There were some typical duds and a few profitably hits with regard to the movies that released, or expanded, in January. Since there was a more crowded then usual market, it was a competitive schedule wherein many films either under-performed or flat-out bombed. It was an active month at the multiplex, and here’s a look at what categorically happened:
Low Budget, D Grade Antics
The bad movies that plagued the month of January were VERY wise to keep their budgets low! Texas Chainsaw 3D benefited the most from targeting their niche, younger, urban audience that showed up at least opening weekend. Ditto for the sophomoric, and moronic, A Haunted House and thanks to the budget ($2.5 million) was low enough to turn a modest profit (so far around $38 million). Remarkably with a $6 million budget Movie 43 has grossed almost $8 million and overseas, the movie was titled Adults Only, which would’ve increased the branding awareness for movie goers. If only they put a little bit more effort into the screenplays, they wouldn’t have been so harshly rejected from the audiences which could have been a larger return on investment. The more time that is put into the screenplay, the more people would’ve shown up to pay to see it.
Jessica Chastain: Queen of the Box Office
Jessica Chastain became a mainstream, recognized, star pretty much overnight. Even though she was featured in numerous 2011 releases, her performances were either in supporting roles or with her in the lead roles they were just smaller movies. Her breakout happened in the span of one weekend in which she had the number one and number two movies the same Holiday weekend.
Contrived controversy aside, Zero Dark Thirty was the non-shock performer at the box office. Audiences wanted to see what went down with the Bin Laden raid, which was a given, and maybe the crowded December market could’ve effected grosses but I think audiences would have shown up if Zero Dark Thirty was released pretty much any weekend of the year. The subject matter, critic reviews, and solid buzz peaked the curiosity of adult audiences.
The overpraised horror thriller Mama borrowed heavily from David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. From Chastain’s goth look to the lighting and editing of some of the scenes seemed similar to the hot adult thriller from over a year ago. Latino audiences dominate the horror crowd and they showed up along with younger women despite the laughably bad ending and “B-” CinemaScore (though it had me howling).. With a $15 million budget, it was the healthy return on investment for Universal and the movie grossed $64 million as of today.
Expanding Oscar Contenders
Silver Linings Playbook expanded into more locations and is performing like gangbusters. I have to accept that it was a great idea to expand this little gem of a family drama/rom-com in January and not Christmas. The film is already racing beyond $75 million by end of the month, and it will expand to almost 3,000 locations in the coming weeks. Silver Linings Playbook looks to be the perfect Valentines Day movie, in a playing field that is surprising lacking in romantic films (yet again). Les Miserables and Django Unchained added even more money to their robust Holiday grosses these past few days, and the Thanksgiving release Lincoln quietly added more money to its total gross of $170 million. Amour made its debut in limited release and looks to begin a promising start as well. Even titles with minor categories from A Royal Affair to Chasing Ice saw increased business without even adding additional locations, which is pretty remarkable! Clearly, January is a great time to expand and re-introduce Oscar contenders to the public.
Too Many Male-Centric Movies Bombed
There were plenty of action thrillers targeted to men recently including the mediocre Gangster Squad, the confidently campy The Last Stand, the dreadful Broken City, and the formulaic Jason Stathum – JLo action flick Parker. With this over-saturation of product it’s no surprise that all of these films underperformed or flat out bombed at the box office. There were far too many movies to chose from for men, and this divided demographic hindered profitability for profits. Men also wanted to see Zero Dark Thirty in theaters, so this affected the overall grosses for a number of the other pictures that were in theaters as swell with nothing really sticking out in the so-so marketing of all these films. F.Y.I. – Not inspiring an audience to see the movie usually hinders the box office performance.