January 2015 Box Office Forecast

By Michael Lynderey

January 2, 2015

All too timely.

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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

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