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To say that January isn't the best month for movies would probably be a pretty big understatement, and yet two major movie ticket outlets are reporting sizable bumps in January ticket sales, thanks in large part to two movies, one of which hasn't even hit theaters yet.
Both Fandango and MovieTickets.com credit American Sniper and Fifty Shades of Grey for sizable increase in ticket sales over the previous January.
By comparison to January 2014, this past month's ticket sales were up by 68% at Fandango (and higher than any single month in 2014), while MovieTickets.com saw a 37% increase in January ticket sales. Those are impressive increases, but when we factor in the massive box office haul for American Sniper, which broke records and continues to dominate at the box office, and take into account pre-sales for next week's Fifty Shades of Grey release, it's not hard to understand why January might've been much better to movie ticket outlets than it was in 2014.
While American Sniper and Fifty Shades of Grey likely had a substantial impact on ticket sales in January, neither movie technically released last month. Just as Lone Survivor had a limited release in 2013, and opened wide in January, Sniper's actual release date is December 25, 2014, with its wide release taking place mid-January. And wide it went, as Clint Eastwood's film about U.S. Navy Seal sniper Chris Kyle earned itself $89 million during the weekend of January 16. It has since surpassed $248 million domestically, and has topped the box office charts in the weeks that followed.
As for Fifty Shades of Grey, just a few weeks ago, Fandango noted that the feature adaptation of E.L. James' steamy novel was the fastest selling R-rated movie in the company's history. Given the popularity of the book on which Sam Taylor-Johnson's film is based, that's not all that surprising. Fans have been waiting a while for this movie to hit theaters. Fifty Shades of Grey was originally supposed hit theaters last August, however rewrites and the recasting of one of the film's leads -- Charlie Hunnam dropped out, Jamie Dornan stepped in -- led to the movie being delayed until Valentine's Day weekend of this year. All signs point to Fifty performing very well in its opening weekend.
The fact that neither Sniper nor Fifty are technically January releases likely explains why Fandango and MovieTickets.com can boast sizable ticket sales increases by comparison to last year, while the total Box Office gross for January releases is actually down quite a bit from January of 2014's Box Office total. Ride Along was January 2014's big winner, grossing $41 million in its opening weekend. As impressive an opening weekend as that is, that number pales by comparison to American Sniper's $89 million wide opening weekend gross. When looking at wide releases, 2014 still comes out ahead of 2015, but not by such a huge margin.
As it stands though, Box Office Mojo has Sniper listed as a December release. And by their numbers, without American Sniper's gross included, January 2015's total gross is $$283.9, more than $100 million down from January 2014's releases. Taken 3 ($81.4 million), Paddington ($50.5 million) and The Wedding Ringer ($48 million) are the top 3 January releases at the box office this year.