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‘Django Unchained’ vs. ‘Les Miserables': Battle of Sexes at the Multiplexes

Analysis: When profoundly male-skewing "Django Unchained" takes on the very female-friendly "Les Miserables" in the Christmas Day box-office battle, who wins?

When “Les Miserables” and “Django Unchained” hit theaters on Christmas Day, it will be a classic battle of the sexes at the box office.

The showdown between the year’s last two major releases — both Oscar contenders, both expected to be hits — is clearly defined when it comes to target demographics. "Django" is tracking so male, and "Les Miz" so female, that more than a few couples may meet back in the lobby after the movies.

Also read: Can 'The Hobbit,' 'Les Miserables' and 'Django Unchained' Thrive in Crowded Yule Box Office?

“Well, there won’t be any arguments in my household,” joked the Weinstein Company’s head of distribution Erik Lomis. It’s hard to imagine a more male-skewing film than his “Django,” a violent, R-rated Western about a former slave wreaking vengeance, from writer and director Quentin Tarantino. The pre-release data confirms that, Lomis said, and then some.

“We see ‘Les Miz’ as our Christmas present to moviegoers,” Universal’s distribution chief Nikki Rocco told TheWrap. “And we welcome families, everyone.” That might be true, but the tracking suggests — make that shouts — that audiences for the star-studded adaptation of the wildly popular musical will be female-dominated. 

The PG-13 “Les Miserables” certainly seems like holiday fare. Director Tom Hooper’s take on Victor Hugo’s classic tale features Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe, along with Anne Hathaway.

Also read: Why 'Les Misérables' Looks Like a Holiday Box-Office Smash

“Django,” on the other hand, hardly conjures up sugarplum fairies. But that’s fine with Lomis, who relishes his film’s role as holiday counter-programming.

“We think that by Christmas, a lot of people will be ready for something a little bit different,” he said. “Django” stars Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson. 

"Mainly because of the advance sales, I'd give 'Les Miz' a bit of an edge," Exhibitor Relations senior analyst Jeff Bock told TheWrap Monday. "But it's hard to tell with musicals." Proof of that is the list of recent end-of year under-performers "Nine," "Rent," "Sweeney Todd" and "Phantom of the Opera," all comparable and cautionary.

The fact is, the two films are so profoundly different, that the “showdown” may be a bit diminished, at least in one sense. If both do as well with their core audiences as tracking suggests, they won't need a lot of crossover business to be hits.

It’s not like the theaters won’t allow women into “Django,” or men into “Les Miz,” so both are counting on luring more than their core crowds.

“You don’t get to be the world’s most popular musical without appealing to all kinds of people,” Rocco noted, and the tracking shows some interest among older males.

Lomis is confident “Django” will have a broad-enough base.

“This is a Quentin Tarantino movie, and that resonates with all sorts of folks,” he said. "Django" is tracking strongly with African-Americans, an underserved sector in the market right now.

Also read: Slave-Revenge Film 'Django Unchained' Tracking Strongly With African-Americans

With screens at a premium in a very crowded marketplace, "Django" will open in 3,010 theaters, while "Les Miserables' will be in 2,808 theaters. Advance sales are strong, particularly for "Les Miz," which has done more Fandango and MovieTickets business than any previous musical or Christmas release. 

Industry analysts expect both movies to make about $25 million during the week on their way to more than $100 million domestically. With Christmas falling on Tuesday, the openings won't be huge. "Ali" is the best Tuesday Christmas opener ever, with $10.2 million in 2001. "Sherlock Holmes" is the best Christmas Day opening ever, with $24.6 million on a Friday in 2009.

Now, what about moviegoers who think they’ll find “Django” too tough for the holiday, or those afraid “Les Miz’ could get too soppy?

Fox is glad you asked, since they have the widest Christmas opening of all. The studio is rolling out “Parental Guidance,” the third comedy to hit the holiday marketplace after "Guilt Trip" and "This is 40," in 3,558 theaters. It’s PG and stars Billy Crystal, Bette Midler and Marisa Tomei — and it targets the whole family.