January has generally been regarded as a "dumping ground" of sorts for the studios, who cast away troubled projects and outright stinkers early in the year. But the success of movies like "The Grey" and the poorly reviewed but mega-profitable "The Devil Inside" and "Texas Chainsaw 3D" have changed all of that. January may still have a bad rap, but that doesn't mean it's all bad at the box-office.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend will see the full-fledged return of Arnold Schwarzenegger in "The Last Stand"; Guillermo Del Toro's latest horror, "Mama"; Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe in "Broken City" and the expansion of awards-season darling "Silver Linings Playbook," all vying for the box-office crown.
Last weekend belonged to "Zero Dark Thirty," which was bolstered by the Academy Award nominations. The controversial drama about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden has a solid shot at hanging on to the #1 spot, but will face its strongest competition from "Mama." Both films include Jessica Chastain (does she ever sleep?). "Mama" was produced by genre film maestro Guillermo Del Toro.
"Expect 'Mama' to carve up around $20 million," Exhibitor Relations box-office analyst Jeff Bock told MTV News. "'Zero Dark Thirty' would need to drop by less than 20 percent to win the weekend. That will give horror flicks two of the three weekends to start 2013, making it the hottest genre around. As Freddy, Jason and paranormal ghosts know, horror icons never die. They just fall down and play dead for a bit."
Horror isn't the only genre going through a commercial resurgence. "The Expendables" co-stars Sly Stallone, Jason Statham and Bruce Willis all have separate movies coming soon, with Schwarzenegger releasing his first full-fledged flick since he became California's governor. His role in the "Expendables" movies was more of an extended cameo, but "The Last Stand" is the full meal deal. The flick pairs him with Johnny Knoxville.
"It's hard to believe that it's been a decade since Arnie headlined his own original action flick, but let's face it, he's never been out of the limelight over that span of time," Bock said. "And while the 'The Last Stand' looks like a solid return to form for his core fans, let's not forget this is January, not summer, and that studios often use this time of year to test the box-office waters. Arnold's costar is Johnny Knoxville and that spells all sorts of trouble. This isn't 'Jackass 4-D.' Plus, with Mark Wahlberg playing his action card in 'Broken City,' which is a legitimate crime thriller, and 'Mama' expected to take the weekend, that leaves 'The Last Stand' in a bit of pickle — $12 million, tops."
Meanwhile, industry projections put the debut for "Broken City," which is the first solo outing from Hughes Brothers director Allen, at $16 million.
While "Lincoln," "Argo," "Les Misérables" and most of the rest of the Oscar contenders have already done most of their business, at least one of them should have its biggest weekend yet. Jennifer Lawrence took home a Golden Globe last week for her role in "Silver Linings Playbook," which expands into 2,500 theaters this weekend. "The buzz at the Globes was intense and the film continues to pick up adherents," noted IMDB.com's Keith Simanton, predicting it could make up to $10 million. "Everybody who sees this film loves it, from the snootiest film critic to the security guard who was working the line at the Globes."
Check out everything we've got on "Zero Dark Thirty."