The biggest box office story so far in 2018 is all about a movie that came out in 2017, that is still ruling at the box office. The fact is that seeing a big December movie still owning the box office in January has been pretty standard the last couple years. What's unusual is that this time the movie isn't called Star Wars.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle started its run in second place behind Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but after 2017 came to a close, the action-comedy jumped into the top spot at the domestic box office and hasn't looked back since. How did this movie become such an unexpected hit? There are several reasons, and while none of them got the job done by themselves, combined, they created a huge hit.
Dwayne Johnson doesn't quite turn everything he touches to gold -- you only need to look at last summer's Baywatch to realize that. However, he remains, without a doubt, one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, and the type of star that will draw people into the theater just for being in a movie. He's got fans from his WWE days, fans from the Fast and Furious franchise, and fans of his HBO series. Everybody likes The Rock, and everybody is at least curious when he's in a new film.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a sort of backdoor sequel to the original Jumanji starring Robin Williams. While the original film wasn't a massive hit, it certainly had its fans, and the fact that it starred the now departed Williams has caused it to have a special place in the heart of audience members of a certain age. People were going to be interested to see how this follow-up worked, especially since it was known beforehand that the new movie would pay tribute to the original in some way. As it turns out, that was something people wanted to see.
Star Wars Isn't A Novelty Anymore
Two years ago we got the first Star Wars movie in over a decade. Last year, we got the first Star Wars movie ever that wasn't part of the same long-running story. This year, we got the next episode in an existing trilogy. Star Wars: The Last Jedi made a lot of money, let's not fool ourselves, and the series always will. But we've reached a point where the serious fan will rush out and see the movie early, and the rest will get to it whenever they get to it. The backlash the new movie got from some fans also didn't help The Last Jedi, but it might have helped Jumanji.
Positive Early Buzz
While Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle officially opened on December 20, a lot of people saw the movie weeks earlier thanks to special screenings made possible by Amazon. This meant that the buzz for the film started early. Not only did critical reviews go up far in advance, but lots of average film viewers saw the movie and shared their thoughts on social media. Since the general consensus among fans and critics alike was that the movie was a good time, people who might not otherwise have considered it began to do so and by the time the film actually released, people were ready.
It's Fun for the Whole Family
One way to help bring in a lot of people to your movie is to make one that literally anybody can see. While Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is rated PG-13, it's pretty light on material that parents might have a problem with. While something like Star Wars: The Last Jedi doesn't contain much material that moviegoers would find objectionable, it's also a pretty character-driven and slower-paced Star Wars movie. Little kids probably wouldn't enjoy it as much. Jumanji, on the other hand, is the sort of thing that mom, dad, and all the kids can go see together, and that means lots of tickets sold.
January is a Slow Month
If something else big were to be released in January, there's a good chance Jumanji would fall back to Earth at the box office, but the fact is that hasn't happened. Movies like Insidious: The Lost Key or 12 Strong, regardless of their merits, simply aren't going to find a broad enough audience to win at the box office. It's part of the reason these films were released in January in the first place. But some people make a point of going to the theater even if there isn't a major new release, leading many to check out Jumanji simply because there wasn't much else to see.
It's Just Fun
In addition to the smaller movies that come out in January, the other thing you see at the theater in the first month of the year is award-hopeful films getting wider releases. Again, while many of these movies are great, they're just not what the wider audience wants when they go to the theater. They want action, they want excitement, they want humor. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle has all of these things and quite simply no other movie out now does.