It looks like we were hungry for popcorn or something as movie attendance for this past weekend, the last in January, was up by 25% leading to the highest grossing 5th weekend in over a decade! It was a welcomed surprise, to be sure, especially given the trend we had noticed the last couple weeks in declining box office numbers - which some are attributing to the better weather.

So what accounted for the fiscal improvement? First up, was our powerhouse for the weekend, Fox’s Kung Fu Panda 3, which karate chopped it’s way to the the top, with a weekend gross of $41 million. That's right, $41 million, which was $30 million more than even the runner up - which we'll get to in a second. Now, to give you some perspective in regards to this Panda trilogy as it stands now, the original film grossed $60.2, opening in June, and the first sequel grossed $47.6 opening in May. So how did this film stay off the endangered species list opening in January, a month when Oscar contenders and Military based hits rule the Box Office? Well, with a lack of animated films to compete with, it was the clear go-to movie for children, families, and panda fans alike. This installment of the series also opened in 3,955 theatres, which was more than Kung Fu Panda 2. And on top of that, Kung Fu Panda 3 is now the second largest opening January film of all time! Studio executives must have really played their hand well with this one.

Which for Fox, they clearly did this weekend, what with having the number 2 spot held this weekend with their Oscar nom, The Revenant, also. For this film, though, after we witnessed its slow struggle to the top, we are already seeing it make its way back down the ranking ladder. But as we predicted, the Oscar nominations definitely helped it make up its budget, which id officially accomplished this past weekend, now its sixth week open. Where the film goes from here is anyone's guess as Oscar buzz might soon be dying out. 

A new addition to the Box Office this week was also The Finest Hours, which opened at spot 4. However, while it did crack the top 5, an important benchmark for any major film, The Finest Hours is not looking to be doing so hot. First, this inspired-by-true-events, edge-of-your-seat, daring Coast Guard mission film grossed less than 13 Hours did when comparing their opening weeks. Second, The Finest Hours also had a much larger budget. As Matthew mentioned last week, 13 Hours in and of itself is on a slow decline into being considered a flop. In light of this, then, this certainly doesn't seem to be a fine hour for this military based film at all.

The Finest Hours has been receiving mixed reviews, which might have led to a poor opening weekend. With complaints that the film feels too old-fashioned for younger demographics, and lacking enough emotion to keep older generations connected, this film is yet another oddity this month. Fortunately for Buena Vista, it still has it's cash cow Star Wars bringing in the money at spot 3 - which has clearly been given more marketing attention.

Now a new couple films that were found lower on the list for this weekend include Fifty Shades of Black and Jane Got a Gun, which came in at places 10 and 17, respectively. Fifty Shades of Black only made $5.9 million and Jane Got A Gun made less than a million (ouch). Fifty Shades of Black, however, was made on an estimated budget of just over $5 million, but Jane Got a Gun, starring Natalie Portman, had a budget of $25 million! That’s quite a lot of money to make back! So clearly, statics-wise, Fifty Shades is doing significantly better. 

I personally suspect Fifty Shades of Black was able to find enough parody fans to make up it’s small budget. In fact, lower production value can add to the humor, rather than distract audiences. Natalie Portman’s western film, however, has been criticized by audience for its writing and slow paced story. I also haven’t seen any marketing for this film and those two factors are enough to contribute to its failure.

But let’s not dwell on flops! Next weekend, comes the new Coen brother’s movie Hail Caesar and the not-so-classic novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Be sure to check back to see how these films rank! My prediction is that Hail Caesar will make it to the top. At least, that’s the movie I am going to see!

-Alan Warner