Could 2022 be the year the box office finally returns to “normal”—not for a single weekend here and there, as in the second half of 2021, but for the entire year? That quest begins with these new releases.
2019’s box office raked in a superb $11.3 billion, but then 2020 plummeted to just $2.1 billion as a result of pandemic-era cinema closures, then a lack of major releases even after cinemas re-opened. The “recovery year” of 2021 finished a bit more than double 2020’s total, with $4.4 billion. If 2022 is going to reach (or even finish in the ballpark of) $10+ billion, as the box office did for the 11 consecutive pre-pandemic years from 2009 to 2019, it would help to start off on the right foot.
That’s where these January releases come in. Here are the biggest titles arriving in cinemas for the first month of the year.
Friday, January 7
Premise: Four secret agents from around the world—played by Jessica Chastain, Penélope Cruz, Lupita Nyong’o, and Diane Kruger—team up, calling themselves “The 355” in honor of the codename for George Washington’s female spy. Director Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Dark Phoenix) helms this action thriller.
Box office comparisons: Other female-led action thrillers from recent years include 2018’s Peppermint, starring Jennifer Garner ($13.4M opening / $35.4M total) and 2017’s Kidnap, starring Halle Berry ($10.0M opening / $30.7M total),
Friday, January 14
Premise: Dating back to 1996, the Scream horror franchise follows people trying to avoid getting murdered by a masked killer nicknamed Ghostface. This fifth installment brings new faces along with returning characters played by Courteney Cox, Neve Campbell, and David Arquette. Wes Craven, who directed the first four installments, died in 2015; frequent horror collaborators Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (Ready or Not) co-direct instead.
Box office comparisons: The franchise has shown steadily diminishing financial returns over time. 1996’s original Scream earned $103.0M (or $208.6 million adjusted for ticket price inflation), then 1997’s Scream 2 declined just slightly with $101.3M ($201.6M adjusted), and 2000’s Scream 3 made a bit less still with $89.1M ($151.4M adjusted). After a hiatus of more than a decade, 2011’s Scream 4 plummeted with $38.1M ($44.1M adjusted).
Betty White: A Celebration
Monday, January 17
Premise: Originally titled Betty White: 100 Years Young, the documentary about the iconic actress and entertainer was retitled Betty White: A Celebration after her December 31 death, mere weeks before what would have been her centennial.
Box office comparisons: Not too many to choose from here. The documentary John Lewis: Good Trouble was similarly released just after the Georgia congressman and civil rights leader’s July 2020 death, but the pandemic meant it was only released in a few select theaters and primarily on video-on-demand (VOD), significantly limiting its box office potential.
The King’s Daughter
Friday, January 21
Premise: King Louis XIV, who ruled France for decades in the 1600s to early 1700s, captures a mermaid in this historical fantasy reimainging—but his daughter tries to prevent him from acquiring the mermaid’s “life force” to achieve immortality. Pierce Brosnan stars as the king, while Julie Andrews narrates.
Box office comparisons: While Boxoffice Pro currently projects this will be a wide release in terms of screen count, distributor Gravitas Ventures has only distributed one film that crossed the $1 million mark in recent years: last June’s Queen Bees with $1.9 million.
Friday, January 28
Premise: Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) stars as title character Cyrano de Bergerac in this musical retelling of the 1897 play about a man who writes love letters on behalf of another man named Christian to win the heart of a woman named Roxanne—even though Cyrano is secretly in love with Roxanne himself. Joe Wright (Darkest Hour, Atonement, Pride & Prejudice) directs.
Box office comparisons: Musicals have had a rough go at the box office in 2021, between In the Heights ($11.5M opening / $29.8M total), Dear Evan Hansen ($7.4M opening / $15.0M total), and West Side Story ($10.5M opening / $29.5M total so far and likely to finish around $40M). To the extent this is a valid comparison—though it’s probably not—1987’s romantic comedy retelling of the Cyrano story, the Steve Martin-starring Roxanne, earned $39.1M ($91.7M adjusted for ticket price inflation).
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