Weekend Box Office (Jan. 13-15): The Dumping Ground + What Accounts for ‘Hidden Figures’ Success?



For many years, January was always known as the month when studios would typically release their lousiest films, with the lowest box office expectations. However, in recent years, it seems that the trend may be ending, as more high profile films are getting January openings, and are performing extremely well. However, old habits die hard, and there were a few examples of that this weekend.

Although some high profile, big budget films with high expectations, which opened wide this weekend, crashed and burned at the box office. But we’ll get to all of that and more in a minute.

First of all, the good news continues for “Hidden Figures” – which edged out “Rogue One” last week – was No. 1 again this weekend, with only a tiny 10% drop from last weekend, grossing $20.5 million (and another $5 million estimated for Monday’s MLK holiday). As of now, “Figures” looks solid for at least $100 million domestically. It has already opened internationally, in countries such as Norway. So why is the film doing so well? Simply because it’s one of those films in which everything works so well, which is a lot harder to do in a film than you can imagine. It tells a fascinating, but little known story that attracts of lot of interest; it’s getting repeat business from filmgoers; word-of-mouth has been incredibly strong; and it plays to audiences who are looking for family friendly entertainment that’s not simplistic or just for children.

In addition, it provides not just one, but three very strong positive roles for black women, which is hardly ever seen in movies. And let’s face it, it’s going to be a long while before you see that again, unfortunately, given Hollywood’s history. The film is also attracting audiences who are interested in space travel, and there are quite a number of them as well.

To put in other words, it’s just a professional, well-made, inspirational and entertaining film. The kind of film that Hollywood used to make by the dozens, but has forgotten how to do. And the timing of the film’s release couldn’t be more perfect. In these frightening times (which officially begin on January 20), we need all the feel good, inspirational films that we can get.

In second place at the box office this weekend was the modern day romance musical “La La Land” with $14.5 million, grossing just over $74 million domestically to date, and likely heading towards $100 million. It’s earned another $55 million overseas.

Lionsgate/CBS Films’ “Patriots Day” – about the April 2013 Boston Marathon terrorist bombing and its aftermath – was highly thought to easily top the box office list this weekend. It was following in the footsteps of other patriotic “Rah! Rah! USA! USA!” films such as “American Sniper” and “Lone Survivor” which pulled in extraordinarily huge box office numbers in January. But “Patriots Day” fell way short of the others, landing in 6th place with $12 million.

Several analysts said that the film’s disappointing performance was due to the subject matter being too familiar and the film was made just “too soon”. However one could also argue that Lionsagte totally botched the marketing of the film, concentrating more on the actual bombing and the survivors part of the film, which was perhaps too downbeat for audiences looking for more uplifting entertainment right now, rather than promoting the film’s other plotline involving the manhunt and capture of the terrorists which may have had more audience appeal. This doesn’t bode well for the upcoming film “Stronger” with Jake Gyllenhaal scheduled to come out in the fall, which tells the story of the one of the victims of the bombing and his struggle to recover.

What’s an even bigger surprise was that a minor horror film titled “The Bye-Bye Man” actually out-grossed “Patriots Day,” coming in fifth with $13.5 million, which is nearly twice what the film cost to make.

But getting to the major films that totally crashed and burned at the b.o. this weekend; the first being Ben Affleck’s 1930’s gangster film, “Live By Night,” which he also directed. The film got middling reviews, and in limited release last week, failed to spark any excitement. So it shouldn’t be that big a surprise that this weekend, when the film opened wide on over 2800 screens, it earned a dismal $5.4 million. Audiences just were not interested in the film, or Affleck in the film.

Also tanking was Martin Scorsese’s 30 years in development dream project “Silence” which expanded wider to just under 800 screens, with a sorry $3 million.

Now as for the dumping ground, we have to turn to the sad story of Paramount’s family film “Monster Truck” and how a bad movie idea turned into a film with bad results. The film, which came in 7th place with $10.5 milllion, was actually shot almost three years ago, reportedly based on an idea from a Paramount production exec whose young son once asked him if monster trucks had real monsters in them.

What a great idea the exec thought and promptly the studio went into the development with the film which was planned to be released in May 2015. But when the film got disastrous feedback from test preview audiences, the studio went back and continuously retooled it, while pushing back the release date a number of times.

The result was a film that never worked, that Paramount knew was a disaster from the beginning, and quietly released with no fanfare this weekend, almost three years later. In fact, according to the Hollywood Reporter, the studio, two months ago before the film came out, actually wrote off the picture as a $115 million loss before its weekend release.

Joining the dump heap with “Monster Truck” is Open Road’s action thriller “Sleepless” starring jamie Foxx, which opened in 8th place with $8.4 million. A remake of the far superior 2011 French film “Sleepless Nights” (which is available on DVD), I previously suggested that Open Road moving up the film’s original release date from February to the MLK holiday weekend, was a good sign, since studios routinely move up the release dates of films if they’re very positive on them, and think they might have winners on their hands.

There was very little advance PR for the film, and there were no advance screenings for the media and film critics. And as I have mentioned in the past, these are signals that a studio knows they have a stinker, and want to prevent a deluge of negative reviews from being published the day the film opens.

The top 12 grossers this weekend follow below:

1) Hidden Figures Fox $20,450,000 Total: $54,833,100
2) La La Land LG/S $14,500,000 Total: $74,081,569
3) Sing Uni. $13,810,970 Total: $233,026,490
4) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story BV $13,759,000 Total: $498,850,734
5) The Bye Bye Man STX $13,378,000
6) Patriots Day LGF $12,000,000 Total: $12,924,082
7) Monster Trucks Par. $10,500,000
8) Sleepless ORF $8,468,787
9) Underworld: Blood Wars SGem $5,815,000 Total:4 $23,931,118
10) Passengers Sony $5,625,000 Total: $90,004,731
11) Live By Night WB $5,425,000 Total: $5,610,644
12) Moana BV $3,909,000 Total: $231,215,125


  1. Hollywood on life support?…They are going to need another super hero movie injection soon.

  2. The ad for Sleepless reminded me of Waist Deep with Tyrese and Meagan Good. Similar premise. Passed on that one too.

  3. Nobody is paying to see Jamie Foxx so I figured that would bomb. I was happy that Patriot’s Day bombed because I am getting tired of Peter Berg’s badly directed and acted big budget monstrosities.

  4. Congrats to Hidden Figures for retaining the number one spot! Truth be told, LaLa land only opened in 1,848 theaters and had a box office take of $14 million whereas Hidden Figures opened wide with 3, 286 with a take of $20 million! So LaLa land did way better in lesser theaters than Hidden Figures!

    As for Sleepless, Jaime Foxx doesn’t seems like he’s a box office draw! Both Fences and Moonlight are hanging on! Fences already has a $45 million and Moonlight is at $14 million!

  5. Sleepless was also similar to Taken. Clearly, people would rather watch a 65 year old Liam Neeson kick a metric ton of eurotrash immigrant ass to save his kidnapped offspring.

  6. I walked by the Monster Truck display in the lobby of a theater 2 weeks ago and I immediately thought it looked stupid. I guess I was right. And Patriots Day just looks like an uninspired opportunistic movie. I’m interested to see how The Founder does this weekend. I can’t remember Michael Keaton’s last leading role before Birdman. Glad to see him back.

  7. HATED IT and the FORMULA it rode in on.! And, is Sergio sick or on vacation? This post has the feel of a ghost writer. I just can’t see Sergio saying “It’s simply an entertaining film. The kind of film that Hollywood used to make by the dozens.”

    Really, I didn’t know Hollywood was in the habit of making films with three very strong positive roles for black women? Anyway, as I said, in spite of the alleged positive roles of 3 black women, I hated it for the following reasons.

    First, it was nothing but a cloaked white savior flick. That’s right, the good ol’ sympathetic and caring white guy, Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) rescued the po’ black woman who had to run a mile to the rest room or sh*t on herself. That was so nice of him to take a baseball bat to the “Whites Only” restroom sign. REALLY… come on, I almost puked when he said “There’s only one color here at NASA.”

    A little more artistic liberitties in the movie that made me cringe is the scene in which the black women lead by every-bodies mammy, Octavia Spencer, was walking down the hall with Rocky’s theme song playing in the background. Come on now, we all know they would have been marched right out the front door, without passing GO and without a job and without collecting 200 dollars.

    And then there’s the formula’s must… “STUNT CASTING”. Janelle Monáe was not choosen because of her great body of work. Nuff said.

    “But CareyCarey, what about all the inspirational messages and the uncovering of a lost piece of our history?”

    Well, there’s was one message that I am sure many received and others wasn’t looking for. Sad but true, this film shouted the same messages I heard in the movies The Help, The Butler and Selma. That is, a person can deny others their rights, call them horrible names while being a closet racist, a possible Xenophobe, a misogynist and bully, without fear of negative consequences. They may even become President of The United States of America.

    In short, I know my comment is not a popular opinion, but one shouldn’t deny the truth. Again “we’ve” been used, bamboozled and led astray… and yet we smile and say “that was a good movie.”

    • Damn, is that you Andre? The cop scene in the beginning laid the foundation for the rest of the movie. He comes at them like the Texas trooper did to Sandra Bland and then once he found out who they were, everything was lovely roses.

      My only question is when are black writers gonna get some?

    • WE GOT ONE… WE GOT ONE…. DO i HEAR TWO? Do I hear 2? Can I get 2 more people who saw the truth through the smoke and mirrors and hype?

      Shanna, I hear you. After the first scene I was like “oh no, here we go again… happy-sappy-over-the-top-melodrama. But tell me, who is Sandra Bland? And, when are black writers gonna get some, what?

      • Carey. You are a party pooper? you will not be invited to the party ???? when the mathematics score a 100.

        • Mark and Darla, tuff titty but somebody gotta suck it. In other words “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

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