The force will be strong with Disney this December and many other studios are retreating from its power. The very bulky Christmas Day movie slate is slowly thinning down thanks to the hulking presence of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens that will be wielding unimaginable box office power even after being released the week prior.
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation was the first to scramble away and doing the rare act of actually moving up on the schedule (especially for a big budget spectacle that probably could use the extra months of post-production special effects touch-up). The picture had to wave the white flag early by recognizing many fans will choose a fourth straight Star Wars viewing over watching Tom Cruise dangling on the side of a plane this Christmas. At least, MI gets some solace in knowing that they've won the coveted right to use the precious "Rogue" in their marketing materials
It is a small victory for Paramount because it is now a two time Christmas retreater with its CGI/Animated/Live-action hybrid, Monster Trucks fleeing to March. The studios is recognizing that its biggest tentpole of the year and an original animated property were no true match-up against a highly anticipate new chapter to a franchise that is deeply embedded into our culture and appeals to almost every possible demographic. Their biggest chance for recouping costs was being the movie people resigned themselves to seeing after three simultaneous screenings of Luke Skywalker and the gang were sold out. This now allows the adventures of Ethan Hawk to regain its spot as a "Big Event" picture for July and original animated features have proven to draw with the families in March giving Monsters Trucks a new hope.
The Christmas wide release slate is still bloated and would be even for a year that doesn't have a still fresh juggernaut threatening to topple all in its path. Monster Trucks was likely in the most trouble as Star Wars will be drawing in an army of families and there is already an animation mixed live-action feature in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip. The Chipmunks most notable (and only?) contribution to cinema is its seemingly endless stream of pun titles, but it is an established brand that somehow garnered itself a strong following (families must love the sly wit of chipmunk inspired puns). The heavily family-focused holiday probably means the singing rodents have a shot at pulling in a decent haul while I shake my fist at what parents willingly subject their children to watching (says the guy who just allowed his son to see 1992's Tom and Jerry: The Movie).
Paramount is now completely left out in the blizzard this Christmas season as it last movie of the year is released in mid-November with the horror reboot, Rings. Considering the history of that genre at the box office, it will be long gone before most start their gift shopping. I'm expected some other movies to lose this game of chicken or risk making the list of the biggest box office bombs of the year.
Oliver Stone's Snowden will likely be a very small wide release (or just be sliced down to a New York and LA opening) with eyes on a January expansion if it does well. Point Break seems destined to be a disaster as younger audiences will see it as Fast & Furious with surfboards and older audiences will only vaguely remember they may have kind of liked the original. Both Concussion and Joy have the weight of being counter programming to those not into epic space operas, but the two may end up battling for that specific audience and in 2015 Jennifer Lawrence is the bigger star (the Will Smith movie may just be too "serious" during a time that people are hankering for something light and digestible).
Obvious counter programming will also be arriving from the week before to muddy the waters as the Tina Fey and Amy Poehler starring Sisters opens alongside Force Awakens. I'm both impressed and shocked the comedy hasn't budged from that release date. I realize not everyone wants to see Star Wars or is buying into the exorbitant hype, but Avengers: Age of Ultron scared all wide release challengers away from the prestigious May 1st and I'd consider the story set in a galaxy far, far, far away to be the bigger box office titan. Sisters may still relocate a week, but that would only make it an even more crammed and potentially disastrous situation for the non sci-fi movies.
It may be a record breaking end-of-the-year with Star Wars getting many out to the cinemas and then several being enticed by some of the other pictures. It could also just as easily be one movie scrooging all the money then sending the rest into a dark oblivion. Before the holiday season hits, I predict more "held back for retooling" announcements or a movie being shunted down into limited release security with hopes of expanding after the hype cools. Right now, Star Wars stands as the franchise that makes all others shake and Disney is reveling in its spot as the king of the tentpoles.