December decisions: Movie going decisions in December are driven by different dynamics than in other months.


Because the holiday season dominates the entire month of December, moviegoers' availability varies considerably depending on key demographics like age and gender.

The early weeks of December pose challenges for Hollywood marketers because that's when adult moviegoers – especially, women -- are typically preoccupied with holiday shopping. They're feeling overwhelmed about finding everything they need in time for the holidays – which means they're not likely to have time to relax with a movie then.

A few possible exceptions: Moms might bring young kids to see a family film they missed over Thanksgiving or absolutely must see again. And adult men might get together with buddies to catch an action film while their wives or girlfriends are busy shopping.

Because under-25 movie goers tend to be more available in early December, it's a better time to launch films targeted to young adults.

As December unfolds, adults are still a tough movie audience to attract because they're also busy with holiday parties. Between office events and partying with friends, adults still don't have a lot of spare time to kick back and enjoy movies. So younger audiences remain Hollywood's best bet.

But everything changes as we get closer to Dec. 25. Presents have been bought, trees trimmed, parties enjoyed and now, suddenly, there's time to relax. That's why so many adult theme films – and, especially, Oscar hopefuls – descend upon the multiplexes on or shortly before Christmas Day.

Movie going is a big part of celebrating the holiday period from Christmas through New Year's Day and a box-office heat wave is par for the course.

Here's a quick look at what's opening wide in December.

          Although the post-Thanksgiving weekend (Dec. 4-6) will bring only one big wide opening, it also will boast some happy holiday holdovers.
          Universal and Legendary Pictures' PG-13 rated horror comedy "Krampus," opening at about 2,800 theatres, is directed by Michael Dougherty ("Trick 'r Treat") and stars Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner and Allison Tolman.

          Its playability to under-25 moviegoers makes "Krampus" a good choice for early December. And so does its Christmas theme storyline. Audiences typically lose interest in seasonal movies as soon as Christmas is over, so they've got to open by early December to have enough holiday season playing time.

          In "Krampus," a dysfunctional family clashes over the holidays and Max (Emjay Anthony) turns his back on Christmas. Little does he know, this lack of festive spirit unleashes the wrath of Krampus, a demonic force of ancient evil that's out to punish non-believers.

          Competing with "Krampus" will be some strong Turkey Day holdovers that also will be helping to stuff the box-office with ticket sales in their second weekend of release.

Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures' PG rated 3D animated comedy adventure "The Good Dinosaur" opened last weekend to $55.6million. The five day holiday period also saw Warner Bros., New Line Cinema and MGM's PG-13 rated boxing drama "Creed" kick off to $42.6million.

Also competing for moviegoers' time and money will be the third week of Lionsgate and Color Force's PG-13 rated sci-fi adventure "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2,"which topped the five day Thanksgiving chart with $75.8 million and a cume of $198.3 million.

Other hefty holdovers include: MGM, Columbia Pictures and Eon Productions'PG-13 rated action adventure spy thriller "Spectre," with $18.2 million for five days and a four week cume of $176.1million; and 20th Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios' G rated 3D animated comedy adventure "The Peanuts Movie," with $13.6million for five days and a four week cume of $116.8 million.

          Multiplexes will be get busier Dec. 11 with the arrival of two action films targeted to adult men.

          Warner Bros., Imagine Entertainment and Village Roadshow Pictures' PG-13 rated 3D action adventure "In the Heart of the Sea" is from two-time Oscar winner Ron Howard, director of "Apollo 13" and "A Beautiful Mind." Starring are: Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy and Tom Holland.

          "Sea" should play best to over-25 men, an audience that will be more accessible that weekend than the still-busy-shopping adult female demo will be.

          Its action story is set in the winter of 1820 when the New England whaling ship Essex was assaulted by a mammoth size whale with an almost human sense of vengeance. The maritime disaster inspired the novel "Moby-Dick," but told only half the story. Its harrowing aftermath is revealed in "Sea" as the surviving crew is pushed to their limits to stay alive.

The same weekend will bring another adult male appeal action film as Universal, Studiocanal, Working Title and Cross Creek Pictures' crime thriller "Legend" goes wider after two weeks in limited release.

Directed and written by Brian Helgeland, Oscar winning co-screenwriter of "L.A. Confidential,""Legend" is based on John Pearson's book about the British gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray and their 1960's London crime empire.

          Tom Hardy, in a double performance, plays the twin brothers in the true story of their rise and fall, revealing the extraordinary events that brought the Krays infamy.

          Dec. 18 is when the box-office will really heat up with the arrival of four wide releases, including the year's most highly anticipated movie -- Lucasfilm Ltd.'s PG-13 rated 3D action adventure "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," opening via Disney. It's truly an event film that should play well to men and women under and over 25 – in other words, to everyone. It's what movie marketers call a "four quadrants" film, referring to the four basic demographic categories.

          Hollywood handicappers are already speculating about an "Awakens" launch in the area of $170 million. Some insiders are even figuring it could open to much more – like, maybe, around $210 million! The all-time domestic opening weekend record to beat is "Jurassic World," which arrived last June 12via Universal to $208.8 million and did $652.2 million domestically.

          The legendary "Star Wars" franchise has grossed $2.2 billion in domestic theatres, including reissues over the years. The original episode blasted off May 25, 1977 with a then very impressive $1.6 million at just 43 theatres, after which it expanded weekly for many months. It grossed $307.3 million, which was spectacular business at the time and would translate today to over $1 billion. Its domestic cume has grown with reissues to $461 million.

          The series' last live action episode, "Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith," opened via Fox May 19, 2005 to $108.4 million and went on to gross $380.3 million domestically.

          Directed by "Star Trek Into Darkness" director J.J. Abrams, "Awakens" stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Adam Driver. It continues the saga created by George Lucas and is set 30 years after 1983's "Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi."

          Written by Lawrence Kasdan &J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt, "Awakens"is based on characters created by George Lucas.

          The PG rated animated comedy adventure "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip" from 20th Century Fox and Regency Enterprises is based on the characters Alvin and the Chipmunks created by Ross Bagdasarian and The Chipettes, created by Janice Karman.

          It's good counter-programming to "Awakens."Families with young kids will fit "Chip" into their holiday movie going plans. And since so many of today's parents grew up watching Alvin and his Chipmunk pals on TV, they'll look forward to catching up with the hit movie franchise's fourth episode-- as well as seeing "Awakens."

          The first three episodes grossed $570 million in domestic theatres. The last one, "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked," opened Dec. 16, 2011 to $23.2 million and did $133.1 million domestically.
          This time around, through a series of misunderstandings, Alvin, Simon and Theodore come to believe that Dave is going to propose to his new girlfriend in Miami -- and then dump them. The pressure's on because they've only got three days to stop him.

          There's more counter-programming to "Awakens"in Universal Pictures' R rated comedy "Sisters," from "Pitch Perfect" director Jason Moore. "Sisters" should play best to under-25 females. That'sa demo that typically doesn't love sci-fi and might welcome an alternative to "Awakens."On the other hand, the "Star Wars" franchise is so iconic by now that it may even be a must-see event for people who usually don't gravitate to sci-fi.

          Tina Fey and Amy Poehler play disconnected sisters, whose parents summon them home to clean out their childhood bedroom before putting the house up for sale. 

          Looking to recapture their glory days, the sisters decide to throw one final high-school-style party for their old classmates. It turns into the kind of blast from the past that a bunch of ground-down adults really need. 

          A half dozen wide openings will hit theatres on or just before   Christmas Day to make the most of how movie going – especially by adults -- expands between Christmas and New Year's.

          Wed., Dec. 23 will be the big day for the R rated awards contender drama "The Big Short" from Paramount, Plan B Entertainment and Regency Enterprises. Directed by Adam McKay ("Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues"), it's based on a novel by Michael Lewis, whose books "Moneyball" and "The Blind Side" both became best picture Oscar nominees. "Big" should play best to adult men.

          Starring are Christian Bale, a best supporting actor Oscar winner for "The Fighter;" Steve Carell, a best actor Oscar nominee for "Foxcatcher;" Ryan Gosling, a best actor Oscar nominee for "Half Nelson;" and Brad Pitt, an Oscar winning producer of "12 Years a Slave." 

          In "Big," after predicting the housing and credit bubble collapse that precipitated the mid-2000s global recession, four outsiders in the world of high-finance take on the big banks for their lack of foresight and greed.

          One of this year's highest profile Oscar hopefuls, the PG-13 rated drama "Joy" from 20th Century Fox, Annapurna Pictures and Davis Entertainment, opens Dec. 25. It should play best to adults, and especially well to women over 25.

          "Joy" is from David O. Russell, a three-time best directing Oscar nominee for "The Fighter," "Silver Linings Playbook" and "American Hustle." Russell is also a two-time screenwriting nominee – in 2013 for adapted screenplay for "Silver" and in 2014 for original screenplay for "Hustle."

          Jennifer Lawrence, a best actress Oscar winner for "Silver," playsJoy, who's launched a business dynasty. Joy's dad, Robert De Niro, is a best actor Oscar winner for "Raging Bull" and a supporting actor winner for "The Godfather: Part II." Bradley Cooper, playing a TV executive, is a best actor Oscar nominee for "Silver" and "American Sniper" and a supporting actor nominee for "Hustle."

          Another much talked about adult appeal Oscar contender going into wide release Christmas Day is Focus Features and Working Title Films' R rated biographical drama "The Danish Girl." Inspired by a true story, it's directed by Tom Hooper, a best directing Oscar winner for "The Kings Speech."

          "Danish" opened last weekend in limited release to an encouraging $185,000 at 4 theatres in New York and Los Angeles ($46,250 per theatre). Focus said it played best to adult women – 58 percent of the audience was female and 67 percent was 40 or older. It expands its run Dec. 11 and Dec. 18 before going wide Dec. 25.

           Set in Copenhagen during the early 1920's, "Danish"stars Eddie Redmayne, a best actor Oscar winner in 2015 for "The Theory of Everything," in the transgender role of Lili Elbe. As Einar, a male, he was painted by his wife, artist Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander), posing dressed and made up as a female. Afterwards, Einar took on a new female identity as Lili with sex reassignment surgery.

          Warner Bros. and Alcon Entertainment's PG-13 rated 3D action thriller "Point Break"is directed by Ericson Core ("Invincible") and stars Edgar Ramirez and Luke Bracey.

          Inspired by the 1991 original directed by Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker") and starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves, it should play best to adult men and next best to younger men. The first "Point" opened July 12, 1991 to $8.5 million and went on to do $43.2 million domestically.

          In "Point," Bracey plays FBI agent Johnny Utah, who infiltrates a team of thrill-seeking elite athletes led by the charismatic Bodhi (Ramirez). The athletes are suspected of carrying out a string of unusual crimes. Utah puts his life on the line, working undercover to prove their guilt.

          The film's action adventure stunts are performed by elite athletes representing the world's best in class in big-wave surfing, wingsuit flying, sheer-face snowboarding, free rock climbing and high-speed motorcycling.

          The PG-13 sports drama "Concussion" from Columbia Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures and Scott Free Productions, is written and directed by Peter Landesman ("Parkland"). It should play best to adult men and also to younger men.

          Will Smith, in a performance that's already generating an Oscar buzz, plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, a brilliant forensic neuropathologist who discovers the football-related brain trauma CTE in a pro player and then fights for the truth to be known. Omalu's emotional quest puts him at dangerous odds with pro-football.

          The family comedy "Daddy's Home" from Paramount Pictures and Good Universe is directed by Sean Anders ("Horrible Bosses 2") and stars Will Ferrell and Mark Whalberg.

          Ferrell plays Brad, a mild-mannered radio executive trying hard to be the best possible step-dad to his wife Sarah's (Linda Cardellini) two children. Complications ensue, however,and it's dad vs. step-dad when the kids' freeloading real father, Dusty(Whalberg), arrives and competes for their affection.

          Bottom line: Santa's delivering his biggest boxoffice presentfor moviegoers Dec. 18.