Saving Mr. Banks

Saving Mr. Banks“

Ben Stiller & Kristen Wiig in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller & Kristen Wiig in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty -

The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street“

December dates: Thanksgiving's boxoffice leftovers should help December get off to a tasty start.

With strong ticket sales over the long Thanksgiving weekend for Lionsgate's "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" and Walt Disney Pictures' 3D animated "Frozen," Hollywood should see ongoing boxoffice action this weekend for both films. "Fire" took in a record setting $110.2 million for the five day holiday period, bringing its two week cume to $296.6 million, while "Frozen" did $93 million and has an opening week cume of $93.4 million.

December's first week is typically one of the holiday season's quieter times. For one thing, it follows a five day Thanksgiving holiday period when millions of people do lots of moviegoing. In fact, with about $294 million in ticket sales for the five days, this Thanksgiving had the most boxoffice stuffing ever. The previous record was about $290 million in 2012.

Early December is also when many people, especially adult women, start their holiday shopping and, therefore, aren't available to see movies. That's why high profile films like "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" and "The Wolf of Wall Street" aren't arriving until mid-month or later.

This weekend's only new wide release is Relativity Media's R rated thriller "Out of the Furnace," opening Wednesday at four theatres and expanding Friday to about 2,000 locations. Directed by Scott Cooper (“Crazy Heart”), it stars Christian Bale, Casey Affleck and Zoe Saldana. It's tracking best with 25-plus males, the audience most likely to be available to see a new movie this weekend.

The Story: When a cruel twist of fate lands Russell (Bale) in prison, his brother Rodney (Affleck) is lured into one of the Northeast's most violent crime rings -- a mistake that nearly costs him everything. When Russell's released, his choice is his own freedom or risking everything to seek justice for his brother.

By mid-December, however, the competition will start heating up with two new wide releases from well known filmmakers. Fans of Peter Jackson's “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and his 2012 blockbuster “ThThe Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” will start hitting the multiplexes Dec. 13 to see Jackson's new PG-13 rated 3D fantasy adventure "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" from Warner Bros., New Line Cinema, MGM and WingNut Films. The franchise's male appeal will work to its benefit in mid- December when men are more available for moviegoing than women because of holiday shopping.

The Story: The second in the trilogy of films based on J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" continues the adventure of the 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. Jackson's "Rings" trilogy grossed about $1 billion domestically.

The franchise's third episode, “The Hobbit: There and Back Again,” is scheduled to open Dec. 17, 2014.

Dec. 13 will also see the arrival of the latest episode in another well established franchise – Lionsgate's PG-13 comedy drama “Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas,” written and directed by Tyler Perry, whose five previous "Madea" episodes generated $323.4 million in domestic theatrical grosses. Although the film's likely core audience of women usually has gift shopping in mind in mid-December, the franchise's popularity and its seasonal storyline should work in its favor to attract adult females ready for some holiday spirit.

The Story: Madea (Perry) is coaxed into helping a friend surprise her daughter with a visit in the country for Christmas, but the biggest surprise is what they find when they arrive. As the small, rural town prepares for its annual Christmas Carnival, new secrets are revealed and old relationships are tested while Madea provides her own brand of Christmas spirit to everyone.

By Dec. 20 competition in the movie marketplace will really heat up with four new wide releases.

Columbia Pictures and Annapurna Pictures' R rated crime drama “American Hustle” will get a two day jump on the weekend by opening Wed., Dec. 18. Its director David O. Russell is 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. There's already a strong Oscar buzz for "Hustle" in key categories like picture, director, actor (Christian Bale) and supporting actress (Jennifer Lawrence).

The Story: A brilliant con man, Irving Rosenfeld (Bale), and his equally cunning and seductive British partner, Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), are forced to work for a wild FBI agent, Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), who pushes them into an enchanting but highly dangerous world of powerbrokers and mafia. Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) is the passionate, volatile New Jersey political operator caught between the con-artists and the Feds. Rosenfeld's unpredictable wife, Rosalyn (Lawrence), could be the one to pull the thread that brings their entire world crashing down.

Walt Disney Pictures' PG-13 biographical comedy drama "Saving Mr. Banks," opening wide Dec. 20 after a limited launch Dec. 13, is directed by John Lee Hancock (“The Blind Side”) and stars Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, both of whom have an Oscar buzz going (for supporting actor and best actress). The film's already on many Hollywood handicappers' lists as a potential best picture Oscar nominee.

The Story: When Walt Disney's daughters begged him to make a movie of their favorite book, P.L. Travers' “Mary Poppins,” he promised to get the rights, never thinking it would take him 20 years. Walt (Hanks) came up against a curmudgeonly, uncompromising writer with no intention of letting her beloved magical nanny get mauled by Hollywood. But needing money, Travers (Thompson) flew to meet in L.A. where for two short weeks in 1961 Disney pulled out all the stops, reaching back into his own childhood to persuade Travers to say yes.

Paramount Pictures' comedy "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues," opening wide Dec. 20, is directed by Adam McKay (“Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”).

The Story: With the ’70s behind him, top rated San Diego newsman Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) returns along with his co- anchor and wife Veronica (Christina 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 arriving wide Dec. 20 is 20th Century Fox and Reliance Big Entertainment's PG rated 3D animated family action adventure "Walking With Dinosaurs." Directed by Barry Cook (“Arthur Christmas”) and first-time feature director Neil Nightingale, "Walking" lets moviegoers see and feel what it was like when dinosaurs ruled the Earth.

The Story: With state of the art 3D we're in the middle of a thrilling and epic prehistoric world where an underdog dinosaur triumphs against all odds.

Christmas through New Year's is one of Hollywood's top grossing times of the year. Not surprisingly, four new wide releases will start competing Dec. 25 to make it a Merry Christmas at the multiplexes.

Paramount and Red Granite Pictures' R rated biographical comedy "The Wolf of Wall Street" is directed by Martin Scorsese, an Oscar winner in 2007 for directing “The Departed,” which also won best picture that year. It reteams Scorsese with Leonardo DiCaprio, who starred in "Departed." A strong Oscar buzz for best picture, director and actor is already underway for "Wolf."

The Story: "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.

Warner Bros. and RatPac-Dune Entertainment's PG-13 sports comedy "Grudge Match" is directed by Peter Segal (“50 First Dates”)wa.

The Story: Robert DeNiro and Sylvester Stallone star as 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.

20th Century Fox and Samuel Goldwyn Films' PG rated comedy adventure “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is directed by Ben Stiller (“Tropic Thunder”). "Mitty's" also generating a potential best picture Oscar buzz.

The Story: 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 (Kristen 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.

Universal's PG-13 fantasy action adventure “47 Ronin” is directed by first-time feature director Carl Rinsch and stars Keanu Reeves and Rinko Kikuchi. While this is the seventh retelling of the samurai story that began with 1941's Japanese action drama “The 47 Ronin,” it's Hollywood's first telling of the tale.

The Story: A band of samurai seek to avenge their master's death and dishonor at the hands of a ruthless shogun.

Bottom line: Santa knows what Hollywood wants and will be working overtime in December to deliver hefty ticket sales.