January Movie Mania — “Book” Best Boxoffice Bet

Don’t expect January to look anything like December in terms of boxoffice action.

The holiday season packed an unprecedented boxoffice punch thanks to Fox and James Cameron’s 3-D sci-fi epic “Avatar”, which grossed over $352 million its first 17 days of release domestically. The sci-fi fantasy took in just over $1 billion worldwide in the same period, making it the fourth biggest grossing film worldwide ever. As it continues climbing in the weeks ahead it should move higher yet on the list.

Driven domestically by “Avatar”, Warner Bros.’ “Sherlock Holmes” (over $138 million) and Fox’s animated “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” (nearly $156 million), it was a record setting holiday season. The New Year’s weekend (Jan. 1-3) saw a total of about $220 million in grosses, up almost 44 percent from the prior year, according to Hollywood.com Boxoffice analyst Paul Dergarabedian. Unfortunately, the rest of January doesn’t look nearly as promising.

Looking ahead, Warner Bros.’ “The Book of Eli” starring Denzel Washington looks like the month’s best boxoffice bet and should benefit from opening over the year’s first four-day holiday weekend.

Of course, January will get some boxoffice help from having so many strong holdover films from December’s holiday season. However, those holdovers will be competing with the new arrivals and that’s not going to help the newcomers!

The following synopses include details about January’s wide openings, but beware of possible spoilers if you don’t want to know too much in advance. As always, be sure to check out our Zamm Cam movie previews to find out more about the films you most want to see.

Three new wide releases will kick things off the weekend of Jan. 8-10, but none of them look like they’re going to rewrite boxoffice history.

Lionsgate’s R rated horror thriller “Daybreakers” is tracking best with its strongest appeal to under-25 males. Most horror films tend to play best to younger females so this could signal trouble. On the other hand, vampires have been very popular at the boxoffice lately and that could work to “Daybreakers’” advantage.

Written and directed by Michael and Peter Spierig (“Undead”), it stars Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Isabel Lucas, Sam Neill, Claudia Karvan, Michael Dorman and Vince Colosimo.

The Story: In a near-future world (2019) conquered by vampires, a small band of humans fight to bring back humankind.

The Weinstein Company will have its hopes pinned on its R rated comedy drama “Youth in Revolt”, directed by Miguel Arteta (“The Good Girl”) and starring Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Justin Long, Ray Liotta, Steve Buscemi, Jean Smart, Mary Kay Place, Fred Willard, Zach Galifianakis, Adhir Kalyan, Erik Knudsen, Rooney Mara and M. Emmet Walsh. It’s been tracking quietly with its strongest appeal to under-25 males and its second best showing with under-25 females.

The Story: Based on the novel by C.D. Payne, it’s a funny and irreverent story of brainy high schooler Nick Twisp (Michael Cera), who meets the girl of his dreams (Portia Doubleday) while on a family vacation and has to turn his life and the lives of all those around him upside down in order to be with her.

Rounding out January’s first weekend is Universal’s romantic comedy “Leap Year” directed by Anand Tucker (“Shopgirl”) and starring Amy Adams, Matthew Goode, Adam Scott, John Lithgow and Kaitlin Olson. It’s been tracking the least well of the weekend’s newcomers, but doing best with under-25 females, which is the right core audience for a picture like this.

The Story: When their four-year anniversary passes without a marriage proposal, Anna (Amy Adams) decides to take matters into her own hands.

Investing in an Irish tradition that allows women to propose to men on February 29, Anna decides to follow her boyfriend Jeremy (Adam Scott) to Dublin and get down on one knee herself.

Airplanes, weather and fate leave Anna stranded on the other side of Ireland, so she enlists the help of handsome and surly Declan (Matthew Goode) to get her across the country. As Anna and Declan bicker across the Emerald Isle, they discover that the road to love can take you to very unexpected places.

January’s second weekend is the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. birthday weekend (Jan. 15-18). As moviegoing typically expands over holiday weekends of any sort, there’s more boxoffice potential for this frame than any other this month. That could work to the advantage of everything in the marketplace.

Once again, three wide releases will be competing for moviegoers’ time and money. Warner Bros.’ action-adventure “The Book of Eli” and DreamWorks and Paramount’s wide release of the drama “The Lovely Bones” have been tracking equally well, but happily their appeal is to quite different core audiences.

“The Lovely Bones” directed by Peter Jackson (“Lord of the Rings” trilogy), is tracking very strongly with under-25 females and next best with women 25-plus. The PG-13 drama stars Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Michael Imperioli, Saoirse Ronan, Jake Abel, Andrew James Allen, Carolyn Dando, Tom McCarthy, Rose McIver, A.J. Michalka, Charlie Saxton and Nikki Soohoo.

Director Peter Jackson on the set of “The Lovely Bones”

Director Peter Jackson on the set of “The Lovely Bones”.

The Story: On her way home from school on a snowy December day in 1973, 14-year-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) is lured into a makeshift underground den in a cornfield and brutally raped and murdered, the latest victim of a serial Killer -- the man she knew as her neighbor, Mr. Harvey (Stanley Tucci). From heaven, Susie keeps watch over her grieving family and friends, as well as her brazen killer and the sad detective working on her case.

“The Book of Eli”, directed by Albert and Allen Hughes (“Menace II Society”), stars Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals, Frances De La Tour, Michael Gambon and Evan Jones. It’s tracking best with males over 25 and next best with under-25 males, certainly the right core audience for this R rated post-apocalyptic adventure epic.

The Story: In the not-too-distant future, across the wasteland of what was once America, a lone warrior (Denzel Washington) must fight to bring civilization the knowledge that could be the key to its redemption.

The weekend’s third wide release, Lionsgate’s PG rated family action adventure comedy “The Spy Next Door” has been tracking a little less well than “Eli” and “Bones”. It’s doing best with under-25 males and nearly as well with women under and over 25, many of whom are moms who take kids to the movies.

Directed by Brian Levant (“Are We There Yet?”), it stars Jackie Chan, Amber Valletta, Madeline Carroll, Will Shadley, Magnus Scheving, Alina Foley, Billy Ray Cyrus and George Lopez.

The Story: Jackie Chan stars as a mild-mannered suburbanite who agrees to babysit his neighbor’s unruly kids, only to have them accidentally blow his cover as a secret agent.

The third weekend in January (Jan. 22-24) will see only two new wide releases fighting it out in the marketplace. Once again, it helps that both are targeted to very different audiences.

Sony’s Screen Gems label’s R rated action horror film “Legion” is directed by Scott Charles Stewart (first feature) and stars Lucas Black, Charles S. Dutton, Jon Tenney, Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid, Tyrese Gibson, Kate Walsh, Adrianne Palicki and Kevin Durand. This is a classic male appeal picture that should benefit from having no direct new competition for that audience.

The Story: When God loses faith in humanity, He sends a legion of angels to wipe out the human race. It’s only hope is a group of misfits holed up in a diner, aided by the archangel Michael (Paul Bettany).

The weekend’s other wide newcomer is Fox and Walden Media’s PG rated fantasy family comedy “The Tooth Fairy”, directed by Michael Lembeck (“Connie and Carla”) and starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Ashley Judd, Julie Andrews, Billy Crystal, Chase Ellison, Brandon Jackson, Stephen Merchant, Jim Piddock and Ryan Sheckler.

January’s fourth weekend (Jan. 29-31) will also see two new arrivals aimed at completely different core audiences.

Warner Bros.’ R rated suspense thriller “Edge of Darkness” is directed by Martin Campbell (“Casino Royale”) and stars Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Bojana Novakovic, Shawn Roberts and Frank Grillo. It’s Gibson’s first film since his DUI arrest in Malibu and his messy divorce so it’s anyone’s guess how moviegoers will feel about him. The film’s primary appeal could be to over-25 males, which usually isn’t the greatest core audience.

Mel Gibson starring in “Edge of Darkness”.

Mel Gibson starring in “Edge of Darkness”.

The Story: An emotionally charged thriller set at the intersection of politics and big business. Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson) is a veteran homicide detective for the Boston Police Department and a single father. When his only child, 24 year-old Emma (Bojana Novakovic), is murdered on the steps of his home, everyone assumes that he was the target. But Craven soon suspects otherwise, and embarks on a mission to find out about his daughter’s secret life and her killing.

His investigation leads him into a dangerous, looking glass world of corporate cover-ups, government collusion and murder – and to shadowy government operative Darius Jedburgh (Ray Winstone), who has been sent in to clean up the evidence. Craven’s solitary search for answers about his daughter’s death transforms into an odyssey of emotional discovery and redemption.

Disney’s PG-13 rated romantic comedy “When in Rome” is directed by Mark Steven Johnson (“Ghost Rider”) and stars Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Will Arnett, Jon Heder, Dax Shepard, Danny DeVito, Anjelica Huston, Alexis Dziena and Don Johnson. This one is targeted to under-25 females, who will either turn out in girls-night-out groups or drag along their boyfriends for a date night.

The Story: After stealing coins from an Italian fountain, a young American woman (Kristen Bell) receives visits from numerous strangers who, having previously thrown coins into the fountain, are now in love with her.