ZAMM.COM: Happy Holidays!

By Martin Grove,

Happy holidays: The week between Christmas and New Year's is one of the merriest times of the box office year, but Hollywood's happier when the holidays don't fall on Wednesday, as they do this year.

The problem with Wednesday is there's too much of the post-holiday week left over and that means many people have to work Thursday and Friday. It's much better if Christmas is on a Thursday because Friday turns into a day off for many people--and that means there's more time to see movies. Christmas on Tuesday typically makes Monday a day off, which is fine. And Christmas on Monday isn't so bad because, at least, it makes for a long weekend.

The worst case, at least from Hollywood's point of view, is having Christmas on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Those are the week's best box office days to begin with, so having a holiday coincide with the weekend takes away the boost in ticket sales that comes from having an extra day for people to hit the multiplexes.

On the other hand, people always manage to fit movies into their holiday festivities. Over the last 30 years, moviegoing has come to play a major role in how people celebrate holidays like Easter, Memorial Day, July Fourth, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's. In recent years, Hollywood's also started opening big movies to coincide with holidays like Martin Luther King Day, Valentine's Day, Presidents Day and Halloween.

The common denominator for all holiday weekends is having a wide range of new films plus some already in position from the previous weekend so there's something for everyone in the multiplexes. That's definitely the case this time around with five films opening wide Christmas Day,while three others start their second weekend in theatres and one big holdover goes into weekend three.

Since holiday moviegoing is a magnet for families, Santa always delivers a high profile family appeal film in time for Christmas. This year it's the PG -comedy adventure The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

Directed by Ben Stiller and starring Stiller, Kristen Wiig and Adam Scott, Mitty will arrive in about 3,000 theaters. It's tracking best with under-25 males and nearly as well with over-25 males and under-25 females.

Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty brings to life James Thurber's classic story of a day-dreamer escaping his anonymous life through a fantasy world of heroism, romance and action. When Walter and his co-worker Cheryl's (Wiig) jobs are threatened, Walter takes action in the real world, embarking on a global journey more extraordinary than anything he could ever have imagined.

The PG-13 sports comedy Grudge Match opens at about 2,750 theaters and is likely to attract fathers-and-sons.

Directed by Peter Segal, the film stars Robert DeNiro, Sylvester Stallone and Kim Basinger. Grudge is tracking best with 25-plus males and next best with under-25 males.

In the film, DeNiro and Stallone play Billy The Kid McDonnen and Henry Razor Sharp, aging boxing rivals coaxed out of retirement for one final fight--30 years after their last match.

Action and martial arts fans can check out the PG-13 fantasy action adventure 47 Ronin at about 2,600 theaters.

Directed by first-time feature director Carl Rinsch, it stars Keanu Reeves and Rinko Kikuchi. This is Hollywood's first telling of a classic samurai story the Japanese have tackled seven times, going back to 1941's The 47 Ronin. It's tracking best and equally well at this point with men under and over 25.

The movie revolves around a band of samurai who seek to avenge their master's death and dishonor at the hands of a ruthless shogun.

Audiences that enjoy historical stories can put the PG-13 biographical drama Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom on their movie shopping list at about 850 theaters.

Directed by Justin Chadwick, Mandela stars Idris Elba, Naomie Harris and Terry Pheto. It's tracking best with over-25 males and next best and equally well with women under and over 25.

The film takes a look at the life journey of the late Nelson Mandela (Elba) from his rural South African village roots to becoming his country's first democratically elected president.

Moviegoers who prefer adult entertainment over the holidays can head for the R-rated biographical comedy The Wolf of Wall Street at about 2,400 theaters. It's directed by Martin Scorsese, who won the best directing Oscar in 2007 for The Departed, that year's Best Picture winner.

Wolf reunites Scorsese with his Departed star Leonardo DiCaprio. The film's generating a strong Oscar buzz in key categories like Best Picture, Director, Actor (DiCaprio) and Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill). It's tracking best with 25-plus females and next best with men over 25.

Wolf is based on the true story of Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio), charting his rise as a wealthy stockbroker living the high life and his fall from crime, corruption and the federal government.

Adult moviegoers can also head for the R rated crime drama American Hustle, which went wide last weekend with a very encouraging $19.1 million. It's tracking best with over-25 females and next best with 25-plus males.

Hustle's major Oscar buzz should help drive it at the holiday boxoffice. Hollywood handicappers see Hustle landing noms in prime Oscar races like Best Picture, Director (David O. Russell), Actor (Christian Bale) and Supporting Actress (Jennifer Lawrence). Hustle should attract moviegoers interested in the awards race since it's already received seven Golden Globe nominations (including best picture – comedy or musical),13 Critics Choice noms (including best picture and best ensemble), two Screen Actors Guild Awards noms (including best ensemble cast and best supporting actress) and won the New York Film Critics Circle's best picture, screenplay and supporting actress awards.

Hustle director Russell's a three time Oscar nominee--in 2013 for directing and adapted screenplay for Silver Linings Playbook, which was a Best Picture Oscar nominee; and in 2011 for directing The Fighter, which was also a Best Picture Oscar nominee.

In the film, con man Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) and his seductive partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) are forced to avoid jail by working for a crazed FBI agent, Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), who pushes them into the highly dangerous world of powerbrokers and gangsters. Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) is a volatile New Jersey politician caught between the con-artists and the Feds. And Irving's uncontrollable wife, Rosalyn (Lawrence), could be the force that sends their whole world crashing down.

Moviegoers looking for laughs can catch the second weekend of the comedy Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

Directed by Adam McKay, it opened in second place last weekend to a strong $26.8 million and a five day cume of $40 million.

Anchorman 2's tracking best with under-25 males and nearly as well with 25-plus males. Moreover, it's also tracking decently with under-25 females.

In the film, top rated San Diego newsman Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) returns along with his co-anchor and wife Veronica (Christina Applegate), weather man (Steve Carell), man on the street (Paul Rudd) and sports guy (David Koechner) to take New York’s first 24-hour news channel by storm. The original Anchorman opened July 9, 2004 to $28.4 million and went on to do $85.3 million domestically.

Also on family audiences' radar, especially those with young kids, is the second weekend of the PG-rated 3D animated action adventure Walking With Dinosaurs.

Directed by Barry Cook and first-time feature director Neil Nightingale, Walking shows how it was when dinosaurs ruled the Earth. It's tracking best with 25-plus women, aka moms-with-kids, the perfect audience for 3D animated family films.

State of the art 3D puts moviegoers in the middle of a thrilling and epic prehistoric world where an underdog dinosaur triumphs against all odds.

The holiday marketplace has a high profile holdover hit in the third weekend of Peter Jackson's PG-13 rated 3D fantasy adventure The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Last weekend, its second in theatres, Smaug was number one with $31.5 million and a cume of $127.5 million. Over the holidays, it stands to attract people who were too busy with shopping and partying to see it when it first hit theatres Dec. 13.

Smaug's still tracking enviably in double digits as an overall first choice. It's tracking best with under-25 males and next best and almost equally well with men over 25 and women under 25.

The second episode in the trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit continues the adventure of title character Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) as he journeys with the Wizard Gandalf (Ian McClelland) and 13 Dwarves on an epic quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.

The first episode in The Hobbit franchise opened Dec. 14, 2012 to $84.6 million and wound up doing $303 million in domestic theatres. The franchise's third episode, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, is scheduled to open Dec. 17, 2014.

Bottom line: Santa's heading to multiplexes everywhere Christmas Eve with a movie on his sleigh for everyone.

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