The upcoming holiday film season is one of the lightest in recent years. Make no mistake: There are a few big movies opening, but the long list of openings around Christmas is not as lengthy as in previous years.
That’s because of the 800-pound gorilla that will be taking over theater complexes come Dec. 18. The release of “Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens” is not only an 800-pound gorilla when it comes to openings, this gorilla comes armed with lightsabers.
“The Force Awakens” is expected to shatter global box office records. First up is expected to be global opening weekend, with a current record of more than $511 million, set by “Jurassic World.”
Other films will not only lose business to the film directed by J.J. Abrams, but because it will play on the largest number of screens, there won’t be a lot of empty theaters for other movies. Most major movies open on about 4,000 screens globally; “Force” likely will surpass that.
There are still six opening weekends before “The Force Awakens.” Here are some of the movies that will be vying for second place among this year’s holiday releases.
Friday, Nov. 6
Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Ben Whishaw, Lea Seydoux
Plot: James Bond goes on a mission to uncover an evil organization. At the same time, M fights to keep the British secret service from folding.
What to expect: As always, Bond movies have a license to kill.
“The Peanuts Movie”
Director: Steve Martino
Cast: Noah Schnapp, Bill Melendez, Hadley Belle Miller, Alexander Garfin
Plot: Charlie Brown goes on a quest while Snoopy battles the Red Baron.
What to expect: It’s great to see a new product featuring the Peanuts gang.
Friday, Nov. 13
Director: Patricia Riggen
Starring: Antonio Bandaras, James Brolin, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche
Plot: The world watches efforts to save 33 miners trapped underground after a mine collapses in Chile.
What to expect: Hard to build drama when the results are so well known.
“By the Sea”
Director: Angelina Jolie
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Neils Arestrup, Melanie Laurent
Plot: An American writer and his wife are having trouble in their marriage.
What to expect: Most heat in a movie since Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton shared the big screen.
“Love the Coopers”
Director: Jessie Nelson
Cast: Diane Keaton, Ed Helms, John Goodman, Alan Arkin
Plot: Four generations of a family come together for their annual Christmas Eve celebration.
“My All American”
Director: Angelo Pizzo
Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Sarah Bolger, Finn Wittrock, Robin Tunney
Plot: A young man who has been told he is too small to play college football is trained by his father.
Friday, Nov. 20
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2”
Director: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Julianne Moore, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Plot: Katniss Everdeen and District 13 take on the Capitol in a full-scale revolution.
What to expect: The fact that this wraps up the series should draw big crowds.
Director: Tom McCarthy
Cast: Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber
Plot: True story of how the Boston Globe uncovered scandal involving the Catholic Church.
What to expect: A story that will be hard to forget.
“The Night Before”
Director: Jonathan Levine
Cast: Lizzy Caplan, Miley Cyrus, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Plot: Three friends go looking for the ultimate Christmas party.
What to expect: Look for some very dark comedy.
Wednesday, Nov. 25
Director: Ryan Coogler
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad
Plot: The son of Apollo Creed turns to Rocky Balboa for training help in his pursuit of a boxing career.
What to expect: The “Rocky” films lost their punch years ago.
“The Good Dinosaur”
Director: Peter Sohn
Cast: Raymond Ochoa, Jeffrey Wright, Steve Zahn, Sam Elliott
Plot: A dinosaur makes friends with a young human boy.
What to expect: Will be difficult to live up to comparisons to “Inside Out.”
Director: Paul McGuigan
Starring: James McAvoy, Daniel Radcliffe, Jessica Brown Findlay
Plot: Victor Frankenstein and Igor believe they have a way to help humanity. Their studies into immortality are more dangerous than they imagine.
What to expect: It might be time to give Frankenstein’s monster a rest.
Friday, Dec. 4
Director: Michael Dougherty
Starring: Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Conchata Ferrell
Plot: When a young man turns his back on Christmas, he unleases an evil force.
What to expect: Do we need a movie about family fights during the holidays?
Friday, Dec. 11
“In the Heart of the Sea”
Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Cillian Murphy, Chris Hemsworth, Ben Whishaw, Tom Holland
Plot: The story of a mammoth whale attacking a ship in 1820 that served as the inspiration for “Moby Dick.”
What to expect: Could be the sleeper hit of the holidays.
Director: Brian Helgeland
Cast: Tom Hardy, Chazz Palminteri, Emily Browning, David Thewlis
Plot: Reggie and Ronnie Kray become the most notorious gangsters in London.
What to expect: Oscar buzz for Hardy who is playing both brothers.
Friday, Dec. 18
Director: Jason Moore
Cast: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Dianne Wiest
Plot: Two disconnected sisters must return home to clean out their childhood bedroom before the family house is sold.
What to expect: It’s opening against the new “Star Wars” movie. Enough said.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
Director: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Harrison Ford
Plot: Little has been released except something happens to new and old characters in a galaxy, far, far away.
What to expect: It will be a mammoth hit.
Wednesday, Dec. 23
“Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Road Chip”
Director: Walter Becker
Cast: Jason Lee, Tony Hale, Jesse McCartney, Justin Long
Plot: Alvin, Simon and Theodore must get to Miami in three days to stop Dave from proposing.
What to expect: Will survive on very young moviegoers.
Friday, Dec. 25
Director: Peter Landesman
Cast: Will Smith, Alex Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Stephen Moyer
Plot: Film based on the true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu’s discovery of CTE.
What to expect: Heavy way to spend Christmas.
Director: Justin Price
Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Thomas Haden Church, Linda Cardellini
Plot: Guy gets back into the life of the woman he divorced when she marries a very uptight man.
What to expect: Never bet against Will Ferrell.
Director: David O. Russell
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Diane Ladd
Plot: A woman rises to become founder and matriarch of a family business.
What to expect: Has a good pedigree as it’s from the people behind “Silver Linings Playbook.”
Director: Ericson Core
Cast: Teresa Palmer, Edgar Ramirez, Luke Bracey, Delroy Lindo
Plot: Young FBI agent infiltrates a team of thrill seekers on the wrong side of the law.
What to expect: Will be difficult to top the original Patrick Swayze movie.
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Cast: Leonardo Dicaprio, Tom Hardy, Luke Haas, Will Poulter
Plot: One man goes to extremes to fight for his survival.
What to expect: Could produce Oscar buzz.