As expected, the 2012 Holiday movies audiences were really excited for came out on Christmas Day, not the weekend before: Les Miserables and Django Unchained both got off to fantastic starts on the holiday, while Parental Guidance had a very solid debut as well.
Les Miserables led all movies with $18.1 million, which is the top opening day ever for a musical ahead of High School Musical 3: Senior Year ($17 million). It also ranks as the second-highest Christmas Day launch behind Sherlock Holmes ($24.6 million), and fourth among all Christmas Day grosses behind Sherlock, Avatar ($23.1 million) and Meet the Fockers ($19.5 million). All three of those movies ultimately went on to earn over $200 million at the domestic box office. Les Miserables's audience skewed a bit female (56 percent), and gave it a great "A" CinemaScore.
In second place, Django Unchained debuted to just over $15 million. That's fifth all-time for Christmas Day (third among debuts), and is also writer-director Quentin Tarantino's highest start ever ahead of Inglourious Basterds ($14.4 million). This opening is particularly impressive considering the challenges of selling violent R-rated material around this time of year: for example, it took The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo four days to get past $15 million last year.
With good word-of-mouth on Les Miserables and Django Unchained, and considering how well movies usually hold at this time of year, it's practically a foregone conclusion that both titles wind up with well over $100 million by the end of their runs.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey had to settle for third place on Christmas Day with an estimated $11.3 million. Through 12 days, the first part of a prequel trilogy has netted $168.3 million.
Billy Crystal-Bette Midler family comedy Parental Guidance wasn't nearly as strong as Les Mis or Django, but it still tallied a very nice $6.4 million on opening day. That's almost double what Fox's Gulliver's Travels made on Christmas Day two years ago; more importantly, it's only a bit off from Cheaper by the Dozen's $7.8 million Christmas opening in 2003. Parental Guidance's release is clearly modeled off Cheaper, and if it holds as well (which is possible, but highly unlikely) it will wind up with over $110 million.
Among last weekend's debuts, Jack Reacher was tops on Christmas with an estimated $5.3 million. Through five days, the Tom Cruise thriller has grossed $23.5 million. This Is 40 wasn't far behind with $4.4 million, and so far the Judd Apatow comedy has earned a light $17.5 million.
Jack Reacher and This is 40 look like blockbusters compared to The Guilt Trip and Monsters, Inc. 3D; through a week in theaters, the two movies have grossed $11.1 million and $8.5 million, respectively.