January 2018 Box Office Recap

By Steven Slater

February 6, 2018

Wait, what movies are being released in January? Ew.

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January 2018 Box Office Recap

By Steven Slater

2017 has drawn to a close, the movie watching world trudges forward, and a familiar flickering light greets us inside our hallowed temples. Things are inevitably changing, chasing an as yet untold future, but still we sit and stare upwards at 24 frames per second as they wiz by. Many films of 2017 moved us, and now a new year dawns, popcorn prices climb, the movies get dumber, but damnit if I don’t have my Moviepass. It’s like streaming but in a movie theater, and I have to make my pilgrimage.

As is tradition, January was dominated by a lot of films that came out in December, and either continued their runs or expanded into the new year. However, unlike the past two January’s, this one was not conquered by Star Wars alone, as might have been expected. Clearly our brains were malfunctioning when they thought Star Wars would be the bigger box office story than the Jumanji sequel starring the Rock. Seriously, though, after Jurassic World and Jumanji have done staggeringly better than I would ever have expected, I must assume having a slightly goofy, charismatic actor adventuring in the jungle (filmed in Hawaii) equals box office bonanza.

1) Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Monthly Box Office: $171.8 M

The big takeaway from number one this month is that Coco should have been released two weeks later. Families love going to the movies over the winter break, and the pickings were rather slim. The Shape of Water may have appeared like a family movie from afar, but that R-rating was certainly earned. Ferdinand was a dud, and Star Wars skewed a bit older. Coco had been out too long, and did not maintain legs similar to Frozen or other Disney hits. That left Jumanji as the clear pick, and we can see that families provide about $300 million to the box office over the holidays. Last year this was spread between Sing, Moana, a teeny bit to Monster Trucks, and perhaps some to Hidden Figures with its PG rating. Whatever the exact case and menu of films, Jumanji has struck way bigger than anyone expected.

Jumanji opened in December with around $36 million, and will have a final domestic total around ten times that, which is phenomenal. Think how big a hit Wonder Woman seems, with only a measly 4.0 multiplier. Jumanji is a lock to become the second biggest domestic film of all time for Sony, behind only the original Spider-Man, while ironically beating the most recent Spider-man film for 2017 grosses. It is also going to do better than Thor: Ragnarok both domestic and abroad, beat Wonder Woman worldwide, and may just beat Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 worldwide. How in the heck did the box office prowess of Jumanji equal the heights of comic book films during their heyday? Whoever green-lit this sequel is an evil genius.

2) Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Monthly Box Office: $94.6 M

There may be a chink in the armor. First, let us say that Star Wars has been a monumental success, the kind other films and franchises dream of. Domestic and worldwide grosses are currently in the top ten of all time, and it might just squeeze into the top five on each list. Not to mention it has second highest opening weekend of all time. However, the box office was very front-loaded, especially for the holiday period, and reaction has been divisive. While I doubt there needs to be any worry about the future of this franchise, I think it needs to be positioned as a near equal to others, rather than the undisputed champion. Time may tell otherwise, but the fact that Disney is releasing a Star Wars film every year may diminish each individual film’s box office more dramatically as time goes on. Given that a “mainstream” Star Wars film earned about as much as a stand-alone project, perhaps that distinction can just be tossed out the window.

Compared to Jumanji, January has shown the weakness of this Star Wars film. The daily numbers have been lower, the open to domestic multiplier is around a 2.8 right now, and with another Star Wars film opening in less than four months, the conversation may quickly move on. Rogue One’s opening weekend was 70% of Last Jedi’s, yet it’s final gross will be about 85% of Jedi’s, and it earned about 120% of Jedi’s gross in January. The Last Jedi opened huge, but quickly lost its energy, perhaps due to the divisive word of mouth.

3) The Greatest Showman

Monthly Box Office: $79.9 M

Hugh Jackman’s latest from newcomer Michael Gracey has shown the two-fold power of holiday box office and older movie-goers attendance. Both increase legs dramatically, and Showman has demonstrated this admirably. Opening to a paltry $8.8 million, this musical will blow past Jumanji’s multiplier with 15 and counting! During its fifth weekend, Showman made more money in fewer theaters than on it’s first weekend. Yes, Christmas Eve depressed numbers a bit, but even Friday and Saturday had higher figures. After a few more weeks, this may become Hugh Jackman’s highest grossing film that is not an X-men movie, beating out his other holiday musical, Les Misérables.

4) Insidious: The Last Key

Opening Weekend: $29.6 M
Monthly Box Office: $64.1 M

Last year, we had a one-two punch of producer Jason Blum’s shockingly good horror/thrillers, with M. Night Shyamalan’s Split topping the charts last year at this time, and Jordan Peele’s Get Out following in February (with major oscar nominations to boot!) This year, he’s at it again with Insidious 2, continuing his string of production successes with low budget horror fare that typically has better reviews and legs than anyone else. Legs, legs legs; you would think I have a fetish with this month’s films. This film had the biggest opening weekend of the month, as well as the highest total for any movie that opened this month (or opened wide). Smaller genre films like this tend to do well contending against the heavier Oscar fare or bigger blockbusters of Christmas. It pales in comparison to Split’s $138 million, but Blum’s successful streak continues. I am sure Universal loves working with him.

5) The Post

Opening Weekend: $19.4 M
Monthly Box Office: $59.5 M

Spielberg’s latest, the timely film chronicling the publishing of the Pentagon Papers, has seen modest success. Opening wide this month, it has earned the third highest amount of any best picture nominee, and the highest of those that opened around the traditional Oscar season, beaten only by Get Out and Dunkirk. This in and of itself is an accomplishment, but will probably not translate into any wins with the academy. Spielberg has always had an eye for historical films, and the Post will not replicate the huge success of Lincoln nor fall to the lows of Amistad and Munich. With a new film coming quicker than a Star Wars sequel (or side-quel), he is still a very nimble filmmaker. But his box officer juggernaut days may well be behind him.


6) Pitch Perfect 3

Monthly Box Office: $39.7 M

Pitch Perfect 3 has fit almost, ahem, perfectly into a bell curve pattern for sequels. The first film opened with $17 million, and finished with $65 million. The second rose up, opening to $29 million, and finishing with a whopping $184 million in the summer of 2015. The third one then fell back and opened with $20 million and will finish just above $100 million. I imagine a fourth would be lower than the first, and so the whole thing will just go straight to Netflix. This is still Anna Kendrick’s biggest series of films outside of Twilight, but I think the time has come to move on to bigger things.

7) Paddington 2

Opening Weekend: $11 M
Monthly Box Office: $33 M

The Paddington series of films, sure to be extended beyond this chapter, have been better than they had any right to be. Charming and whimsical without being saccharine or contrived, the second film has the honor of being the best reviewed film on Rotten Tomatoes (not exactly the most accurate metric, but still…) Hugh Grant finally found his comeback vehicle. Being based on a series of books that are beloved in England but not so much in the states, inevitably the box office here has been muted. I wonder if this film would have slotted nicely into December as a broader choice for families, as it reminds me in a way of Hugo. Either way, the states’ box office is gravy, as this has earned over $150 million internationally. It is a bit puzzling, though, why this film is earning half of what its predecessor did here, considering both had rapturous reviews. Wistful bears are not in vogue unless their name is Pooh.

8) The Commuter

Opening Weekend: $13.7 M
Monthly Box Office: $32.3 M

Liam Neeson will permanently be the grizzled man seeking revenge for various things. He will be wandering around the nursing home shoving people against walls and demanding to know where his family is being held. They will force feed pills down his throat, and tie his hands behind a chair. But he will kick himself up, knock the guards over, and dash through the glass door to freedom with a chair strapped to his back. Until the cops pick him up in the local park muttering about rogue terrorists. Maybe that is his next movie. Maybe history repeats itself. Maybe The Commuter is doing just fine, thank you, and stop looking any closer at it’s absurdly adequate box office.

9) 12 Strong

Opening Weekend: $15.8 M
Monthly Box Office: $32 M

13 Hours. 12 Strong. 15:17 to Paris. I was unaware of the connection between true to life stories about recent soldiers’ exploits writ large and numbers between ten and twenty. But no longer. The recent films about true American war stories have been all over the place, including the awesome box office success of American Sniper, and the critical success of The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. 12 Strong appears to be a lesser effort, both critically and financially, and will go gently into the night. We shall see how Clint Eastwood’s latest fares next month.

10) Den of Thieves

Opening Weekend: $15.2 M
Monthly Box Office: $31 M

Den of Thieves is another of those genre films that tend to do well in January. I feel I saw the trailer for this ages ago, and while I do love me some Gerard Butler, I don’t think it will ever be the same. It’s not you Gerard, and it’s not me, it’s the movies. Geostorm and this just will not do. Up and comer O’Shea Jackson Jr. will probably use this as a stepping stone, with a Godzilla film coming up next. Meanwhile Butler has another “Fallen” picture. After being in development hell for fourteen years, I suppose it is a positive mark that Thieves will probably earn its budget back.

Falling just outside the top ten are Maze Runner: the Death Cure, Darkest Hour, Ferdinand, The Shape of Water and Coco. To complete the list of top ten openers for January, add Proud Mary, Padmaavat and Forever My Girl. Some of the big winners when it comes to Oscar nominations had some life left in them, as Molly’s Game earned $20 million this month, Three Billboards earned $14 million, and Phantom Thread and Lady Bird earned close to $11 million. I would love to know how much of the final totals has been due to MoviePass. Last year, the second lowest grossing film won Best Picture (although Moonlight would only pass Hell or High Water after it won). By that metric, Call Me By Your Name, with $12.9 million, or Phantom Thread, with $14.2 million, will win. I am absolutely, certainly, surely positive one of those will win. Really.



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