January 1st - 3rd-
I will mention one very intriguing platform release from this weekend and that is Anamolisa. I'm sure this is bound to expand nationwide at some point, but I have no idea when that is, so I'm talking about it now. If you've never heard of this, this is a stop motion animated movie that's receiving very high praise from critics right now. In fact, it's looking like the one animated movie that has the power to steal away the best animated feature award from Pixar's Inside Out at this year's Academy Awards. A movie to take your kids to when it expands? Nope! This is an animated movie made strictly for adults as it carries an R-rating with it. And it's not a raunchy comedy like South Park either, which makes this a very unique movie. It's a drama starring the voices of David Thewlis and Jennifer Jason Leigh about a man who is stuck living a very mundane life. Yet things are about to change for him when he meets someone important. The director here is Charlie Kaufman, who is best known for his writing/producing work for movies such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich.
January 8th - 10th-
There always seems to be a new horror film released at the beginning of January and this year it's The Forest. There's actually a good reason that this keeps happening and that's because horror movies have had a pretty good track record in January. Each of the past four years has seen at least one horror open to $15 million or more. A few of these have come out of nowhere to earn big money for a January release, yet none of them have been very well liked, so it doesn't appear that quality is that important in order for these movies to make a bit of money. So The Forest has history in its favor. It's also kinda based on a true story in that apparently there is a place in Japan called suicide forest where people go to commit suicide every year. But here's the thing. Do people know this movie is coming out? It's not a part of a franchise. It doesn't have any recognizable cast or crew. The advertising hasn't been very strong. You can't just make a horror movie, throw in some horror cliches, give it a generic title, and hope that people show up.
Another smaller January release that probably fly under the radar is The Masked Saint. This is a faith-based movie distributed by Freestyle Releasing, who has a lot of success the other year with the movie God's Not Dead. However, for every huge faith-based movie like God's Not Dead, there's a lot more smaller releases that simply grab a few million is all. This one seems like the latter. It does its best to go outside the box as its about a wrestler who is also a father and pastor who is trying to be a hero in his community. It's also based on a true story. So there's going to be a handful of people that will be interested in this, but I don't anticipate it breaking out.
January 15th - 18th-
The past two years have both had a war drama do well in January. Two years ago was Lone Survivor. Last year was American Sniper. This January there are two of these movies that will each hope to replicated this success. The first is Michael Bay's 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. It's been a while since the phrase "directed by Michael Bay" has excited movie fans. Although Michael Bay is usually the one with the last laugh as is shown by his Transformers movies, which have combined for a worldwide total of $3.8 billion. As far as 13 Hours goes, it remains to be seen if audiences are interested in this specific subject matter. Lone Survivor and American Sniper were both fairly recent, but this is even more recent as it's a movie about events from less than four years ago when a U.S. compound was attacked in Benghazi, Libya. It does seem like Michael Bay is trying to go back to his roots with this as he started his career off with a string of successful R-rated movies that was followed by 2001's Pearl Harbor, another war drama. Is this the movie that gets fans on his side again?
Finally, this weekend will see the release of Norm of the North, which has a good chance of getting completely ignored. This is an animated movie that's not from a major animation studio that is about a polar bear travelling to New York to try to save his home. Family movies have done well in January recently. Two years ago, The Nut Job was a pretty big surprise on this same weekend despite having poor reviews and not being attached to a major animation studio. Last year Paddington did very well, although that was initially supposed to be a Christmas release. Advertising for Norm of the North has been pretty aggressive, but reactions to the trailers have been pretty bad. If kids enjoy it, then none of that matters. However, there's another reason to believe that that this will be passed over and that is the upcoming release of Dreamworks' Kung Fu Panda 3 at the end of the month. It seems likely that parents will save their money and take their kids to Kung Fu Panda 3 instead of Norm of the North.
January 22nd - 24th-
In 2013, Johnny Knoxville and his crew entertained audiences with Bad Grandpa, a movie about a dirty, foul-mouthed grandpa (played by Johnny Knoxville) hanging out with his grandson doing funny pranks. This weekend, the completely unrelated Dirty Grandpa hits theaters with essentially the same exact premise and a nearly identical title. This time around Zac Efron is the grandson and he drives his Grandpa, played by Robert De Niro, to Florida for spring break. And yes, his grandpa is a dirty and foul-mouthed grandpa. The premise is one that has obviously worked in the past and the cast here is pretty good, but will people avoid it because it looks too much like a rip-off of Bad Grandpa? Comedies can work in January, but if they are met with poor reviews, they do have a history of going the way of last year's Mortdecai, which debuted on this weekend last year and failed to even hit $10 million in its entire run.
The third release of the weekend is another thriller from STX Entertainment called The Boy. STX is a newer production company formed with the idea of producing 8-10 medium-budgeted, star-driven films per year. Their first two movies came towards the end of last year with two very different results. The Gift was a thriller written and directed by Joel Edgerton that was praised by critics and made a very healthy $40 million. Secret in their Eyes was a remake of a foreign thriller from just a few years ago and despite a huge cast, it was panned and only made half as much as The Gift. The Boy will hope to follow the success of The Gift rather than Secret in their Eyes, but a January release with a premise that looks fairly unoriginal could mean it could go either way. Not all of STX's movies are planned thrillers, but these first three are, although The Boy is more of a psychological horror thriller instead of a straight-up thriller and is about a woman who takes a job as a nanny and quickly learns that the family's 8-year-old boy is a life-size doll wherein you have to follow strict rules or bad things happen.
January 29th - 31st
I mentioned earlier that there are two war dramas this January. The first one was 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. If that one doesn't work out, Disney's The Finest Hours will hope to pick up the slack. Neither movie is expected to do huge business, but yet neither were Lone Survivor or American Sniper, so it wouldn't be surprising if one of the two broke out. The Finest Hours has perhaps the more user-friendly premise. Not only is it a lighter PG-13, but it's also the true story of events that took place back in the 1950's instead of just under four years ago. Disney has been advertising this movie as the most dangerous rescue mission in U.S. Coast Guard history as four members of the Coast Guard set out to rescue nearly more than 30 stranded sailors following one of the worst storms ever to hit the New England. Starring in the film are Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, and Eric Bana. Directing the movie is Craig Gillepsie, the director of Disney's 2014 film Million Dollar Arm.
Last year saw the release of the widely hated, yet extremely lucrative film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey. Because of this success, the whole trilogy will be adapted to film. The sequel is titled Fifty Shades Darker and will be released next year. In the mean time, Marlon Wayans has decided to move forward with a parody of the film called Fifty Shades of Black. They Wayans were once very popular comedic actors and filmmakers as they were responsible for the success of the first two Scary Movie films as well as other films such as White Chicks. However, they seem to have lost their touch recently as it's been a decade or so since any of the Wayans have done something that people have enjoyed. The most recent two films were the Haunted House movies, which weren't received nearly as well as the first two Scary Movie films. Marlon Wayans has written and stars in this newest parody film Fifty Shades of Black while the director of both Haunted House films is on board directing. While this probably won't be hated as much as Fifty Shades of Grey was, chances of it being well-received seems slim.
Speaking of Star Wars, the final film of January is called Jane Got a Gun and is set in an alternate universe of Star Wars where Obi-Wan has turned to the dark side and Padme has teamed up with Owen Lars to rescue her daughter Leia. No, I lied. That's not true. However, it is a reunion of sorts that stars Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, and Joel Edgerton, who played the aforementioned characters in the Star Wars prequels. The movie is another attempt to revive the Western genre, which was really popular back in the day but hasn't been popular in quite some time. Even the most well-liked modern Westerns such as the remake of True Grit seem to have a ceiling as far as how much they can earn. Natalie Portman plays our main character of Jane who when her husband, played by Ewan McGregor, comes home riddled with bullets is forced to go to her ex-husband, played by Joel Edgerton, in order to help save her family. The advertising for this hasn't done a great job at selling the movie, so the potential to break-out in a bit of a crowded market seems pretty slim.