In terms of estimated attendance, January 2011 posted a 20-year low, and not by some slim margin. The month's ticket sales were optimistically estimated at 94 million, and one has to go back to 1995 to find another sub-100-million January.
January's anemic business was a by-product of 2010's whimpering end, but it was also due to the lowest number of new nationwide releases since 1995: there were only nine, compared to an average of 14 per January over the previous 15 years. When the movies aren't broadly appealing or aren't even there, business suffers.
For the first time in decades, the top-grossing movie in January was one originally released in January: The Green Hornet led the month with $79.1 million. The month is usually topped by a holdover from the previous year, and True Grit came close to keeping the streak alive with $78.4 million. Little Fockers was third with $60.3 million, while The King's Speech ($55.4 million) and Black Swan ($50.3 million) rounded out the Top Five.
Individually, Green Hornet fared well for a superhero comedy, while True Grit, The King's Speech and Black Swan were gangbusters for their respective genres (all seemingly enhanced by the lack of competition for screens and attention), but, collectively, their appeal was inherently limited. Hollywood failed to deliver the broadly-appealing entertainments that keep overall business booming. An extreme example of the industry scoring on this front was last January, when Avatar dominated with $312.1 million, followed by Sherlock Holmes and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.
January Weekend Reports
• 1/3 - 'Fockers' Frowned Upon, 'Grit' Glows Over New Year's
• 1/10 - 'True Grit' Captures Lead• 1/17 - 'Green Hornet' Kicks Into Top Gear Over MLK Weekend• 1/24 - 'No Strings' Ties Up Top Spot
• 1/31 - 'The Rite' Possesses Top Spot
• January Calendar Grosses (Premier Pass)
• 2011 Grosses (2011-only releases)• Year-to-Date Comparison