‘Little Women’ Leads Christmas Releases as ‘Star Wars’ Tries to Keep Box Office Booming

“1917,” “Uncut Gems” and “Spies in Disguise” also hit theaters on Wednesday

Last Updated: December 23, 2019 @ 12:02 PM

Christmas Day will see acclaimed films like “Little Women” and “Uncut Gems” make their wide release, all while the industry eyes whether word of mouth about “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” will be strong enough to maintain high turnout despite tepid critic reviews.

The film earned a strong $175 million opening, which fell well below the $220 million opening earned two years ago by “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” The good news is that “Rise” opened closer to Christmas Day than “Last Jedi,” so a big 5-day weekend from families on holiday is within possibility. Hardcore fans made up the majority of this weekend’s audience with 59% male and 71% being non-family adult audiences.

The bar for “Rise of Skywalker” to clear is $27 million, the total that “Last Jedi” made on Christmas Day and Dec. 26. A mark above that would be a good sign for the blockbuster’s second weekend. If it is lower, we may see a noticeable drop in the final domestic and global totals compared to Rian Johnson’s polarizing installment.

Meanwhile, three other films will be released wide on Wednesday, the most prominent being Sony/Columbia’s “Little Women,” Greta Gerwig’s follow-up to her directorial debut “Lady Bird.” With a murderers’ row of a cast, a beloved novel to adapt from, and a director still riding high from her Oscar nomination, “Little Women” is earning critical acclaim as Sony hopes the film will leg out all the way to Oscar Sunday from its projected $21-23 million 5-day opening on 3,100+ screens. Sony is projecting a $16-17 million start against a $40 million budget.

But while the film is expected to have major turnout from female moviegoers — especially older demos — trackers tell TheWrap that the film is lagging in awareness and interest from their male counterparts. This comes as Vanity Fair reports that male awards voters — who make up the majority of voters for Hollywood’s many awards including the Oscars — are conspicuously absent from many industry screenings of the film. This is believed to be a factor in why Gerwig was snubbed from the Golden Globes — the film only got a Best Actress and Best Score nomination — and why the film was completely shut out from the SAG Awards.

Sony’s best case scenario is that “Little Women” gets such strong word of mouth that it helps it beat the perception among some male moviegoers that it’s not for them, turning them into converts. Hopefully the Golden Globe and SAG snubs don’t have a domino effect and hurt its chances at multiple Oscar nominations,, something that could boost the film’s numbers in January.

“Little Women” stars Saoirse Ronan as the erudite and headstrong Jo March, who endeavors to get her first novel published while helping her sisters (Emma Watson, Eliza Scanlen and Florence Pugh) and mother (Laura Dern) navigate the trials of life during and after the Civil War. Timothee Chalamet, Meryl Streep, Bob Odenkirk, Chris Cooper and Tracy Letts also star. The film has a 97% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

“Little Women” will face major competition for male arthouse audiences from A24’s “Uncut Gems,” which is also getting critical acclaim for directors Josh and Ben Safdie and for Adam Sandler’s lead performance as a New York jeweler with self-destructive tendencies. The film has already made $1 million from a five screen limited run in Los Angeles and New York and sports a 92% Rotten Tomatoes score. With its relentlessly intense pacing and criminal dealings, the film is expected to draw Gen X men who grew up watching Sandler’s work and is projected by trackers to earn a 5-day start in the mid-teens.

“Uncut Gems” stars Sandler as Howard Ratner, a jeweler whose gambling addiction has led him into serious trouble with loan sharks. With his marriage crumbling and the walls on his life closing in, he hatches a desperate scheme involving a rare, uncut Ethiopian gem and Boston Celtics star Kevin Garnett, played by himself. Julia Fox, LaKeith Stanfield, The Weeknd and Idina Menzel also star.

The third release is the Fox/Blue Sky animated film “Spies in Disguise,” which was pushed repeatedly down the 2019 release slate from its original January release while Fox’s acquisition by Disney was being completed. Fox hopes “Spies” draws families with younger children who might find “Star Wars” too intense. The presence of “Frozen II,” which is still popular among families even a month after release, may be stronger than expected competition, but “Spies” is still projected for a $25 million 5-day opening.

“Spies in Disguise” stars Will Smith as a spy who is turned into a pigeon by a gadget created by his awkward tech specialist (Tom Holland). With the world threatened by a cybernetic madman (Ben Mendelsohn), the two must quickly find a way to change him back. Rashida Jones, Reba McEntire, Rachel Brosnahan, Karen Gillan, DJ Khaled and Masi Oka also star in the film, which is directed by Troy Quane and Nick Bruno.

Also releasing this holiday weekend in select cities is Universal’s “1917,” Sam Mendes’ World War I film shot and edited to look like one continuous take. Universal is releasing the film after a terrible opening weekend for their wide release hopeful “Cats,” which opened to just $6.5 million and poor reviews.

With “Cats” likely to bomb, the studio is hoping to rebound with a war film that earned three Golden Globe nominations — including Best Picture — and is expected to be a major player at the Oscars. A big awards haul, combined with word of mouth from limited release, could help earn the film a big weekend when it opens wide next month.

“1917” stars George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman as two British soldiers tasked with a deadly and critical mission: to deliver a message in less than 24 hours to cancel an attack that will lead to an ambush and the deaths of over 1,600 men. Colin Firth, Mark Strong and Benedict Cumberbatch also appear in the film, which Mendes directed and co-wrote with Krysty Wilson-Cairns.