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2015 Preview: January

January 1st, 2015

Taken 3 poster

2014 is over and for the most part, December was a soft ending to a weak year. This is bad news for two reasons. Firstly, it means the overall box office is still soft and it is unlikely that January will start strong. Secondly, last January was a great month, thanks in part to Frozen and other holdovers. The slump can't last forever and Taken 3 should help 2015 get off to a reasonably fast start and it even has a shot at $100 million. American Sniper got off to a really fast start in limited release, so it too could be a hit when it expands wide. By comparison, last January was led by Ride Along, but there were only two other films that didn't completely bomb. I want to say 2015 will start out on a winning note, but given the box office losing streak, it will likely pay to be pessimistic.

Weekend of January 2nd, 2015

The Woman in Black: Angel of Death poster

The first weekend of the year has only one wide release: The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death. This is a sequel that is earning very little buzz compared to its predecessor and I seriously doubt it will find a major audience in theaters. Likewise, this weekend last year, the only wide release was Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, another sequel that was earning very little buzz compared to its predecessors. Unfortunately, Angel of Death isn't starting from the same position that The Marked Ones did, so it won't have as strong of an opening. Unless the holdovers outperform last year's batch, 2015 will start out losing in the year-over-year comparison.

The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death

The Woman in Black: Angel of Death poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: WomanInBlack2.Tumblr.com
Distributor: Relativity
Release Date: January 2nd, 2015
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some disturbing and frightening images, and for thematic elements.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Haunting, Demon, World War II, Haunted House, England, and more
Directed By: Tom Harper
Written By: Jon Croker and Susan Hill
Starring: Phoebe Fox, Jeremy Irvine, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $10 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones managed just $32 million during its theatrical run last January. This is compared to $54 million to its predecessor and nearly $90 million for the franchise average. The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death finds itself in a similar situation. The first film earned $54 million, so this film could earn as much as The Marked Ones did. I think that's a little too bullish, because the The Marked Ones had a more established franchise. On the other hand, there are strong signs that people had grown tired of the Paranormal Activity franchise before The Marked Ones was even greenlit. That isn't the case with The Woman in Black, so there's a chance it will beat the above box office potential.

Weekend of January 9th, 2015

Taken 3 poster

There are two or three wide releases during the second weekend of the year. Only Taken 3 is opening wide, but Selma and possibly Inherent Vice will be expanding wide. Inherent Vice's per theater average is dropping faster than most limited releases, so it might not last two more weeks. Selma on the other hand, could get a boost from Awards Season nominations, but even at the highest end, it is a midlevel hit and no more. Taken 3, or Tak3n as it is sometimes written, will have no trouble becoming the biggest hit of the week and it might even become the only $100 million hit of the month. It probably won't get there, but it will likely at least get close enough to be considered a financial success. This weekend last year, Lone Survivor expanded wide earning $37.85 million during its first wide weekend. The only other wide release was The Legend of Hercules, which made $8.87 million during its opening weekend. Taken 3 might earn $40 million, while Selma should top Hercules, so combined 2015 has a shot at winning the year-over-year comparison. It should be close.

Inherent Vice

Inherent Vice poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: InherentViceMovie.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: December 12th, 2014 (Limited Release)
Release Date: January 9th, 2015 (Wide Expansion)
MPAA Rating: R for drug use throughout, sexual content, graphic nudity, language and some violence.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Private Eye, Ensemble, Missing Person, 1970s, Narcotics, Los Angeles, Gratuitous Cameos, and more
Directed By: Paul Thomas Anderson
Written By: Paul Thomas Anderson and Thomas Pynchon
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix and about 400 other actors
Production Budget: Reported at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million

Inherent Vice opened on December 12th and earned one of the best per theater averages for the year. However, while it started out great, its reviews are weaker than most successful limited releases and its per theater average fell faster as a result. With the wide release still two weeks away, there is a chance they will fall enough that the film will struggle to earn a truly wide release. If so, it will still earn some measure of mainstream success, but it won't get to $10 million, for instance. If it can expand truly wide, it still likely won't get to $50 million.

Selma

Selma poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: SelmaMovie.com
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: December 25th, 2014 (Limited Release)
Release Date: January 9th, 2015 (Wide Expansion)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including violence, a suggestive moment, and brief strong language.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Biography, African-American, Political, Civil Rights Movement, and more.
Directed By: Ava Duvernay
Written By: Paul Webb
Starring: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Oprah Winfrey, and other
Production Budget: Reported at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million

There is a very wide range for Selma's box office potential, because a lot of it depends on how well it does with Awards Season voters. Given its reviews, it could be one of the big winners on Oscar night. If that happens, it could hit $50 million, thanks to all of the free advertising. On the other hand, like all limited releases with planned wide expansions, things can go wrong along the way. Its opening per theater average suggests it has the potential to expand wide and its reviews suggest it won't collapse, so I'm choosing to stay optimistic. However, the potential for box office disappointment is here.

Taken 3

Taken 3 poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TakenMovie.com
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: January 9th, 2015
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for brief strong language.
Source: Original Screenplay / Sequel
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Divorced Couple Getting Back Together, Death of a Spouse, Framed, On the Run, Revenge, and more.
Directed By: Olivier Magaton
Written By: Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
Starring: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $50 million to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $95 million

The final chapter in the Taken trilogy comes out this week. The buzz for Taken 3 isn't as strong as it was for Taken 2 and some think the franchise has overstayed its welcome. Additionally, Liam Neeson's last film in the genre, A Walk Among the Tombstones, failed to find an audience in theaters. It still has a shot at $100 million; in fact, it likely has the best shot out of any films opening this month. If it can earn $125 million or so, then it is a sign that the box office is recovering from the slump.

Weekend of January 16th, 2015

The Wedding Ringer poster

There are four, possibly five films opening or expanding wide this Martin Luther King, Jr weekend. The Wedding Ringer is the biggest of the films opening wide and it should have little trouble becoming at least a midlevel hit. Kevin Hart's breakout hit, Ride Along, opened this time last year and there's obviously going to be a lot of people comparing the two films, but you shouldn't get too enthusiastic. Its biggest competition is already in theaters. American Sniper opened in limited release on Christmas day and while it likely won't be an Awards Season player, it could be this year's Lone Survivor. I don't think it will do as well, but it does have the potential to be a surprise $100 million hit. Blackhat is a cyber-thriller, which is a genre that has never been huge at the box office. There is also Paddington, a film based on popular book series for children, at least it is popular in the U.K. I'm not sure it is popular enough here to warrant a movie. Finally there's Vice, which I no longer think is opening truly wide. There were four wide releases this weekend last year, including Ride Along, which earned $41.52 million during its opening weekend. I don't think any film will match that figure, so 2015 might suffer an early loss in the year-over-year comparison.

American Sniper

American Sniper poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: AmericanSniperMovie.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: December 25th, 2014
Release Date: January 16th, 2015
MPAA Rating: R for strong and disturbing war violence, and language throughout including some sexual references.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Biography, Autobiography, Sniper, War, Iraq War, Dysfunctional Family, PTSD, and more
Directed By: Clint Eastwood
Written By: Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, and Jason Hall
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, and more
Production Budget: Estimated at $40 million to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million

Chris Kyle is almost the archetypal American hero and his story is one that should be told. Its reviews are excellent for a wide release, while it's had one of the best per theater averages of the year during its opening weekend. On the downside, it is not award-worthy, which a lot of people were expecting. On the high end, it could open as strongly as Lone Survivor and cruise past $100 million. Even on the low end, it should at least match its production budget. I think it will be in a close race for first place opening weekend with The Wedding Ringer. I think it will come in second place, but it will have better legs.

Blackhat

Blackhat poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: BlackHatTheMovie.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: January 16th, 2015
MPAA Rating: R for violence and some language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Internet, Cybercrimes, Terrorism, Life on the Outside, Confidential Informant, Revenge, Criminals Working With Cops, more
Directed By: Michael Mann
Written By: Michael Mann and Morgan Davis Foehl
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Viola Davis, Wei Tang, Wang Lee-Hom, and more
Production Budget: Estimated at $50 million to $75 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million

Michael Mann's latest film is a thriller about cyber-terrorism. For the studio's sake, I really hope it it cost less than Michael Mann's average, because if this film cost $100 million like most of his recent films, there's little hope the studio will recoup its expenses. I'm not saying it looks like a bad movie. Michael Mann's hit to miss ratio with critics is very good. However, Blackhat is just not earning enough buzz to be anything more than a midlevel hit. In fact, the buzz suggests it won't even get there, not even with Thor in the lead. I don't think it will get much beyond $40 million domestically. On the other hand, the film seems tailor made to do strong business in China.

Paddington

Paddington poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Paddington.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: January 16th, 2015
MPAA Rating: PG for mild action and rude humor.
Source: Based on a Novel
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Animal Lead, Talking Animals, Museums, and more
Directed By: Paul King
Written By: Paul King, Hamish McColl, and Michael Bond
Starring: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Nicole Kidman, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $50 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million

Paddington is based on a very popular British book series that first started in 1968. The film has made more than $30 million in the U.K. alone, which is about the same as $150 million to $175 million here, based on the relative size of the two markets. That's overly optimistic, obviously. Paddington doesn't have the same drawing power here as it does in its native market and it has a much weaker release date. That said, the lack of direct competition and amazing reviews could help it become a midlevel hit. Even if it is struggled to match its production budget, it has made enough internationally ($80 million and counting) that it will break even sometime on the home market.

The Wedding Ringer

The Wedding Ringer poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Facebook.com/WeddingRinger
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: January 16th, 2015
MPAA Rating: R for crude and sexual content, language throughout, some drug use and brief graphic nudity.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: African-American, Wedding Planning, Wedding Day, Buddy Comedy, Romance, False Identity, and more
Directed By: Jeremy Garelick
Written By: Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender
Starring: Kevin Hart, Josh Gad, Kaley Cuoco, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $15 million to $20 million
Box Office Potential: $85 million

Kevin Hart stars as a man who pretends to be the best man to help socially awkward men. His latest client is Josh Gad, who not only needs a best man in time for his wedding to Kaley Cuoco, but he also needs seven other groomsmen.

Kevin Hart has been a very popular stand-up comedian for years, but last year he also managed breakout success as a movie star with Ride Along. Given The Wedding Ringer's production budget, it might break even if it earns just half as much as as Ride Along did. That's great news, because the buzz for this film is not as strong as Ride Along's buzz was and its chances of reaching $100 million are very slim. There is still a chance, on the other hand.

Weekend of January 23rd, 2015

Mortdecai poster

It's the weekend after a long weekend, which is bad news for the box office. None of the three films opening wide this weekend look like they will become even midlevel hits. The Boy Next Door is earning quiet buzz and rather weak buzz at that. On the other hand, it is reportedly a low-budget thriller, so it won't need to be a hit to break even eventually. Mortdecai is earning the loudest buzz for the week, but the buzz is also mixed with some thinking it is too bizarre to find an audience in theaters. Up next is Strange Magic, a digitally animated family film. The buzz here is deafeningly quiet. There was one other film that was supposed to open wide this week, The Loft; however, that film has been pushed back a week and no longer appears to be opening wide. There is some good news. This weekend last year, there was only one wide release, I, Frankenstein, which only managed $8.61 million during its opening weekend. All three new releases this year should open with at least that much, if not more. If the holdovers can hold up their end of the bargain, then 2015 should win the year-over-year comparison. I choose to remain cautiously optimistic.

The Boy Next Door

The Boy Next Door poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheBoyNextDoorFilm.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: January 23rd, 2015
MPAA Rating: R for violence, sexual content/nudity and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Romance, Divorcee Romance, May February Romance, One-Night Stand, Obsessive Love, Hot for Teacher, and more
Directed By: Rob Cohen
Written By: Barbara Curry
Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $5 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Jennifer Lopez plays a high school teacher who has a one-night affair with new neighbor, Ryan Guzman, who is also a student at the school she teaches at, I think. He then develops an obsession over her. This seems like a rather plain thriller that has very little chance at breakout success. The buzz ... barely exists and a lot of people are talking about how it is too similar to other movies. This is a really bad sign. Add in the January release date and I'm fairly sure the studio has no faith in the movie. It might not top $10 million during its opening weekend and I doubt it will have the legs to last in theaters for very long.

Mortdecai

Mortdecai poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: MortdecaiTheMovie.com/
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: January 23rd, 2015
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Likely PG-13
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Heist, Private Eye, Treasure Hunters, Nazis, Nazi Treasure, Ensemble, and more
Directed By: David Koepp
Written By: Kyril Bonfiglioli and Eric Aronson
Starring: Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Olivia Munn, Ewan McGregor, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

This is the biggest release of the week, which should help a bit. Unfortunately, it won't help enough. Johnny Depp is on a losing streak at the box office and the buzz isn't particularly strong for this film. Many moviegoers think this looks too much like the typical Johnny Depp / Tim Burton movie, even though it is not directed by Tim Burton. Instead it is directed by David Koepp, who has more than $2 billion in career domestic box office earnings... as a screenwriter. As a director, his career domestic box office earnings are barely over $100 million. This film should help boost that total, but it still won't be a midlevel hit.

Strange Magic

Strange Magic poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: StrangeMagicMovie.com
Distributor: Disney Release Date: January 23rd, 2015
MPAA Rating: PG for some action and scary images.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Fairies, Culture Clash, Good vs. Evil?, and more
Directed By: Gary Rydstrom
Written By: David Berenbaum, Irene Mecchi, Gary Rydstrom, and George Lucas
Starring: Alan Cumming, Evan Rachel Wood, Kristin Chenoweth, Maya Rudolph, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million

A digitally animated family film about a group of faeries and a group of goblins that interact for the first time and this interaction causes a war. It is too early in the year for a family film to come out, as most families will still be recovering from Christmas / New Year. Add in the deathly quiet buzz and there's little hope this film will be a big hit. If the reviews are good, it might have enough legs to match it production budget domestically, but I am not optimistic.

Weekend of January 30th, 2015

Project Almanac poster

January ends with two movies, three if you count The Loft, which I'm not. I really don't think it will open wide enough to reach the top ten. Project Almanac is the bigger of the two wide releases and it could be a surprise midlevel hit. On the other hand, it feels too much like Chronicle and I think that will hurt it at the box office. Black or White feels like an unintentional parody of Oscar-bait dramas. The combination of quiet buzz and bad early reviews will likely kill its chances at the box office. This time last year, both of the new releases struggled and only one film earned more than $12 million. It's got to be better this year, right? I have no idea. This far out, the weekend looks like a coin toss on the year-over-year comparison.

Black or White

Black or White poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: No Official Site?
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: January 30th, 2015
MPAA Rating: PG-13 on appeal for brief strong language, thematic material involving drug use and drinking, and for a fight.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Single Parent, Widow, Death of a Spouse, Death of a Child, Troubled Pregnancy, Died During Childbirth, Lawyers, Courtroom Drama, African-American, Interracial Romance, Race Relations, and more
Directed By: Mike Binder
Written By: Mike Binder
Starring: Kevin Costner, Octavia Spencer, Jillian Estell, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Kevin Costner stars as a widow raising his granddaughter, Jillian Estell, after his wife died in a car crash and his daughter died during childbirth. Their family is disrupted when the other grandparent, Octavia Spencer, sues for custody on behalf of her son, Andre Holland. The film got an Oscar-qualifying run early in December, but its early reviews suggest that was pointless. Additionally, neither Kevin Costner nor Mike Binder have a good track-record at the box office. Finally, the buzz is just too quiet for me to be bullish.

Project Almanac

Project Almanac poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: projectalmanac.com/
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: January 30th, 2015
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language and sexual content.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Time Travel, Found Footage, Filmed By a Character, Delayed Release, and more
Directed By: Dean Israelite
Written By: Jason Harry Pagan and Andrew Deutschman
Starring: Jonny Weston, Sofia Black D'Elia, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $12 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

A group of teens find plans for a time machine and build it. At first they use it, but soon they begin to abuse it. This film is reminding a lot of people of Chronicle, only the kids find plans for a time machine instead of get super powers from a magic cave. Also, I think this film is aimed at a younger demographic. Project Almanac's box office chances are likely much weaker, as it was originally scheduled for a release last February, but was pulled from the schedule rather abruptly and it is now being dumped in theaters in January. That's a terrible sign. On the plus side, its first review is positive.


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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Selma, The Loft, Project Almanac, Paddington, Blackhat, The Boy Next Door, The Wedding Ringer, Taken 3, Mortdecai, Black or White, American Sniper, Vice, Strange Magic, Paranormal Activity, Taken, Johnny Depp, Nicole Kidman, Liam Neeson, Kevin Costner, Ewan McGregor, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Thomas Anderson, Luc Besson, Mike Binder, Hugh Bonneville, Tim Burton, Kristin Chenoweth, Rob Cohen, Bradley Cooper, Alan Cumming, Viola Davis, Clint Eastwood, Carmen Ejogo, Josh Gad, Maggie Grace, Tom Harper, Kevin Hart, Sally Hawkins, Chris Hemsworth, Famke Janssen, David Koepp, Wang Lee-Hom, Jennifer Lopez, George Lucas, Michael Mann, Sienna Miller, Joaquin Phoenix, Maya Rudolph, Gary Rydstrom, Wei Tang, Ben Whishaw, Oprah Winfrey, Evan Rachel Wood, David Berenbaum, Irene Mecchi, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Octavia Spencer, David Oyelowo, Robert Mark Kamen, Olivia Munn, Hamish McColl, Jeremy Irvine, Susan Hill, Phoebe Fox, Andre Holland, Ryan Guzman, Jonny Weston, Jeremy Garelick, Jay Lavender, Ava Duvernay, Dean Israelite, Paul King, Sofia Black-D'Elia, Olivier Magaton, Jon Croker, Jillian Estell, Eric Aronson, Kyril Bonfiglioli, Thomas Pynchon, Jason Hall, Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, Paul Webb