January 2019 Box Office Recap

By Steven Slater

February 12, 2019

Aquaman forever.

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Welcome to 2019 everyone, at least as far as monthly box office recaps go. The cool bliss is beginning to fade from the holiday movie season, but at least we have those expanding Oscar hopefuls. Otherwise this January was a fairly slow month, which is par for the course as January is usually average to below average in monthly box office numbers for the year. There was no Star Wars movie to buoy December or January, although the beginning of 2018 actually had an even bigger boost from Jumanji than The Last Jedi. However, we did have some comic book movies debut this past December, which basically never happens, and they had some incredible legs. So swap out an X-wing for Aquaman’s trident and potato potato, you know? Here are the top ten earners for January of the last year of the twenty teens.

1) Aquaman

Monthly Box Office: $119.7 M
Running Total: $318.7 M (as of January 31st)

Aquaman may have only debuted with $67 million, but it became the movie of choice over the holiday break, and that continued all the way through January. It was the top movie for the first ten days, and thereafter never dropped below position four (except the 21st, at position six). If it manages to squeeze out $335 million, it will reach the coveted 5.0 multiplier, which has not been achieved by a comic book movie since The Rocketeer in 1991! Of course, Spider-man did that as well this past month, but that’s number four on this list. Back to the newest member of the DC Elite, we can now rewrite movie history a bit, and perhaps look ahead to the future. Much as a lesser known Marvel superhero heralded the beginning of the MCU ambitions, perhaps Wonder Woman and Aquaman will be able to fulfill the destiny that Batman and Superman were unable to. It also helps when Zach Snyder is not (directly) involved...

With over $300 million domestic and over $700 million internationally, Aquaman is now the biggest DC movie worldwide, and is about to surpass LOTR: Return of the King to become the second biggest Warner Bros. movie on the global stage, only surpassed by the final Harry Potter film. This is a stellar result, and shows that at least one movie always strikes gold at the end of the year (and beginning of the next). Jumanji still baffles me.

2) Glass

Opening Weekend: $40.3 M
Monthly Box Office: $79.1 M

Unbreakable, Split, Glass...there’s a joke in there somewhere. M. Night completed his long-gestating trilogy (next he’ll go all George Lucas and say it was always a trilogy of trilogies), but it appears the final chapter was the weakest link. Glass built on the goodwill of Split and had a decent opening, but is now lagging over ten million behind and falling. It will definitely hit the $100 million mark and actually has a decent chance of beating Split’s worldwide take of $278 million, which I credit mostly to Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis’ presence. Unbreakable was released almost twenty years ago, yet Glass will probably earn just a teeny bit more on the domestic and international fronts compared to the first film’s $95/$248 million. Bruce Willis has had a poor run these last few years, with franchises falling to his left and right, yet Glass will be his biggest earner since 2013’s G.I.Joe Retaliation. Samuel L. Jackson laughs at all that considering he has appeared in many of the biggest hits of this past decade.

3) The Upside

Opening Weekend: $20.4 M
Monthly Box Office: $66.7 M

Did you know The Upside is based on the 2011 French film The Intouchables? You did? But did you know that that film is the fifth highest grossing foreign-language international release of all time!? (That is to say, of all movies, the 2011 film has the fifth highest international gross of any foreign film. Box office has as many statistics as baseball. Now if The Upside could just beat the box office of Three Men and a Baby, it could be the highest domestic grossing French film remake.) Suddenly I do not believe this remake is doing as well as it could be. But in a vacuum, this Walter White Bryan Cranston/Kevin Hart movie is doing very well, being the number one or two movie every day of the month since it opened on January 11th. Also, being released by STX entertainment means this smaller studio has a larger box office pie slice than Disney, Fox or Paramount for January. I am sure Disney especially is weeping, considering they really have nothing coming out for the rest of the year. But back to The Upside, it may cross the $100 million mark as well, given that it has had remarkable weekend declines, the highest being 27%.

4) Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Monthly Box Office: $62.7 M
Running Total: $170.9 M

After this movie, I think I understand why there are so many Spider-man reboots. Given that this Spider-man film has the best reviews and word of mouth, it may surprise most that it will be the lowest domestic earner of any film starring the web slinger. Somehow off-kilter animation (that is still gorgeous) turned enough people off, while no one bats an eye at wall-to-wall CGI. But like Aquaman, Spider-man opened small in December but had great legs through January, and will likewise get beyond a 5.0 multiplier, though not by much. By its second weekend it was already fourth on the charts, yet at the end of January and week seven, it had only dropped to position five. This does at least earn it some bragging rights as Sony Animation’s biggest film (thank God it was able to beat Hotel Transylvania 2), but I wonder if the sequel/spinoff will still move forward. Venom may have out-earned it by only a little on the domestic front, but more than doubled Spider-Verse’s worldwide total, so that title probably stole much of the momentum for Spidey side-projects. Sony really only has the one Marvel property, so you can bet they will continue to milk it for as much money as they can.


5) Mary Poppins Returns

Monthly Box Office: $60.4 M
Running Total: $166.3 M

First Batman returned. Then the Mummy. Then Superman. Then...uh, Nanny McPhee did it too. Now, after an incredibly long hiatus, our beloved Mary Poppins has finally returned to us. With a tidy sum after more than a month in theaters, Mary Poppins did not falter as much as a $23 million open might have predicted, and January did not really have another release targeted for younger children. Like other holiday films it has a high multiplier, in this case a 7.0 and counting. This is also Rob Marshall’s third big musical, a genre that only delivers about one hit per year, and will wind up being his biggest domestic hit other than that Pirates movie he directed (do we still talk about those?). Emily Blunt also has her second hit of the year, as her husband’s A Quiet Place finished with $188 million, and Mary Poppins should finish around $172 million. Not to mention this is Disney’s biggest hit of 2019 so far, and they really need every dollar they can get. For trivia sake, the original Mary Poppins earned $102 million, which is over $700 million dollars in 2019.

6) Bumblebee

Monthly Box Office: $50.9 M
Running Total: $122.4 M

Our sixth title is Bumblebee, which opened a bit lower than Mary Poppins, and fell a bit harder. Yet all the same, it feels like it did rejuvenate the franchise to some degree. With a worldwide total stretching to half a billion dollars, it actually will not be that far from the $605 million The Last Knight earned across the globe in 2017. Aquaman and Bumblebee were projects that separated themselves from Directors/Producers who had been much more involved in the past, and the long-term benefits should be evident as time goes on. Bumblebee could not have hoped to achieve what the DC superhero accomplished, but it definitely could have been worse. Hailee Steinfeld techically had two hits this January, since she voiced Gwen Stacey in the animated Spider-man film. And John Cena will have his biggest hit ever. Woo.

7) Escape Room

Opening Weekend: $18.2 M
Monthly Box Office: $49.2 M

Finally we have our third January opener in slot number seven, which goes to show that holdovers from December often rule the first month. Escape Room, a play off of a modern version of Cube, is actually doing great business. With a tiny $9 million budget, and the third largest opening weekend in January, Escape Room is acting like a Jason Blum production. Like any typical horror film, it is falling hard and fast, and will only earn a few million more through February.

8) The Mule

Monthly Box Office: $36.1 M
Running Total: $100.8 M

The third of four animal-themed titles on this list, Clint Eastwood’s latest has drawn out those older crowds, and given him another month of good box office. Yet another December release that will have a multiplier above 5.0, this one opened to $17.5 million, and is Eastwood’s sixth film to cross the $100 million mark. Four of those six starred (or co-starred) Eastwood as well, and as this may well be his swan song, he’ll be going out on a high note box office wise. One odd quirk about The Mule is how well it has done on Tuesdays during January. My theory is that older crowds are seeing the film, and they tend to go out Tuesdays because that is typically the cheap ticket day. My question is, do movie studios earn as much per ticket on discount day?

9) A Dog’s Way Home

Opening Weekend: $11.3 M
Monthly Box Office: $32.4 M

This dog found his way to ninth spot, and is apparently the second of three “A Dog’s” movies, the third of which is coming out later this year. If ever there were a winning formula, it is tear-jerkers with dogs (I love the little seen Hachi). What I also love is that I just discovered that Charles Martin Smith of Untouchables fame directed this, and he really got his start behind the camera directing the mother of all dog movies...I am talking about Airbud of course! He left that franchise behind for bigger and better things, naturally, and here we are with a small gem of a movie that shall always be known as the fourth biggest opener for the month. It did double its budget, though, and helps Sony have a great January.

10) Dragon Ball Super: Broly

Opening Weekend: $9.8 M
Monthly Box Office: $29.1 M

Not expecting this title, were you? For whatever reason, this Dragon Ball film, whose colon feels misplaced (don’t you hate it when that happens), had an opening weekend higher than the domestic gross of any of the previous Dragon Ball films, of which there are four. Fun Fact! FUNimation Films, because of the unexpected success of this, has a studio share almost as high as 20th Century Fox! You know, when I was a kid Pokémon and Dragon Ball were a thing. Does nothing ever change? I, for one, cannot wait for Detective Pikachu.

In total, this January’s releases earned a bit over $800 million, with holdovers accounting for well over half of that amount. There were simply very few new releases in general, as evidenced by the fact that to get a top ten list of January’s opening weekends, you would have to add Serenity, The Kid Who Would be King, BTS World Tour, Replicas, and a Wizard of Oz rerelease to the list above. So, really, there were not even ten movies that opened wide in January, and I bet that Matthew McConaughey/Anne Hathaway movie was banking on people mistaking it for a sci-fi remake. Just missing out on the top ten grossing films were Vice, with $23 million, On the Basis of Sex, with $20 million, Green Book, earning $19 million to bring it’s total to $52 million, one of the best totals formate season awards contenders, Ralph Breaks the Internet scraping out another $19 million, and Bohemian Rhapsody belting its way to another $17 million. In case you were wondering, Replicas bombed big time, and yet may not even double it’s abysmal opening weekend of $2.4 million. Some of the bigger awards movies did not do huge business, as The Favourite could only muster $11 million, and If Beale Street Could Talk had just under that amount for the month. Next up, we already know February had one of the slowest weekends ever, but maybe some of the more blockbuster-y titles can spice it up a little. Everyone needs a little angel looking over them every now and then, don’t they?



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