January 2019 Gets the New Year Off to a Slow Start
by Brad Brevet
February 6, 2019
The new year got off to a bit of a slow start with January 2019 delivering $812.4 million in calendar grosses, ranking as the 11th best January of all-time, -15.5% behind last year. Notable is the absence of a new Star Wars film carrying over from a December release, something the last three Januarys all took advantage of, and this year's crop of Oscar nominees didn't provide a late year release that could match the buzz generated from films such as American Sniper, The Revenant or Hidden Figures. Despite the month's overall performance, there were a few highlights among the month's new releases that might not carry large budgets or have delivered $100+ million in domestic box office revenue, but based on their small scale they more than helped out the bottom line for their respective distributors.
Leading the charge in January, thanks to the carryover success of Aquaman, was Warner Bros., which brought in $167.5 million in domestic grosses in January. Aquaman accounted for over 71% of that total, bringing in $119.6 million for a domestic cume that has now topped $324 million as it will soon become the fifth highest grossing DC Comic adaptation of all-time domestically, while having already become the highest grossing worldwide release among DC adaptations, topping $1.108 billion worldwide. January also saw WB's release of Clint Eastwood's The Mule bring in an additional $36.1 million following its mid-December release. The film ended up topping $100 million domestically in late January, 45 days after release.
Looking ahead, Warner Bros. will get its new year started off this coming weekend with the release of The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part followed by the R-rated Rebel Wilson comedy Isn't It Romantic, which is hoping to take advantage of the Valentine's Day holiday with a Wednesday, February 13 release.
Sony was the second highest grossing distributor in January with six films bringing in over $153 million. The bulk of that total came from three titles, led by Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse with nearly $63 million in January and a domestic total that has since topped $175 million making it the highest grossing domestic release ever for Sony Animation. Following that, Sony's Escape Room saw a strong, $18.2 million debut early in the month, doubling its budget out of the gate, and the film has since gone on to top $52 million domestically. The studio's other new January release, A Dog's Way Home, didn't necessarily break the bank, but with over $51 million worldwide on an $18 million budget, it isn't a disaster.
While Sony has a pretty solid line-up for the rest of 2019, it will be some time before we're talking about it as the studio doesn't have another new release planned until The Intruder in early May.
Universal had the highest grossing new release of January in Glass, the third film in writer/director M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable franchise. While the film won't match the box office might of its predecessor, Split, it has already generated nearly $90 million domestically and over $201 million worldwide* on a $20 million budget. Otherwise, Universal's second highest grossing film for the month was Green Book, which expanded its footprint following five Oscar nominations and was able to muster over $19 million in January for a domestic total that now tops $56 million. Among this year's Best Picture nominees, Green Book's $13.8 million since being nominated is the best, post-nomination performance among Best Picture nominees.
Universal is looking at what could be a solid month of February with next week's release of Happy Death Day 2U and the late-February release of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. 2U is the sequel to the 2017 original, which generated over $55 million domestically on a $4.8 million budget while the third film in the How to Train Your Dragon has already gotten off to a strong start, bringing in over $85 million overseas and already $2.5 million domestically following exclusive early-access screenings this past Saturday in collaboration with Fandango.
The fourth highest grossing studio in January was STX with one new release and just one carryover title. The studio's The Upside, featuring Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston, was the month's second highest grossing new release with nearly $67 million and the film has since generated over $76 million as it continues to hold on very well, one weekend after another. STX's Second Act was their only other title in release and it brought in nearly $15 million in January as its domestic cume now stands at $39 million since releasing in late December, on a $16 million budget.
Looking ahead, STX will offer the limited release of Peppa Celebrates Chinese New Year starting today, but otherwise they won't have a new release in theaters until The Best of Enemies starring Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell in early April.
Also worth mentioning, January saw FUNimation's release of the anime title Dragon Ball Super: Broly to a rousing success. The film, after debuting on a Wednesday, ranked as the number one title over its first two days of release and after its first five days in release had brought in over $20 million domestically. Broly currently ranks as the third highest grossing anime title ever domestically with over $30 million, and has brought in nearly $102 million worldwide.
Finally, a list of selected films that closed out their domestic runs in January is featured below, in descending order by cumulative gross.
For a complete look at January's box office results, find calendar grosses here and grosses for all of the month's new releases here.
* Disney is handling international distribution
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