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Top 12 Film Industry Stories of 2009:
#5: January Films Think They're Summer Films

By David Mumpower

January 1, 2010

Here comes my sequel - the Mall Coppening!

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In 2009, it seemed like everything released in the month of January succeeded. The first weekend of the new year contained no new releases, but the second frame had two titles given wide exhibition (over 1,000 locations). The Unborn and Bride Wars debuted to $19.8 million and $21.1 million. As you are now fully aware, both of those are great totals in comparison to historical January box office data. In addition, Gran Torino effectively opened with a platform expansion from 84 locations into 2,808 locations. Its $29.5 million earned that weekend represented the fifth best tally ever for the month of January and the second largest ever if we remove a holdover (Titanic) and a re-release (Star Wars) from the equation. Only Cloverfield had done better under the criteria we'll be using for the purposes of this discussion.




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The third weekend of January is the one that upped the ante to an epic degree. Four titles entered the marketplace and the *worst* performer debuted with $17.0 million. Generally speaking, that's enough to not only win a weekend in January but also place a film in the running for most successful debut for the month. Alas, Hotel for Dogs had to settle for fifth place for the weekend and a nice consolation prize of earning $73.0 million domestically against a production budget of $35 million. All three of the other new releases for the weekend debuted north of $20 million. Notorious, the biopic of rapper B.I.G., made $20.5 million while My Bloody Valentine 3-D, a title that coincides with the #6 Film Industry Story of the year, accrued $21.2 million.

The real winner of the weekend of January 16, 2009, of course, was Paul Blart Mall Cop. BOP has a theory that there is nothing North American audiences enjoy more than a funny fat man who falls down a lot. This Die Hard rip-off (no, really) had that in spades and because of this, it absolutely torched the domestic box office. Its $31.8 million debut one-upped the prior weekend's biggest release, Gran Torino, to become the second biggest debut for the month of January. And the Kevin James comedy didn't stop there. It became the first movie ever released in January to cross the $100 million mark. It even cleared the bar by a LOT, winding up with a North American tally of $146.3 million. Gran Torino, technically a December release but one that earned $143 million of its box office in 2009, surpassed this tally with $148.1 million.

The logical assumption would be that after that much early success in the month that the remaining titles would be the weak links. In the case of the following weekend's Inkheart, this perception was correct. In the case of Underworld 3: Rise of the Lycans, it was untrue. That movie debuted north of $20 million as well, albeit in heavily frontloaded fashion as it wound up with a domestic take of $45.8 million. Then again, that's better than Notorious managed. That one flamed out in epic fashion, winding up with only $36.8 million, an unconscionable final multiplier (final box office divided by opening weekend) of 1.80.


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