This Fall has been modest in comparison to many other recent years, in terms of major film releases. On paper there were a number of films that could have been $100 Million plus titles, but only Breaking Dawn has done blockbuster business, and has remained on top of the box office for three weeks. That’s going to change with the release of New Year’s Eve. Still, it’s been a slow, slow Fall.

It’s hard not to be slightly disappointed with the numbers if you’re a studio person. Films like Puss in Boots, Tower Heist, Happy Feet Two and The Muppets are decidedly underperforming – especially in relation to cost. Some may be saved by international ticket sales, but with the flood of Christmas pictures is about to hit, perhaps this year will end with more of a whimper than a bang.

The five films that should get to over $100 Million are Alvin and the Chipmunks 3, Sherlock Holmes 2, Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol, The Adventures of Tintin and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. All of which hit theaters within eight days of each other. Now, of course it’s possible that all could perform strongly as there’s only so much crossover, but still. An outlier would be something like War Horse or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, both of which will have their fates decided by critical reception.

We’ll get into more of this when their dates approach, but after the number of pictures that underperformed this year in general, and the last two months in particular, it’s hard to say if any of those films are guaranteed hits. Mission: Impossible is probably in the best boat in that the MI films have always done well internationally, and it’s likely this will follow that pattern. But Sherlock Holmes is one of those franchises that doesn’t make that much sense. I guess if it’s the Robert Downey Jr. show, then I get it, but the first film made $200 domestic and $500 worldwide, so it’s not that it isn’t viable. It’s just hard to picture people excited by it. Chipmunks is its own phenomenon. The first film was terrible. Both films so far have done over $200 Million. Kids films.

And then we have this weekend, with Fox unleashing The Sitter. You have to feel a bit bad for David Gordon Green as he’s going to have two flops this year between this and Your Highness. Once one of the strongest voices in independent cinema, his work for hire product in Hollywood has not had the same sort of traction. And this is also bad for Jonah Hill – though he should rebound a bit with 21 Jump Street -as this should do less than Get Him to the Greek (which ended up around $60 Million). With The Sitter’s 81 minute run time, you can tell the studio wanted it as short as humanly possible. They are not proud of this film and they’re dumping it.

New Year’s Eve follows up Valentine’s Day, which was a big hit for Warner Brothers and director Gary Marhsall. Why mess with the formula? That had a great opening weekend ($56 Million) and then fell off quickly. This doesn’t have the same heat, and most people would rather be at a party than watching a movie on New Year’s eve, which makes this a harder sell. The success of a film like this involves how quickly they shot out their cast. If you’ve got A-listers working for four or five days it’s likely they got a nice package, but it could keep the film’s costs down. Valentine’s Day supposedly cost around $50 Million, so this is probably around that number, but I don’t think this is going to do as well.

So the weekend breaks down like this:

  1. New Year’s Eve – $27.5 Million
  2. The Sitter – $10 Million
  3. Breaking Dawn – $7.8 Million
  4. Hugo – $7.5 Million
  5. The Muppets – $7.3 Million

The Sitter could go lower. Next weekend the big guns show up.

What are you going to watch this weekend?