ByJerome Maida, writer at
Jerome Maida

Led by an incredible $242.2 million domestically in the first month of 2015, January 2015 broke the $1 billion barrier in domestic box-office for the first time since 2010 - when a little film called "Avatar" held up quite well from it's December 2009 opening.

While it will not reach those heights, there is no doubt that "American Sniper" is a true blockbuster.

The Clint Eastwood film accounted for an amazing 24 percent of revenue at American theaters for the month.

"American Sniper" was an unexpected but welcome phenomenon in a month usually known for being a dumping ground for new films and a month in which Oscar-bait films usually expand.

But the flops flopped harder than usual - while the Oscar contenders seem unusually weak in terms of box-office.

To put the performance of "American Sniper" in perspective, not only did it's opening-weekend of $89.2 million set a record for a January opening-weekend crushing the previous record of $41.5 million held by 2014's "Ride Along", but it's very small drop to $64 million it's SECOND weekend would have easily set a new record as well.

In fact, the $30.6 million "American Sniper" raked in this past weekend, it's third, would have been the NINTH highest-grossing January opening weekend before this year, when both it and a little film from Liam Neeson showed it's possible to have a hit in January.

Yes, "Taken 3" opened with the third-highest January opening weekend ever - it is now fourth - with $39.2 million.

Less than rabid word of mouth combined with those looking for action turning to "American Sniper" means that "Taken 3", which seemed a lock on it's opening weekend to close with $110 million total for it's run, now looks like it will fall a bit shy of the milestone.

"Taken 3" took in $80.9 million domestically in January, good for second place for the month.

Also taking a hit from "American Sniper" is "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies", which finished third in January, grossing $61.9 million of it's $250 million domestic haul in the month.

However, after grossing only $1.2 million over Super Bowl weekend - and certain to lose screens this weekend to "Jupiter's Ascending", it is clear the audience for this has completely dried up. This all means there's almost no shot it rakes in the $9 million it would need to become the lowest-grossing film domestically of all of Peter Jackson's cinematic adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's work.

Holiday holdovers "Into the Woods" and "Unbroken" continued to do brisk business into January and round out the Top Five for the month, with $59.9 million and $51.2 million respectively.

"Into the Woods" is likely to finish up it's theatrical run with $130 million domestically, while Angelina Jolie's passion project, "Unbroken", is likely to wind up with $115 million.

Besides "American Sniper", the only Oscar-nominated film that is anywhere close to a commercial success is "The Imitation Game". Good word of mouth, a marketing campaign that makes people feel that Benedict Cumberbatch's Alan Turing is a man whose story they feel deserves to finally be told - as well as support of the film by some gay groups - enabled "The Imitation Game" to gross $47.8 million of it's $68.8 million domestic take in January - and it is the only nominated film besides "American Sniper" with a shot of breaking $100 million domestically.

The only other Oscar nominee for Best Picture that did any box-office at all in January was "Selma", which earned $41.9 million during the month and might wind up with $50 million total domestically.

While that is far from a disaster, it is somewhat disappointing for Weinstein Company, which was hoping to duplicate the success of it's 2013 civil-rights themed entry, "Les Daniels' The Butler", which grossed $116.6 million domestically.

Other solid performers in January include "Paddington" and "The Wedding Ringer". The family film grossed $48.5 million in January and seems on it's way to over $70 million domestically before it's done. Meanwhile, the latest Kevin Hart vehicle, while it fell well short of last January's Hart offering, "Ride Along", is still a modest hit thanks to Hart's star power, with $47.4 million in January and looking like it will finish with about $60 million by the end of it's run.

There were two films during January that started strong but seem to be fading fast.

"The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death" opened to a solid $15 million, but collapsed in the ensuing weekends. It ended the month with $26.1 million, and will likely conclude its run below $27 million, which is a 50 percent decline from the first installment, which had a domestic take of $54.3 million.

Meanwhile, the heavily marketed Jennifer Lopez vehicle "The Boy Next Door" earned $23.7 million in its first nine days, but is falling off quickly and could close below $35 million.

While their respective studios were likely hoping for more from "The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death" and "The Boy Next Door", it's worth remembering that these were both low-cost thrillers and - although disappointing - should both be slightly profitable.

After all, those two films look like "Avatar" compared to the three unquestionable disasters of January: "Blackhat", "Strange Magic" and "Mortdecai".

"Strange Magic" ended the month with $9.06 million, which is incredibly low for an animated movie that opened at over 3,000 locations.

Meanwhile, pricey star-driven movies like Chris Hemsworth's "Blackhat" and Johnny Depp's "Mortdecai" earned $7.8 million and $6.6 million, respectively, and both movies are on their way to less than $10 million total.

"Blackhat" bombed so badly with a ridiculous $3.9 million opening weekend that it suffered one of the biggest screen slashes of all-time, losing 2,332 of it's opening 2,568 theaters after it's initial two-week commitment, or a staggering 93% of them!


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