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

Sing movie
Courtesy of Universal Pictures

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.

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“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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  1. JD says:

    So, can we agree, once and for all, that Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence aren’t the godlike entities the media makes them out to be?

    • Prattfall says:

      You are so on point, J.D. The shocker is how bad it flopped over the 4 day period. Sony clearly thought they had a winner with the combo Pratt/Lawrence + expensive CGI. Again, we see that you can’t just put well known stars in a special effects movie and watch bank roll in nonstop. Moviegoers actually want to see an interesting film, unlike this film which is basically a cure for insomnia.

    • adam says:

      They’re not godlike entities but then again, there is this flawed idea from the Hollywood industry that most people go see a movie based solely on which actors are in it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

      • That's What She says:

        Indeed. Audiences go to see characters, not actors. Nothing in the trailers suggested that Lawrence and Pratt were playing anyone other than themselves in space. I’ll catch it on cable or wherever years from now.

  2. adam says:

    Both “Passengers” and “Assassin’s Creed” tanked at the box office. It was a mistake for those films to come out so soon after “Rogue One”.

  3. David Wood says:

    SONY had to cut the budget for special effects because both leads demanded high salary. The only special effects were shown during the last part of the movie like Martian. Besides, both leads do not have the sophisticated looks for sci-fi movies.Finally, I am surprised that this movie will perform well with older audience in the rest of this week. This is silly because casting Lawrence and Pratt aims to attract young audience. Are they assuming older audience would watch whatever film is shown regardless of its quality?!

    • I think they expect that the film reminds older audiences a lot of more classic science fiction. The ship design reminds me A LOT of the space ship from “2001: A Space Odyssey” and the story itself seems to use several recycled ideas from other science fiction stories. I think that the author thinks this as well but I’m just guessing. “Passengers” was called a great, original idea but…it’s really not. The story about a mechanic waking up on a space ship with people sleeping and needing to fix it to save them was done in “Pandorum” and “Silent Running” had similar ideas of a man by himself trying to find companionship (Of sorts) by chatting with the three robots that he works with. Like “Silent Running”, there is a clear misguided sentimentality in “Passengers”, but that’s for another discussion. Point is, the film DID not make $30 million in five days. It opened Wednesday and the tally that got it to $30 million was made today. The film is WAY behind in the numbers Sony was hoping for. They relied way too much on their star power of which I’m starting to think their isn’t much for these two outside of franchises. Fact is these two are attractive but offer little to general audiences in terms of depth. Oh yes one has multiple Oscar nominations but I’ve heard more than one person thinking she worked to buy those with popularity more than talent (I still don’t buy her as an older woman). In any case, neither actor has the box office grab without franchises or big ensemble casts. And this is why this film will ultimately flop. It can barely make $30 million over it’s opening weekend and that took a holiday season to pull off. The numbers will only go down. I predict the film will make somewhere in $100 million overall or barely match it’s budget. Especially because it seems “Star Wars” has some legs on it to hold the holiday season.

  4. I’m sorry this article is INCREDIBLY misleading with “Passengers”. First of all, if you check Box Office Mojo, you’ll see that the film, up until Sunday, the film only made $22 million so over the weekend it did worse than estimated. It’s extra $8 million comes from today and that’s an estimate (Not sure how they already have that projection) but in either case the fact the film only managed to get a boost thanks to a holiday says to me (During a weekend when animated films and pure action films came out) the film will not do well by it’s second week. It was a headliner for this weekend and that drew the most you’ll get for the film. This isn’t “Avatar” here and JLaw’s track record without franchises and strong ensemble cast-led Oscar-bait films is REALLY bad. Not to mention poor word of mouth. Sony’s lack of understanding of box office patterns is pathetic and explains why their creative decisions have almost always been bad. Sorry but I’m just tired of these articles acting like “Passengers” wasn’t just a major attempt to profit off two overrated actors, neither have which have ever displayed an ability to bring in audiences in studio films minus with franchise help.

    • Sleep pods required says:

      Not only is Variety doing some shady things with the reporting of box office estimates, but if you go around the Web, you’ll see other people questioning the information and figures detailed in some of these analysis especially when boxofficemojo.com, show buzz daily, and other box office websites have the 3day estimates listed for at least the top25 films. Passengers much to the dismay of SOME is bombing as hard as Assassin’s Creed. Sony had to change their marketing strategy to try to combat the word getting out on what a snore of a movie Passengers is, but the new tv trailer just confirms what I heard one family complain about as we exited the theater, ‘ All the action takes place during the last part of the movie. The only reason we saw Passengers was because Fences was sold out and nothing else was playing at the same time.

      • That's What She says:

        I wouldn’t mind if the action took place in the third act, as long as the rest of it was interesting. I’m not hearing that from the consensus. Apparently, Fences doesn’t need action to be interesting.

      • :( Sorry you didn’t get to see “Fences”. Love that Denzel’s new film is sweeping the floor critically and how he gets some Oscar love for it. As for this, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sony is trying to smudge the results or even the marketing team of the two “stars”. Clearly they aren’t box office draws and, like I said, how they have the film making $8 million today before noon (Where I am anyway) is SUPER sketchy.

  5. Cryptic Knowledge says:

    Yet another Disney year in 2016. 2017 will be another Disney year, with less bombs then this year. Disney was in contract with Spielberg on BFG or they would have dropped it. Alice they released because, might as well. They shot it 2 years ago & Pete’s Dragon was a 50/50. They don’t do independents’ yet Pete’s their type of soft budget, low risk possible high reward independent. Next year they may strike out on 1 yet, maybe not. Beauty and the Beast easily opens over $100. Same with Episode 8, Guardians & Spider-Man (yet Sony). Depending on what their Untitled Live Action fairy-tale is, it may do the same. Car’s 3, Pirates & Thor easily $75 plus. And with the addition of Hulk & link to Infinity War it to could do $100. Then there’s Coco, with Pixar behind it, should do decent. Yet without the usual Disney Princess maybe more in line with Wreck it Ralph, Tarzan numbers. Animated male leads don’t do to well for Disney. Hercules, Emperor’s New Groove finished just below $100. Atlantis, Hunchback barely topped $100. So it will be another strong year for Disney. Not to mention Inhumans. Which could make history with how much it will earn in just 2 weeks of release before it heads to ABC.

  6. Cath says:

    “Sing” is basically a Muppet movie without the Muppets and with more popular songs. It was cute and the kids seemed to like it and the music was toe tapping.

    • That's What She says:

      Sing is basically an animated take of the “Glee” subgenre that musicals now inhabit, riding the nostalgia horse to the bank. It’s more soundtrack than film.

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