January 2012 Improves On Atrocious Start to 2011
Following three-straight months of year-over-year declines, the movie business took a slight turn for the better in January 2012. Overall box office came in at over $831 million for the month, which is a 10 percent improvement from January 2011. That's not a high standard, though, considering the absolutely miserable state of the box office at this time last year. January 2012 did wind up down 21 percent from 2010 (which had Avatar) and 18 percent from 2009 (Gran Torino, Paul Blart), and was even a bit off from January 2008. Aside from last year, ticket sales were at their lowest levels since 1995, indicating that the business isn't completely out of the woods yet.

December holdover Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol was the clear winner, scoring $80.7 million in January. Interestingly, that was without a single first place weekend finish, which speaks to its strong holds in comparison to January's newcomers. Toward the end of the month, Ghost Protocol became the final 2011 release to pass $200 million total, and it is now one of Tom Cruise's highest-grossing movies ever.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows finished in second place with $58.5 million, which brings its total to $182.55 million. Contraband was tops among January releases with $57.6 million, beating out the very front-loaded supernatural thriller The Devil Inside ($52.8 million). The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo rounded out the Top 5 with $48.2 million, and Underworld Awakening wasn't far behind with just under $47 million through 12 days in theaters.

Since January's releases were all fairly modest, there weren't too many major disappointments. Joyful Noise earned $27.1 million through two-and-a-half weeks, which is fine but still not very impressive. Following its nationwide expansion, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy basically stalled out around $20.3 million, meaning it will fall short of recent Focus Features Euro-thrillers The American ($35.6 million) and The Debt ($31.2 million) despite having much stronger reviews and netting a handful of Oscar nominations. At $16 million through 12 days, Haywire is the latest underperformer for Relativity Media, while Man on a Ledge ($9.2 million) is already looking like another misstep for Summit Entertainment. Finally, the jury is still out on One For the Money ($13.1 million), but if it crashes over Super Bowl weekend then it will also fall in to the "disappointment" category.

Often, a Best Picture nominee winds up as one of the highest-grossing movies in January (that's probably more due to their late December release pattern than Oscar buzz, though). That wasn't the case this year, as War Horse led with just $39.6 million. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close was second with $21.4 million, most of which was earned following its January 20th nationwide expansion. The Descendants grossed a solid $21.4 million, which is made more impressive considering the movie initially reached nationwide release at the beginning of December. Finally, The Artist and Hugo, which received the most nominations, added $12.8 million and $10.7 million, respectively.

While specific figures aren't available, it appears that 3D ticket sales accounted for roughly $100 million (12 percent) of January 2012's revenue. The biggest contributor was Beauty and the Beast 3D, which made most of its $41.7 million at 3D showings.Related Stories

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Related Charts

• January Calendar Grosses

• 2012 Grosses (2012-only releases)

• Year-to-Date Comparison