“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” continues to shatter box office records, making a staggering $161 million for Disney over Christmas weekend. That far outpaces all-time box office champ “Avatar,” which won three of its nine Oscar bids. That James Cameron sci-fi epic contended for Best Picture in 2009 but lost to “The Hurt Locker,” which was helmed by Cameron’s ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow.
Eight of our 24 Oscar experts (journalists who cover this beat year-round) are predicting that this seventh instalment of the “Star Wars” will be the first of the franchise to reap a bid for Best Picture since the original. Back in 1977, that blockbuster was bested by “Annie Hall.”
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Among the new releases that have Oscar potential, David O. Russell‘s “Joy,” inspired by the story of entrepreneur Joy Magano, debuted in third taking in $21 million. This heartwarmer from Fox 2000 reunites the writer/director with Jennifer Lawrence, who reaped an Oscar in 2012 for their first film together (“Silver Linings Playbook”) and an Oscar bid for their second (2013’s “American Hustle”).
“Concussion,” a Columbia biopic starring Will Smith as Bennet Omalu, the doctor who discovers the brain diseasechronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) that affects NFL players, opened to $13 million, which was good enough for sixth place.
Although the roadshow release of “The Hateful Eight” was limited to 100 theaters equipped with 70mm projectors, this Quentin Tarantino revisionist Western made an impressive $4.5 million. The three-hour plus running time, complete with overture, intermission and exit music, meant a reduced number of screenings.
And “The Revenant” made a jaw-dropping $471K at just four locations in New York and Los Angeles. That translates into $117,500 per screen for this Fox film. By comparison, “Steve Jobs” did $130K in weekend one while “The Big Short” was at $90K, “Sicario” at $67K and “Carol” came in at $62K PSA.
After two strong weeks in limited release, Paramount’s “The Big Short” did boffo business as it expanded from eight to 1,585 screens with a healthy haul of $11.7 million. That translates into a per-screen-average of $7,400 and eighth place on the overall chart.
Warner’s “Creed,” the seventh film in the “Rocky” franchise, shed another 915 screens (with most of them screeening “Star Wars”). However, it still added another $5.3 million (an uptick of 6% from the previous weekend) for a total gross of just over $97 million in five weeks. And Disney is still doing well with the Pixar pic “The Good Dinosaur,” which took in $4.4 million (much of that at reduced kiddie admissions) and has made $106 million in five weeks.
Sony Pictures Classics is showing “Son of Saul,” the Oscar frontrunner for Best Foreign-Language Film in three locations in New York and Los Angeles where it made $33,000 in its sophomore week The studio plans to expand to four more cities on January 8 and then at least another five on January 15, the day after Oscar nominations are announced.
In their fourth weekends, Fox Searchlight’s “Youth” did well as it expanded from 61 to 145 screens grossing $345K while The Weinstein Company’s “Macbeth” dropped down to 30 theaters (from 97) and made $43,000.
Among the longer holdovers, Focus Features’ “The Danish Girl” did great business again in its fifth weekend with $1.5 million at 440 locations (up from 81); that translates into a per screen average of just over $3,400.
“Carol” packed them in once again, earning an impressive $1 million in its sixth weekend as it expanded from 16 to 180 locations. The Weinstein Company release is expected to go wide after Oscar nominations are announced in mid-January.
Our leading contender for Best Picture “Spotlight” made just over $1.2 million in its eighth weekend as it dropped 345 screens for a total of 480 nationwide. That haul of just under brings its cumulative take is now up to $25 million as awards season heats up.
“Brooklyn” added another $930K as it contracted to 288 theaters (from 614) nationwide in its eighth week. With a PSA of $3,300 this weekend (and total gross of $18.2 million), Fox Searchlight is doing well with this period charmer that stars Saoirse Ronan, a strong Best Actress contender and NYFFC champ, as an Irish emigrant to America in the early 1950s.
The eighth weekend tally for “Trumbo” was $177K across 116 screens (down from 273). Bleecker Street has taken in just over $6.7 million to date for this film starring Emmy and Tony champ Bryan Cranston as blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.
“Room” made $86K as it dropped to 110 locations from 171 in week eleven. This A24 release has racked up just over $4.75 million to date.
Among those titles still in general release, Sony continues to score with “Spectre,” which made a respectable $1 million in week eight, which was good enough for ninth place overall. Fox did decent business with animated feature “The Peanuts Movie,” which added another half million in its seventh weekend for a cumulative gross of $128 million (as with “The Good Dinosaur” many of those admissions were at reduced prices). And the studio saw “The Martian” make $425K in its 12th frame for a total tally of $225 million and counting.
As of this writing, all 24 of our Oscar experts (journalists who cover this beat for major media including Variety, Yahoo, USA Today, and Huffington Post) are predicting that “Carol” and “Spotlight” will reap Best Picture bids. Twenty-three say the same about “The Martian” and “The Revenant” with 21 expecting a Best Picture nomination for “The Big Short,” 19 for “Brooklyn” and 18 for “Room.”
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“Star Wars” logo: Disney