UNU Goes to the Movies: First Weekend of January


January is a fascinating time in Hollywood. This is the month when Hollywood dumps movies that have tested poorly and are expected to fail. At the same time, the studio practice of placing films in test markets over the holidays to make them eligible for awards season also means those films hit wide release this month. That offers discerning moviegoers a great opportunity to see some of the best films of the year right after the holidays.

Even with the Rogue One juggernaut dominating movie talk this week, researchers at Unanimous AI called upon UNU to provide opinions on three new movies opening on Friday across the country. UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS is the fifth movie in the Underworld franchise of films, and the fourth to release in the month of January (where they’ve traditionally done well.) HIDDEN FIGURES, the true story of three African American women mathematicians working for NASA, goes from a limited holiday screening to nationwide release on Friday. Also on Friday, Spanish director J. A. Bayona’s adaptation of Patrick Ness’ coming-of-age adventure novel A MONSTER CALLS goes from three holiday screens to wide release.

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The past four installments in the Underworld series were smartly scheduled during January downtime by Sony, when the franchise’s audience helped make them box office royalty. UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS faces some new hurdles this year, however. Despite decent popularity, the last two movies in the series also were the two lowest-grossing films in the franchise, suggesting audience fatigue is setting in. And this year’s Underworld goes up head-to-head against Star Wars for the attention of sci-fi/action-adventure fans. UNU was less than impressed, and unsure if BLOOD WARS would hit the modest industry forecast of $17 million for its first weekend. In fact, UNU thinks it may be time for Kate Beckinsale to hang up her leather catsuit for a while.

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The box office news isn’t all bad, however. While UNU struggled to see how A MONSTER CALLS would find an audience for the upcoming weekend, the swarm loved HIDDEN FIGURES. The film’s box office estimates have been adjusted upwards twice in the last month on the strength of positive limited screenings and a 92% review score on Rotten Tomatoes. UNU thinks estimates of $11 million this weekend might still be a bit low, marking this unique look at the early days of the space program as a potential sleeper hit. You can see a replay of this and every other one of the Swarm’s predictions HERE, or by clicking the chart above.  

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