In a year filled with deaths of pop culture icons from my childhood, the news from Tuesday was particularly difficult at my house. As my teenage daughter reminded me, Princess Leia is one of the few smart, strong, powerful female role models in live action films that kids typically watch and the fact that Carrie Fisher chose to talk so openly about her mental health issues in an attempt to remove the societal stigmas associated with that disease says a lot about the type of person she was. If you happen to be an HBO Now subscriber, I urge you to watch her one woman show, "Wishful Drinking" and you could do a lot worse than introducing "Postcards from the Edge" (available on iTunes) to someone born since 1990.
Before getting into details of the week, there are a couple of items to note. First, the submittal deadline is Friday 9a, Pacific as always. Next, when there is a 4-day weekend where the Fantasy Movie League totals count for Friday/Saturday/Sunday/Monday (FSSM) instead of the normal Friday/Saturday/Sunday (FSS), the Lineup Calculator gets set using only FSS actuals for the FSSM weekend that just occurred since the weekend you are about to analyze is FSS. But that's not the case this week since we have back-to-back FSSM weekends, so the actuals for last week in the Lineup Calculator have been set to FSSM and to what they made last week as a starting point.
Finally, after recording 53 episodes over the last year+, Patrick and I will not be creating a podcast this week. That takes more effort than you'd think and we decided to take a hiatus for a week, but we'll start up again in the new year.
What Did We Learn From Last Week?
That weird holiday weekends are indeed weird. The Thursday preview numbers for "Why Him?" prompted a rush of "Sing", 6x "Why Him?", "Fantastic Beasts" and while that worked out OK, Perfect Cinema ended up being "Sing", "Passengers", 6x "Fences". But only 37 people had that and with so many unknowns, by the end of the week I thought it best to hedge than try for a Perfect Cinema I'd be wrong about. That worked out just OK for me as I fell 90 spots.
The Christmas to New Years, 2011
As you have now doubt read in the Chatter, the last time we had the calendar line up like this, with both Christmas and New Year's Day on a Sunday, was 2011. Normally, when we have a 4-day weekend and you go to analyze the following weekend, you want to compare FSS instead of FSSM, but in this case we have back-to-back FSSM weekends so it is better to compare FSSM to FSSM because of this rare circumstance. All the major film data sites don't accommodate for that, so be careful when looking at numbers this week to make sure you understand the units you're dealing with.
With that in mind, here's how films did in 2011, FSSM to FSSM, week-over-week that year (table full size):
The top 15 movies from Christmas weekend that year are shown above and only one of those films, "Arthur Christmas", fell out of the top 15 for New Year's weekend. Like 2011, there are no new films in the marketplace this weekend and there are a couple of things that jump out at you when looking at this table.
New Year's weekend was up 1% over Christmas weekend that year, but it wasn't because the top two films pulled in extra audience. Instead, both dropped Per Theater Average (PTA) over 13%. Gains came further down the table almost as if the second choice for the second weekend did better. Of course, some of that came from "New Year's Eve", the formula film from the late, great Garry Marshall that year that sees no obvious parallel in terms of holiday theming this year.
There are three films in the table that would go on to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. "War Horse", "The Descendants", and "Hugo" all saw boosts in their second weekend, the largest of which came from the George Clooney family struggle movie that helped launch Shailene Woodley's career. Whether or not that had anything to do with the fact that it had the smallest theater count (TC) among the three future nominees isn't clear.
What are the Combos to Watch this week?
If you assume "Rogue One" will drop 14% week-over-week based on that 2011 data and most other films increase 14% (as most did in 2011), that gives you this Lineup Calculator baseline, which tells us that BP is "Rogue One's" to lose. I discounted "Assassin's Creed" from increases based on the poor history of video game movies, "Collateral Beauty" based on its poor reviews, "Arrival" because of how poor response has been to it so far, and "Office Christmas Party" since the holiday it targets has past.
The pricing for "Sing" seems punitive compared to "Rogue One", but 2011 gave us one film with a small theater count with an eye on the Oscars that increased as much as 40%, which seemingly matches "La La Land" and we have two other smaller films to watch closely this week as well, "Lion" and "Jackie". That leaves me following these lineups:
The tricky part here is that pricing makes it difficult for you to have both "Rogue One" and "La La Land" together, anchoring the latter with "Passengers" or even "Why Him?". Pay close attention to the dailies and the Chatter for indicators on how the week will play out, but for my coma lineup, I'm using "Rogue One" and six screens of "Manchester by the Sea".