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« Oscar Symposium: The Fifth Spot (Part One) | Main | »

Box Office: The January Drought

Amir here, with the weekend’s box office report. The first week of January is without doubt host to the least exciting crop of new films every year. Generally speaking, the only type of wide release is horror mediocrities like Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D or this year’s The Marked Ones. Do NOT let the presence of ‘paranormal activity’ in the title fool you. It’s a trick to get you to see another film in the same found footage series that started five years ago. Because I’m a masochist, I have seen all previous installments, the best (and first) of which I can, at my most generous, describe with a shrug. Ever since, the franchise has been in a qualitative downward spiral that is now drowning its box office too. $18m is dismal business for this series, though it frankly surpasses my expectations.

The real story, like last week, belongs to Frozen. Then, I was wondering if it could muscle its way ahead of the competition during the holidays. Lo and behold, the Disney film is now back on top of the charts, will pass $300 million ($300 million!) tomorrow, is currently 2013's fourth highest grosser and Disney's biggest hit (sans Pixar) since The Lion King (1994). Meanwhile, Katniss will finally defeat Tony Stark by Tuesday as the book closes on 2013. This is a real rarity, as Michael detailed here, and whatever one thinks of the franchise, it is reason to celebrate. Finally, it’s noteworthy that Inside Llewyn Davis, on a small sample size of 156 theatres maintains almost exactly the same numbers as last weekend. If it manages to grab a few Oscar nominations, expect it to do similarly strong business upon expansion; but that’s a very big if.

01 Frozen $20.7 (cum. $297.8) Review | Podcast | Groff
02 Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones $18.2
03 The Hobbit 2 $16.2 (cum. $229.6)
04 Wolf of Wall Street $13.4 (cum. $63.2) Review | Scorsese's Women
05 American Hustle $13.2 (cum. $88.7) Podcast | Ensemble Power

I have stayed home so far this weekend, rewatching The Cranes Are Flying, Citizen Kane and Rashomon and watching Clio Barnard’s brilliant The Selfish Giant. Later tonight, I’ll be catching up with Xavier Dolan’s latest, Tom at the Farm. (If you're interested, you can always follow what I'm watching here.)

What have you watched this weekend?

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Reader Comments (25)

Drinking Buddies- Olivia Wilde and Anna Kendrick need to be in everything that's not crap. Jake Johnson is fine too. Ron Livingston is kinda meh in the movie that does not feel compatible to Wilde for any real forseable tension and the moment him and Kendrick are alone it gets a little weird when there's an 18 year age difference.

The Heat- I get it's not as good as Bridesmaids but I like that 'getting the guy' took a backseat and it was Bullock and McCarthy's show. Still wish there was more Jane Curtin, but a really enjoyable film.

Shock Corridor- Excellent, raw, and even if the character's fate is telegraphed it is more than earned and felt in the end.

Bells are Ringing- Somewhat slow and only a few good songs with questionable sexual politics but Martin and Holliday sell the hell out of it.

January 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Stories We Tell - Fascinating although a bit verbose towards the end. I needed more silences.

Inside Llewyn Davis -- A true gem. I want Mr. Isaac to sit at my bedside singing softly to me.

January 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I saw "Tom at the Farm" at the AFI Fest a couple of months ago. Like Dolan's other films I enjoyed it, but I'm still waiting for a really good film from him. He's got the style, but the substance is still lacking. I haven't seen "Laurence Anyways" yet, though.

January 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

I saw the marked ones this weekend and I liked it I felt it was better than paranormal activity 2 and 4. I can't wait til October to see part 5
I saw the selfish giant on on demand and I loved it what a great movie.
And I just rewatched "The Bling Ring" I wish Katie Chang and Emma Watson got Oscar consideration for there performances

January 5, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdavid

I saw American Hustle for the second time and I loved it, again! I appreciated the subtler performances more this time ... Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner ... but I think the entire film is wonderful. Next weekend we'll finally get Her, Llewyn and August.

I also watched Drinking Buddies and was unimpressed. Olivia Wilde and Anna Kendrick are great; they deserve more to do than this.

January 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I've been under the weather and on the sofa all weekend so it has been a heavy viewing time.

Far From the Madding Crowd-Overlong but gorgeously shot and how can you argue with a cast that includes Julie Christie, Alan Bates and Terence Stamp all at their most beautiful along with Peter Finch. Looking forward to the new version with Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts to see how it compares.

Love, Marilyn-Documentary with a huge group of famous actors including Viola Davis(yea!) reading MM's letters. Interesting in concept, flawed in execution.

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?-Daffy with some pointed jabs at both advertising and blind fandom. Tony Randall was fun and Jayne Mansfield a walking, talking cartoon but with a good sense of comedy.

The Loved One-Super black comedy that was right when it was advertised as the motion picture with something to offend everyone. I didn't hate it but it was a one and done for me.

The Unknown-Super but bizarre silent with Lon Chaney and Joan Crawford all about a circus performer (Joan) with an aversion to being touched and the armless man (Chaney) with a secret that loves her.

The Reluctant Debutante-One of a kind talent Kay Kendall in a lighter than air confection along with Rex Harrison, Angela Lansbury, Sandra Dee and John Saxon directed by Vincente Minnelli. Very funny overall with Kay hysterical, hard to believe she was dying while it was being made.

Undercover Maisie-I'm a sucker for Ann Sothern and TCM has been running the Maisie series for the last ten weeks every Saturday. This was the last one and they were all strictly B's, some better than others of course, but Ann made them worth watching.

Tear Gas Squad-A 1940 police musical!! whose only distinction was that it didn't actually contain a tear gas squad! As dumb as it sounds, but at least Dennis Morgan could sing.

CMG-I concur with your evaluation of Bells Are Ringing, but my God Judy Holliday was such a unique talent. If you've never seen them I highly recommend The Marrying Kind and especially The Solid Gold Cadillac.

January 5, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Living in the Bay Area, I've already seen MOST of the December musts, but the blow of this January is cushioned for me by the return of some of my favorite television shows (Archer, Community, Justified, and Sherlock) as well as the premiere of one that looks very promising looking indeed in HBO's True Detective.

January 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDevin D

Although we managed to see Her and American Hustle before New Years, the weather has been so cold that we've only seen wide releases at the local cinema. Which is why I've seen 47 Ronin twice.

47 Ronin is actually a pretty good movie. The first time I saw it, the theatre had the film adjusted so the images were crisp, and the colors eye-popping. It has the most sumptuous costumes I've seen all year. The second time I saw it, even the pre-show ads were dingy and unfocused. It was like looking at it through a layer of dirty water.

For those of you who haven't seen it, it is NOT a story of a white savior saving an indigenous population. There are two leads, a "pure blood" Japanese, 0-Ishii, and a "half blood" played by Keanu Reeves, who is of mixed ethnicity.

Japan has one of the most homogeneous populations in the world. Unfortunately, racial unity is accompanied by racial prejudice. In this film, which is concerned about the nature of heroism, the hero O-Ishii shows that part of being a hero is discarding the racial prejudices of your time, and judging a person on their actions and qualities. Also that "honor" includes being honorable to the women in your life.

So if a fictitious minor subplot is grafted onto the story that will be seen by adolescents internationally, that stresses that heroes aren't prejudiced or cruel to women, I'm all for it.

January 5, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Watched a French film from last year, Grand Central. Quite liked it! Rebecca Zlotowski is only a second-time director but it's a confident blend of tones and influences--it feels equal parts classic Hollywood genre picture and modern French realism. Kind of Audiardesque in that regard. The script is slight, but it looks gorgeous, and I feel like I never get to say this about something that's not a mega-huge action film ala Gravity, but it has an impeccable sound design. A couple of big French stars in it, but it's clearly the director's show.

Deeply annoying that you have to jump through all these hoops to see movies from exciting foreign directors. No one is getting served by our current system of distribution. And female directors especially seem to get screwed by this. Not every country has the same depressing statistics as the US in getting women behind the camera, but you'd never know it because the only films that make it overseas are films by male directors.

January 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTB

I haven't bothered with a Paranormal Activity since the first one where nothing happened until the last 3 minutes. Rosemary's Baby is subtle. Paranormal Activity is comatose.

The most exciting thing to happen was the drunk heckler who mercifully gave us all something to laugh at. His best line was "Look out! It's a toilet monster! So [redacted] scary." That's when the manager was brought in and he was thrown out. It went downhill from there.

January 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

@CMG, @joel6--Bells Are Ringing isn't Minnelli's best, but there are some moments in that movie that I adore. Dean Martin pushing his way through a pastel crowd as he sings? Magic. And Judy Holliday is wonderful as always.

January 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTB

In the spirit of getting ready for Her (hope to see it on Friday) I rewatched Being John Malkovich. I tend to view that as a writing/directing accomplishment much more than an acting showcase, but I'd forgotten just how good Malkovich was in it. I'm surprised he didn't get more awards attention.

January 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterScottC

joel6 & TB- I LOVE Judy Holliday. Shame she was not too long for this world. I'll defend her Oscar win to the grave. It's a great performance in a year of 3 other great performances, I am including Anne Baxter in the Davis-Swanson conversation. I live for the 'Just in Time' and 'The Party's Over' moments.

January 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

CMG- I'm fine with her win even if Born Yesterday is one of my least favorite of the films she made but her performance within it is inimitable.

Actually Eleanor Parker is great in Caged too, another year I could have seen her being a winner for it but up against that juggernaut of performances she didn't stand a chance.

January 5, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Saw Inside Llewyn Davis at the theater - I liked it, but I feel like I would have LOVED it if I knew anything more about the folk music scene of the early 60s. Oscar Isaac, though... WOW. That voice! I swooned every time he sang. I do NOT get the love for the cinematography, though. I mean, it's strikingly lit at points, but hardly award-worthy, and certainly not Best of the Year material.

At home, I caught up on a few things I've missed: Prisoners, Spring Breakers, Much Ado About Nothing, and Drinking Buddies. Drinking Buddies was the weakest - it ends with its strongest stuff, and I almost wish they had cut maybe half an hour of what came before and used that time to continue the story from that end. Agree with those who said Olivia Wilde was fantastic. Spring Breakers was... quite something. I have not liked a single other thing Harmony Korine has done, and he still couldn't quite contain his particular excesses, but for me, this is easily his best work. James Franco was a hoot. Although, I can actually picture myself liking this less had I seen it in a theater - the assault on the senses must have been ridiculous. Prisoners took my breath away - best acting ensemble of the year (although Gyllenhaal's tics drove me NUTS). Damned effective, nasty little thriller.

Much Ado was my favorite, though. The screenplay maybe ironed it out a bit too much, making the plot seem much thinner than it really is, but what fun! Great performances all around (Amy Acker especially), and finally cinematography that isn't just shot/reverse shot focusing on just one or two people. It's just pure delight from start to finish.

January 5, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

I saw Philomena, which I thought was quite good. It's a simple story (a "human interest story", per the film's own wording), but told with Frears' customary restraint and dexterity. Dench is terrific, of course.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSean C.

Hope you liked Tom at the Farm. I enjoyed it quite a bit at TIFF.

I saw Anchorman 2 (funny enough, but not a patch on the original - or the unofficial sequel-in-spirit, Talledega Nights) in theaters. The Wolf of Wall Street beckons tomorrow night.

At home I finally saw At Any Price, one of my most anticipated 2013 movies that I never the less managed to miss at every opportunity until now. It's one of those movies that doesn't entirely gel but has enough great pieces to make it worth seeing. Dennis Quaid gives a bizarre but compelling performance in the lead, and I thought Zac Efron acquitted himself admirably in a supporting role as Quaid's rebellious son. A third act turn felt unnecessary, as did the stabs at Mystic River-style blue (green?) collar Greek tragedy that followed, but it was still a very strong work, and a necessary transitional film for Ramin Bahrani as he moves on from the tiny neorealist gems that made his name.

I also watched the second half of Admissions on HBO and liked what I saw, but probably not enough to ever go back and watch the first half.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Frozen (B+), The Wind Rises (A-), Ernest et Célestine (B+), The Croods (B). No more animation for me for the next six months, thankyouverymuch...

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I was trying to see the new PA film but my local cinema does not show it :(

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAscher Robbins

Saw Prisoners this weekend. Great film. Great direction. Very underrated.

Saw Enough Said, one of the very best ensembles of the year. A true gem of a screenplay.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike

American Hustle! Talk about a good time at the movies. I was surprised by just how much of a true ensemble piece it was, with no one character fully dominating the story at any given time. I thought everyone was top notch, even if Jennifer Lawrence is being a bit overpraised. I think it's a hell of a part and she serves it well, but I think you plug almost any other above competent actress there and they receive the same accolades. My MVP was Bradley Cooper. Talk about someone continuing to step their game up. He just played the comic desperation to the hilt. I'm surprised he hasn't been more in play with Supporting Actor being its usual question mark.

All that being said, it seems awfully lite for serious Best Picture consideration, but who the hell knows. They could, and absolutely have, done a lot worse.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVal

SAVING MR. BANKS, which I quite enjoyed. Emma Thompson was awesome, and should get one of the five slots. Unlike some, I thought the Australia flashback scenes were poignant and well-done. I was surprised and delighted by supporting turns by Colin Farrell (he is SO intense), Paul Giamatti, and B. J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman as the Sherman brothers. There are some definite problems with the film--the scene at the end with the Mouse was cringe-worthy--and huge gaps from what was probably the "real" story, but it was a decent movie. The cut to the real Mary Poppins, during the premiere scene, reminded me how absolutely, lovely, charming and PRACTICALLY PERFECT is Julie Andrews on the big screen!

CMG--agree about Judy Holliday's Oscar.
Joel6--what is a better Holliday performance? I can't think of one.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Pam-It's not the performance I fault but the film of Born Yesterday itself. However I still don't think it's her best, it's all subjective of course but for me her all time best is in The Marrying Kind. I've read in various sources that it was the work she favored out of her film work also.

Having seen all of her regrettably small filmography though all her performances are beautifully done even the inconsequential Phffft which was surely her weakest film.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

"Frozen" which was top rate Disney- I'm tired of these "Paranormal Activity" crap-the first one was mediocre but very well marketed.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

Saving Mr. Banks which was very good but very Disneyfied. There seems to be a LOT more to the story. I am, however, not a fan of "Mary Poppins" outside some catchy songs. Thompson and Hanks were their usual excellent selves.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

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