Friday, February 3, 2017

Movie Preview: February 2017

The first month of 2017 is in the books and it closes having come just $50 million shy of becoming the third straight January to hit the $1 billion mark at the domestic box office. Leading the way were December holdovers "Rogue One" and "Sing" followed closely by January expansion "Hidden Figures." The top January release was the surprise run of M. Night Shyamalan's "Split," which grabbed $81 million in it's first two weeks in theaters. "La La Land," the favorite to win best picture at the Oscars after a record-tying 14 Oscars nominations this past month, rounded out the top five having earned $78 million of its overall $110 million so far in the month of January. Now we head into February, which historically speaking is one of the worst months of the year. Since 2010, the only months to have a lower average at the box office have been September and October. This is most likely due to the holiday holdovers dying down, forcing the box office to rely mostly on the new releases, which typically aren't too strong in the first two months of the year. This February should have a strong showing on the weekend before Valentine's Day, but may struggle the other weekends, leading to a box office that should average out as a normal February. Let's dive in and check it out!

February 1st - 3rd-

The first weekend of February will see two new releases limp into theaters on one of the worst weekends of the year for the box office as most Americans will be watching the Patriots face off against the Falcons in Super Bowl LI instead of heading out to the movie theaters, making this essentially a two-day weekend. As such, M. Night Shyamalan's "Split" should be able to fend off the newcomers, pulling off the unexpected three-peat on top of the box office. Leading the newcomers will be the horror movie Rings. The Ring franchise began in the late 90's with the Japanese film "Ringu," which spawned several other sequels and spin-offs before being remade in America in 2002 with "The Ring," which impressed with $129.1 million domestically. "The Ring Two" didn't do quite as well three years later, but still pulled in $76.2 million. Now the real question is do people really want this franchise back or is this just a quick attempt at a cash grab? The movie has bounced around like a ping-pong ball on the calendar before settling in on this weekend and, as of the publishing of this post, has a mere 7 percent on Rotten Tomatoes with 30 reviews. The general premise with this franchise is that if you watch a certain video, you die seven days later unless you can find the way out. 

Looking like it may be dead on arrival will be STX Entertainment's sci-fi film The Space Between Us. This is another movie that got bounced around a bit as it was initially slated for a summer 2016 release before being postponed to December. Realizing that releasing a sci-fi film on the same weekend as "Rogue One" and one weekend before "Passengers," STX smartly pushed it back again to this weekend. Turns out it may not have made much of a difference anyways as this is looking to debut outside the top five, despite being released on an already poor weekend in just under 3,000 theaters. Hurting it's cause are the abysmal reviews which currently stand at 16 percent on Rotten Tomatoes with 65 reviews counted. The movie stars Asa Butterfield as a the first human ever born on Mars who isn't able to come to Earth until he's 16 years old. When he finally gets the chance, with the help of a girl played by Britt Robertson, he is able to experience the wonders of Earth for the very first time.

February 10th - 12th-

With Valentine's Day landing on a Tuesday this year, it's the weekend before Valentine's Day that Hollywood has loaded up on with three wide releases that should make a huge impact at the box office and hold well throughout the month. It'll be the family-friendly movie against two adult-targeted movies and it looks like the family-friendly movie will be the one that will win out, and that is The LEGO Batman Movie. It was 2014 that essentially proved that big-budget movies CAN do well in February when "The LEGO Movie" opened to $69.1 million on it's way to $257.8 million total. Since then Hollywood has been more confident in scheduling big movies in February with "Fifty Shades of Grey" and "Deadpool" also doing well in the past two years. Despite not getting an Oscar nomination for best animated feature, "The LEGO Movie" was one of the most well-liked animated movies of 2014, with the character of Batman being one of people's favorite parts. Now that version of Batman, voiced by Will Arnett, will be getting his own movie that looks to poke fun at the long history of the character with many of the classic Batman characters showing up in some form. This will be the first of two LEGO Movie spin-offs this year as "The LEGO Ninjago Movie" is currently slated for September.

As I just mentioned, a year after "The LEGO Movie" opened to $69.1, the worldwide phenomenon that was "Fifty Shades of Grey" broke the February opening weekend record with an $85.2 million opening. The previous record was held by "The Passion of the Christ," which opened to $83.8 million late in February 2004 and played very well throughout that Easter season. "Fifty Shades of Grey" only held that record for a year as last year "Deadpool" opened to $132.4 million. The popularity of "Fifty Shades of Grey" in 2015 means that the world will be graced with the entire trilogy, which continues with Fifty Shades Darker. Given the strong negative reaction towards the first movie from everyone that didn't read the books, this sequel won't win any new audience members and thus probably won't hit the box office level that its predecessor hit, but fans of the franchise will still turn out in droves, especially since this is the only romance movie option this Valentine's Day. The novels began as a "Twilight" fan-fiction and are now well-known for their erotic sex-sequences that implement BDSM. The movie franchise is scheduled to conclude next February with "Fifty Shades Freed."

Looking to come in third place on the weekend, but certainly not be ignored will be John Wick: Chapter Two. With "The LEGO Batman Movie" targeting family audiences and "Fifty Shades Darker" targeting the adult female audience, there will be something for everyone this weekend as "John Wick: Chapter Two" will be targeting the adult male audience looking for an action movie. "John Wick" arrived in theaters in October 2014 with almost no anticipation and only opened to $14.4 million. However, despite the lack of anticipation and small opening weekend, reaction to the movie itself was very positive as the movie surprised a lot of people by how good it was. This led to a healthy hold at the box office as it finished with $43.0 million. The positive word of mouth continued to spread as the movie gained a bit of a cult following post-release. This reaction was good enough for everyone involved to feel comfortable moving forward with the sequel, which has been highly anticipated ever since it was announced. Online buzz for the film is currently very strong. All things considered, this should make for one of the highest grossing weekends in February to date.

February 17th - 20th-

And that's about it for February. The rest of the month is our typical February fare. Movies that studios don't care much about so they throw in February just to see if they can earn a quick buck or two before they focus on their movies that they actually have confidence in. Leading the way in this is The Great Wall. In talking about this movie, one can't help but think of last February's "Gods of Egypt," a white-washed, effects driven movie with a bizarre plot and laughably written characters. "The Great Wall" isn't necessarily a white-washed movie. It's a Chinese-themed movie about the Great Wall of China with "European" travelers played by Matt Damon and Willem Dafoe leading the way. It does have Chinese actors everywhere else, though, so there's a plus. Otherwise the movie tells the fictional story that they built the Great Wall of China... to fend off a horde of monsters? Like I said, an effects driven movie with a bizarre plot thrown in February that looks like a major flop waiting to happen. I don't know if anyone is actually excited for this, but some might go see it just so that they can laugh at how dumb it is. Or hey, maybe it will surprise us all!

The second throwaway movie of the weekend is Ice Cube's Fist Fight. If you've ever had a burning desire to see two of your high school teachers get in a fist fight after school, then Warner Bros. has made your dream movie. Or not. Because that would also assume that you've also dreamed that one of these teachers was Ice Cube and the other one was a scared wimp. Because this is a movie where Charlie Day plays a teacher who gets his fellow teacher, played by Ice Cube, fired and now Ice Cube is angry and wants to pick a fight. Seems like the perfect role for Ice Cube given that he always seems to have a forever angry look on his face even when he is happy. Now Ice Cube has been on a role recently as his two "Ride Along" films both opened over $35 million around this time of year. And he's also played roles in the recent Barbershop sequel as well as 21 and 22 Jump Street. Plus, the movie "Straight Outta Compton" put his backstory in the spotlight. So it's feasible that this could end up as the highest grossing new release of the weekend. Although I imagine neither will come close to dethroning "The LEGO Batman Movie." It might even be a battle for third or fourth place.

Last and most certainly least on this weekend will be A Cure for Wellness. This is the second of three February horror films following "Rings" and preceding "Get Out." This sees director Gore Verbinski return to the director's chair for the first time since the epic financial disaster that was "The Lone Ranger." After Verbinski directed the first three "Pirates of the Caribbean" films, that whole crew was brought on to do "The Lone Ranger" and they were given a budget way higher than they should've been given, causing Disney to lose a buttload of money on the project. That's the end of that story. No surprise he now returns doing a low-budget horror film instead of another big-budget blockbuster. Speaking of "Rings," the last time Verbinski directed a horror film was "The Ring" in 2002, which was a major success. So there's a positive for this movie. The movie stars Dane DeHaan as a young executive who is sent to a wellness center in the Swiss Alps and realizes that the "cure" they are given there really isn't a cure.

February 24th - 26th-

Our final horror film of the month could actually be a sleeper hit and that is Get Out. This movie comes from the mind of Jordan Peele, one half of the comedy duo Key and Peele. This will see the comedy genius go in a much different direction in his directorial debut from his usual comedic outings as this is definitely not a comedy. The movie stars Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams as Chris and Rose, an interracial couple who decide it's time to meet her parents. Rose never told her parents that she is dating a black man, which becomes a major problem. When they arrive, Chris is somewhat relieved to see another black man there, but when Chris approaches him, the man yells at Chris to "Get out!" The movie debuted this past month at the Sundance Film Festival and came out of that with a perfect 100 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes after 16 reviews, meaning the Sundance crowd loved it. Sundance doesn't always translate into mainstream success, but that's definitely a great start that should get people curious after the strong negative reaction to the trailers turned a lot of people off.

The final two movies of the month are two smaller movies that look like the could also be dead on arrival. The first of the two was a late addition to the calendar and that is Collide. The cast in the movie is big as it stars Nicholas Hoult, Felicity Jones, Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley. The tagline here is "How far would you go for the one you love?" Nicholas Hoult and Felicity Jones are in love and Felicity Jones gets kidnapped by a ring of drug smugglers led by Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley, so to save Felicity Jones, Nicholas Hoult is forced to get involved with these guys in an effort to save her life and now we have a big action thriller dumped in the end of February. Let's just say that it looks like these four actors lost a bet and were forced to do this movie. This was released in a small handful countries last year that included China, Japan and Germany in which it made just under $3 million total.

And finally we will end this by talking about the movie that has a high probability of making the least amount of money this month and that is the animated film Rock Dog. In this movie, the sheep live in harmony, but the dog that was bred to guard them would rather be a rock star than a guard dog. One day, a radio falls from his sky that gives him the motivation to go to the city to live his dream. Based on the animation and the story, as well as the lack of a major animation studio putting this together, this looks like it was made as a direct-to-DVD animated film aimed at three-year-olds that got thrown into theater last minute. This is distributed by Summit Entertainment, which also distributed the animated film "The Wild Life" this past September, which opened to $3.3 million and made $8.0 million total. That's probably a good range for this movie. Other comparisons from last year that come to mind include "Norm of the North" ($6.8 million/$17.1 million) and "Ratchet and Clank" ($4.9 million/$8.8 million).

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