Hollywood's Holiday Box-Office Problem: Too Many Family Movies

A crush of kiddie fare includes two musicals; among adult offerings, 'Big Eyes' and 'The Gambler' may now open nationwide on Christmas Day

This story first appeared in the Dec. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

The holiday season might boast the first R-rated comedy ever to open on Christmas Day — Sony's Seth Rogen raunch-fest The Interview — but the bigger risk is an overabundance of family films. Duking it out in late December will be two adaptations of Broadway musicals: Annie, also from Sony, and Disney's Into the Woods, starring Meryl Streep, plus Fox's threequel Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, starring Ben Stiller and the late Robin Williams. And that doesn't count DreamWorks Animation's Thanksgiving entry Penguins of Madagascar, which should still be in theaters when presents are unwrapped. That's a lot of options for tots and their parents, and some insiders are worried that blood will be spilled.

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"To have two musicals opening so closely to each other creates something we've never seen before in the family space," says Ben Spergel, head of consumer insights at C4, a new research company run by veteran film executive Vincent Bruzzese.

Looking at the Thanksgiving-New Year's Day lineup, MKM Partners analyst Eric Handler is upbeat — especially if The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Warner Bros.), the only all-audiences tentpole, takes the franchise out with a $1 billion bang — though domestic box office could still end up down by 4 to 5 percent from last year after an awful summer. "A lot of movies could go either way, but I don't think there are any that are a huge financial risk."

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One twist Handler didn't foresee: Tim Burton's Big Eyes (The Weinstein Co.), starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, and Mark Wahlberg's The Gambler (Paramount) now are likely to open nationwide Dec. 25. Insiders say that with the crush of family films, there's room for adult fare. Those films have awards aspirations, as does Angelina Jolie's drama Unbroken (Universal). It also debuts Dec. 25, which could leave The Interview, about an attempt to assassinate North Korea's Kim Jong Un, as the odd man out. Says Sony's Rory Bruer, "It is definitely something fresh."