Weekend Forecast for January 3-5, 2014

By Reagen Sulewski

January 3, 2014

Katie's coming to get ya.

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The first weekend of the year often has that “Wait, we need to release something? Uh...” feel to it, and this year is no exception. Just one new film hits theaters in wide release this weekend, and it's the spinoff to that horror series you're tired of that you've been longing for all this time!

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is the fifth film in the conveniently-filmed found-footage horror series and expands the mythos (oh, it's got a mythos, don't you dare say it doesn't and you mean you haven't been following it?) with a gritty “urban” reboot. Moving away from the lily-white suburban setting of the first four films, it brings in a Latino central character to be haunted by the unseen demons. As per the title, he's been selected as the next possession victim, and we witness his slow descent into oblivion (I repeat, isn't it convenient someone's filming this?).

This entry is likely to keep to the idea of the other films, which play like someone yelling “Boo! Boo! Boo! Scared yet? Boo! Ha, got you! Boo!” at you for 90 minutes. The conceit seems to be wearing a little thin, and like the Saw movies it effectively killed off in 2007, it's seeing a distinct decline in its audience, with just $53 million domestic from Paranormal 4, a little less than half of the take of Paranormal 1.


Obviously some sort of reboot or revamp is in order, but is it in time and can it actually make the difference to revitalize the franchise? The ads are back to the original idea of showing scared preview audiences in night vision, but I doubt that's really fooling anyone at this point. There really can't be that many ways to have something jump out from out of the field of vision, or rush the camera. The horror of anticipation only goes so far. The brand is probably strong enough to lead the way against a group of all holdovers, but the days of this shocking the horror world are likely long gone. At about 2,500 venues, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones should earn about $24 million.

A little unusually for an early January weekend, no limited releases are expanding, as studios likely think no one's paying attention just yet; they might be right. At any rate, the weekend offers a little bit of a soft landing for Christmas week, and it's an extension of the perfect Christmas calendar configuration. Most schools aren't back, so there's yet another weekend where families have to find something to do, giving the ridiculous amount of wide releases from the last two weeks a chance to find an audience. There's not likely to be any dramatic shifts in fortune, making this a bit anti-climactic, but there's still money to be made.

Frozen should probably slip past The Hobbit 2 for second place and will be Johnny-on-the-spot if Paranormal Activity falters. This is less to do with the legs of Frozen and more to do with the anti-legs of The Hobbit. Even the Lord of the Rings films had trouble with this particular weekend. Having leveraged the Christmas week to its maximum potential, Frozen is going to be sitting at almost $280 million by the start of the weekend, and has a moderate chance of running down Despicable Me 2 for the top animated performer of the year. That'll take some work, but $350 million seems like a good bet at this point. Look for around $17 million this weekend.

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