The Unexpected Influence A Forgettable Michael Keaton Horror Movie Has Had on the Box Office
Movie studios are predictable entities, and once they realize that something works, they’re awfully prone to repetition. Will Smith’s Independence Day opened huge on the 4th of July weekend back in 1996, and the studios thought, “Hey! Will Smith plays well with people that love America!” The next year, he had another fourth of July opening (Men in Black) and he’s had two more Fourth of July openings since. Iron Man opened well on the first week in May, so Iron Man (and Avengers) movies open the first week in May now. It works, so why mess with it?
Back in 1999, most big action-movie blockbusters opened during the summer, but Warner Brothers had an unusual action pic featuring a leading man whose luck it had seemed had run out at the box office, and in order to avoid summer competition, they opened a little film called The Matrix in March. It opened with a surprising $27 million. Now, every March has a huge blockbuster, be it The Hunger Games, 300, Alice in Wonderland, Oz the Great and Powerful or The Watchmen (interestingly, it’s not a popular month for sequels). Likewise, Cloverfield took $40 million in its January opening weekend in 2008, and now, what was once thought to be a dumping grounds for terrible movies suddenly has a major movie attempting to swallow up all the weak competition (see, e.g., Taken, The Green Hornet, The Book of Eli).
Back in 2005, the first week of January wasn’t a particularly popular opening weekend, either. Christmas holdovers (and late awards contenders) generally dominated that weekend, but Universal dumped a shitty horror movie they didn’t know what else to do with into the slot starring a washed-up Michael Keaton (God love him). Guess what? White Noise took in a surprising $24 million on its way to a tidy $56 million domestic run. Boom! The first week of January is now when studios release mediocre to bad horror flicks that wouldn’t stand a chance in hell any other time of year. Check it: These are the movies that were released either the first or second weekend of January since 2005 and their opening weekend take:
White Noise (2005) — $24 million
Hostel (2006) — $19 million
The Hitcher (2007) — $7 million
One Missed Call (2008) — $12 million
The Unborn (2009) — $19 million
Daybreakers (2010) — $15 million
Season of the Witch (2011) — $10 million
The Devil Inside (2012) — $33 million
Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013) — $21 million
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014) — $18 million
See any pattern there? They’re mostly pretty bad, low-budget horror movies, and they all made a profit (even The Hitcher). Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones actually bucked the trend of terrible movies in that slot by being decent, and the $5 million budgeted film was rewarded with a box office three times its cost.
It did not, however, take the top spot, which went to Frozen, which has had some of the craziest legs we’ve seen for a film in years. Frozen opened at number two way back on Thanksgiving weekend, and against all odds, it managed two weeks later to jump to number one, before falling out of that spot for three weeks before once again reclaiming it. We haven’t seen a movie take the number one spot in its sixth week since Avatar, and before that, Titanic. We’re experiencing some real modern box-office history with Frozen as it approaches $300 million, and it still won’t have much competition in its demo until The Nut Job is released on the 17th. It’s not likely to become the highest grossing animated film of all time (Shrek 2, $441 million) but it could approach the fourth highest, Finding Nemo with $380 million, and it has definitely put Disney’s non-Pixar animated fare back on the map.