Hollywood Looks for Jingle in Christmas Box Office

Monday, 19 Dec 2011 02:52 PM

By James Hirsen

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Hollywood executives are apprehensive about the slumping box office.

For four straight weekends domestic box-office receipts have come in lower than back in 2010.

Stoking entertainment industry fears were this weekend’s box-office numbers, which had two franchise holiday releases garnering surprisingly low revenues in their debuts. In addition, overall movie grosses from the weekend’s top dozen movies hauled in 13 percent less than the 2010 levels.

Warner Brothers “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” which stars Robert Downey Jr., was the number one film during the slow weekend, taking in $40 million. In contrast, its predecessor, “Sherlock Holmes,” brought in $62.3 million when it debuted Christmas Day 2009.

Even Fox’s family-friendly “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked” took in a less-than-expected $23.5 million over the weekend, coming in second. Its predecessor, “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel,” had brought in $48.9 million for its December 2009 debut, while the original “Alvin and the Chipmunks” squirreled away $44.3 million in December 2007.

The current “Sherlock” and “Alvin” sequels dashed movie studio expectations since prerelease audience surveys had indicated that the Downey film would pull in $55 million and the animated chipmunk movie would earn more than $45 million.

The typically non-risk taking studio execs just seem to keep churning out sequels and remakes, and audiences may be getting weary of recycled characters. With the weak overall economy and accessible home theater technology that rivals multiplex quality, the movie business is moving into hyper-jitter mode.

Still, Hollywood hope springs eternal in the final weeks of the year. Paramount sees a positive sign for the studio’s “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol,” which came in third over the weekend, having roped in $13.6 million from limited IMAX sneak previews. The Tom Cruise movie was shown at 425 locations for an impressive average of $32,000 per screen and was helped by sharing the bill with a six-minute “The Dark Knight Rises” extended preview.

Hollywood’s final numbers for the year are riding on some highly anticipated releases during the holiday season, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Adventures of Tintin,” and the wider release of “Ghost Protocol.”

James Hirsen, J.D., M.A. in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. He is admitted to practice in the U.S. Supreme Court and has made several appearances there on landmark decisions. Hirsen is the co-founder and chief legal counsel for InternationalEsq.com. Visit Newsmax.TV Hollywood.

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