January is proving to be its own blockbuster month.
Just last week, the Afghan war drama Lone Survivor nearly broke Cloverfield’s January record of $40M. This week, Ride Along actually broke the record, with a $41.5M three-day opening and a massive $48.6M over the four-day MLK weekend, becoming the largest January opening.
The cop comedy, directed by USC alumnus Tim Story and starring Ice Cube and Kevin Hart, sold the comedic potential of pairing up the two actors. It goes to show that successfully playing up an actor’s persona — Ice Cube’s hard knocks attitude matched up to Kevin Hart’s hyperactive banter — will bring out their fanbases in droves. With good buzz in spite of the poor reviews, expect a strong run.
Lone Survivor continued to perform well. Although it came up short in Oscar nominations and is attempting to follow the format Zero Dark Thirty took last year, the broader and less political slant has allowed it to connect with audiences, earning the film $22.1M/$26M over the holiday weekend.
The Nut Job, a new animated film from Open Road Films, opened above expectations with $19.4M/$25.7M. It had poor reviews and looked cheap but it’s the first family-friendly option since Frozen. The Disney phenomenon continues to do exceptionally well, getting a bump over the weekend with $11.8M/$16.2M for a total of $336.7M. At this rate, it may eclipse Despicable Me 2 as the reigning animated film.
The latest Tom Clancy thriller Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, starring Chris Pine, wasn’t able to break out as much as the studio might have hoped. A reboot of the character previously played by Alec Baldwin, twice by Harrison Ford, and most recently by Ben Affleck, the film mustered a mediocre $15.5M/$18M. Although the character has a long cinematic history, the film presented itself as a generic spy film with a character that arguably should be portrayed by an older actor.
The weekend’s bust was 20th Century Fox’s found footage horror film Devil’s Due, which opened with a paltry $8.3M/$9.1M. This is just two weeks after Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones failed to impress, showing that audiences may just not be into the found footage technique. To put it into perspective, last year was one of the best years for the horror genre (Mama, The Purge, The Conjuring), yet none of them were found footage features. It’s no longer authentic, and rather just looks cheap.
A few films also got some Oscar love over the weekend. American Hustle, which leads the crop of Best Picture nominees with ten nominations, increased over the previous weekend with $9.9M/$11.8M for a total of $117.6M. As long as that momentum continues, it could gross over $160M when all is said and done. August: Osage County, featuring Oscar-nominated roles for both Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep, also gained a boost while The Wolf of Wall Street and Her had soft drops.
Gravity and 12 Years A Slave, considered the other frontrunners for Best Picture, both returned to theaters and should regain traction. While 12 Years has grossed $41M so far and can only go up, Gravity has already been a phenomenal success with $258.7M. It’s due to come back to IMAX January 31st so there’s still some juice left.
It’s a healthy time at the theater, with a strong mix of new releases and award-winning flicks. Try to catch what you can while you can.