With some of the year’s biggest movies only a month or two away, the box office seems to have entered a holding pattern. Some of the new releases are minor hits. Others crash and burn. Right now, Hollywood just seems to be crossing their fingers and hoping for the sweet, sweet summer movie season to come along and save them (or at least the April release of Furious 7). In other words, every new release underperformed this weekend.
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In terms of sheer numbers, this weekend’s box office wasn’t especially impressive. It was fine and Focus opened well, but there weren’t any broken records. There were no incredible signs of a film growing legs and holding on against the odds. However, there was something else worthy of note: three of the top five films at the box office were R-rated, with 50 percent of the top 10 comprised of R-rated films overall. In an age dominated by the PG-13 rating, this is unique and promising. Could studios start to embrace movies made for adults again? Maybe. Who knows? Let’s look at some numbers.
In news that really shouldn’t surprise anyone with their finger remotely near the pulse of popular culture, 50 Shades of Grey held onto the top spot for the second week in a row, beating out a Kevin Costner Teaches Boys How To Be Men movie, a Sassy Teen Comedy, and a Comedy Sequel That No One Actually Wanted In The First Place. However, this victory does not come without an asterisk or two. As successful as 50 Shades of Grey is, a quick examination of the numbers highlights a movie that will struggle in the weeks ahead.
After months of bad jokes and eye-rolling from the internet hive mind, 50 Shades of Grey has arrived and it’s just as huge as everyone predicted. Any movie adaptation of a book that sold hundreds of millions of copies is going to open big, even if that book/movie in question is a BDSM quasi-romantic drama that has as many fervent detractors as it does admirers. But it was a solid week at the box office overall, with the other new release, Kingsman: The Secret Service, holding its own against a movie that may very well be one of the biggest releases of the year.
After spending nearly a month dominating the box office, the mighty ‘American Sniper’ has fallen. And no, it did not fall to the massively expensive sci-fi epic ‘Jupiter Ascending’ and it didn’t fall to the massively expensive fantasy epic ‘Seventh Son,’ both of which arrived with a thud. No, it fell to a cartoon sea sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea.
In most years, January tends to be the most boring month of the year for the box office. This is where Hollywood typically sends the movies in which it has the least faith. This is the dumping ground, the place where movies go to die so the studios can concentrate on their Oscar campaigns. However, thanks to ‘American Sniper,’ this January has bucked every trend. It may technically be a 2014 release, but Clint Eastwood’s war film has made the first chunk of 2015 interesting, shattering expectations and threatening to become the highest grossing film of last year in only a few weeks.
Last week, ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1’ squeaked past ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ to become the highest grossing film released in 2014. Now, it’s starting to look thing ‘American Sniper’ may clobber them both. With a massive second weekend in wide release, the Clint Eastwood war film looks practically unstoppable at this point. With little to no major competition for the next few weeks, it should easily crack $300 million.
A lot of people are going to act like they didn’t see the enormous success of ‘American Sniper’ coming, but the signs were all there. On top of the promising limited release numbers, there was the awards buzz. On top of that, there were the names of director Clint Eastwood and star Bradley Cooper. On top of that, the subject matter of the film is inherently attractive to the same category of moviegoer that makes Christian-themed films into massive hits. ‘American Sniper’ had one doozy of a weekend, but it’s not that surprising.
Back in the olden times, it was surprising that a hyper-violent action movie starring that guy from ‘Schindler’s List’ could open to huge box office and become one of the biggest hits of the year. But this is 2015, and it’s a little less surprising when a Liam Neeson action movie opens big. ‘Taken 3’ may not have matched the opening weekend of ‘Taken 2,’ but it’s off to a strong start.
After the jam-packed month of December, with its huge family-friendly blockbusters and awards season Oscar bait, we have arrived in the month of January. Formerly a dumping ground for mediocre films, the month has taken on a new identity in the past few years as a testing ground for unique genre films (think ‘Cloverfield’) and a solid place to release a horror movie, which seems to do quite well right around New Year’s for whatever reason. This year, we have ‘The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death,’ which had a fairly solid opening. Not solid enough to topple the Christmas Week champions, but no one is complaining too much.