Follow us on

2016 Preview: January

January 1st, 2016

Kung Fu Panda 3

2016 will begin the same way 2015 ended, with Star Wars: The Force Awakens on top. In fact, three of the five films that have the best shot at box office success in January are The Force Awakens, The Hateful Eight, and The Revenant, all of which opened in December. There are two true January releases that could also do really well, for this time of year: Ride Along 2 and Kung Fu Panda 3. The rest of the releases are just hoping to become midlevel hits. Last January, American Sniper dominated earning more than $300 million. Its success could prevent 2016 from being ahead in the year-over-year comparison by the end of the month, but this year does have better depth.

Weekend of January 1st, 2016

The Hateful Eight

There are no new releases opening the first weekend of January, which is not uncommon for this time of the year. However, there is one film, The Hateful Eight, that is expanding semi-wide this week. Quentin Tarantino does have success within this genre. On the other hand, The Hateful Eight isn't earning the same buzz that Django Unchained was earning at this stage, so it likely won't do the same business at the box office, but it still should be a financial success. It should certainly do better than last year's lone wide release, The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death. Furthermore, Star Wars: The Force Awakens will earn more than the top five combined earned last year, so 2016 will crush 2015 in the year-over-year comparison.

The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheHatefulEight.com
Distributor: Weinstein Co.
Release Date: December 25th, 2015 (Limited Release)
Release Date: December 30th, 2015 (Expands Wide)
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, a scene of violent sexual content, language and some graphic nudity.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Western
Keywords: Bounty Hunter, Extreme Weather, Sex Crimes, One Location, Marooned, Cabin in the Woods, Ensemble, Directing Yourself, Voiceover/Narration, Non-Chronological, Wyoming
Directed By: Quentin Tarantino
Written By: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern
Production Budget: Reported at $44 million
Box Office Potential: $105 million

Quentin Tarantino returns to the Western genre after Django Unchained became his biggest hit of all time. It pulled in just over $160 million domestically and nearly $450 million worldwide. The Hateful Eight likely won't have the same box office performance for a few reasons. Firstly, its buzz isn't as loud. The buzz is good, but it isn't as noisy. Additionally, the competition is really strong. That said, it's a coin-toss to get to $100 million during its box office run. I think it will make it, but not everyone is as bullish as I am.

Last Minute Update: The film's wide expansion isn't going as well as anticipated and I've dropped the potential to $75 million.

Weekend of January 8th, 2016

The Revenant

There's only one new wide release this week, The Forest, as well as one wide expansion, The Revenant. The former is a low-budget horror film set in Japan. The latter is a potential big winner on Oscar night. At the very least, Leonardo DiCaprio is considered the overwhelming favorite to finally win an Oscar. As for the box office, The Force Awakens will very likely earn first place over the weekend. It should also top the number one film from last year, Taken 3, by a considerable margin, giving 2016 the win the in year-over-year comparison.

The Forest

The Forest poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheForestIsReal.com
Distributor: Focus / Gramercy
Release Date: January 8th, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and images.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Keywords: Japan, Suicide, Death of a Sibling, Missing Person, Twins, Same Actor, Multiple Roles, Mount Fuji, Hauntings
Directed By: Jason Zada
Written By: Ben Ketai, Sarah Cornwell, Nick Antosca
Starring: Natalie Dormer
Production Budget: Estimated at $10 million to $20 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

This year's The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death. Nearly every year, a horror film comes out at this time and does okay business, when compared to its low production budget. The Forest does have a bigger star than most such films have, as Natalie Dormer is part of Game of Thrones and appeared in the last two parts of the Hunger Games franchise. However, her box office drawing power as a leading actress is still unknown. Additionally, there's a lot of competition, both from The Force Awakens and The Revenant. That said, anything more than $10 million will likely be enough to break even sometime on the home market.

The Revenant

The Revenant poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: FoxMovies.com/Movies/The-Revenant
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: December 25th, 2015
Release Date: January 8th, 2016 (Expands Wide)
MPAA Rating: R for strong frontier combat and violence including gory images, a sexual assault, language and brief nudity.
Source: Based on Fiction Book/Short Story
Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Animals Gone Bad, 1800s, Left for Dead, Native Americans, Dream Sequence
Directed By: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Written By: Mark L. Smith, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Michael Punke
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy
Production Budget: Reported at $135 million
Box Office Potential: $95 million

Revenant is a term given to someone who has returned, especially when they supposedly died. I bring this up because I realized that after all of the research I did for this movie, I still didn't know what that word meant. It is appropriate, as The Revenant stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a fur trader who is attacked by a bear and left for dead. He then has to fight his way back to civilization. Leonardo DiCaprio is considered the overwhelming favorite to win the Best Lead Actor Oscar this year, which is great news, as he's been passed over again and again throughout his career. He arguably should have won for What's Eating Gilbert Grape, which came out more than 20 years ago.

As for the film's box office chances, I have good news and bad news. There are only three other releases on this month's list that are earning as good or better buzz and the reviews are excellent. The bad news... it was a troubled production and the film's budget grew from $60 million to $135 million. If the movie doesn't at least come close to $100 million domestically, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu might find it difficult to find work in the future, not unless he's working with a producer that can keep him on budget.

If the film turns out to be this year's big Oscar winner, then getting to $100 million shouldn't be too hard, but that's a long shot. It's probably guaranteed to win at least a couple of Oscars, but being the big winner is far less likely.

Weekend of January 15th, 2016

Ride Along 2

We finally get to the weekend where The Force Awakens won't be dominating the box office. In fact, if Ride Along 2 doesn't beat The Force Awakens at the box office, then something has gone terribly wrong. On the other hand, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is a huge wildcard. It could bomb, or it could become this year's American Sniper, although even its highs are not close to that film's run. Finally, Norm of the North looks like a huge bomb. This weekend last year was the weekend American Sniper set the record for Biggest January Weekend. That record isn't going to be broken this weekend and it looks like 2016 will see its first year-over-year loss.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ThirteenHoursMovie.com
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: January 15th, 2016
MPAA Rating: R for strong combat violence throughout, bloody images, and language.
Source: Based on Factual Book/Article
Genre: Drama
Keywords: Libya, 2010s, Terrorism
Directed By: Michael Bay
Written By: Chuck Hogan, Mitchell Zuckoff
Starring: John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Max Martini
Production Budget: Reported at $50 million
Box Office Potential: $70 million

The last time Michael Bay made a movie based on real life events was 2001, when he made Pearl Harbor. That film cost a bundle to make and it made a significant profit. However, it didn't live up to expectations and a lot of people attacked the film for being historically inaccurate. This time around, that historical inaccuracy might be a selling point. I get the feeling the target audience for this movie wants a shameless pro-military propaganda piece. Because of this, there is a wide margin of error here. It could earn less money than Pain and Gain earned, or it could be a surprise $100 million hit. I think the lower end is more likely, but it will really depend on the film's word-of-mouth amongst its intended audience.

Norm of the North

Norm of the North poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: NormOfTheNorth.Movie/
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: January 15th, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG for mild rude humor and action.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Animal Lead, Talking Animals, New York City, Environment, Corporate Malfeasance
Directed By: Trevor Wall
Written By: Malcolm T Goldman, Daniel R Altiere, Steven M Altiere, Tim Maltby
Starring: Rob Schneider
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million

There are first-tier digitally animated movies, like those made by Pixar. Then there are second-tier digitally animated movies, like the Hotel Transylvania films. Then there are the third-tier films like Norm of the North. These films cost a fraction of what Pixar puts into their movies and many of them fail to match their production budgets at the box office. Occasionally you will have a surprise hit like Hoodwinked, but most have to wait till the home market to find an audience. I don't think this one will be one of the hits. It might not even survive on the home market. On the other hand, it will be the biggest family film in theaters when it comes out and it is a long weekend, so it won't completely bomb either.

Ride Along 2

Ride Along 2 poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: RideAlong.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: January 15th, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence, sexual content, language and some drug material.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Undercover, Miami, Atlanta, Georgia, Narcotics, Organized Crime
Directed By: Tim Story
Written By: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi
Starring: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $105 million

I reviewed the first Ride Along and frankly I had to look up that review to remember anything about it. On the other hand, it was a huge hit earning more than $130 million domestically on just a $25 million budget. I'm not surprised there is a sequel coming out this year. I hope it performs better with critics, but it very likely won't do as well at the box office. The audience reception was better than the critical reception, but still weak. That said, it has a good shot at $100 million domestically and that could be enough for a third installment in the franchise.

Weekend of January 22nd, 2016

The 5th Wave

There are three wide releases coming out this week, but none of them are expected to be even midlevel hits. The 5th Wave is the latest Young Adult Book Adaptation, more specifically, it is part of the dystopian / post-apocalypse genre. There are some similar movies have become monster hits, but recently most of them have struggled. The Boy is a horror film set in an isolated mansion. That's a common location for a horror film, but the familiarity could cost it ticket sales. Finally there's Dirty Grandpa. Some think this will be the biggest hit of the week. I couldn't get through the trailer. It was painfully unfunny. This weekend last year there were three new releases that opened with a combined $25 million. That's the good news for 2016. The bad news is American Sniper held on better than expected and earned $65 million over the weekend. 2016 is going to lose in the year-over-year comparison.

The 5th Wave

The 5th Wave poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: 5thWaveMovie.net
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Release Date: January 22nd, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and destruction, some sci -fi thematic elements, language and brief teen partying.
Source: Based on Fiction Book/Short Story
Genre: Action
Keywords: Alien Invasion, Young Adult Book Adaptation, Epidemic, Young Child Dealing with the Death of a Parent, Child Soldier, Bodysnatchers
Directed By: J. Blakeson
Written By: Susannah Grant, Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Rick Yancey
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Chloë Grace Moretz stars as one of the last remaining humans after a multi-wave alien invasion. She's starred in a previous YA adaptation, If I Stay. That film earned just over $50 million domestically on a budget of just $11 million. Unfortunately, this film feels a lot more like The Host, which earned just $27 million on a $50 million budget. It also doesn't have a good release date and the buzz is a little quiet. It likely didn't cost a huge amount to make, so $35 million domestically might be enough to break even, eventually.

The Boy

The Boy poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheBoyMovie.Tumblr.com/
Distributor: STX Entertainment
Release Date: January 22nd, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and terror, and for some thematic material.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Keywords: Isolation Horror, United Kingdom, Living Toys, Death of a Son or Daughter, Suicide, Suicide Pact, Surprise Twist
Directed By: William Brent Bell
Written By: Stacey Menear
Starring: Lauren Cohan
Production Budget: Estimated at under $10 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Lauren Cohan stars as an American who travels to the U.K. to take a job as a nanny. However, when she arrives at the isolated mansion, she learns that the boy she is supposed to take care of is actually a porcelain doll. She's given a strict list of rules she must follow when taking care of the doll, but when she starts to skip them, strange things happen and she thinks the doll is alive.

Of the three wide releases this week, The Boy is earning the quietest buzz. Not the worst buzz, just the quietest Fortunately, it likely cost less than $10 million, perhaps even less than $5 million to make, so it won't need to be even a midlevel hit to break even.

Dirty Grandpa

Dirty Grandpa poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: DirtyGrandpa.Movie/
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: January 22nd, 2016
MPAA Rating: R for crude sexual content throughout, graphic nudity, and for language and drug use.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Road Trip, Generational Conflict, Slobs vs. Snobs
Directed By: Dan Mazer
Written By: John Phillips
Starring: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million

A teenage sex comedy, only the "teenager" in this movie is played by Robert De Niro. The actor has had a number of hits recently, including Last Vegas, which feels like a relatively good comparison to this film. Likewise, Zac Efron co-starred in Neighbors, which was a huge hit. Unfortunately, both of those two movies had much better release dates. This release date is much more similar to That Awkward Moment, which earned $26 million back in 2014. That's probably close to where this film will end up, but I think it will do a little better thanks to the bigger star power.

Weekend of January 29th, 2016

Kung Fu Panda 3

The final weekend of the month is also the busiest with four wide releases. This includes Kung Fu Panda 3, which should be the biggest hit of the month. Fifty Shades of Black is a parody that likely cost less than $10 million to make and should earn more than that during its opening weekend. The Finest Hours cost $85 million to make, but it could lose all of that money. Finally there's Jane Got a Gun. This film is expected to bomb, but after a very difficult production, it should be happy just to get a theatrical release. This weekend last year, there were three wide releases, all of which bombed. However, American Sniper earned just over $30 million during its third weekend of wide release. That's going to prevent 2016 from winning the year-over-year comparison.

Fifty Shades of Black

Fifty Shades of Black poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: 50ShadesOfBlackMovie.com
Distributor: Open Road
Release Date: January 29th, 2016
MPAA Rating: R for strong crude sexual content including some graphic nudity, and for language throughout.
Source: Based on Movie
Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Spoof, African-American, Screenplay Written By the Star
Directed By: Mike Tiddes
Written By: Marlon Wayans, Rich Alvarez
Starring: Marlon Wayans, Kali Hawk, Affion Crockett, Fred Willard, Mike Epps
Production Budget: Estimated at $5 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million

Most spoofs that have come out recently have been viciously attacked by critics and struggled at the box office. A Haunted House earned 10% positive reviews, but it pulled in $40 million on a $2.5 million budget. On the other hand, A Haunted House 2 made less than half of that on a $4 million budget. This film will likely fit somewhere in-between those two results, which should be enough to earn a small profit, but not enough to justify a sequel.

The Finest Hours

The Finest Hours poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Facebook.com/TheFinestHoursMovie
Distributor: Walt Disney
Release Date: January 29th, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG for intense sequences of peril.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Keywords: Extreme Weather, On a Boat, Disaster, Rescue, Ensemble
Directed By: Craig Gillespie
Written By: Paul Tamasy, Scott Silver, Eric Johnson
Starring: Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Holliday Grainger, Ben Foster, Eric Bana
Production Budget: Reported at $85 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million million

This is one of the most expensive movies coming out this month and that's a really bad sign. The buzz is really quiet. Granted, it has four full weeks to change that, but it is starting at a significant disadvantage. Additionally, the film is very similar to In the Heart of the Sea and that film is going to finish with about $25 million. On the positive side, the competition is a lot weaker, because it won't have to deal with Star Wars: The Force Awakens opening the following week. It is still going to bomb, but it won't bomb quite as hard.

Jane Got a Gun

Jane Got a Gun poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: No Official Site
Distributor: Weinstein Co.
Release Date: January 29th, 2016
MPAA Rating: R for violence and some language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Western
Keywords: Development Hell, Delayed Release, Relationships Gone Wrong, Gangs
Directed By: Gavin O'Connor, Lynne Ramsay
Written By: Gavin O'Connor, Anthony Tambakis, Lynne Ramsay, Brian Duffield, Joel Edgerton
Starring: Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Ewan McGregor
Production Budget: Reported at $25 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million

During this film's production, the film lost its director, cinematographer, three lead actors, and its original distributor went bankrupt. It's cursed. It's a minor miracle that it is getting a release date. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear the new distributor is going to give the film a major push at the box office. Even just matching its production budget domestically might be out of the question.

Kung Fu Panda 3

Kung Fu Panda 3 poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Dreamworks.com/KungFuPanda/
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: January 29th, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG for martial arts action and some mild rude humor.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Animal Lead, Talking Animals, Martial Arts, Martial Arts Master, Wuxia
Directed By: Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Written By: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger
Starring: Jack Black
Production Budget: Reported at $120 million to $140 million
Box Office Potential: $150 million

It has been nearly 5 years since the last installment in the Kung Fu Panda franchise. Nearly every kid who was in the target audience for that film has grown up and is now too old for this film. Additionally, the franchise fell $50 million at the box office from the first film to the sequel, at least domestically. Worldwide, the sequel topped its predecessor and holds the record for biggest animated film in China. That's the main reason this film is being made and the key reason why it is a Chinese co-production. It could do really well at the box office earning more than the second film did. Even on the low end it will top $100 million. It could break records in China and that's will determine if there's a fourth film in the franchise.

Filed under: Monthly Preview, Norm of the North, Kung Fu Panda 3, Jane Got a Gun, Ride Along 2, The Forest, The Revenant, The 5th Wave, Dirty Grandpa, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, The Finest Hours, The Boy, Fifty Shades of Black, Kung Fu Panda, Hunger Games, Ride Along, Hotel Transylvania, Robert De Niro, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Madsen, Ewan McGregor, Tim Roth, Casey Affleck, Eric Bana, Michael Bay, Jack Black, Lauren Cohan, Affion Crockett, Ice Cube, Bruce Dern, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joel Edgerton, Zac Efron, Mike Epps, Ben Foster, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Tom Hardy, Kevin Hart, Kali Hawk, John Krasinski, Max Martini, Chloë Grace Moretz, Gavin O'Connor, Chris Pine, Natalie Portman, Kurt Russell, Rob Schneider, Tim Story, Quentin Tarantino, Marlon Wayans, Fred Willard, J. Blakeson, Chuck Hogan, Akiva Goldsman, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, Holliday Grainger, Demián Bichir, Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Lynne Ramsay, Anthony Tambakis, James Badge Dale, Natalie Dormer, William Brent Bell, Phil Hay, Dan Mazer, Nick Antosca, Mark L. Smith, Susannah Grant, Walton Goggins, John Phillips, Matt Manfredi, Craig Gillespie, Mike Tiddes, Jeff Pinkner, Brian Duffield, Jason Zada, Sarah Cornwell, Ben Ketai, Scott Silver, Stacey Menear, Michael Punke, Rich Alvarez, Mitchell Zuckoff, Trevor Wall, Malcolm T Goldman, Steven M Altiere, Daniel R Altiere, Tim Maltby, Rick Yancey