As I commented on in my 'Twas The Box Office Night Before Christmas, there is something oddly flat about this season's box office. No one would complain about a near $250 million haul for The Incredibles... except for Pixar and Disney, who immediately moved Cars into a summer slot where less is more and more is not less.
Meet The Fockers is looking at a 3-day of between $25 million and $35 million, probably right around the middle. That puts them in the Top Ten 3-day openings for December. But given that the film was tracking through the roof compared to anything else this month, even a $55 million 5-day is not an out-of-the-park home run. The 5-day number is about 25% better than last year’s Cheaper By The Dozen, but that film learned what Universal seems to have missed by giving Fockers such a late date… there is almost always a huge January drop-off.
Isn’t it ironic that The Polar Express, the film that we all made fun of, me included, for going out five days after The Incredibles, is turning out to have made the smartest play, giving itself two whole months of playability even in the face of presumed tough opposition? Of course, I would still argue that a couple of weeks in IMAX 3-D only would have changed the critical view of the film so dramatically that it could have added another $30 million to the final domestic total, if not more.
The issue of having time to play is not only a Fockers problem, but one for Lemony Snicket, which is holding well but will have some trouble holding when kids go back to school and The Phantom of the Opera, which has left too much of its fortunes in the hands of the critics and bi-coastals who the studio knew would hate the film in high percentages.
Of course, Universal will be thrilled by their opening. But will all the must-see of the film, one has to wonder today, will it pass the original’s $166 million domestic draw? The really fascinating question will be whether the iconic Barbra Streisand will make the international number even stronger? (The first film played almost identically internationally and domestically, which is a big win for a verbal, sociological comedy.)