January 2015 Box Office Forecast
By Michael Lynderey
January 2, 2015

All too timely.

A respectable January is in store to open the decade's second half, with genre pictures of both high and low pedigree battling it out for supremacy with an army of December holdovers. Two of those 2014 films could dominate the month and give Liam Neeson and Kevin Hart a run for their money.

1. Selma (expands January 9th)
As has been the case in many past years, Oscar-bound holdovers from the previous month should rule the January box office, and Selma is the most intriguing contender. Entering the awards season with almost unmatched critical acclaim and a three-digit Rotten Tomatoes score, as well as buzz about its up-and-coming director and stars, Selma has a blueprint title to follow (Lee Daniels' The Butler, which cleared $100 million and also co-starred Oprah Winfrey, who ought to give Selma a lot of notice). The release strategy is pretty clever: a strong bow at under 1,000 theaters on January 9th, followed by a saturated roll-out on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, where the movie should be really be huge. Yes, Selma doesn't look as unabashedly sentimental and crowd-pleasing as The Butler, but its fundamentals seem equally strong.

Opening weekend: $22 million / Total gross: $120 million

2. Taken 3 (January 9th)
The Taken franchise is a particularly inexplicable rarity in movie history. In a month of box office miracles (January 2009), the original film opened higher than it should have ($24 million), and then finished with an astounding $145 million; those were the sort of legs B movie action pictures probably didn't exhibit even back at the dawn of cinema, when films rolled out across the country over months (even at that, Taken still didn't outgross equally bizarre 1/09 opener Paul Blart, which nabbed $146 million). Taken 2 had a solid summer movie-esque take in the middle of fall ($49 million open / $139 million close), but reviews were worse and diminishing returns officially ingratiated themselves to this franchise. Still, the marketing is solid for this one, there's a shocking and tragic demise of a pivotal character (or so the trailer says), and the ground is probably ripe for an action picture to do well (though watch out for American Sniper). Even in the worst case scenario, Taken 3 should at the very least outgross the upcoming Paul Blart 2 (although the mall cop film might have a slightly higher body count).

Opening weekend: $37 million / Total gross: $99 million

3. American Sniper (expands January 16th)
This is the second half of Clint Eastwood's 2014 double-bill of films, and quite clearly the superior pick. Bradley Cooper continues his streak of Oscar-worthy winter releases, and the buzz for this title, which opened in select theaters a few days ago, is overwhelming. The expansion date is obviously meant to call back last year's similar bow for Lone Survivor, a more straightforward military action picture also bolstered by a strong lead and good reviews. As I understand it, American Sniper is a more philosophical shoot-em-'up, but that's Eastwood's basic stock in trade (Unforgiven, Grand Torino), and the film should start very well on what ought to be a high-grossing weekend all around.

Opening weekend: $35 million (four day) / Total gross: $98 million

4. The Wedding Ringer (January 16th)
An apparent remake of I Love You, Man, featuring a character who must have watched that film and spotted a great chance for a business opportunity (he's a best man for hire). Star Kevin Hart has quietly developed a solid following and reputation, and his Ride Along broke way, way out on the same weekend last year. His co-star, Josh Gad, has spent the last year being heard but not seen in many homes across America (he's Olaf in Frozen), but he's not yet been tested as a comedy lead. The movie looks lively and will probably do pretty well, but Hart is reaching a certain dosage of saturation, with another buddy movie, Get Hard, set for late March, and Ride Along 2 coming next year (yes, on the exact same weekend).

Opening weekend: $42 million (four day) / Total gross: $86 million

5. Project Almanac (January 30th)
Another shaky-cam thriller for teenagers (the curse of the Blair Witch, delayed for a decade, thrives on, though brainy Chronicle is the movie this one recalls best). Michael Bay's production company, Platinum Dunes, which largely handles horror films, is behind this one. Bay's titles almost always do well, one way or the other, and Almanac should be at least a respectable notch in his belt: the trailers showcase some neat time travel tracks, so whether critics approve, the film ought to at least win the weekend.

Opening weekend: $21 million / Total gross: $49 million

6. Paddington (January 16th)
A kids' movie whose anthropomorphic lead character seems more popular abroad than at home (just like Kim Jong Un!). The film has done well in the United Kingdom, but we don't live there. At the very least, Paddington's got a decent supporting cast and solid reviews. It opens on a long weekend that's bereft of new material for children, so the lack of overt familiarity shouldn't hold it back from numbers that ought to come in somewhere between the two Nanny McPhee movies.

Opening weekend: $16 million (four-day) / Total gross: $45 million

7. Mortdecai (January 23rd)
Hey, it's another character more popular in the U.K.! At least the title is easier to spell, and more fun, too. The film looks like it could be breezy, laid-back entertainment, with the trailer promising an unironic variation on Austin Powers-esque cliches. Johnny Depp has lagged far enough into the "miss" side of "hit-and-...", but his advantage here is that Mortdecai arrives on the scene with muted expectations, so unreasonably high grosses are not expected. Gwyneth Paltrow has developed a niche starring opposite scenery-chewing actors, and the film should give her a nice middle-of-the-road vehicle between Iron Man pictures.

Opening weekend: $13 million / Total gross: $38 million

8. Blackhat (January 16th)
Another adult-oriented thriller opening over the long weekend, and the one least likely to break out. The cyber-terrorism theme seems vaguely timely, although star Chris Hemsworth hasn't headlined a lot of non-franchise releases. He's a likable leading man, and Michael Mann is obviously an accomplished director, but Blackhat will need a lot of critical goodwill to appeal to the more mature audience that would go for this type of unflashy thriller, in a month that features more bombastic (Taken 3) and buzzed-about (American Sniper) titles.

Opening weekend: $14 million (four-day) / Total gross: $33 million

9. The Woman In Black: Angel of Death (January 2nd)
The most anticipated Hammer Films sequel since The Brides of Dracula (1960)! The original film was a low-key if fair little horror tale that somehow made a heck of a lot more money than it probably should have (no offense intended, but really). This follow-up flashes the story forward from c. 1904 to the 1940s. Daniel Radcliffe isn't reprising his role from the first one (that is a spoiler), but I don't really think casting matters that much for the box office here (Jeremy Irvine, largely unseen on our shores since War Horse, takes over). Horror movies have played well on this weekend at least since Oscar winner-in waiting Michael Keaton's White Noise back in 2005. The Keaton picture opened to $24 million, and this Birdman-less version should pull in maybe half that.

Opening weekend: $12 million / Total gross: $28 million

10. The Boy Next Door (January 23rd)
A belated addition to the "[nanny, husband, secretary, etc.] from hell" films of the 1990s (The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Sleeping With the Enemy, and so on), The Boy Next Door posits Jennifer Lopez as a woman seduced by a 27-year-old neighbor turned mad slasher. Monster-In-Law (2005) was one of the biggest grossers of Lopez's career, but she's headlined big films only intermittently since, and this one ought to play no better than her 2010 romantic comedy, The Back-Up Plan. The vaguely (just vaguely) similar No Good Deed did shockingly well in September (that one was "convicted murderer from hell"), but this title doesn't come with Screen Gems' expertise at marketing audience-pleasing thrillers.

Opening weekend: $10 million / Total gross: $26 million

11. Wild Card (January 30th)
Despite the title, the film basically seems like the kind of generic action film sometimes reserved by lesser minds for 11th place on January movie forecasts. Jason Statham is just about the only actor still making low-tier '80s-style action-revenge films of the Bronson/Norris/Seagal variety, and his box office is usually accorded with little variation (his last solo film to cross $30 million was Transporter 3 in 2008). Some of Statham's films are quite, quite good, however, so Wild Card may be worth a shot.

Opening weekend: $8 million / Total gross: $18 million