January 6th - 8th-
The first of two expanding movies this weekend is Hidden Figures, which has made $2.8 million so far in 25 theaters after opening on Christmas Day. This weekend it will be expanding into nearly 2,500 theaters. This movie is the true story of a trio of black females who were the masterminds for NASA behind the Apollo missions that everyone knows about. They were known as human computers and provided all the needed math and calculations to make these space missions work. But because they were black and because they were female, they never really got any attention or recognition. Until now. Playing these three ladies are Taraji P. Henson as Katherine G. Johnson, Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan and Janelle Monae as Mary Jackson. All three actresses have had a significant amount of Oscar buzz for their roles. One of them is bound to sneak in come nomination morning.
Our other expanding entry this weekend is J.A. Bayona's A Monster Calls. This was initially set for an October 2016 release date until it shied away due to there being four other wide releases on the same weekend. Instead it decided to take the Oscar run. It was submitted into most of the major film festivals and had an Oscar qualifying run in theaters starting on December 23. From then until now it has been playing in four theaters and will expand into over 1,500 this weekend. The movie has carried with it almost universal praise and even is already certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with 89 percent. Despite all of this, what it hasn't been able to do is pick up any Oscar buzz or any money in limited release, earning just over $88,000 so far. Despite getting ignored by Oscar and the art house crowd, Focus Features will be crossing their fingers that this will have more success with general audiences as it's about a kid learning how to deal with grief and is based on the book by Patrick Ness.
January 13th - 16th-
The second expansion this weekend will be Ben Affleck's latest directorial effort, Live by Night. It was a big year for Ben Affleck in 2016 as he made his appearance as Batman in DC's "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice." While initially being one of the most debated casting choices of the film, it ended up being one of the few things most people agreed on. Audiences gave Affleck's Batman a thumbs up. Now he'll be looking to build on that momentum with this latest project. This will be Affleck's fourth movie on the director's chair and the third of which he has also written and starred in. The last two movies, "The Town" and "Argo" received almost unanimous critical praise, "Argo" winning the coveted best picture trophy at the Oscars. While "Live by Night" doesn't have the Oscar buzz that "Argo" had, it still should play well with general audiences. The movie is about crime and gang corruption during the dark times of the prohibition era in the 1920's.
And our final expansion will be the highly anticipated expansion of Martin Scorsese's Silence. Going into the year, this was thought to be one of the major Oscar contenders. Buzz died off a bit as Oscar season approached as there was so much secrecy behind this project that it was unsure if it would even come out in 2016. A limited run at the end of December was finally announced, but this didn't hit the festival runs and wasn't given any early screenings for some of the precursor award ceremonies leading up to the Oscars. To play off the movie's title, silence is what they used with this leading up to the release. But word is out and the prognosis is very good. The movie clocks in at nearly three hours and tells the brutal story of two Jesuit priests played by Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver who travel to Japan in the 17th century to search for their mentor, played by Liam Neeson. This at a time period where Catholicism was forbidden in Japan, thus leading to violence and persecution towards them.
The three new releases of this month will most likely exemplify the idea that January is often a dumping ground for new films as none of these three are likely to get much critical praise or make much money. For our first entry, Monster Trucks, critical praise will be less important as young kids are much nicer critics and don't turn to Rotten Tomatoes to determine which movies they want to see and will thus like. "Monster Trucks" is not another spin-off of "Cars," like DisneyToons' "Planes" movies were. This is a live action film where the term monster trucks becomes literal instead of being a figurative term for giant trucks. A high school senior named Tripp is building a monster truck when a creature escapes who has a hunger for speed and racing and becomes the engine for truck. Thus making it a "monster" truck. Pretty soon they have a whole family of monster trucks racing around the city. Regardless of what adults think, if the kids dig it that means the movie did it's job, right?
Moving from the kids front to the adults front, we have the release of Sleepless, starring Jamie Foxx and Michelle Monaghan. This is the new release with the biggest uphill battle to fight as it will be in direct competition with Ben Affleck's "Live by Night" and Peter Berg's "Patriot's Day," vying for essentially the same target audience. It will also be trying to bank of the success of the often copied "Taken" premise, which was a fellow January release that ended its run with $145 million and spawned two sequels. Jamie Foxx plays an officer with connections to the criminal underworld who has his son get kidnapped. Now he needs to go find and rescue his son. Directed by a no-name director in Baran bo Odar, which doesn't help matters much.
Last and potentially least this weekend is the horror film The Bye Bye Man. In all fairness, there's plenty examples of horror films that have done very well in January. Last year saw "The Boy" and "The Forest" make around $30 million. Recent years has also seen movies like "The Woman in Black 2," "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones," "Mama" and "The Devil Inside" also play well in January when compared to their minuscule production budgets. "Mama" was even the highest new release of January 2017. But for every horror movie that has played well, there seems to be at least four or five others that fail to even reach $10 million overall. "The Darkness," "Shut In" and "Incarnate" are recent examples in this past year that failed to make a dent. It's hard to predict exactly which direction "The Bye Bye Man" will take, but with such a crowded weekend and most horror fans probably saving their money for next week's "Split," it one believe that this might be on the lower end of the spectrum.
January 20th - 22nd
The horror movie that seems destined to actually follow the trend of successful January horrors will be M. Night Shyamalan's Split. M. Night Shyamalan broke onto the scene in a huge way with the movie "The Sixth Sense" in 1999. He followed that up with "Unbreakable" and "Signs," which led many to believe that he was Hollywood's next huge director that could do no wrong. Sadly he soon went from potential to punchline with a string of horrifically awful movies, capped off by "The Happening," "The Last Airbender" and "After Earth." Despite facing an endless amount of shaming and mockery, M. Night moved forward and made a comeback in 2015 with "The Visit," which many called a return to form. And now this month he will follow that up with "Split," which has already seen pre-screenings and also has great early reviews. "Split" stars James McAvoy as a man with 23 different personalities who is holding two girls hostage who have to try to figure out how to escape. The movie promises plenty of thrills and twists that many have come to expect from a good M. Night horror/thriller.
Next up is a movie that was initially scheduled for an August 2016 release date, but has since been pushed back a few times and has landed in January. That movie is The Founder. The last two years Michael Keaton has been on a role with the Oscars. While he hasn't personally won the best actor Oscar, the two live action movies that he starred in, "Birdman" and "Spotlight," are our two most recent winners of the best picture award at the Oscars. That led some to believe that perhaps "The Founder" had potential to make it three in a row or give Keaton his personal Oscar win. Those ideas seem to have fallen by the wayside as for whatever reason, Weinstein seems to have abandoned that completely as "The Founder" hit no festivals, did not have a qualifying Oscar run in December, and moved to January where it will end up coming up completely blank. That aside, general audiences might still be interested in watching the movie about the founding of the world's most popular fast food joint, that of McDonald's. Keaton stars as founder Ray Kroc in the movie.
The final wide release has potential to be the wide release that does the least amount of damage in the box office this month and that is The Resurrection of Gavin Stone. High Top Releasing will be handling the distribution of this movie and the highest grossing movie that they have distributed is last year's "The Darkness," which topped off at $10.8 million, so expectations shouldn't be super high with this one. The movie is about a man named Gavin Stone who was a former child star in the fictional universe of this movie who pretends to be Christian and thus lands the role of Jesus in a play put on by a certain megachurch after being forced to do community service. You can probably guess where this will go as pretending will probably turn into reality and he will learn some major spiritual lesson. For some reason this reminds me of last year's "The Masked Saint," which went on to make a whopping $182,695. This will probably top that, but perhaps not by a whole lot.
Last but not least we have our expanding movie of the weekend, 20th Century Women. While there were no wide releases on the final weekend of December, there was this movie and a few others hitting the limited run. In just four theaters, "20th Century Women" pulled in an admirable $111,200 for a per-theater average of $27,800, which is pretty decent. The movie is set in the late 1970's and stars Annette Bening, Elle Fanning and Greta Gerwig as three women at different phases of life trying to make it in the world around them. This will be one of the many movies hoping for awards attention and the category that it's most likely to receive said attention is in the best actress category with Annette Bening. She's not likely to win the gold trophy, but she should be in the race.
January 27th - 29th-
The second movie of the weekend is a rather curious movie in A Dog's Purpose. Everyone loves dogs, right? Everyone can think of a dog that they owned that provided them with a lot of love and comfort in times of need. That emotion is what this movie will be playing off of as it tells the story of a dog from the perspective of the dog and narrated by that dog. Said dog has a young boy that he really cares about. But given that dogs don't live forever, he passes away and gets reincarnated into the body of a different dog. This happens many times as the dog becomes a lot of different dogs, having a different purpose each time until he happens to be reunited with his boy again. This time that boy is an older man. I hope I didn't just spoil the whole movie for you, because this is all described in detail in the trailer. It would be a shame if the whole movie was in the trailer.
Rounding things off is another movie that followed a similar trajectory as "The Founder" and that is Gold, which is also distributed by Weinstein. This was supposed to be one of the major Oscar contenders. It tells the true story of a man named Kenny Wells, played by Matthew McConaughey, who comes across a large stash of gold, making him a very rich man. It was supposed to be the "Wolf of Wall Street" of 2016, but sometimes in life you have to choose between making money and earning awards. Weinstein switched the release date to the end of January, possibly realizing that the Oscar potential wasn't as high as initially thought and thus, like the main character of the movie, decided to instead search for more money with this release. It was initially planned to have a limited release run prior to its January release, but that never ended up happening.