Box Office Outlook: The Wolf of Wall Street
Wolf of Wall Street poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published December 24, 2013
The film is going to sell out all day on opening day, at least in the top cities, which is what happened with Django Unchained.
The Wolf of Wall Street seems to be asking mass audiences what it might be like if you were a huge Wall Street success and spiraled out of control with your excesses. To me it seems like a cross of Goodfellas and Boogie Nights and I absolutely loved both films. Box office success is the big question and neither of those films played strongly with the masses. Itís going to come down to just how fun Martin Scorsese has crafted this film, and if itís ridiculously fun, itís going to catch on beyond the typically-reliable intellectuals in the top markets who like controversial entertainment. Films like this are harder sells than most mainstream movies because they rebel against politically correct attitudes and lifestyles, and not everybody attaches onto the edgier ideas involved. The plus side is that everybodyís biggest fantasy is getting rich quick and ponders what it would be like to be wealthy. Scorsese has never been a filmmaker to either get lines around the block or make tons of money at the box office because his visions are darker than most and he tends to work on unique slices of life. Typically, itís the intellectuals who love his work while a lot of other people donít really care for him.

This film seems to be about taking the audience on a joy ride of money and asking the audience if theyíd want to partake on this kind of life if they could. Opening it on Christmas Day seems brilliant because everybody spends heavily around the holidays and many people wonder how the wealthy spends. And millions of people go to the movies on Christmas regardless of what is even playing at the theater. Itís a goldmine idea and it all comes down to its content. Judging from the advertising, the film seems to be a dark comedy and a dark drama at the same time, which is risky and the said-combination rarely turns into a universally accepted mainstream success. Iíve only heard a few keywords about it, purposefully avoiding most comments until I see it, and have heard that itís all about what happens when money, drugs, and sex go way too far, which has to be one of the most dangerous combinations of recent time. Drug use is heavily controversial and rarely sells big to the masses and usually significantly limits box office success. But depending on how itís played within the film, there is significant box office ground to break through. Sex can also divide people and can make some people terribly uncomfortable depending on the content.

The film is going to sell out all day on opening day, at least in the top cities, which is what happened with Django Unchained. Prior to Django, Quentin Tarantino hadnít accomplished anything like that before, and because it wasnít the weekend yet its opening weekend gross was spread out as a result. I was blown away when Django was a full house everywhere I looked and for every single show of the day. His Inglourious Basterds had the same first day gross as Django but Basterds was only full at night. When I walked into Django in the early afternoon on Christmas, almost every seat was taken, it quickly rose to capacity, and the audience was fully prepared to love everything. The sellouts in Los Angeles were pointing to a $20+ million first-day gross but I knew LA was film-world. How a film plays in either Los Angeles, New York or similar is one thing, itís about how the film plays everywhere.

Los Angeles and New York love everything Martin Scorsese makes, but America as a whole is what matters for a broad success. Wolf of Wall Street is also three-hours long not even counting trailers, which means at some theaters the sitting time is going to come awfully close to three and a half. Most people get bothered when a film even runs past two hours so three hours is going to be testing. But if the film delivers on most levels and even surprises people, the room for success is going to be huge. Massive amounts of people going to the movies on one single day and various further days means massive amounts of word of mouth. If everybody likes or loves what they see in that time, theyíre going to tell everybody about it. That was the advantage with Django because there was barely anybody who didnít love it. After a $15.0 million Tuesday gross and a $30.1 million Friday to Sunday gross, the movie went on to make $162.8 million domestically. Basterds grossed $14.4 million on opening day Friday leading to a $38.1 million weekend and a $120.8 million domestic total.

Django Unchained was a complete crowd-pleaser and was making full houses burst out clapping at the end, much more than what Inglourious Basterds was achieving. That was after two and a half hours of edgy cartoonish violence which is usually a no-no for broad success. If The Wolf of Wall Street happens to make its no-noís ridiculously appealing, itís going to turn into a huge success. Reviews are mostly great which is going to help intellectuals take a chance but itís about outside of that. It helps that Leonardo DiCaprioís previous intellectual film this year, The Great Gatsby, opened huge to a $19.4 million Friday, $50.1 million weekend and $144.8 million total and that clocked in at two and a half hours. Gatsby, though, had a safe PG-13 rating and its tone was heavily cutesy and could draw in families. Previous to Gatsby, DiCaprio was struggling with the masses because his choices were too unique.

Scorsese and DiCaprioís last collaboration, the R-rated thriller Shutter Island, debuted with $14.1 million Friday and $41.1 million weekend, and that opened to relatively mixed reviews. The safe ball-park for Wall Street for opening day Wednesday seems to be $10 Ė 15 million in roughly 2,400 theaters, which would be a per-screen average between $4,000 and 6,000. Iím going to go right in the middle and say roughly $12.5 million because of the excessive running time and controversial elements. Itís apparently a very hard R-rating, which means family audiences are not going to partake in the experience. But if it turns out to have crazy appeal amongst adults and young adults, over $15 million could happen. And because of Wednesday, Friday to Sunday will be softer in comparison. The film should still score very well throughout the five day period but its day to really impress is Christmas when almost everybody leaves the house to go and see a movie at some point in the day.

Shutter Island totaled $128.0 million domestically, which should be the figure to beat for The Wolf of Wall Street but itís not guaranteed if it receives questionable word of mouth. The masses have to be willing to sit for three long hours and then love what they see. Iím guessing the bigger the city the better the audience reception, and the big mystery is everybody else. Quentin Tarantino made it happen last year and neared $200 million domestically and he was a heavily controversial talent beforehand Ė Is Martin Scorsese next?
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'Wolf of Wall Street' Articles
  • Lee's Wolf of Wall Street review C
    January 23, 2014    What I look for in a Martin Scorsese film just wasnít playing out in The Wolf of Wall Street, and its three-hour running time turned into a chore which was a big bust. -- Lee Tistaert