2013 Preview: January

December ended on a positive note with 2012 topping 2011 with a week to spare. Hopefully this will translate into strong box office numbers going forward. There are several January releases that actually look very interesting, but you always have to ask, if the films are as good as they look, why are they opening in January? The biggest hit on this list will likely not be a January release, but a limited release from December that is expanding wide in January. Zero Dark Thirty opened in limited release the Wednesday before Christmas and right away it got off to an incredible start. If it can turn some of its Awards Season nominations into wins, which seems very likely at this point, it should be the biggest hit of January. If it can earn some major Oscars, then it might crack $100 million. Unfortunately, no other film on this release list is likely to come close to the $100 million mark. Last January was unseasonably strong with three films opening with $20 million or more and four films finishing with $50 million or more. It is possible that none of the new releases will reach those relatively weak standards.

Weekend of January 4th, 2013

The year begins with one or two releases. Texas Chainsaw 3D is opening wide and could be the number one film of the weekend. Or it might not top the best of the holdovers. Meanwhile, Promised Land is expanding wide after an Oscar Qualifying run starting the weekend before. Its early reviews don't suggest it will be an Awards Season player and it hasn't picked up many major Award nominations thus far. By comparison, this weekend last year, The Devil Inside opening with hideous reviews, but still managed to open with more than $33 million. I don't see that being repeated this weekend, so there's little chance that 2013 will start off on a winning note, unless the holdovers really hold on. One last note, The Impossible might expand wide this weekend, but I don't think that's likely. It started well in limited release, but below the $10,000 mark on the per theater charts. Plus, there is a lack of ads, the official site doesn't have any word on a full expansion, etc.

Promised Land

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: FocusFeatures.com/Promised_Land
Distributor: Focus Features
Release Date: January 4th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Inspired By Real Life Events, Environmental, Corporate Malfeasance, AgitProp, Screenplay Written By Star, and more
Directed By: Gus Van Sant
Starring: Matt Damon, Frances McDormand, John Krasinski, Hal Holbrook, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $15 million
Box Office Potential: $12.5 million

Matt Damon and Frances McDormand star as two salesmen working for a gas company going into a town whose main factory has just shut down. They are there to get people to sign over drilling rights to the gas company and at first they have a really easy time. However, when an environmental activist, John Krasinski, shows up, he teams up with a popular teacher, Hal Holbrook, the town turns against them.

This film is earning good reviews for a wide release, but not Award Worthy reviews. In fact, they are not even strong enough to suggest it will thrive in limited release. This makes coming up with a box office potential very difficult. If it flops during its opening weekend, it might not expand wide and it will fail to reach $1 million. This is possible, as the competition is high at this time of year. On the other hand, if it does expand truly wide, then it has a chance at $10 million during its opening weekend and better than average legs. The above potential is a weighted average of those two extremes. Unfortunately, the lower end is more likely than the higher end.

Last Minute Update: The film's reviews have fallen and are now below the 50% positive level, while it only did good, but not great in limited release, which puts a wide expansion further at risk. If a theater owner has already booked the film, they will have to show it, but might have limited showings.

Texas Chainsaw 3D

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: texaschainsaw3d.com
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: January 4th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for strong grisly violence and language throughout.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Road Trip, Inheritance, Teenage Slasher, 3D, Shot in 3D, Sequel, Delayed Sequel, Reboot, and more
Directed By: John Luessenhop
Starring: Alexandra Daddario, Trey Songz, Tania Raymonde, Keram Malicki-Sanchez, Dan Yeager, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $8 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

A sequel / remake / reboot to the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre from 1974. It may or may not take place after the 1980s to 1990s sequels. I do know it is ignoring the 2003 remake and the 2006 prequel. In this film, Alexandra Daddario learns she's inherited some land in Texas and travels with her friends to check it out. What she doesn't know is that Leatherface comes with the land.

On the one hand, I'm not sure anyone is really eager to see yet another Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie. The box office fell from $80 million to $40 million from the 2003 remake to the 2006 prequel, so that shows people have moved on from the franchise. The studio clearly thinks there's some audience for this film, or they wouldn't have made it. Then again, they only spent $8 million on in the movie, which is half of what the prequel cost to make, so they are clearly worried the audience is rather small. On the other hand, The Devil Inside made $33 million during its opening weekend. Shouldn't this film be able to make at least that much in total? A lot of people don't think it will.

Weekend of January 11th, 2013

There are two films opening wide this weekend, as well as a film expanding wide during the second weekend of January. Two of these films look really good. Zero Dark Thirty is expanding wide on the 11th, the day after the Oscar nominations are announced, which should be excellent timing, as it has already proven to be a major Awards Season success. Gangster Squad looks like it could be incredible, but its release date is terrible, so one has to wonder what is wrong with it. Finally, you can tell exactly what's wrong with A Haunted House just by watching the trailer. This weekend last year had three wide releases, led by Contraband with just over $24 million. It is unlikely that any of this year's crop will match that and 2013 will lose another weekend in the year-over-year comparison, unless Zero Dark Thirty leads the way for Oscar nominations and the buzz explodes.

Gangster Squad

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: GangsterSquad.WarnerBros.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: January 11th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and language.
Source: Based on a Factual Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Organized Crime, Mafia, Narcotics, Prostitution, Gambling, Corrupt Cops, Government Corruptions, Film Noir, Ensemble, and more
Directed By: Ruben Fleischer
Starring: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Robert Patrick, Michael Pena, and others.
Production Budget: Reported at $75 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

This is a relatively big-budget film about real life events starring an impressive cast. Had this film been released in December, it would have been earning Awards season buzz. But since it is opening in January, one has to wonder if the studio knows something we don't. It was partially pushed back because of reshoots. (There was a scene where some gangsters shoot up a theater, but that had to be removed after the Aurora shooting.) So perhaps it is just a case of bad timing and the film itself is still good. Additionally, Taken opened in January and it made more than $100 million at the box office. The two films clearly have some crossover appeal. That said, while I'm more bullish than most analysts, I'm not willing to predict a $100 million box office, or even a $75 million box office. Hopefully it will do well enough to earn a profit sometime on the home market.

A Haunted House

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: AHauntedHouseMovie.com
Distributor: Open Road
Release Date: January 11th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for crude and sexual content, language and some drug use.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Parody, Found Footage, Hauntings, Possession, Paranormal Investigation, Religious, Psychics, Screenplay Written By Star, and more
Directed By: Michel Tiddes
Starring: Marlon Wayans, Essence Atkins, and others.
Production Budget: Estimated at $25 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

The latest parody from the people who brought you Scary Movie, which was pretty good. Unfortunately, there have been an endless stream of sequels and imitators, most of which were terrible and forgettable. This includes Dance Flick, which shares a number of writers and stars with this film. In fact, the director of A Haunted House, Michel Tiddes, is making his feature-length directorial debut with this movie, while he was a producer on Dance Flick. I suspect A Haunted House will perform about as well as Dance Flick did, but that's not saying much.

Zero Dark Thirty

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ZeroDarkThirty-Movie.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: December 19th, 2012 (Limited)
Release Date: January 11th, 2013 (Expands Wide)
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence including brutal disturbing images, and for language.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Secret Agent, Terrorism, 9/11, Afghanistan, Special Forces, and more
Directed By: Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Ehle, Mark Strong, and others.
Production Budget: $52.5 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million

Zero Dark Thirty opened in Limited release on December 19th in just five theaters and made $229,012, before the weekend began. Its per theater average over the weekend was over $80,000, which is a terrific start. It has also earned 93% positive reviews and countless major awards nominations and some early wins. It has to be seen as a favorite to pick up four major Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Lead Actress, Best Original Screenplay) as well as several technical award nominations. And since the Oscar nominations are announced the day before this film expands wide, it should get a massive boost at the box office. Pie-in-the-sky, the film could make more than $30 million during the weekend and cruise past $100 million. That's probably a little too optimistic, but it is a possibility. An opening of just over $20 million and good legs are very likely. If it can turn a number of nominations into wins, it could still get to $100 million.

Weekend of January 18th, 2013

The first long weekend of the year is Martin Luther King, Jr. day. It's not a major holiday coming so soon after Christmas / New Year's Day holidays, but it can give a little boost at a time when most films could really use it. This year there are three such films: Broken City, The Last Stand, and Mama. All three have their strengths, and their weaknesses. I don't think any of them will be major hits, not even major hits for the month of January, but I don't think any will bomb outright either. Likewise, this weekend last year, there were three wide releases and a limited release expanding wide, all of them did okay, more or less, but none of them matched their production budget at the box office.

Broken City

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: BrokenCityMovie.com
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: January 18th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, some sexual content and violence.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Infidelity, Politics, Corrupt Cops, Blackmail, and more
Directed By: Allen Hughes
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $35 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

Mark Wahlberg plays a cop who is hired by the mayor, Russell Crowe, to watch his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, whom he thinks is having an affair. However, it turns out to be a lot more complicated than that, but when the cop tries to back out, he learns there might not be a way out for him.

This film has good buzz thanks to an effective trailer, while the cast has been in their fair share of hits. On the hand, the other two films opening this week are earning louder buzz. Back to the original hand, Mark Wahlberg starred in Contraband, which opened this time last year and made $66 million. Back to the second hand, the most recent film for both Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones bombed, as neither The Man with the Iron Fists nor Playing for Keeps earned much at the box office. (We don't have numbers for Les Miserables, at least not while I was writing this report. For that matter, there's not a lot of crossover appeal between this film and Les Mis) For every positive note, there's an equal negative note. I think it will overcome its lack of buzz, because it is aimed at a more mature demographic, which doesn't get sucked into buzz. It won't be a huge hit, or even a midlevel hit, but it should top its production budget.

The Last Stand

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheLastStandFilm.com
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: January 18th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence throughout, and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Prison Break, Organized Crime, Hispanic, and more
Directed By: Kim Jee-woon
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Rodrigo Santoro, Luis Guzman, and others
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $30 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

This film is earning a lot of buzz for two reasons. Mainly, it is because this film is Arnold Schwarzenegger's first starring role since Terminator 3, which opened almost exactly ten years ago. It is also the English-language debut for Kim Jee-woon. I'm more interested in the film for the latter than the former. Kim Jee-woon previously directed films such as A Tale of Two Sisters, A Bittersweet Life, The Good, the Bad, the Weird, and I Saw the Devil, among others. That's a diverse body of work, but all of them earned excellent reviews. Seeing his English-language debut and what he does with what seems like a standard action film is a fascinating prospect.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is clearly the bigger name here, but it has been a while since he's starred in a non-sequel that was a huge hit. You have to go all the way back to Erasure to find a non-sequel that he starred in that earned more than $100 million. Given the release date, even getting halfway would be a success.


Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: MamaMovie.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: January 18th, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and terror, some disturbing images and thematic elements.
Source: Based on a Short Film
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Young Child Dealing with the Death of a Parent, Abandoned Child, Unexpected Family, Director Remaking His Own Film, and more
Directed By: Andres Muschietti
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nélisse, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $25 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

I'm excited about this film for three reasons. Firstly, it's produced by Guillermo Del Toro, who is an excellent director and has produced some very good films in the genre. Secondly, it stars Jessica Chastain, who is such a talented actress that even in a bad movie she's worth watching. And finally, the trailer was really good. It is also the first feature-length film by director Andres Muschietti, who is adapting his 2008 short film. This is an interesting note, but makes predicting box office potential a little trickier, as he doesn't have a track record to look at. It also has direct competition opening two weeks before and it is a bad time of the year. It could be a surprise midlevel hit, but I'm not willing to bet on that. It was likely an inexpensive movie to make, which should help it earn a profit sooner rather than later.

Weekend of January 25th, 2013

The month ends with a trio of wide releases: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunter, Movie 43, and Parker. Fortunately, all three movies have mostly different target audiences. Unfortunately, none of them are earning enough buzz to expect they will be a breakout hit. Movie 43 is earning the most buzz, but as an anthology comedy, there's little hope it will be a major hit in theaters. Most such films barely get limited releases, because they are much better suited for the home market. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunter is a high-concept action film, which is a risk. If it works, it could be a really cool film. But if it worked, why is it coming out in January? Finally, Parker is a Jason Statham film. That's really all you need to know. This weekend last year there were also three wide releases; however, all of them missed expectations. The Grey did well enough to be a midlevel hit and earned more than the other two made combined. I don't know if any film will reach $50 million this year, but I think we have better depth. Also coming out this week is John Dies at the End, which is a strange film based on a strange book by David Wong. Its box office chances are close to zero for a number of reasons (it is already on VOD for one) but it certainly seems like an interesting film.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunter

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: HanselAndGretelMovie.com
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: January 25th, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence.
Source: Based on a Fairytale
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Revenge, Bounty Hunter, Surprise Twist, Witches, Rescue, 3D, Shot in 3D, and more
Directed By: Tommy Wirkola
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke-Janssen, Pihla Viitala, Peter-Stormare, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $60 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

A high-concept action film that takes place 15 years after the the events in the Hansel and Gretel fairytale and the now adult siblings, played by Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton, are full-time witch hunters. They have become experts in taking down witches, thanks in part to their resistance to evil spells. But their latest hunt turns out to be more dangerous than they thought it would be.

The film is co-written and directed by Tommy Wirkola, who is making his English-language debut with this movie. He's previously worked on Dead Snow, among others, so he isn't completely unknown to genre fans here. I was pleased with the trailer, and I'm not alone in that regard. However, there have been a few similar films released recently (Red Riding Hood, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Snow White and the Huntsman). However, while the "Gritty Fairytale" is turning into a genre unto its own, of those three previous films, none of them earned overall positive reviews and only one of them did well at the box office. Additionally, the two stars don't have proven box office drawing power, at least not as leads. And finally, there's the release date. January is always a huge warning sign.

If its production budget is as high as reports, then it is in trouble. It would like need to make close to $90 million domestically to break even any time soon, but I don't see that happening. It likely will struggle to reach half that figure.

Movie 43

Trailer: Coming Soon
Official Site: Facebook.com/WhatIsMovie43.com
Distributor: Relativity
Release Date: January 25th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for strong pervasive crude and sexual content including dialogue, graphic nudity, language, some violence and drug use.
Source: Compilation
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Segments, Ensemble, and too many more to name
Directed By: Too many to name
Starring: Way too many to name
Production Budget: Estimated $30 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million

We have a lot of Anthology movies in our database, and the biggest thing they seem to have in common is bad box office numbers. I think there's a solid reason for this. Most anthologies, even really good anthologies, have a fatal flaw. Some, like Pulp Fiction and Sin City, have a lot of interconnectedness, so while there are lots of individual stories, they add up to one narrative. Most lack this connection and the segments are truly separate. With films like The Ten or Extreme Movie, you can skip over the ones you don't like without hurting the ones you like. Because of this, it is better to watch the film on the home market where you can skip the misses. Even worse, anthology comedies seems to perform worse than anthology horror films. So even though this film has a huge amount of talent involved and I think most skits will be worth watching, I think it will have to wait till the home market to find an audience.


Trailer: Coming Soon
Official Site: ParkerMovie.com
Distributor: FilmDistrict
Release Date: January 25th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, language throughout and brief sexual content/nudity.
Source: Based on a Fictional Book
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Heist, Double-Cross, Revenge, Confidence Men, and more
Directed By: Taylor Hackford
Starring: Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Jason Statham. This film stars Jason Statham. Is there anything else that needs to be said? He's starred in a number of similar action films and nearly all of them earn between $25 million and $35 million and I see little reasons to suspect this one will be any different. Granted, Jennifer Lopez could help bring in more viewers and the heist / thriller aspects are a little different to what Jason Statham usually does, but I don't think it is enough to make it a break-out hit.

- C.S.Strowbridge

Filed under: Monthly Preview, Promised Land, Texas Chainsaw 3D, Gangster Squad, Zero Dark Thirty, Broken City, The Last Stand, Mama, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Movie 43, Parker