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Hollywood’s Holiday Movies Have Arrived

“Spectre” is the 24th installment of the James Bond franchise, one that has been around, remarkably, since  1963. Yes, it’s been 52 years since “Dr. No” debuted in theaters with Sean Connery ushering in what has become a multi-generational institution that is a crossover of finance and fashion–all mixed together with a theme song.

It’s also, quite possibly, the world’s highest grossing series in the history of Hollywood.

Possibly? Well, since reporting overseas numbers wasn’t exactly a top priority back in the day, we only have complete grosses for the North American releases, which will end up easily surpassing $2B with “Spectre”—all it has to do is hit $80M opening weekend—and over $5.2B when adjusted for inflation.

2012’s “Skyfall” was the first film in the 007 chamber to cross the hollowed $1B mark at the box office, but it certainly won’t be the last. “Spectre” is exceeding its predecessor in the handful of European territories it has already opened in, including the UK, where it amassed $60M opening weekend.

In 3,600+ theaters expect “Spectre,” which is one of the most expensive movies ever made at $250M (could be even more reportedly), to clock in at $80M+ for starters, and if this recent massive box office lull has audiences pent up and ready to spend their money on a real blockbuster, it may just jump upwards of $100M+ in its debut.

“Skyfall” shattered all previous Bond debuts by over $20M+, opening with $88M. “Spectre” should deliver a blow equally as impressive, although Snoopy and his Peanuts pals may actually play spoiler in term of records being broken, as both brands will attract families to some degree.

Studios talk about evergreen franchises—those built to last forever. Bond is definitely one of those, and “The Peanuts Movie” may just turn out to be another. Charles Schultz’ gang of lovable goofballs has been around since 1950 in the comic strips, and it’s worth noting that their TV specials have never gone off the air.

So, as far as awareness goes, “The Peanuts Movie” spans multiple generations. That could be a very good thing for the $100M film, as Fox certainly is planning to launch its own film franchise spending this kind of cash.

“The Simpsons Movie” might be a good comparison to how well Charlie Brown and cronies can do. That toon, also from Fox, debuted with $76M on its way to $183M domestic, and the latest SpongeBob movie, Paramount’s “Sponge Out of Water” soaked up $55M for starters, $162M domestic, $315M worldwide.

While it probably won’t see Bart Simpson numbers in its debut, the long-run looks better for “The Peanuts Movie,” as the holidays tend to extend theatrical play.

Having seen the film, I will say this: it’s everything you would expect from each and every character and holds on tightly to the simple charms of the TV specials.  Spoiler alert: Charlie Brown is tricked into trying to kick a football by Lucy, who pulls it away at the last minute. But, c’mon, you already knew that was coming. A lot of the film is like that–exactly what you’d expect. Nostalgia does wonders for the soul.

In 3,800+ theaters, Fox’s block-headed blockbuster looks headed for around $50M+, and should have a long run through the holidays.

In limited release, Roadside Attractions rolls out the dramedy “Miss You Already” in 383 theaters. The PG-13 film stars Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette as life-long friends dealing with, you know, life and stuff, and is directed by Catherine Hardwicke (“Twilight,” “Thirteen”).

Oscar hopefuls are also on the prowl as Fox Searchlight dishes out their 1950s period piece “Brooklyn,” starring Saoirse Ronan and Domhnall Gleeson, while Bleecker Street aims for about the same time period, with the black-listed biopic about Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, entitled—you guessed it—“Trumbo.”

Open Road Films also tries to create a little Oscar magic of its own with “Spotlight.” The R-rated ensemble drama, based on a true story that follows Boston Globe reporters as they shed light on the child molestation cover-up by a Catholic archdiocese, drops in 5 theaters and will expand wider in weeks to come.

Tom McCarthy directs—hey, every filmmaker gets at least one free pass, and his was  “The Cobbler” starring Adam Sandler, which hardly made it into theaters at all last fall—and that should be reason enough to go see “Spotlight,” as his previous films “Win Win,” “The Station Agent” and “The Visitor,” are all extraordinarily well-rounded character pieces that burst to life when eschewing dialogue. And you really can’t beat the film’s cast, which includes Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, and Stanley Tucci.

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WEEKEND ESTIMATES

  1. Spectre – $85M
  2. The Peanuts Movie – $46M
  3. The Martian – $8M
  4. Bridge of Spies – $6.5M
  5. Goosebumps – $5M

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PRIME CUT OF THE WEEK – Paramount’s “Anomalisa” (December 30, 2015)

Prepare to be mind-f*cked. Charlie Kaufman is it again. The writer who brought us “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” Being John Malkovich,” and “Adaptation” now writes and directs a stop-motion film called “Anomalisa.”

Of course he would. This is no “Team America: World Police” though, if that’s what you’re thinking. This looks to be one of those rare films that goes straight for the heartstrings…and succeeds. The British accent helps, no doubt. Always makes things seem more important whether they are or not.

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WTF CUT OF THE WEEK – Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq” (December 4, 2015)

So, uh, what’s going on here? Amazon Studios is releasing Lee’s latest joint via the stream; however, Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions are reportedly releasing the film December 4th into theaters, although I haven’t heard from either of them.  And no one seems to be owning this film in terms of social media, and it’s less than a month away now. Not a good sign, folks.

Let’s be honest, Lee’s brand of controversial film-making, although smart and poignant, hasn’t been embraced by audiences, much less revered, since the late 80s and early 90s when he had a string of hits, including “Do the Right Thing,” “Jungle Fever” and “Malcolm X.” He seemed very in touch with his audience back then; now, not so much.

“Chi-Raq” is apparently a satire based on Lysistrata, a Greek comedy by Aristophanes. Uh-huh, sure, if you say so. Fellow NY-filmmaker, Woody Allen, has done the Greek chorus thing before, but here it just seems oddly out-of-tune. See for yourself.

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Jeff Bock, NewsWhistle’s movie editor, is the senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations in Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at Jeff@NewsWhistle.com.

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Lead-In Image Courtesy of 20th Century Fox; Poster Design by Proof