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Martin Scorsese‘s sex-laced The Wolf of Wall Street — starring Leonardo DiCaprio as debauched Wall Street bad boy Jordan Belfort — is proving to be a Christmas Day aphrodisiac at the North American box office, where it is in a close battle for No. 1 with holdover The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
Both films are poised to earn in the $9 million to $10 million range for the day, although Wolf had a slight edge by late evening despite receiving a C CinemaScore.
Wolf is among six films launching nationwide on Dec. 25, when attendance surges in the afternoon and remains vibrant until people return to work and school in the new year.
Faltering out of the gate is Universal’s long-delayed 47 Ronin, which cost at least $175 million to make. The samurai epic, starring Keanu Reeves, may only gross $6.5 million for the day, putting it behind a number of other films.
47 Ronin is destined to lose a substantial amount of money, considering it needs to earn hundreds of millions of dollars globally. The movie, originally set to open in November 2012, is off to a soft start in several key Asian markets, including Japan, and it could have trouble reaching $20 million in its five-day domestic debut. Universal co-financed the film with Elliott Management.
Wolf of Wall Street, already a critical and awards darling, cost north of $100 million to make and was fully financed by Red Granite Pictures. The movie is based on the memoir by Belfort, the disgraced Wall Street broker notorious for his sexual escapades and drug use.
Paramount is releasing and marketing Wolf of Wall Street, which barely received an R rating (Scorsese agreed to trim certain sex scenes in order to avoid getting slapped with an NC-17). The big question is whether the movie, expected to do especially well on both coasts, will play in America’s heartland (the film’s CinemaScore could be an indication of the split). Sporting a running time of two hours and 59 minutes, Wolf marks Scorsese’s longest film by a minute, topping Casino.
Wolf of Wall Street is expected to earn at least $30 million between Wednesday and Sunday, putting it on course to earn upward of $100 million domestically and ahead of the openings of 47 Ronin and the four other films likewise opening Christmas Day: Ben Stiller‘s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the Sylvester Stallone–Robert De Niro comedy Grudge Match, Justin Bieber‘s concert doc Believe and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Starring Idris Elba as the iconic civil-rights leader, the biopic opened earlier this month in New York and Los Angeles on the eve of Nelson Mandela‘s death.
Mitty, from 20th Century Fox and costing $91 million to make, is doing better than expected and could earn north of $7 million on Christmas Day. That could leave it competing with holdover American Hustle for the No. 4 spot after The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Wolf of Wall Street and holdover Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.
Directed by and starring Stiller, and also staring Kristen Wiig and Sean Penn, Mitty is attracting families because of its friendly PG rating. Warners insiders are likewise hopeful that Grudge Match will play across generations. Grudge Match trailed the pack on Christmas Day, however, with a projected $4 million gross.
Despite Bieber’s ardent fan base, Believe could prove a disappointment. The concert doc, costing at least $5 million to make, may only eke out $1.2 million on Christmas Day, putting it outside the top 10. Open Road Films is launching the film in just over 1,000 theaters and kept its marketing spend to a modest $5 million.
Elsewhere, several awards contenders are opting to open in limited runs over the holidays, versus rolling out nationwide. They include Pete Berg‘s Lone Survivor and Ralph Fiennes‘ The Invisible Woman, both of which open in New York and Los Angeles on Christmas Day. On Friday, John Wells‘ August: Osage County launches in select cities.
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