January is always a month of mixed fortunes, and this weekend is perfectly emblematic of that reality. Studios are generally concerned with two tasks; rolling out and coaxing along their serious films for the awards season, or dumping problematic films they view as lost causes.
As a result we have an awards contender that was overperforming, and a misbegotten retread of an action film that was left on the docks. The gulf between the quality and the questionable is rather blatant. In between there are plenty of holiday leftovers making steady business, so everything this month is going according to plans.
1. 1917 – $36.5 Million
This war epic has been getting plenty of positive advanced word, even before winning the Golden Globe for Best Picture and Best Director last weekend. After being given a token release into a handful of theaters to qualify for the awards of 2019 it went into wide release this weekend and found an eager audience. Expectations had been mounting as weeks ago it was being targeted for around a $20 million debut but then scaled higher up to this weekend. This one has to be considered the favorite for the Academy Award, and director Sam Mendes is a popular choice for Best Director as well.
2. STAR WARS EPISODE IX – THE RISE OF SKYWALKER – $15.06m
At $478 million domestic and closing in on $1 billion globally is good money. It is just not quite ‘’Star Wars’’ type money. For this title that is considered to be the culmination of the primary story it is not quite performing at a level expected of it. It has been underperforming compared to the predecessor, the widely panned ‘’Last Jedi’’, and it trending exactly in line with a lesser title, ‘’Rogue One’’.
3. JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL – $14.01m
While trailing behind the 2017 version at the same point in its run this is performing in a similarly strong track. Considering this has now been out for a month and it still hitting double-digit returns on a weekend is a definite sign that the film has legs.
4. JUST MERCY – $10.35m
This courtroom drama with Jaime Foxx had also been receiving strong advanced word, and also worked the same awards platform formula. It played in only four theaters for weeks before expanding into over 2,300 screens this weekend. However all of that did not pay off — the movie received zero nominations from the Motion Picture Academy.
5. LIKE A BOSS – $10.0m
The comedy with Tiffany Haddish and Salma Heyak is bearing all of the challenges of adult romps of late. It has mixed reactions and middling business for a debut. The largely female audience indicates this may not have been marketed strong enough to other demographics.
6. LITTLE WOMEN – $7.65m
Despite some trying to drum up a sexist controversy behind this film it is actually performing decently. The irony is that while some tried to say male ticket-buyers were sexist for not attending, the Academy is now looked at harshly because there were no female directors nominated this year, and Greta Gerwig was looked at as a lock for this film. However it is up for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Saoirse Ronan is nominated for Best Actress. This will help generate more interest going forward.
7. UNDERWATER – $7.008m
This is an unfortunately-named thriller starring Kristen Stewart in a thriller set miles below the ocean surface. An earthquake damages the deep-water research laboratory where the workers next struggle with a beast that was released. Many have commented how closely it resembles ‘’Alien’’, and it seems that this became a bit of an orphaned production with the Disney buyout of 20th Century Fox. This qualifies as a typical January cast-off release, and becomes the second major bomb in a row for Stewart, following the disaster that was ”Charlie’s Angels” this past November.
8. FROZEN 2 – $5.91m
To say it has been a huge film is understatement. It has now become the highest-grossing animated film worldwide of all time, having taken in over $1.3 billion, and it is still going.
9. KNIVES OUT – $5.62m
The success continues for this adult thriller as it was just nominated for Best Original Screenplay.
10. SPIES IN DISGUISE – $5.17m
The Will Smith animated spy comedy has done relatively decent, if not wildly successful. $50 million domestic and $100 million globally.