2014 Preview: January

Jack Ryan poster

It's the first month of the new year, but the biggest hit might be a film released in December. Last month ended on a slow note with all five Christmas day releases failing to become hits, some more than others. (It's a little too soon to tell if The Wolf of Wall Street or The Secret Life of Walter Mitty will do well enough to break even any time soon, but neither is a serious hit.) There are still some December releases that will likely remain on the charts through the opening weekends of January, while there are some films that opened in limited release last month with a scheduled wide release this month. Of the purely January releases, I would guess Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit will be the biggest hit. Even then, it won't live up to the previous films in the franchise, even if you don't take inflation into account. Most of the rest of the new releases will be happy if they can become midlevel hits. Last January was led by Mama, which earned more than $70 million. I think Shadow Recruit will top that figure at the box office, while there are a similar number of likely box office bombs opening this year as there were last year. 2014 could start out ahead of 2013's pace, but it likely won't be a huge difference either way.

Weekend of January 3rd, 2014

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

It's first weekend of the month, and the first weekend of the year. There is only one wide release, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones. On a positive note, the film is part of an established franchise, which should help it at the box office. On the other hand, this is the first time a Paranormal Activity doesn't have Halloween to boost its box office numbers. During this weekend last year, Texas Chainsaw 3D opened with $21.74 million. The Marked Ones should not only open with a little more than that, it should also have better legs. 2014 should start out on a relatively positive note.

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ParanormalMovie.com
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: January 3rd, 2014
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, some violence, graphic nudity and some drug use.
Source: Original Screenplay / Sequel / Spin-Off
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Occult, Possession, Found Footage, Footage Shot by Character, Hispanic, and more
Directed By: Christopher Landon
Written By: Christopher Landon
Starring: Andrew Jacobs, Richard Cabral, Carlos Pratts, Gabrielle Walsh, and others
Production Budget: Unknown, estimated at $10 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million

A Sequel / Spin-Off to the Paranormal Activity franchise. This one doesn't focus on the family we've followed during the first four films, but a group of Latino friends who encounter the paranormal after their neighbor dies and they investigate what happened.

I'm of two minds when it comes to Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones. On the one hand, the previous film really struggled at the box office compared to the franchise's average. The franchise needs something to reinvigorate itself and perhaps the new set of characters and a different release date will be what it needs. There are still very few reviews to judge the movie by, but the early buzz is very encouraging. I don't expect it to live up to the previous installments in the franchise at the box office, but if it can clear $50 million, it will be seen as a success for a January release.

Weekend of January 10th, 2014

Lone Survivor poster

The second weekend of the month is deceptively slow. There's only one film opening wide, The Legend of Hercules. However, there are two films expanding wide: Her and Lone Survivor. The Legend of Hercules sadly seems like a typical January dumping ground release. Her is probably too quirky to find a mainstream audience. This leaves Lone Survivor as likely the biggest hit of the week. In fact, it might become the biggest hit of the month. This weekend last year was the weekend Zero Dark Thirty expanded wide. Unfortunately, I don't think Lone Survivor will earn as much as Zero Dark Thirty did and this year doesn't seem to have as much depth either, so 2014 will likely lose in the year-over-year comparison. One last note, originally August: Osage County was going to expand wide this weekend, but that appears to no longer be the case. I don't know if it will expand wide on a different weekend, or if the studio is just going to see what it does in limited release and expand accordingly.

Her

Her poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: HerTheMovie.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: December 18th, 2013 (Limited)
Release Date: January 10th, 2014 (Expands Wide)
MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual content and brief graphic nudity.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Romance, Artificial Intelligence, Relationships Gone Wrong, Voiceover/Narration, Interspecies Romance, and more
Directed By: Spike Jonze
Written By: Spike Jonze
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $20 million to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

Joaquin Phoenix plays a man coming off a hard breakup. He meets a new woman, played by Scarlett Johansson, and the two fall in love. Oh yeah, she's a computer A.I. Spike Jonze isn't exactly known for making huge commercial success stories. His films tend to be a little more out there. Her should do a better job and draw in the average moviegoer than Being John Malkovich did, for instance. However, unless it becomes a major player during Awards Season, it won't become anything more than a midlevel hit. Worse still, even if it does become an Awards Season player, it will still struggle at the box office due to the competition in that category. Fortunately, it likely didn't cost too much to make, so if it can earning $40 million domestically, it should break even sometime during its home market run.

The Legend of Hercules

The Legend of Hercules poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Hercules3DMovie.com
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: January 10th, 2014
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense combat action and violence, and for some sensuality.
Source: Based on a Legend
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Gods / Goddesses, Royalty, Slavery, Political, Romance, Forbidden Love, 3-D, Shot in 3D, and more
Directed By: Renny Harlin
Written By: Daniel Giat, Giulio Steve, Renny Harlin, and Sean Hood
Starring: Kellan Lutz, Gaia Weiss, Scott Adkins, Roxanne McKee, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $70 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Out of all of the films opening wide this month, this one might have the worst buzz. It is directed by Renny Harlin, who hasn't has a hit since Deep Blue Sea. That was almost 15 years ago. He hasn't made a film that won over both critics and moviegoers since Cliffhanger, which came out more than 20 years ago. Additionally, there have been far too many similar films that have come out recently. These include Immortals, Wrath of the Titans, Conan, not to mention Pompeii, which opens in February, as well as Hercules, which opens this summer. Most of these have failed to live up to their production budgets. Additionally, Kellan Lutz has very few hits outside of the Twilight franchise, so his drawing power is unknown. Finally, a lot of people were mocking the trailer and there's not a lot of time to turn the buzz around. Worse case scenario has the film earning less than $20 million at the box office. Even the best case scenario has it struggling to earn enough worldwide to break even any time soon.

Lone Survivor

Lone Survivor poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: LoneSurvivorFilm.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: December 25th, 2013 (Limited Releases)
Release Date: January 10th, 2014 (Expands Wide)
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody war violence and pervasive language.
Source: Based on a Factual Book
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Special Ops, Afghanistan War, Military Life, more
Directed By: Peter Berg
Written By: Peter Berg, Marcus Luttrell, and Patrick Robinson
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster, Emilie Hirsch, Eric Bana, Alexander Ludwig, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $40 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $70 million

This film is based on the real life mission in Afghanistan to take out a high-ranking Taliban member. The mission went poorly and they were forced to try and escape with their lives. As you can probably tell by the name of the movie, Lone Survivor. This film is earning good reviews, which will likely be better than most other wide releases manage this month. It is also one of the more mainstream films to open in limited release last month. It has a similar target audience as Act of Valor had, and that film made just over $70 million. Of course, Act of Valor was a lot more jingoistic and praising the military is more marketable than telling the story of a mission that failed. This might result in a weaker box office run, but I think the stronger reviews and the much better acting will help out.

Weekend of January 17th, 2014

Jack Ryan poster

This is the busiest weekend of the month with four wide releases, including two films that could be battling for top spot for the month: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and Ride Along. Shadow Recruit is the latest in the Jack Ryan franchise. However, the previous installment came out more than a decade ago, so it is possible not enough people care. Ride Along is Kevin Hart's chance to prove he can carry a movie, rather than be part of an ensemble. Devil's Due could do well as a low-budget horror film, but even becoming a midlevel hit is probably out of the question. Then there's The Nut Job. It's the only family film opening between now and The LEGO movie, so that's something. Mama opened this weekend last year earning $28.40 million. This roughly the same as Shadow Recruit and Ride Along will open with. Plus last year's other two new releases both bombed, so 2014 should have the advantage.

Devil's Due

Devil's Due poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: DevilsDueMovie.com
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: January 17th, 2014
MPAA Rating: R for language and some bloody images.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Newlyweds, Foundfootage, Unexpected Pregnancy, Troubled Pregnancy, Occult, Footage Shot By Character, and more
Directed By: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Written By: Lindsay Devlin
Starring: Allison Miller, Zach Gilford, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million

Allison Miller and Zach Gilford play a newlywed couple who discover they are pregnant. It isn't planned, but it's great news. However, Allison starts to act a little crazy. At first everyone thinks it is just the hormones, but soon Zach believes it is something more sinister than that.

This is the first feature-length film for both directors and the screenwriter, while neither star has a track record when it comes to carrying a film. That's a lot of uncertainty. The buzz is really quiet and not overly positive. Eli Roth has been pumping up the film on Twitter, but I'm not sure that's going to make a difference. Finally, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is opening just two weeks earlier and that film is generating a whole lot more buzz. There is some good news. The film likely didn't cost a whole lot to make, so it won't need to open with $20 million to break even. On the other hand, it might not open with $10 million.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Jack Ryan poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ShadowRecruitMovie.com
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: January 17th, 2014
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence and intense action, and brief strong language.
Source: Original Screenplay / Sequel
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: CIA Agent, Secret Agent, Terrorism, Cold War, Economic Collapse, Delayed Sequel, Sequel with a Recast Star, Reboot, Directing Yourself, Digital Cinematography, and more
Directed By: Kenneth Branagh
Written By: Adam Cozad and David Koepp
Starring: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $80 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million

The fifth film in the Jack Ryan franchise. Chris Pine is also the fourth actor to play the titular character. Chris Pine has a huge amount of name recognition from playing Captain Kirk in Star Trek reboots, while Kenneth Branagh is coming off success with Thor. Additionally, this film is earning some of the loudest buzz for any movie coming out this month. That said, having loud buzz for a January release isn't exactly overwhelming praise. It could become the biggest hit of the month and come close to matching its reported production budget. If it can crack $100 million internationally, it should break even early in the film's home market run. That's better than a lot of January releases manage.

The Nut Job

The Nut Job
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheNutJob.com
Distributor: Open Road
Release Date: January 17th, 2014
MPAA Rating: PG for mild action and rude humor.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Heist, Animal Lead, Talking Animal, Food, and more
Directed By: Peter Lepeniotis
Written By: Peter Lepeniotis, Lorne Cameron, and Daniel Woo
Starring: Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Gabriel Iglesias, Liam Neeson, Katherine Heigl, Maya Rudolph, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $42.8 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million

This feels like Free Birds, but without the holiday timing to boost ticket sales. It is a secondary CG animated film release by a min-major, in this case Open Road. It is the first CG animated film released by said studio. And not to be too blunt, it doesn't look very good. Free Birds earned terrible reviews and while I think this one will do better with critics, I don't think it will earn even 40% positive reviews. It is really early in the year for a kids movie, which will further hurt its chances at the box office. Finally, it is opening during the busiest weekend of the month. There really are no positives to report here.

Ride Along

Ride Along poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: RideAlong.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: January 17th, 2014
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence, sexual content and brief strong language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: African-American, Buddy Cop Comedy, In-Laws, and more
Directed By: Tim Story
Written By: Greg Coolidge, Jason Mantzoukas, Phil Hay, and Matt Manfredi
Starring: Kevin Hart, Ice Cube, Tika Sumpter, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $70 million

Kevin Hart stars as a security guard who is in love with Tika Sumpter. He wants to marry her, but there's one problem: Ice Cube. Ice Cube is Tika Sumpter's brother in the movie and he doesn't like Kevin Hart. He thinks he's not good enough for his sister.

This could be the biggest hit of the month. It is certainly earning more buzz than most other movies opening this January. That doesn't mean I think it will be a huge hit, but assuming I'm not way off on my estimated production budget, it should be a financial success.

Weekend of January 24th, 2014

I, Frankenstein poster

The fourth weekend in January is a bit of an odd weekend. There is just one wide release this week, I, Frankenstein. Usually when a film has a weekend all to itself, it is either because it is such a huge film that even counter-programming is scared off. Or it is because it is a really bad weekend to release a film. Sadly, this case is more of the latter than the former. That's not to say I, Frankenstein will necessarily flop, it's just it is more likely to be a bomb than a $100 million hit. The biggest hit this weekend last year was Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, which opened with $19.69 million. The weakest new release of last year was Movie 43, which finished with $8.84 million. Fortunately, I, Frankenstein should top Hansel & Gretel, giving 2014 a chance to win.

I, Frankenstein

I, Frankenstein poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: IFrankensteinFilm.com
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: January 24th, 2014
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense fantasy action and violence throughout.
Source: Based on a Graphic Novel
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Modern Adaptation, Demons, Gargoyles, Monster Movie, Frankenstein, Author Adapting Their Own Work, 3D, Shot in 3D, Digital Cinematography, and more
Directed By: Stuart Beattie
Written By: Stuart Beattie, Kevin Grevioux, and Mary Shelley
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $68 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

A modern adaptation of the Mary Shelley Frankenstein story first told in a graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux. In the movie, Aaron Eckhart plays the monster, who has to deal with a battle between demons, led by Bill Nighy, and gargoyles, led by Miranda Otto. This might be too high concept for mainstream audiences. January is a typical dumping ground for films like this when they don't work out. Best case scenario has the film opening with $30 million or so. Worst case scenario has the film finishing with $30 million or so. I think the higher end is more likely than the lower end, but I am a little more bullish than most. It does have the weekend to itself, so I think that will help.

Weekend of January 31st, 2014

That Awkward Moment poster

The final weekend in January will be one of the biggest weekend of the year... for TV audiences. It's Super Bowl weekend. It should come as no surprise that there are no potential hits opening this weekend. There are two wide releases, maybe. That Awkward Moment is being released by Film District, so there's a better than 50% chance it will bomb. (The studio has only had two films earn significantly more than $50 million at the box office, while it has had four wide releases fail to reach $20 million. It's a new distributor, but their results so far have not been impressive.) The other potential wide release is Labor Day. I thought Labor Day opened on the 27th in limited release for an Oscar-qualifying run, but now I'm not 100% sure that happened. I'm not 100% sure it is going to open wide on the 31st. The official site merely says January for a release date. Warm Bodies was the big release this weekend last year with an opening of just over $20 million. I don't think either new release will make that much. There's a chance neither film will make that in total.

That Awkward Moment

That Awkward Moment poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ThatAwkwardMomentMovie.tumblr.com
Distributor: Film District
Release Date: January 31st, 2014
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content and language throughout.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Romance, Relationship Advice, Relationships Gone Wrong, and more
Directed By: Tom Gormican
Written By: Tom Gormican
Starring: Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller, Imogen Poots, Jessica Lucas, Mackenzie Davis, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Three best friends, Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan, and Miles Teller, make a pact to not get into a relationship until one of them, Michael B. Jordan, gets over a bad break-up and finds someone new. However, the other two almost immediately meet what could be the one.

There are not a lot of reasons to be bullish about this film's chances. First of all, it's a January release and historically this is a really bad time of the year to release a film. Not only that, it is opening Super Bowl weekend. This film has a first time writer / director and a lack of real star power in the cast. Zac Efron is the closest the film has to a major star, but while he's been in a few hits, I don't think you can truly say is has drawing power, at least not yet. The buzz for this film is really quiet, although it does have the full month to change that. Finally, the studio isn't known for releasing major hits. If the film merely matches low expectations, it would become the distributor's fifth biggest hit. If the film opens with anything substantially more than $10 million, then the studio should feel lucky.

Labor Day

Labor Day poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: LaborDayMovie.com
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: December 27th, 2013 (Limited Release)
Release Date: January 31st, 2014 (Expands Wide)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material, brief violence and sexuality.
Source: Based on a Novel
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Coming of Age, Depression, Phobias, Life of the Outside, On the Run, Romance, Non Chronological, Accidental Death, Death of a Child, Death of a Spouse, and more
Directed By: Jason Reitman
Written By: Jason Reitman and Joyce Maynard
Starring: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million

This could be the hardest January film to predict, because I'm not 100% sure this film will open wide on the 31st. (I'm also not 100% sure it opened in limited release on the 27th.) I think it was made to win awards, but while Kate Winslet is earning a lot of praise for her performance, the overall reviews are only good and not great. If it doesn't open wide, then its reviews will likely prevent it from thriving long enough in limited release to expand significantly. Even if it does open wide, the buzz is not strong enough to suggest it will be a midlevel hit.


- C.S.Strowbridge


Date posted: 2014-01-01