Welcome to the Screen Rant Box Office Prediction. Every week we put together an informal list of box office picks for the upcoming weekend – in collaboration with the Screen Rant Underground podcast Box Office Battle – to offer readers a rough estimate of how new releases (and returning holdovers) will perform in theaters.

For a recap of last week’s box office totals, read our box office wrap-up from Anchorman 2‘s opening weekend – and scroll to the bottom of this post to see how our previous picks measured up.

Full disclosure: Box office predictions are not an exact science. We acknowledge that our picks may not always be correct. For the sake of offering a jumping off point for discussion, here are our picks for the weekend of December 27 – 29, 2013.

This weekend, the crime dark comedy The Wolf of Wall Street opens in 2,400 theaters, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty debuts in 3,000 theaters, sports comedy Grudge Match opens in over 2,750 theaters, action film 47 Ronin opens in over 2,600 theaters, and Justin Bieber’s concert, Believe sees a release of 1,000 theaters. August: Osage County gets a limited release of five theaters on December 27, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom expands to 850 locations, war drama Lone Survivor opens in two theaters, and The Invisible Woman gets an unspecified limited release.

#1 – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Look for last week’s champ, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (read our review) to finish on top of the box office again during this crowded Christmas weekend. Despite the presence of Anchorman 2, Peter Jackson’s latest Middle-earth adventure was still the top earner, making $31.4 million.

One big factor that helped Smaug maintain its place on the chart was the fact that Anchorman 2 opened on Wednesday, December 18 as opposed to that Friday. Since fans were able to see the film on Wednesday and Thursday, it lowered the demand by the time the weekend rolled around. Since most of the wide releases take place on Christmas (a Wednesday), this scenario could happen again. Last year at the same time, An Unexpected Journey was able to hold off buzzed-about awards contenders Django Unchained and Les Misérables and won the weekend. With that precedent in mind, we’re picking The Hobbit, but it should be close.

 

#2 – The Wolf of Wall Street

Our choice for the second spot is Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. The film marks the fifth collaboration between the legendary filmmaker and his 21st century muse, Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio has been a reliable box office draw throughout his career with hits like Inception ($292.5 million) and Django Unchained ($162.8 million) under his belt in recent years. His partnership with Scorsese has been a profitable one, as three of the previous four grossed over $100 million at the domestic box office.

As expected with a Scorsese film, The Wolf of Wall Street has been generating a lot of awards buzz and that will only help it appeal to audiences. Early reviews (read our review) have been extremely positive and organizations such as the Golden Globes and the American Film Institute have honored it ahead of its theatrical release. The three-hour run time (which limits the number of screenings a theater can show during the day) could hurt it, but movie fans have been excited for this one since the energetic teaser trailer was released back in June. With the popularity of the talent involved and a strong marketing presence, it will have a strong opening and lengthy run.

#3 – Frozen

Our choice for third place is Frozen (read our review). Disney’s latest animated hit came in third last week with $19.1 million. Even though there are a handful of new releases opening this week, you can never underestimate a family film at the box office – particularly during a holiday weekend when kids are home from school. A week ago, Frozen was able to make more money than American Hustle and Saving Mr. Banks and with a monopoly on the kid-friendly demographic, it should continue to post big numbers.

#4 – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Coming in fourth should be The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Star/director Ben Stiller can be considered a solid box office draw as both the Meet the Parents and Night at the Museum franchises were solid hits during a similar timeframe. As a director, Stiller is coming off the hit spoof Tropic Thunder ($110.5 million). However, that comedy came out in August 2008 and did not face such stout competition.

When the first trailer was released, some thought that Walter Mitty would be a possible awards contender, but that did not turn out to be the case. Early critical reaction has been decidedly mixed, and that could influence people to see a different film. There are several better-received options for families (Frozen, The Hobbit) and adults (The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle), which could cause this movie to fall under some moviegoers’ radars. Still, the marketing presence has been strong and some curious viewers could check it out.

#5 – Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Rounding out the top five should be Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (read our review). The comedy sequel grossed $26.7 million during its opening weekend and had a five-day total of $40 million. While, that was below expectations, it was still a respectable total. With all the new competition coming out for Christmas, it’s likely this falls a bit down the charts, but even with that happening, it should still finish in the top five.

Comedy audiences will have this and Grudge Match to choose from during the holiday weekend, but we’re giving Ron Burgundy the edge thanks to Will Ferrell’s stronger track record at the box office and the popularity of the Channel 4 news team.

#10 – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Our tiebreaker for this week is The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (read our review), which came in sixth place last weekend with $8.7 million.

Notes

There are only five spots available and it’s an overstuffed marketplace. Here are the movies we believe will fall short of the top five.

August: Osage County is only getting a limited release of five theaters on December 27. This eliminates it from contention in the top five and it won’t work as a tiebreaker pick.

Lone Survivor has steadily been raising awareness thanks to the marketing campaign ahead of its January 10 nationwide expansion. We remind our readers that it’s only playing in two theaters this weekend, making it impossible for it to crack the top five.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom gets an expansion this week as it opens in 850 locations on Christmas. Despite the rising popularity of star Idris Elba (a recent Golden Globe nominee for this film), it’s not playing in enough theaters to crack the top five.

Believe, the new Justin Bieber concert, won’t make the top five, either. It is only opening in 1,000 theaters (putting it at a disadvantage against the competition) and Bieber’s popularity isn’t as high as it was Never Say Never was released in 2011.

We also believe that 47 Ronin will fall short of the top five. Star Keanu Reeves has not been a reliable box office draw for some time and with a lack of buzz surrounding the project, it will most likely be overshadowed by the other movies playing.

The boxing movie Grudge Match could also fall out of the top five. Comedy fans could turn out to see a matchup between Rocky Balboa and the Raging Bull, but Sylvester Stallone has not been a big draw in a long time. He is coming off flops Bullet to the Head ($9.4 million total) and Escape Plan ($24.8 million total). While Robert De Niro did have a role in the acclaimed hit Silver Linings Playbook (over $132 million), he was not the main draw for that particular film and his filmography has added several performances with mediocre box office returns. These two leading men are legends, but they don’t have much audience appeal lately.

That’s it for this week’s breakdown.

Now, if you want to participate in the weekly Box Office Battle, it’s time for you to make your picks! In the comments section below, post what you think will be the top five movies this weekend at the box office as well as your own number ten tiebreaker. Then, tune into the Screen Rant Underground podcast for the results and find out who won.

Opening in theaters this week (Wide):

  • 47 Ronin – 2,600+ theaters
  • Believe – 1,000 theaters
  • Grudge Match – 2,750+ theaters
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – 3,000 theaters
  • The Wolf of Wall Street – 2,400 theaters

Opening in theaters this week (Limited):

  • August: Osage County – 5 theaters (on Friday)
  • The Invisible Woman – unspecified
  • Lone Survivor – 2 theaters
  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom – 850 theaters

PLEASE NOTE: All of these releases are on Wednesday, December 25 (excepted where noted). For the purposes of our game, we will be using the numbers from the THREE-DAY weekend (December 27-29) NOT the full five-day totals.

Box Office Battle Scoring Rules: You get three (3) points for each direct match with the weekend actuals and one (1) point for each movie placed within one spot of the exact position. A perfect score is 15 points. Tie-breakers are not worth any points but, in the event of a tie, the person with a tie-breaker selection closest to the number 10 spot will be awarded the win.

Last Week’s Official Box Office Battle Reader Winner (Anchorman 2s opening): Sal reports that Adel Benkhalfa is the winner with a score of 12.

For the record, here are our picks from last week – along with the corresponding amount of points we received for each pick (listed in parenthesis).

  • #1 – Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (1)
  • #2 – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (1)
  • #3 – American Hustle (1)
  • #4 – Saving Mr. Banks (0)
  • #5 – Frozen (0)
  • #10 – Philomena
  • Final Score: 3 points

Make sure to check back later this week for the official box office results and tune into the Screen Rant Underground podcast for the weekly winners!

Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisAgar90

Source: Box Office Mojo (Release Schedule)