“Christmas is a power date,” he added. “Three out of the last eight years, it’s been the biggest week of the year, and it’s always in the top three weeks of the year. And this year it falls on Tuesday, which is an optimum day.”
Lomis was referring to the fact that when Christmas is on a weekday, the box office takes start ramping up and getting counted well before the weekend, contributing to a particularly strong total for the week.
“When Christmas falls on a Tuesday, it’s always big,” he said. “The last three times Christmas was on a Tuesday, that’s been the biggest week of the year.”
Keith Simanton, managing editor of the Internet Movie Database website, called this year’s selection of Christmas Day titles an example of smart marketing by the studios.
“With ‘Les Miz,’ I think they want to connect it with something, they want to ground it with the holiday. I think it’s the family film this year,” he said. “‘Django Unchained’ seems like great counter programming; it’s not a genre you would necessarily expect on a holiday.”
Simanton believes both of those movies will do fine. But he’s less sure of “Parental Guidance.”
“That one is facing the issue of having [similar films] ‘This Is 40’ and ‘The Guilt Trip’ opening the week before. It’s interesting to me whether ‘Parental Guidance’ will be something that will survive.”
Lomis is also pretty much ignoring “Parental Guidance.” But he won’t go so far as to predict that “Django” — the film that his studio locked into a Christmas release date on June 15, 2011 — will be the hands-down winner.
“This film is opening on Christmas because I don’t think there’s anything like it,” he said. “I think there’s an opportunity to get this audience, and Quentin’s got a huge following.”
He’s fully aware that there’s a major difference between the audiences for each film.
“I don’t think people will be sitting at home thinking, should we go see ‘Les Miz’ or should we go see ‘Django Unchained’?,” he said. “I think ‘Les Miz’ will do a lot of business, but I think we will, too.”
Connie White, the president of Balcony Booking, has been booking films for the Coolidge Corner Theatre since 1996. She likes to catch a new film on Christmas.
“You’d hang out with the family in the morning, and then usually by 2 or 3, you’d have had enough, so we would pick a movie,” she said. “I remember one year going to see ‘The Godfather: Part III’ ” (1990).
White landed “Django Unchained” for the Coolidge this year and is predicting a large audience.
“Quentin Tarantino is his own brand,” she said. “Everybody wants to see this movie. It’s crazy. At the Coolidge we’ve got the young steampunks who run the concession stands and do the midnight programming, there’s me and [Coolidge executive director] Denise Kasell, and there’s our 30-something cinephiles. And everybody wants to see ‘Django.’ ”
So what will happen with this year’s three releases? Christmas Day musicals have both succeeded and failed in the past. The hits were “The Producers” in 2005, and “Dreamgirls” in 2006. The Weinsteins would probably like to forget their 2009 flop, “Nine.” Family films have also had ups and downs. The live-action “Pinocchio” was a miss in 2002, as were “Peter Pan” and “The Young Black Stallion” in 2003 and “Gulliver’s Travels” in 2010. But “Cheaper by the Dozen” (2003), “Fat Albert” (2004), “The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep” (2007), and “Bedtime Stories” (2008), all scored at the box office. Yet violence-laced films have done quite well, with only two from 2006 underperforming: “Children of Men” failed, and “Black Christmas” broke even. But others — Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown” (1997), “The Faculty” (1998), “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (1999), “Wolf Creek” (2005), “AVPR: Aliens vs. Predator — Requiem” (2007), and “The Darkest Hour” (2011) — turned tidy profits.
Moviegoers who like to plan ahead should get out their 2013 calendars. Christmas Day openings already slated for next year are the 18th-century samurai thriller “47 Ronin,” and the CIA actioner “Jack Ryan,” with Chris Pine taking over the role previously played by Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck, and Harrison Ford.
Ed Symkus can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.