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.
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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.
Sometimes, a film can effortlessly open at number one at the box office while still being a pretty huge disaster. This is the case with ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings,’ which rode a wave of terrible reviews and an even more terrible marketing campaign to a hugely disappointing start. With a lot of big movies opening the next two weeks, the new Biblical epic won’t even find time to grow some legs. Chances are strong that it is dead on arrival.
Honestly, we could have just copied and pasted last weekend’s box office report and gotten away with it. Outside of the shifting numbers, the order of the top 10 is almost identical to what it was a week ago. This is Hollywood in a holding pattern. The weekend after Thanksgiving is a wasteland. That’s probably why ‘The Pyramid’ was dumped this weekend. However, the lone newcomer in the top 10 didn’t just bomb, it bombed spectacularly.
Appropriately, the Thanksgiving holiday box office was all about the leftovers. While two high profile new releases struggled to open, films from the past few weeks continued to do solid business. In fact, this was one of the most varied weekends at the box office in quite some time, with YA adaptations, animated family movies, epic blockbusters, and small independent films all performing better than expected.
There‘s going to be a lot of blood and ink spilled across the internet on the subject of the opening weekend for ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1.’ Yes, the third film in the series did open significantly lower than its predecessors. Yes, there are definitely people at Lionsgate wringing their hands and trying to figure out why the film opened below expectations. And yet, that opening weekend is still massive. It’s three day total is larger than most movies ever have a chance to make in their entire runs. So, let's have some perspective as we dive into this week’s top 10.
‘Dumb and Dumber To’ arrives two decades after the first film was one of the bigger hits of 1994 and no one knew what to make of it ... until it topped the box office this weekend and made it look easy. Now, the idea of two middle-aged actors returning to two of the most idiotic characters in modern movie history doesn't seem so desperate and crazy. It seems canny.