Relativity Media's Out of the Furnace is the only new nationwide release on the first weekend of December, which is typically one of the slowest frames of the year. The gritty action flick is unlikely to do much business, though, which leaves the battle for first place up to strong holdovers Frozen and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Catching Fire won last weekend with $74.2 million, though Frozen was surprisingly close with $67.4 million. With great word-of-mouth, it's possible that Frozen only dips around 40 percent—in comparison, Tangled fell 56 percent at the same point. Meanwhile, the Harry Potter and Twilight movies typically lost 60 percent on this weekend. Catching Fire should hold a bit better. Ultimately, it will be a close weekend, though Frozen seems to have a slight edge.
Otherwise, this is going to be a quiet weekend. Since 2010, the major studios have completely avoided scheduling new movies on the weekend after Thanksgiving, and instead it's fallen to smaller studios to fill the spot with edgy fare. Unfortunately, that hasn't worked out too well: Relativity's first movie, The Warrior's Way, bombed in 2010 ($3.05 million), while The Weinstein Company's Killing Them Softly didn't do much better last year ($6.8 million).
After playing at four locations on Wednesday and Thursday, Out of the Furnace will attempt to beat the post-Thanksgiving curse at 2,101 theaters. Unfortunately, the odds don't seem to be in its favor. Advertisements have positioned the movie as a brutal revenge drama set in what appears to be a dreary, middle-of-nowhere manufacturing town. While that may be an accurate portrayal, it's not a particularly appealing one to average moviegoers. With a mediocre 55 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, it's also going to have a tough time reaching discerning viewers who have a wealth of holdover choices this weekend. Out of the Furnace's marketing is also relying on the drawing power of the cast, most notably Christian Bale. While Bale is coming off one of the biggest franchises ever (Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight series), it's unclear if he's much of a draw on his own. Also, Bale fans are likely aware that American Hustle is coming out in the immediate future, and may be inclined to wait to see him reunited with David O. Russell (who directed Bale's Oscar-winning performance in The Fighter).
Killing Them Softly,which opened to $6.8 million on the same weekend last year, was also a violent, dark crime movie starring an A-list actor (Brad Pitt). Out of the Furnace may open a bit higher than that movie's $6.8 million, though not by much.
At two locations in New York and two in Los Angeles, the Coen Bros. are back on the big screen with Inside Llewyn Davis, which chronicles a folk singer's attempt to make it big in 1960s New York. The filmmaking duo's last movie, True Grit, was also their highest-grossing ever at $171.2 million; with Oscar winner No Country for Old Men also in the near past, the Coen brand is about as strong as it's ever been.
Outside of the Coen connection, Inside Llewyn Davis will also benefit from fantastic reviews (95 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and some awards buzz (it won the top prize at the Gotham Awards this week). Considering Llewyn Davis will have particularly strong appeal among the New York City arthouse crowd, it's inevitable that it opens to a much higher average than A Serious Man ($41,890).
CBS Films currently has an expansion planned for December 20th, though it's uncertain at the moment when the movie will expand nationwide.
Forecast (Dec. 6-8) 1. Frozen - $35.3 million (-48%) 2. Catching Fire - $31.7 million (-57%) 3. Out of the Furnace - $7.1 million 4. Thor - $4.6 million (-59%) Bar for Success At over 2,000 theaters and with a decent cast, Out of the Furnace ought to be opening over $10 million.