False: Xmas Not Biggest Movie Day of the Year

December 25, 2008 4:33:18 PM PST
There may be five major movies opening Christmas Day, but the chance of any of them becoming the biggest box-office hit of the year is about as big as the chance of Santa being real."There are other days, like the day 'The Dark Knight' opened, that'll blow everything else into the weeds," said Paul Dergarabedian, who heads up box-office analysis agency Media by Numbers. "How big Christmas is for the industry depends on the movies that are in the marketplace and how well they do."

This yearthose movies are "Marley & Me" (starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson); "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett); "Valkyrie" (Tom Cruise); "Bedtime Stories" (Adam Sandler, Keri Russell); and "The Spirit" (Scarlett Johanssen, Eva Mendes). "Doubt," starring Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, goes into wide release today after opening Dec. 12.

There is, of course, a reason studios chose to open movies on Christmas Day.

"You've got a captive audience; a whole group of people who are home, off work and out of school, and they need something to do after their Christmas morning festivities if they're celebrating," Dergarabedian said. "It's corny, but it's Hollywood's Christmas gift to the public. And in a way, it's a gift to the industry as well. It's a marketing platform. It offers a great opportunity for the studios to get their movies into the marketplace with a big splash."

Sometimes it works: When it opened on Christmas Day 2001, "Ali," starring Will Smith, banked $10.2 million in 24 hours and 2002's "Catch Me If You Can" made $9.9 million on its Dec. 25 opening day. And it's not just feel-good fare that fares well: l Last year, "Alien vs. Predator: Requiem" made $9.5 million during its Christmas opening.

"Typically, Christmas Day generates better box office than the average midweek nonholiday day," said Dergarabedian. "You've got five big release newcomers and those are going to generate some heat."

So even if the industry doesn't break records today, it'll probably earn itself a nice holiday bonus.


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