Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Kevin Hart Rides Right to the Top of the Box Office

Scott analyzes a surprising weekend when a critically panned comedy becomes one of January's biggest hits.  Scott tries to sort out exactly why it happened, and what that means for the future.

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If there is one consistent message that the movie box office teaches is that there should be no surprise in being surprised by the performance of a movie. A film could be estimated to perform only so well, but may be able to catch the spark of lightning in a bottle and successfully resonate with audiences the way Ride Along did last weekend. The buddy movie starring Kevin Hart and Ice Cube, a film that all media outlets saw as having a ceiling of $34 million at best, was able to set a new record for a January opening weekend, shoving past 2008’s Cloverfield by bringing in $41.6 million, roughly one million more than Cloverfield managed.

Comedies seem to have the ability to really shock people with their performance, as last year’s Identity Thief and We’re The Millers proved. If anything, it just becomes more clear that there is no understandable key to success for the studios when it comes to comedies, as ‘sure fire hits’ fall to the side and others are able to exceed expectations. The biggest lesson for us to learn from this is that Kevin Hart is still on the rise, and that his career could have many hits attached to it. Last year, his stand-up concert film Let Me Explain became one of the most successful limited release films of the year, and Ride Along shows that people are up for seeing him in scripted films as well.

Also exceeding expectations this past weekend was The Nut Job, an animated film which felt doomed to fail, especially since Frozen was still very much a relevant movie in theatres. However, families proved that they were looking for a different movie experience as the animated film about mice, or rodents, or something of the like, with $19.4 million dollars (Editor: It is a mouse, a slobbery dog and a pack of squirrels). The movie has a very modest budget for an animated feature at $42 million, and it should be easily able to turn a profit. The best news for The Nut Job is that there will be a lack of competition until The Lego Movie opens on February 7th, which means it could hold fairly well for the next two weekends.

The latest movie starring the Tom Clancy character, Jack Ryan, came out into theatres this past weekend and scored the lowest opening weekend for the franchise with $15.6 million, lower than 1990’s The Hunt for Red October which brought in just over $17 million (and it should be mentioned that The Hunt for Red October managed that number while playing in 1,200 theatres, compared to the 3,387 that Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit appeared in). It is not all bad for Jack Ryan, however, as the film was number one in China this weekend, and performed well overseas, money that it will desperately need to make a profit on its budget of $60 million. The movie was not based on a Clancy novel, as the others had been, and was more of a reboot, something that domestic audiences did not seem to be craving. The best spot of luck for the film may have been the fact that it was bumped by The Wolf of Wall Street from its original Christmas release date, where it may have performed even worse in the insanely crowded and competitive theatres.

Horror that is what January is all about. Not just horror movies, but the bold and inventive use of supernatural narratives captured in the medium of found footage. Thank goodness we are only twenty days into the calendar year and are able to celebrate the fact that we have already been given two of these rare gems. Blargh… I can’t keep this up. I, personally, wish to treat these generic films the same way I would treat a spider on the wall, with swift and brutal extermination. There has been a bright spot or two among these types of movies, but Devil’s Due, which came out this past weekend, appeared to be the exact opposite of a bright spot, as it only made $8.4 million. As much as I would love to believe this signals the end of the subgenre, I know that it won’t and there will be more of these.

As for interesting points of note for existing movies in theatres, Lone Survivor starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by Peter Berg was able to land in second place with $22 million, and dropping only 41% from the previous weekend, which is a decent performance for an action movie. It averaged $7,380 per theatre, which, among wide releases, was second only to Ride Along’s $15,621 per theatre. American Hustle, which has been in theatres for five weeks already, saw an increase over last weekend of almost nineteen percent (bringing in $9.8 million this weekend), an indicator that its Oscar nominations have gone far in promoting the film.

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