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It’s Holiday Feast, Not Flop, for ‘Christmas Carol’

Widely proclaimed a $200 million Jim Carrey dud, film surged toward profitability with huge Thanksgiving.

A $30 million opening on an early November weekend is usually something to celebrate, but Disney found itself plenty second-guessed following the Nov. 6 premiere of “A Christmas Carol.”

“Disney shakes things up amid Jim Carrey flop,” screamed a Nov. 12 New York Post headline, reaching to tie management changes implemented by new studio chairman Rich Ross to the film’s less-than-blockbuster opening. (A headline on TheWrap didn’t connect those dots, but wasn’t much kinder to the Robert Zemeckis 3D film: “$30M lump of coal for Disney.”)

Those are mere ghosts of headlines past. Look who’s cackling now.

Over the five-day Thanksgiving holiday, “A Christmas Carol” took in $22.5 million, an 83 percent spike over the comparable five-day period a week prior. Meanwhile, comparing three-day weekend to three-day weekend, the film was up over 30 percent with $16 million.

The huge jump in week four put the film, budgeted at a whopping $200 million, at $105.3 million in domestic box-office. It’s not successful yet, given its price tag, but it can’t be dubbed a flop either, with just under three weeks of holiday-season play before James Cameron’s “Avatar” takes most of its 3D screens away, and the bulk of foreign, DVD and TV receipts still to come, too.

“We all knew it would grow, that’s just the nature of films that are holiday-based when they get to Thanksgiving,” Disney distribution president Chuck Viane told TheWrap.

“It’s not going to be ‘Blind Side’ or ‘The Hangover,’ but this film will make money,” added Carrey’s manager, Eric Gold, who said his client came down from his usual $15 million-$20 million paycheck to do the movie. “I’d rather be winning by a little than losing.”

For his part, Gold said he’s usually reluctant to speak out publicly regarding his clients’ films, but he grew frustrated with reports prematurely labeling the movie a flop.

For example, not only did the Post headline attribute Ross’ changes in marketing, distribution and operations to the film’s opening, it quoted Cowan & Co. analyst Doug Creutz, who said Disney would likely ink a loss in the fourth quarter of between $50 million-$100 million on the film.

Gold conceded that, besides the production price, some of the consternation related to the film had to do with it opening just after Halloween, and nearly two months before Christmas.

“The reason the studio did that was because there was some track record,” Gold noted. “The ‘Santa Claus’ movies had opened in early November. So did ‘Elf’ and ‘Polar Express.’”

Indeed, it was 2004’s ‘The Polar Express,’ Zemeckis’ last holiday-themed motion-capture film, budgeted at $165 million, that provided the best comparable model. That movie was also released to $30 million on the first weekend of November, before spiking 23 percent on Thanksgiving weekend. It ultimately grossed $305 million worldwide without the benefit of premium 3D ticket prices.

“Twenty-two million is a huge number when you consider we’re in week four of this movie,” Viane added. “We were at the upper end of expectations, no question.”