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‘Rogue One,’ ‘Sing’ Dominate Christmas Box Office, ‘Passengers,’ ‘Assassin’s Creed’ Struggle

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and “Sing” carved up the Christmas box office, while newcomers “Assassins Creed” and “Passengers” struggled to get their slice of the ticket sales.

The Star Wars spinoff is projected to rack up $96.1 million over the four day holiday. The space opera’s domestic revenues currently stand at $286.4 million and should cross $300 million on Monday. Globally, the prequel has racked up a mighty $523.8 million.

Sing,” a family-friendly film about a talent competition for animals, was the de facto choice for moviegoers with kids. It has earned an impressive $76.7 million over its first six days of release. Its success is another win for Illumination and Universal, the producers of “The Secret Life of Pets” and “Despicable Me.” Animation has been a particularly popular genre this year — three of the six highest grossing films and six of the top 20 highest grossing films have been animated offerings.

“Sing” carries a $75 million production budget, an economical figure considering that most animated movies typically cost in excess of $150 million to make. It also boasts a voice cast that includes Reese Witherspoon, Matthew McConaughey, and Seth MacFarlane, as well as a soundtrack of hits from the likes of Stevie Wonder, Queen, Taylor Swift, and the late George Michael.

The tunes may have helped the film resonate with audiences, particularly given that it is an original property hitting at a time of year traditionally dominated by franchises.

Universal distribution chief Nick Carpou says that “Sing’s” appeal was clear during its premiere at last September’s Toronto Film Festival.

“I was sitting in the audience and you could just feel the reaction of people,” he said. Every song had rousing applause. It was as if they were performing  them live.” “Sing,” like last summer’s “The Secret Life of Pets,” leaves the story open for more installments, a sign that Illumination and Universal may have a new animated series on their hands.

Sony’s “Passengers,” a science-fiction romance that was hoping to capitalize on the combined drawing power of Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, struggled to make a mark. All the star wattage wasn’t enough to withstand a critical drubbing. The film earned $30.4 million over the five day period, on the low end of projections. “Passengers” cost $110 million to produce after incentives are taken into account.

Sony executives, however, argue that the film is performing well, and point to the “Passengers'” strong Christmas day grosses of $7.5 million as evidence that “Passengers” is finding its footing. They expect that the film will perform well with older crowds through the holidays.

“This trajectory will show the mettle of our film,” said Rory Bruer, Sony’s worldwide distribution chief, adding, “The chemistry between Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence is really resonating.”

Fox’s “Assassin’s Creed” also failed to make a big impression. The video game adaptation generated $22.5 million over the six day period. With a hefty $125 million production budget, “Assassin’s Creed,” like “Passengers,” will need to get a warmer reception overseas if it wants to fight its way into the black.

Fox domestic distribution chief Chris Aronson noted that the video game of “Assassin’s Creed” has great global resonance and said the studio always saw the film as playing well with foreign ticket buyers. Its cast includes French actress Marion Cotillard, Irish-German actor Michael Fassbender, and English thespian Jeremy Irons.

“This start exceeded our modeling,” he said. “We’ll be the beneficiaries of a strong holiday play period.”

Fox’s “Why Him?” seems better positioned to profit. The R-rated comedy with James Franco and Bryan Cranston earned a solid $16.7 million on a $38 million budget for its first four days in theaters. It opened Friday.

“We believed in this film from its first research screening,” said Aronson. “This film plays like gangbusters with an audience. America loves to laugh and lord knows we need something to laugh about.”

All three major new films will try to make up ground in the coming days, and they’ll get some help from the calendar. Many Americans will take the week between Christmas and New Year’s as vacation, making moviegoing an attractive leisure activity.

Many Oscar-contenders benefited from the holiday. “La La Land” expanded nicely, and is projected to earn $9.7 million for the four day weekend after moving from roughly 200 to  734 locations. The Lionsgate musical will have earned $17.6 million since debuting in limited release earlier this month.

CBS and Lionsgate’s “Patriot’s Day” opened in limited release on Wednesday. The drama about the Boston Marathon bombing earned a healthy $256,718 from seven screens.

Paramount’s “Fences” capitalized on strong reviews and awards buzz, racking up $11.4 million after moving from a few dozen locations to 2,233 venues.

Fox 2000 and Chernin Entertainment’s “Hidden Figures” opened in limited release on Christmas day and is projected to make
$955,000 in its first two days in theaters. The historical drama follows a group of African-American scientists and mathematicians who played a crucial role in the early days of the space program.

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