It is no secret that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is going to be a massive box office success when it opens this December. It's possible that the film breaks Jurassic World's opening weekend mark or even surpasses Avatar as the highest-grossing film of all-time. Regardless of how many records it shatters (or doesn't), The Force Awakens will still be one of the top earners of the year by a considerable margin.
Understandably, other studios have been wary about scheduling their projects too close to the Star Wars premiere date, as they're also interested in maximizing profits. Paramount went so far as to shift Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation up five months to avoid the competition. But is going head-to-head with Lucasfilm as dreadful as it sounds? We're about to find out in a surprising box office showdown.
In a report on Movie Web, it was revealed that Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Road Chip, the fourth installment in the animation/live-action hybrid franchise, is now slated to square off against Star Wars on December 18. Some may view this as commercial suicide by 20th Century Fox, but from a certain point of view, there could be a method to the studio's apparent madness.
The film that will draw the most interest that weekend is obviously Star Wars, and tickets for the return to the galaxy far, far away will be in high demand. However, there's a chance not everyone interested in seeing The Force Awakens will be able to get tickets. It's all but a guarantee sellouts will happen nationwide, so some moviegoers may miss out if they don't plan ahead. Having to resort to The Road Chip after getting psyched for Star Wars would be a major disappointment, but it could be a better alternative than not going to the movies at all (particularly for families), leading to solid numbers for Alvin and his pals.
However, it's worth pointing out the appeal of the Alvin & the Chipmunks series has diminished as time has gone on. The most recent entry was 2011's Alvin & the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, which marked a domestic low for the series. It opened with just $23.2 million (less than half of the debut for 2009's The Squeakquel) and ended up making $133.1 million (after the first two movies made over $200 million). Unless The Road Chip becomes a surprise critical darling, the likelihood that the franchise can reclaim its former box office glory after a four-year absence is very low. The target demographic for The Road Chip will also be extremely limited when compared to Star Wars, so unless adult fans have members of the juice box crowd tagging along, it doesn't stand to make that much more from Force Awakens sellouts.
The Road Chip will also be at the mercy of the theaters scheduling times for the various movies playing that weekend. Theater owners aren't stupid, and they know that if they dedicate more screens for Star Wars, it means more people will show up (leading to more concession sales, etc.). Star Wars is already taking over every IMAX screen for a short period of time, so when it is first released in standard multiplexes nationwide, it should be the dominant force for a few weeks. That's not to say The Force Awakens will play on every screen in all theaters across the nation, but those hoping to see The Road Chip or the comedy Sisters may have slim pickings for when they can go. That's just the nature of the business.
So in the end, this is a rather shocking decision by Fox to place The Road Chip directly against The Force Awakens. Unless their intention is to purposely hide an inferior project amidst the Star Wars buzz, they don't have much to gain from this. The demand for a new Alvin & the Chipmunks film is going to be very low (even without the presence of Force Awakens) and even if Star Wars sells out a bunch of shows, it's going to be playing on such a large number of screens that any impact on the competition's grosses should be negligible. If Fox really wants to turn a profit, they'd be better served moving Alvin to the middle of January long after the wave of excitement has cooled off.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Road Chip will both hit U.S. theaters on December 18, 2015.
Source: Movie Web