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Is Johnny Depp Box Office Poison, or the Most Cunning Man in Hollywood?

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | January 25, 2015 |

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | January 25, 2015 |

Unsurprisingly, American Sniper continued to hold a spell over the January box-office in its second weekend of wide release, but the numbers it continues to put up are surprising. It added nearly $65 million — good for the third biggest weekend in January, the biggest second-weekend in January, ever, and best second weekend ever for an R-Rated film. It’s crossed the $200 million mark, and not only is $300 million in its sights, it looks likely to surpass the $334 million of Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I to become the highest grossing film released in 2014 (Sniper got a small, limited release in December to qualify for the Oscars).

Meanwhile, the Jennifer Lopez vehicle, The Boy Next Door got terrible reviews, but most of the people attending the film knew it would be bad and went exactly for that reason. It put up a solid $15 million (on a $4 million budget) in its first weekend, and while it won’t break any box office records, it will be profitable for Lopez, who still has an audience.

The same cannot be said for Johnny Depp, however, as his $60 million film, Mortdecai, absolutely tanked. Coming in with only $4 million, it fared only marginally better than last weekend’s Michael Mann flick, Blackhat (a $3.9 million opening on a $70 million budget). While the January box-office is certainly benefiting from American Sniper, it’s also responsible for two of the biggest box-office bombs in recent memory.

Meanwhile, Johnny Depp continues to perform poorly outside of Pirates and Tim Burton movies, and while I hated Mortdecai, I may have gained a begrudging respect for Depp: He’s managed to con a lot of people into giving him a shitton of money to make a series of box-office flops, and the only thing they all have in common is oddball Johnny Depp characters. Maybe these aren’t paycheck rolles. Maybe he’s just really eccentric, and he’s using diminishing box-office clout to finance strange, big budget projects where he gets to play weirdos. Who else could get these movies made? Who else besides Johnny Depp would even want to make these movies?

Maybe, just maybe, Johnny Depp isn’t selling out. Maybe it’s all a giant f*ck you to conventional Hollywood movies (say what you want about his recent output, but at least they haven’t been “conventional.” In fact, the characters he plays aren’t that much different from the oddball characters he played earlier in his career). I mean, think about it: Depp could easily sign on as a villain in a Marvel film or even take the lead in a conventional action-comedy, but he continues to do what Johnny does: Make strange films without a wide appeal.

Anyway, Depp wasn’t the only big name to lay an egg this weekend. Another George Lucas passion project came and went with very little notice, as his animated film, Strange Magic opened with only $5.5 million. The Lucas written film now owns the 7th worst opening of all time for a film opening in over 3,000 theaters.


Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.