Welcome to the Screen Rant Box Office Prediction. Every week we put together an informal list of box office picks for the upcoming weekend - 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 The Pyramid'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 12 - 14, 2014.
This weekend, Biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings opens in 3,300 theaters and comedy Top Five debuts in 975 locations. In limited release, Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice will play on five screens.
#1 - Exodus: Gods and Kings
Our pick for first place this week is the new Biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings. The film admittedly is not entering theaters with the best of buzz (mixed reviews and whitewashing controversies will do that), but since this is another week without much in terms of new wide releases, the star-studded picture will offer moviegoers with a fresh option as they bide their time for December's bigger offerings. Lead actor Christian Bale has been used as a key selling point, and given his popularity thanks to his lucrative collaborations with Christopher Nolan and David O. Russell, that'll help draw in casual viewers.
Director Ridley Scott isn't as consistent as he used to be, and an A-list cast isn't necessarily going to make him a box office lock (see: The Counselor), but Exodus is expected to perform better than that maligned crime drama. Tracking indicates an opening weekend in the range of $29 million, which is a far cry from this year's Noah, but it's still respectable given the initial response the movie has received. Being the only true "wide" newcomer this week, Exodus should have a clear road to the top spot.
#2 - The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
After a three-week stint at the top of the charts, we're expecting the reigning champion The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (read our review) to fall to second place in its fourth weekend. While it has quickly become one of the highest-grossing films of the year, the penultimate chapter in the young adult film franchise has (for lack of a better term) fallen out of favor with audiences much faster than last year's Catching Fire did. At the same point in release, the second Hunger Games film had made $335.8 million domestically, compared to Mockingjay - Part 1's $258.1 million. The popularity of the movies will help it maintain its strong legs, but its time at number one is most likely done.
#3 - Top Five
Coming in third should be Top Five, the new film starring Chris Rock. The famed comedian hasn't exactly been box office gold throughout his career, but he has a sizable fan base that will come out and support him in whatever he chooses to do. It doesn't hurt that Top Five is garnering positive early reviews and its plot could make it an appealing option for those looking for counter-programming from the big-scale Hollywood productions. And since it has had a healthy marketing campaign, awareness shouldn't be an issue.
The one thing that could prevent it from becoming a major hit, however, is the size of its release. Playing in only 975 theaters this weekend, Top Five is hardly a limited release, but it's not that expansive either. The smaller numbers of locations will put it at a disadvantage, which has led to projections pointing towards and opening weekend of $10 million. Since the holdovers have slowly seen their business decrease, Top Five should still find its way into the (ahem...) top five even if it doesn't breakout.
#4 - The Penguins of Madagascar
Our pick for fourth is The Penguins of Madagascar (read our review). Despite the popularity of its Madagascar source material, this spinoff hasn't been able to break the curse of the family film that has led to many offerings for this demographic falling off quickly in 2014. In just its second week, Penguins made $10.9 million, and since it's not exactly a critical darling, those numbers will presumably continue to fall as time goes on.
#5 - Horrible Bosses 2
Rounding out the top five should be Horrible Bosses 2 (read our review). Perhaps due to a lack of competition, the comedy sequel managed to actually improve its standing in its second week, moving up to third after debuting in fifth. However, that trend probably won't continue. Exodus and Top Five are both much-needed new films that will do a majority of the business this week, meaning that there won't be too much interest in the leftovers.
Director Paul Thomas Anderson isn't known for his box office prowess, but he has seen a couple of his productions achieve some kind of commercial respectability (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood), so some might look at his Inherent Vice and its 1970s crime-caper narrative as something that could be accessible and post similar numbers. However, it won't be playing in nationwide release until mid-January. For now, it's only in five theaters and won't be able to crack the top five until next month.
Last Week's Recap
The one thing that threw us off was the resurgence of Horrible Bosses 2. The comedy sequel, which struggled during its debut, bounced back during its second weekend and moved up from fifth to third. Without any indications pointing that way, we thought it would remain in that fifth slot. However, people turned out to be in the mood for a laugh or two and went out to see it, which caused the back half of our picks to be inaccurate.
That's it for this week's breakdown. Make sure to check back later this week for the official box office results!
Agree or disagree with our predictions? Which five films do you think will top the box office this weekend? Share your own picks in the comments section below!
Next Week: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Annie, and more!
Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisAgar90