Ooh, scary. This is the first full weekend of the New Year, and like all new years, that means that the studios would rather you see their big pictures that just came out (or are expanding) than see much new. That’s because January is still considered a weak season. Yeah, you get your Taken‘s and such, but none of these pictures are thought to be blockbusters. Enter The Devil Inside.

Basically, the assumption is that people would rather do catch up than see something new. And though without a holiday, the older pictures are going to fall heavily percentage-wise, there are still people who need to play catch-up with Mission: Impossible or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Paramount has started their indie cheap movie company, and The Devil Inside hopes to follow the through the roof success of the Paranormal Activity films. This was done for practically nothing so the advertising surely outweighs the production costs. And with the Paranormal films, Paramount likely has a strategy to maximize their exposure to the audience who is interested.What they’re going to get is a strong weekend and then a complete collapse. Paramount mostly set up screenings for the night before, which is generally a sign of little faith, but with the horror market they don’t really need reviews.

Even if the film does $20 Million this weekend (it might), it’s still going to have to settle for a less than $60 Million total. The question then becomes the economics of such a picture. Studios spend upwards of a hundred million dollars to market a picture, and sometimes spend more on the selling than on the film itself – as must be the case here. The old formula was that a film has to make twice what it cost to be considered successful, but if the picture cost less than three million, and the advertising is more than ten, at what point does this formula become meaningless? Studios don’t want us to know how successful something really is, because that can lead to sharing more profits, and the numbers racket is just that. Unfortunately it’s become a very public sport where the rules of success and failure are imaginary.

Anyway, let’s look at a top five:

  1. The Devil Inside - $16.8 Million
  2. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol - $16 Million
  3. Sherlock Holmes – A Game of Shadows – $10 Million
  4. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Shipwrecked – $9.9 Million
  5. War Horse – $8.8 Million

Next week should see a high gross for Beauty and the Beast, and then actual interesting new movies should be hitting screens. Exciting.

What are you weekend movie plans?