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Holidays at the Box Office: Warner Bros., Disney Poised to Win

The holiday movie season may be just half as long as the summer movie season, and it gets far less attention, but day for day it's just as important — it generates 20 percent of the annual box office. With a month left to go, the pressure's on for studios to boost their Q-4 numbers. And Wall Street's watching carefully for indications of which studios have momentum going into 2011.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
AP
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Warner Brothers is on a hot streak — "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1" dominated the box office for two consecutive weeks, with $610 million in ticket sales worldwide.

At this rate, the film will very likely top $1 billion in global ticket sales, and it could very well be the biggest movie in the fourth quarter. It's given Warner Bros. 18.3 percent of the U.S. box office market share year-to-date, a top position it's sure to hold onto.

But Anthony DiClemente says that Potter's success means more than a temporary boost to the bottom line. He sees the fact that Warner Bros. has been able to so successfully maintain the franchise bodes well for new franchises they'll embark on in future years. Though Time Warner's cable networks comprise a bigger chunk of the company's results, DiClemente tells me that on the margin, Warner Bros. success is a very good sign for the company.

The big rebound story this holiday season may be Disney . This past weekend "Tangled" was a huge unexpected success, grossing $69 million in the U.S. alone. Why such a surprise? Simply put, Disney Animation Studios has struggled with a slew of disappointments, the ugly stepsister to sister studio Pixar's unfailing success. In fact, "Tangled," marks the first strong opening from Disney Animation studios since 2002 "Lilo and Stitch." With the huge hit of "Toy Story 3," under its belt, it's safe to say that Disney's studio is undergoing a turnaround.

And hopes are high for Disney's 3-D "Tron Legacy," which opens December 17. That's not coincidentally the same weekend that 20th Century Fox's "Avatar" opened last year. The remake of a 28-year-old film, it could appeal to fans of the original plus a new generation of teenage fanboys. The studio's hoping it'll be the must-see 3D movie that Avatar was last year.

Speaking of "Avatar," how will 20th Century Fox fare as it faces nearly impossible comparisons to that blockbuster? A lot hinges on the success of "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader." This is the third Narnia film, and the first one Fox released. Disney distributed the first two, and saw a dramatic fall-off in performance between the first and the second.

And there's always room for a wild card around the holidays: I'm placing my bet on Paramount's "True Grit." I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Western was a break-out hit.

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