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Monday Mixer: 'Hidden Figures' blasts off in first place

Posted Monday, January 16, 2017 at 11:29 AM Central
Last updated Monday, January 16, 2017 at 11:30 AM Central

by John Couture

This was certainly a peculiar weekend at the box office. Technically, it is a holiday weekend, but instead of a bevy of high-profile films debuting, this weekend was filled with dumping ground movies that January is known for.

Despite evidence in recent years that films can pretty much open in any month as long as it's a great movie, studios still treat January as mense non grata. I think Disney has proven that Star Wars fans will show up any day of the year to see the latest and greatest adventures from that galaxy far, far away.

So, it was a bit underwhelming to look up and see such future B-list DVD bin fodder such as Monster Trucks, The Bye Bye Man and Sleepless all debuting at the box office. Predictably, audiences avoided these films like the plague and showed their love instead for the films that are garnering all of the awards buzz.

So, the question remains, is January truly a cursed month to release a film, or is Hollywood simply perpetuating the myth by releasing sub-par films? I think it's more of the latter. But, let's delve deeper, shall we?

Box Office 411

It's been a few weeks since last we spoke. That's sort of the trade off with all of these long four-day weekends. But don't worry, you didn't really miss much. Rogue One continued on its march towards the highest-grossing film of 2016 and Hidden Figures surprised some as it expanded its release.

Beyond a dumping ground, January is long known as the month where awards contenders finally expand their release and get out in front of the general public. The results are mixed, but usually one or two films find unexpected success.

One of those films is the aforementioned Hidden Figures. Last week, it pulled off a photo-finish win over Rogue One and it held onto the top spot this week with $20.5 million. So far, the inspirational film about the true story of three African-American women who worked for NASA during the Space Race has hauled in $55 million an looks to finish close to $100 million. It should also garner some Oscar attention, which will only give it another box office bump in a couple of weeks.

La La Land is another awards contender that enjoyed a nice Golden Globes bounce this weekend. The film set a record with the number of Golden Globe wins last weekend and this weekend, the film ascended to second place as it continued to expand its release. The film looks to get another big boost with the Academy Award nominations and it should remain in the top ten for the next month at least. With $75 million already in its coffers, a total take closer to $150 million isn't out of the question.

Rogue One started to tumble a bit, but it still eclipsed the $500 million barrier today becoming the highest-grossing film released in 2016. The film should continue to perform well with repeat viewings, but it will only add another $50 million or so, bringing its final take to the tune of $550 million or so.

The one bright spot in new releases this week was the horror film The Bye Bye Man. The film took advantage of the aura of its Friday the 13th release to scare up $13.4 million in business, far exceeding industry expectations. The gimmick release date has probably squeezed as much out of the box office as it can, so the film will struggle to end up with $30 million when it finally ends its box office run.

The rest of the new and expanding releases found little purchase at the box office. Monster Trucks was so bad that Paramount took a $100 million loss on the film last year, even before it was released. Not surprisingly, the film only managed to earn $10.5 million, which means that it will struggle to make it $25 million.

The Ben Affleck film Live By Night was a non-starter at the box office, earning only $5.4 million in its first week of wide release. Affleck, who adapted, directed and starred in the Dennis Lehane adaptation, might want to stick to the slightly less disappointing DC films, when he brings his Batman back to the big screen later this year in Justice League.

The other big expansion, Patriots Day didn't fare much better, earning $12 million. The Mark Wahlberg film about the Boston Marathon bombings failed to capture the patriotism that the title was aiming for and it seems that Wahlberg too will be looking ahead to his big action film this summer (Transformers: The Last Knight).

Quick Hitters

  • If you haven't done so, already check out our predictions for the 2017 box office. This is one of my favorite exercises that we do each year on our site. It really allows us to get an overview of the year in film. Of course, there will always be surprises, so that will be fun.

    Also, look for our sleeper picks later this month where we try and find those hidden gems coming out in theaters this year.

  • Finally today, here's a film that might make it onto one of our sleeper lists (spoiler alert), but there's just something off the wall about this live-action adaptation of CHiPs.