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Weekend Forecast for January 23-25, 2015

By Reagen Sulewski

January 23, 2015

Ew, those are the reviews for my movie?

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George Lucas once again finds one of his brainchildren abandoned in a dead time of the year, this time the animated film Strange Magic. Loosely adapted from A Midsummer Night's Dream, it's a quasi-musical tale set in a land of fairies and goblins and such and such, which is sent into chaos after the introduction of a magic potion. It looks like nothing more than a comedy version of 2013's Epic (which made over $100 million – admit it, you're surprised too), but with a relentless, dayglo assault on the senses.

A second-rate voice cast doesn't help things – although as I often mention, the target audience for these things doesn't particularly care about that. It does stand as a bit more of a bellwether, and Alan Cumming, Evan Rachel Wood, Kristin Chenowith and Maya Rudolph don't inspire much as top line names.

Released by Disney, but notably without that name posted anywhere near the project, this feels like a contractual orphan. Aside from last year's Legends of Oz, which was almost a fraud lawsuit waiting to happen, we haven't had a proper animation bomb since 2011, which gave us Mars Needs Moms and Hoodwinked 2, both of which killed careers. Between this and the news that came out that Disney rejected all his advice for the new Star Wars films, it's not been a good week for George Lucas. I'd look for just $6 million this weekend for Strange Magic.

Leaving aside that rather pathetic group of films, we get to the real box office story – American Sniper, and its insane, unprecedented, unpredictable $89 million weekend. Just by dint of inertia, and nothing to challenge it, it should be at the top spot of the box office for at least two more weekends. It's not a settled question that it'll have legs, despite this shocking show of support from what appears to be a bunch of very infrequent moviegoers making a yearly pilgrimage to the theater.




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The last comparable black swan film might be The Passion of the Christ, which opened to similar shocking numbers, but still fell back at a traditional rate – maybe a little less than normal, but not dramatically so. The trouble with turning a surprise opening weekend into legs is one of sheer numbers – you've exhausted the audience in one go, and finding a wealth of people who weren't already convinced by the people who you somehow reached without realizing it is extremely difficult. While there will undoubtedly be some amount of interest from people who are curious what all the fuss is about, these are drop-in-the-bucket numbers. Will this have some effect on the Oscars? Very possibly, as it's difficult to ignore these results. Money talks, but it doesn't always have the final say in this regard (see: Avatar). A second weekend of $53 million is probably in the cards here.

The Wedding Ringer couldn't repeat Kevin Hart's last January result with Ride Along, debuting to $20.6 million. Of course, the film looked miserable, gross and lazy, so that's quite the achievement in itself, and certainly proves Hart's ability to open just about anything right now. Cultivating a loyal audience is important for a comedian, but many before him have seen that disappear with bad choices (see: Murphy, Edward; Sandler, Adam; Myers, Michael). Use this newfound power wisely. In the meantime, look for an $11 million weekend.

A similar number should be in store for the “no seriously, it was okay” Paddington, which is a respectable amount for gentle family entertainment, and especially so when one adds in it that it's from an origin that's poorly known in the US.

A big increase failed to materialize for Oscar nominated Selma, though it did show something in the way of legs, dropping by just a fifth over the holiday weekend. The snub effect might have been in play, but didn't amount to much. I'd expect about $6 million this weekend.


Forecast: Weekend of January 23-25, 2015
Rank
Film
Number of
Sites
Changes in Sites
from Last
Estimated
Gross ($)
1 American Sniper 3,705 +150 53.4
2 The Wedding Ringer 3,003 0 11.6
3 Paddington 3,355 +52 11.2
4 Mortdecai 2,648 New 10.8
5 The Boy Next Door 2,602 New 9.2
6 Selma 2,046 -189 6.7
7 Strange Magic 3,020 New 6.0
8 The Imitation Game 2,205 +414 5.5
9 Taken 3 2,909 -685 5.0
10 Into the Woods 2,270 -488 4.1

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