http://chud.com/nextraimages/stevereeves.jpgI’ve heard it called “manscaping” (though it may not be as specific), but – since I thought of it, and haven’t done the research to see if anyone else has typed it beforehand – I would like it to hereafter be referred to as “taintenance.”

AND THIS MONTH USED TO BE SUCH A DULL PLACE…

Speaking of taints, January used to be a no man’s land of expanding Oscar hopefuls and where films went to die, or be buried in the hopes of doing Kangaroo Jack business. As Jeremy recently opined, we may be facing a paradigm shift in terms of releasing. And as you may have heard, J.J. Abrams and company staked 1/18/08 for their then untitled monster movie, and got audiences atwitter when their untitled project attached a trailer to Transformers. For the layman it was an intriguing trailer that was breathless and gave away little. For many insiders it announced sound and fury, and signified nothing. Yes, the trailer grabbed you, but giving away nothing is valuable when you’re a known entity – where part of the fun may be going in cold – but announcing that a January film is the Blair Witch Godzilla Project sounds like a high-concept low-budget smash and grab intended to show the customer the wonders of the egress.

The internet did the heavy lifting for many of the months in-between. Much of the coverage was not dipped in the sarcasm this site offered, but what is the definition of Chud.com but the slightly jaded film lover who learned his lessons in 1999 and kept learning them? Then again, the endless speculation seemed poised to ruin what is essentially a low-budget giant monster movie with (at best) none of the charm and brilliance of Bong Joon-Ho’s The Host (the opinion produced here are not representive of the staff of Chud.com nor its parent company. All rights reserved) but maybe some palpable terror, excitement and awe. Expectations are a bitch, and if CHUD pulled a Jake La Motta and doused the internet’s Cloverfield boner with cold water, it might be for the best.

But the internet kept a-buzzing, though comparisons to Snakes on a Plane are only considered by people who didn’t get why the internet loved Snakes on a Plane (the short version: Laughing at, not with). And this weekend should see the film do kick-ass business, because that internet hype translated to real interest. And when I do my predictions below I’m going to go high. For one good reason: 300. No one was on the ball with that one, and I don’t give a shit about being wrong.

But in the grander scheme of things, what does this mean that Cloverfield may get to over $100 in January? It’s been evident for some time that you can have what would be called an off-season hit. The Money months have long been May through August and November and December, but almost every other month has produced films that have done over $100 (which used to mean something, but whatever). February has had its nine digit hits, March has as well. And though October is often a middling month all things, January, April and September have usually been considered the dumping grounds even if all have produced great successes. It’s all about the last two to three years in terms of trends.

For the studios, any month is a good month for dumping – witness last year’s release of Lucky You against Spider-Man 3 - but proving that these off months can deliver nine digit hits means something. But what it means is that if you have a smart, well-marketed but essentially B movie released off-season, you could do boffo business if you’ve got a weekend to yourself and you get audiences interested. But January has shown that for quite some time with films like Hide and Seek and White Noise (or Hostel or Kangaroo Jack for that matter) that people want to go to movies in January. What we may see are studios being bolder about high-concept off-season films, and if Rambo finds its audience it’ll be the Flavor Flav’s to Cloverfield’s Chuck D.

The truth may be in treating these films not like castoffs. No one’s dumb enough to trust one of these off-season months to launch a high profile title that could be the big hit of the year, not yet, cause these months aren’t proven to do that, and it’s hard to say if 300 would have been as successful had it come out July 4th, whereas had Transformers come out in March, audiences might be wary that it was shit. But it’s important to convince audiences and (perhaps more importantly) the intelligencia that you aren’t putting these films out in off-seasons because you’re ashamed of them. Even though Daredevil and Ghost Rider did over $100, there was a sense that no one involved thought they had a winner, though audiences went anyway – partly because there was nothing else out like it. The question becomes if TV can take it, as part of television scheduling was built around the weak periods. And that’s one of the advantages that Cloverfield has, with such a disparate TV schedule (not that that helps weekdays, just, movies are going to benefit from such shitty new programming), people may be drawn to Coverfield in the face of so much Reality and re-runs. For January to become an okay month will take a couple years to sink in, but it could happen. The biggest truth of Hollywood and the movies is that it’s all so mutable.

WHEN I HAVE NOTHING TO PREDICT, MY LIPS ARE SEALED, PREDICT SOMETHING ONCE, WHY PREDICT IT AGAIN?

Oh yeah, there’s 27 Dresses and Mad Money. The latter is doomed. DOOMED. Doomed, I tell you. I told you. So there. The former might actually do some business if audiences find it. They probably will. But I also see a Cloverfield vacuum effect, to a certain extent. With the mystery, people are going to want to know, and the kids are in on it, while the short running time means that people are not going to have a trouble getting in, and with 3.100 locations, and how
evermany prints, there will be enough showtimes for it to saturate . Does that translate to the old school water-cooler talk? We shall see. But I’m going to go high 40’s on Cloverfield, knowing that a high 20’s is just as likely. The Bucket List did better than expected last weekend, and so it should hold strong, while First Sunday drops like a rock, and Juno stays in the top five through pluck.

1. Cloverfield - $47.4 Million
2. 27 Dresses - $14.2 Million
3. The Bucket List - $13.2 Million
4. Juno - $10.6 Million
5. First Sunday - $9.8 Million

Me, I’ll spend the weekend dancing, watching movies, getting drunk, and dancing some more. I might be back on Sunday, but with the redesign, there’s no telling what will happen.