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.
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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.
Did you rent ‘The Interview’ online over the Christmas weekend? You did? I hope you were not assailed by nefarious hackers! Change all your passwords, just to be safe. Regardless, your purchase or rental of ‘The Interview,’ Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s ultra-controversial poop-joke-laden comedy about the attempted assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un (and poop jokes), helped make the film the biggest digital release in the history of Sony Pictures. After many of the country’s major theater chains declined to screen the film in the wake of threats of violence (by those same nefarious hackers), Sony canceled ‘The Interview’’s release outright. But then, early on Christmas Eve, they did an about-face, and made the film available on Google Play, YouTube, and Xbox Live. (It’s since been added to Apple’s iTunes Store as well.)
As expected, the four-day holiday weekend was a shot in the arm for the domestic box office, allowing a year that has been hit-and-miss at best to end on a strong note. Not every new release was a hit, but most of the new titles performed exceptionally and many of the older films saw an impressive surge in their numbers. However, the really interesting battle was for the second place slot, as ‘Unbroken’ and ‘Into the Woods’ fought for the right to be the runner-up to ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.’
As expected, ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ won the weekend, but a quick examination of the actual numbers makes this victory feel just a little hollow. The same goes for ‘Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb’ and ‘Annie,’ both of which took second and third place without putting forward particularly impressive numbers. Yep, the holiday box office looked just a little rough this weekend.