January is generally regarded as Hollywood’s (For a bad movie fan, like myself, this is a giddy month in theaters.) A couple of factors contribute to this segment of the calendar seeing distaff titles getting half-hearted releases with little fanfare and attempts at minimizing losses on losing ventures.
With holiday holdover films, or others released in limited amounts the past weeks for awards season, which are then gradually getting wider frames to maximize nomination attention, studios see a vacuum for new releases. While the focus is on those flashy or boutique titles what remains is little room for decent business.
This results in distributors left with problematic titles which induce a shrug, and so many go into “cut bait” mode. What we commonly see this time of year are movies resulting in poor quality, or which have lingered in studio vaults for a time due to any number of issues, or may have been traded off from other companies and are bastard titles with no firm schedule.
A prime example this week is “Replicas”, starring Keaanu Reeves. Opening on 2,300 screens it did so little business it doesn’t even hit the chart, with a dismal $2.5 million open. Entertainment studios needs to see about a $30 million total before seeing a profit.
So amid all this very low-level drama, here are the numbers from theaters this weekend.
THE UPSIDE – $19.59 Million
Quite the surprise result, as nearly double the projection came in. This is an American remake of the 2012 French film “The Intouchables” and, despite some idiotic controversy, audiences turned up for this soft lecture on social and racial mores. Despite no love from critics for a story concerning a paralyzed billionaire and his hired African American live-in assistant (38% approval on Rotten Tomatoes) audiences graded it strong with an “A” CinemaScore. More surprising is that this debuted at the Toronto Film Fest back in 2017, but Harvey Weinstein’s sex scandal derailed the release. The movie was pulled out of its vault by the holding company that took over Harvey’s demised TWC empire, but they could not stage an Oscar campaign, because The Green Book” is another awards contender with a very similar storyline. They turned to STX Entertainment for distribution and as a result this becomes the first ever #1 debut for the relatively new distributor.
2. AQUAMAN – $17.26m
This becomes the first week out of the top slot for the DC comic book hero, and dare it be said, the film has made a splash. After just a month in release it is fast approaching $300 million earned domestically, and just crossed over $1 billion in total global box office – only the 37th film ever to do so.
3. A DOG’S WAY HOME – $11.3m
Sony-Columbia went with this slot to serve as the only new family release, but faced rather stiff competition with a number of holdovers that fill in that category. That resulted in a slightly lower than projected return. Ashley Judd is the star — even though technically it is the dog.
4. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE – $9.0m
A rare critical and audience success this retelling of the Spider-Man canon is about to move over the $150 million mark.
5. ESCAPE ROOM – $8.9m
A horror/thriller that did not make a serious impression last week it has actually held respectably (-51%) and has developed into a moderate success for Sony. Typifying the January dumping ground-quality the film only cost $9 million to make, so for the studio to show a profit off of this distaff release is considered great news.
6. MARY POPPINS RETURNS – $7.21m
Disney continues to readdress titles from its vaults, turning here to a follow up to a nearly 50 year old property. It has been a moderate success here (almost $150 million) and in foreign markets (approaching the same figure.) Not a smash, but decent enough we’d say.
7. BUMBLEBEE – $6.77m
The OTHER major holiday release is faring decently enough. A new “Transformers” origin story has surprised by being a critical hit as well as being warmly (if not wildly) accepted by audiences. As it edges over $100 million this weekend add in another $250 million overseas and this becomes a decent enough hit.
8. ON THE BASIS OF SEX – $6.22m
The drama centered on the early career of Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg continues the beatification of her as a political celebrity. Felicity Jones stars as the justice during one of her early court cases and career launch, supported by her husband, played by Armie Hammer. This kind of return was respectable, but it is revealed in the metrics. The movie played best in the big cities, with over half of the audience females over-25. It is a very specific draw, and it needs to go a long way to make a profit. With a budget estimate near $20 million, and Focus Features spending significantly on TV ad buys, this would need to approach $80 million to see break-even territory
9. THE MULE – $5.54m
A sign of how poor some offerings have been this Clint Eastwood drama has remained while not actually receiving much awards notification. It has been chugging along, pulling in $90 million so far.
10. VICE – $3.27m
Speaking of tepid awards notice, this Adam McKay version of the George Bush administration has been woefully under-viewed by audiences. This, following some of the Golden Globes affection it received last week. It was graded out with a “C-” CinemaScore, so critics and organizations telling us we are supposed to love it is not actually working out.