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2012 Preview: January

January 1st, 2012

2011 ended, and really that's the only good news we got from the entire month of December. That's not snark either. Of the eleven films opening or expanding wide that month, six will definitely miss expectations by significant margins and with the other five it is too soon to tell, (it depends on how well they hold up during the New Year's Day long weekend). Only Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol can be considered a pleasant surprise, and even then it might not match original expectations. Looking forward, the only really good piece of news for this January is that last January was a pretty bad as well. Only two films, The Green Hornet and No Strings Attached, beat expectations by significant margins, while The Dilemma bombed hard enough to nearly wipe out those gains. This time around, the biggest hit will likely be Beauty and the Beast's 3D re-release, but even then, I doubt it will do as well as The Lion King's 3D re-release. There's a good chance the year will start off on a sour note, just like 2011 ended.

Weekend of January 6th, 2011

This year starts off like most years do, on a soft note. There's only one wide release, The Devil Inside, and there are very few people who think it will be a box office hit. In fact, despite the weak slate of holdovers, the film might only manage a third place opening during the weekend, while its legs will likely be very short. Last year, there was also only one wide release, Season of the Witch, plus one wide expansion, Country Strong, but neither film were hits either. Hopefully The Devil Inside will be able to match Season of the Witch at the box office, but there's a chance it will open with less than Country Strong. If it does open on the upper range of expectations and the holdovers do well, then perhaps 2012 will at least come close to matching last year's start. Treating a close loss like it's a win is a bad omen for the rest of the year.

The Devil Inside

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Official Site:
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: January 6th, 2012
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violent content and grisly images, and for language including some sexual references.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Possession, Based on an UNTRUE Story, Religious, Found Footage, and more
Directed By: William Brent Bell
Starring: Fernanda Andrade, Simon Quarterman, Evan Helmuth, Suzan Crowley, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at under $20 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

A woman, Suzan Crowley, kills three people during an exorcism performed on her. 20 years later, her daughter, Fernanda Andrade, wants to know if demonic possession is hereditary and tries to learn as much as she can about possession and exorcism, going so far as to witness and film a real life exorcism. The footage in this movie is all that remains.

It's a Based on an UNTRUE Story movie and a Found Footage movie, which are two genres that have played themselves out in recent years. This film is going for the same target audience as The Last Exorcism did in 2010, or The Rite did last January. I doubt this film's reviews will be as good as The Last Exorcism's reviews were, while it doesn't have the star power of The Rite. Add in the overall weakness of the box office market and $25 million is likely as good as it will get. On the other hand, it likely didn't cost a lot to make, so it could break even sometime during its home market run.

Weekend of January 13th, 2011

There are two wide releases this week, Contraband and Joyful Noise, but those two films will likely be overshadowed by the 3-D re-release of Beauty and the Beast. There is some good news: Beauty and the Beast could be the biggest hit of the month. There is also some bad news: this weekend last year also had the biggest hit of the month and there's little hope Beauty and the Beast will match The Green Hornet's performance at the box office. There is worse news: last year also had strong depth with two Oscar contenders expanding significantly. That's not going to happen this year. In fact, most of the major Oscar contenders are already losing theaters, which is yet another reason to be worried about the overall box office chances this month.

Beauty and the Beast

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Distributor: Disney
Release Date: January 13th, 2012
MPAA Rating: G for General Admissions.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Musical
Keywords: Romance, Ensemble, Curses, Revenge, Kidnapping, 3-D, 3D Conversion, and more
Directed By: Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise
Starring: Paige O'Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, Angela Lansbury, and others.
Production Budget: $20 million originally, unknown for 3-D conversion
Box Office Potential: $75 million

When The Lion King earned nearly $100 million during its 3-D re-release, it was obvious that more films would be converted into 3-D. If Beauty and the Beast film does as well as The Lion King, then forget about it. Every year there will be several 3-D conversions hitting theaters, usually in the more traditional dumping grounds at the box office (January / February and late August / September). Will that happen? Probably not, but it should come close enough to impress the studio. Its reviews are amazing and was the first animated film to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. On the other hand, it doesn't have the same sense of novelty as The Lion King's 3-D conversion had. It should make more than enough to show a profit, while convincing more studios to give 3-D conversions a try.


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Distributor: Universal
Release Date: January 13th, 2012
MPAA Rating: R for violence, pervasive language and brief drug use.
Source: Remake of an Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Organized Crime, Out of Retirement, One Last Job, Foreign Language Remake, and more
Directed By: Baltasar Kormákur
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Giovanni Ribisi, Ben Foster, and others
Production Budget: $40 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

Mark Wahlberg plays a former runner, who used to work for an organized crime family smuggling money mostly. He quit to raise a family with Kate Beckinsale. But when her brother, Ben Foster, gets in trouble with a crime boss, Giovanni Ribisi, Mark assumes his debt. If he doesn't pay in full, the crime boss will come after him, his wife, and his kids.

This film has pretty good buzz going for it and Mark Wahlberg has a pretty good track record at the box office recently. On the other hand, this is a bad time of year to open a film. I think it will make enough at the box office to cover its production budget and it should break even sometime during its home market run, but it won't be anything more than a midlevel hit.

Joyful Noise

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Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: January 13th, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language including a sexual reference.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Musical
Keywords: Religious, Singing, Gospel Music, Romance, Underdog, Interracial Romance, and more
Directed By: Todd Graff
Starring: Queen Latifah, Dolly Parton, Keke Palmer, Jeremy Jordan, Courtney B. Vance, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million or less
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Queen Latifah gets put in charge of the church choir, a job Dolly Parton wanted. However, after yet another loss at a competition, Courtney B. Vance decides to cut the choir, because the church just doesn't have the money. They get one more chance when Dolly's troubled grandson, Jeremy Jordan stays with her. He's got a great voice and wants to join the choir, mainly to get a chance to be close to Queen Latifah's daughter, Keke Palmer, much to the horror of Queen Latifah.

Queen Latifah has a lot of fans and is generally well-liked by the movie going public. However, this hasn't really translated into major box office success for her. For instance, Just Wright only made $21.54 million in 2010 or Last Holiday made $38.40 million a few years earlier. Perhaps this film will be a breakout hit, but a midlevel hit is far more likely. On the other hand, it likely didn't cost a huge amount to make, so earning a profit sometime on the home market is likely.

Weekend of January 20th, 2011

The third weekend in January is the busiest of the month with three wide releases (Haywire, Red Tails, and Underworld: Awakening) and a wide expansion (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close). However, only one of those films is generating any amount of real buzz; in fact, Underworld: Awakening might be the only one that opens truly wide. This weekend last year there was only one wide release, No Strings Attached, which was a bigger than expected hit. However, the depth this year is much better and we could have two films earning $20 million this time around, plus another couple that should earn more than $10 million. Perhaps 2012 will earn an early win and we can build on that success in the coming weeks.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

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Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: December 25th, 2011 (Limited)
Release Date: January 20th, 2012 (Wide Expansion)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for emotional thematic material, some disturbing images, and language.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Terrorism, Autism, Death of a Spouse, Young Child Dealing with the Death of a Parent, Ensemble, Inspired By Real Life Events, and more
Directed By: Stephen Daldry
Starring: Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

I'm not 100% convinced this film will open truly wide this weekend. It is certainly not uncommon for a film to open in limited release in December and open wide in January; however, its reviews were only mixed and by the time the 20th rolls around, its per theater average could be so low that theater owners will be reluctant to book it. How well it does over New Year's weekend will go a long way in determining its box office potential. If it falls, it might never expand wide and even getting to $5 million might be asking way too much. On the other hand, if its per theater per day average grows, and that's not out of the question, then it could expand to more than 2500 theaters and earn around $20 million during its first weekend of wide release. The above potential is a weighted average of those two extremes.


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Distributor: Relativity
Release Date: January 20, 2012
MPAA Rating: R for some violence.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Secret Agents, Revenge, Hitmen, Undercover, Framed, and more
Directed By: Steven Soderberg
Starring: Gina Carano, Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $25 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

An action film starring a Mixed Martial Artist trying to have an acting career. Like we haven't seen that happen a million times before. However, this film is a lot more unique, as the MMA fighter in question is Gina Carano. Female action stars are rare enough, but a female action star that can actually kick ass in real life is even less common. That's one selling point, but the film is also directed by an Oscar winning director, Steven Soderberg, and includes a huge number of talented actors as well. This could be a surprisingly good movie. On the other hand, it is a January release and Relativity is a relatively new distributor without a strong track record at the box office. If the film just manages to match its production budget, then it will be the third biggest hit in the distributor's history.

Red Tails

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Distributor: Fox
Release Date: January 20, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sequences of war violence.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: World War II, In a Plane, African-Americans, Bigotry, Visual Effects, Development Hell, and more
Directed By: Anthony Hemingway
Starring: Cuba Gooding, Jr., Terrance Howard, Bryan Cranston, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $25 million to $35 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

This is a film George Lucas has been trying to get made for more than 20 years. It had been in our database for nearly five years when it finally entered pre-production in earnest. It tells the story of the The Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American fighter pilots in World War II. The military was still segregated and the fighter pilots faced discrimination and the higher ups in the military were reluctant to give them important jobs. When finally given the chance to prove they could be heroes, they did so with honor. This is a fascinating story to tell and there has been some good buzz surrounding the film. However, I'm not bullish about the film's chances for a number of reasons. I don't think it will be opening truly wide. Production began in 2009, which means it should have been released in 2010, given the usual post-production time. Additionally, it has a Flyboys vibe to it and that film bombed. And finally, if it were a great movie, why is it coming out in January. It's not even opening on Martin Luther King Day long weekend. Sadly, the negatives outweigh the positives, but I hope I'm wrong.

Underworld: Awakening

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Distributor: Sony
Release Date: January 20, 2011
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and gore, and for some language.
Source: Sequel of a Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Multiple Genres
Keywords: Vampires, Werewolves, 3-D, and more
Directed By: Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, India Eisley, Sandrine Holt, Michael Ealy, Stephen Rea, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $40 million to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million

The latest installment in the Underworld is set 12 years after Evolution with Kate Beckinsale back as Selena. She's been in cryo all of this time studied by humans, who are using her to learn how to kill vampires and werewolves. And they are not just killing the ones that get out of hand, but have launched an all-out war of genocide against the two species. When Selena breaks out, she tries to stop the war and save her kind.

The franchise has never been a major hit, but they've made enough money theatrically and on the home market to show a profit. With the addition of 3-D, this installment could become the biggest hit so far with $65 million or so. Or movie audiences might have moved on and this one could fail to match Rise of the Lycans earning just $40 million. Somewhere in the middle is the most likely result.

Weekend of January 27th, 2011

During the final weekend of January, there are three wide releases, The Grey, Man on the Ledge and One for the Money, but none of them seem like powerhouse hits. In fact, there is a chance none of them even become midlevel hits. Part of my concern is the distributors; none of the three films are being released by major studios and that will undoubtedly have a negative effect on these films' box office chances. This weekend last year saw the release of two films, plus the continued expansion of three films that were aiming for Oscars and there were even a couple holdovers that performed well at the box office. The end result was very solid depth with five films earning more than $10 million over the weekend. This time around, there might not be a single film earning $10 million over the weekend. Let's hope it's not that bad.

The Grey

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Distributor: Open Road
Release Date: January 27th, 2011
MPAA Rating: R for violence/disturbing content including bloody images, and for pervasive language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Animal Lead, Marooned, Animals Gone Wrong, and more
Directed By: Joe Carnahan
Starring: Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $34 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Liam Neeson stars as a man in charge of security at an isolated oil refinery where the biggest danger is the wildlife. While flying back with a group of workers, the plane goes down and he has to lead the men to safety through dangerous terrain, inclement weather and of course hungry wolves.

This is only the second film released by Open Road. The first film was Killer Elite, which barely made $25 million at the box office. There are some who think this film will do no better at the box office. Hopefully it will earn better reviews and Liam Neeson has a proven track record at the box office, so it could be a surprise hit. That said, the inexperienced distributor and the bad release date means it will likely struggle to match its production budget.

Man on a Ledge

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Distributor: Summit
Release Date: January 27th, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and brief strong language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller / Suspense
Keywords: Suicide, Fugitive, Framed, Heist, News, Revenge, and more
Directed By: Asger Leth
Starring: Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Kyra Sedgwick, Jamie Bell, Pooja Kumar, Ed Harris, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Sam Worthington stars as a man who walks out onto a ledge high up on a Manhattan skyscraper. While the police negotiator, Elizabeth Banks, tries to talk him down, a TV reporter, Kyra Sedgwick, makes him the big story. However, he's not there to kill himself, but give cover to his partners, Jamie Bell and Pooja Kumar, to steal a diamond from Ed Harris, a diamond Sam's been accused of stealing already.

It's a good setup and there are some big names in the cast, plus the director, Asger Leth, won an award for his previous film, Ghosts of Cite Soleil. On the other hand, that was his only other film, and it is a documentary. Without any reviews, it is hard to say where this film will land at the box office. However, it shares too much of its target audience with The Grey, and I think that film is the bigger movie. Maybe it will beat expectations, but I think it will struggle to show a profit any time soon.

One for the Money

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Official Site:
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: January 27, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, sexual references and language, some drug material and partial nudity.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Fired, Divorcee Romance, Bounty Hunter, Romance, and more
Directed By: Julie Anne Robinson
Starring: Katherine Heigl, Jason O'Mara, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million

Divorced and jobless, Katherine Heigl looks for work and decides to become a bounty hunter. One of the criminals she goes after is Jason O'Mara, whom she dated in high school, so she's really motivated to catch. However, it turns out there are some people just as motivated to make sure he doesn't get caught, lest he talks.

Katherine Heigl's track record at the box office is relatively solid. Granted, she's only been in one $100 million hit, Knocked Up, but most of her films are at least midlevel hits. Her track record with critics is less solid. The director, Julie Anne Robinson, is mostly known for TV work, but she did make The Last Song, which was a surprisingly strong hit, even if it didn't impress critics. I don't expect this to be a good movie, and it has a really bad release date, but it has a shot at being the biggest hit of the weekend.


Filed under: Monthly Preview, Beauty and the Beast, Red Tails, Underworld: Awakening, One for the Money, Man on a Ledge, The Grey, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Joyful Noise, Contraband, Haywire, The Devil Inside