January 2011 Forecast

By Michael Lynderey

January 8, 2011

They just witnessed the dismantling of a champion hockey team. Painful indeed.

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We begin the year with a rather bare-bones month, what with a mere seven wide releases (the lowest per capita tally in a long time, and the least busy January since 2005). There are some opaque indie curios floating about (Evangelion 2.0, Ong-Bak 3, Ip Man 2), and Oscar leftovers like The Way Back and Barney's Version and The Company Men, but the leaders of the pack are the three members of the comedy trifecta, and boy, are they hungry.

1) The Dilemma (January 14, 2011)
Smart thinking on this one: a film that might have otherwise anchored a summer weekend is instead placed into the desolate but increasingly lucrative landscape of the first days of a new year, where it could maybe be even bigger. The genealogy of this project is quite august: the direction is by stalwart Ron Howard, and the leading men easily rank among the top five comic actors of the moment. Indeed, Vince Vaughn's record for opening these is meticulous, and the presence of Kevin James on the almost-biennial anniversary of the day Paul Blart made history (no, really, it did) was not made in coincidence. So, it's clear that I think quite highly of the star power of both Vaughn and James... and yet... and yet... I don't know. Is the idea here really attention-grabbing enough to earn this three digits (guy sees best friend's wife cheat)? Could the mega-watt cosmic movie star energies of both James and Vaughn cancel each other out somehow? Winona Ryder and Jennifer Connelly are nice to see in the supporting roles here, but they just don't give me the clue on this one. I'm probably wrong in not pre-emptively adding this into the January one hundred million dollar hall of fame, but then again, I always am.

Opening weekend: $34 million / Total gross: $83 million


2) No Strings Attached (January 21, 2011)
Speaking of blockbuster comedies: here's an honest challenger to The Dilemma's assumptive throne. And I really mean that. Something about this project just seems very right to me, like the box office overlords had unknowingly assembled all the needed ingredients for a massive coup. First among these is the film's most obvious asset: Natalie Portman, in the throes of media overglare, public interest, and in between a nearly uncontested Oscar primary run and a few big-budget blockbusters on the horizon (Thor?). With all that in the air, doesn't it make sense that people just finally want to see her in a role like this, where she's having fun and nothing is taken too seriously? For a change? And isn't Ashton Kutcher the logical foil for this enterprise? (consider also he's rarely starred in a box office disappointment). So, maybe I'm overestimating, but young people have little else to see, and there's the air of a big draw coming from this one. One roadblock: how good the movie will be, which is still up in the air. But we'll cross that bridge when we get there, I think.

Opening weekend: $35 million / Total gross: $82 million

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