On Thursday, pre-release data for movies opening Christmas week became available throughout Hollywood, where industry insiders eat up the pre-release surveys known as "tracking." Executives analyze the data to determine which offerings audiences are excited to see, which ones they're not, and how to adjust marketing plans accordingly.
Universal Pictures' "Les Miserables," based on the Broadway musical, and The Weinstein Co.'s slave revenge story "Django," directed by Quentin Tarantino, both open Dec. 25 and are on track for strong openings, according to several people who have seen the tracking but were not authorized to discuss the information publicly.
But Paramount Pictures' Tom Cruise action film "Jack Reacher," which opens Dec. 21, is generating far less interest. Also tracking softly are comedies "The Guilt Trip," (Paramount) "This is 40" (Universal) and "Parental Guidance," (20th Century Fox) while the 3-D re-release of "Monsters Inc." from Walt Disney Studios appears headed for an unimpressive opening similar to that of "Finding Nemo 3-D" in September. All four films debut in the U.S. and Canada between Dec. 19 and Christmas Day.
Opinions are divided as to whether "Les Mis" or "Django" looks stronger. While more people are aware of the musical starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway, more people are "definitely interested" in seeing "Django," which stars Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Unsurprisingly, "Django" is tracking better with men, while "Les Mis" is stronger with women. What is surprising, however, is that among women over 25, the same percentage are interested in both films.
Awareness of "Jack Reacher" is very close to that of "Django" and lower than "Les Mis." However, the percentage of people who want to see Cruise's take on the series of books about an ex-military investigator is lower than for either of the two Christmas releases. Interest in "Reacher" is higher for men but particularly soft among women under 25.
Of course, with three weeks to go until "Reacher" opens and nearly four weeks until Christmas, there is plenty of time for audience opinions to change, particularly as advertising for the pictures becomes more pervasive.
But for today, at least, there may be more smiles at the offices of Universal and Weinstein Co. than at Paramount.