off in January.
1. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – $72 million (-59%)
2. Jumanji: The Next Level – $35.3 million (+33%)
3. Little Women – $16.5 million (NEW)
4. Frozen II – $16.5 million (+27%)
5. Spies in Disguise – $13.2 million (NEW)
6. Knives Out – $9.7 million (+50%)
7. Uncut Gems – $9.5 million (EXPANSION)
8. Cats – $4.8 million (-27%)
9. Bombshell – $4.7 million (-8%)
10. Richard Jewell – $3 million (+17%)