4 Biggest Box Office Surprises in January

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lone survivor, Mark Walberg

January has never been a banner year for Hollywood. Most film studios save their big releases for the summer and holiday seasons, so the hum-drum winter months always seem a little sluggish. This January was exceptionally challenging for many around the country, with two polar vortexes and multiple large snow storms keeping many indoors. Still, the first month in 2014 did yield a few surprises, and some studios, like Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Universal, saw January returns as a reason to jump for joy. Others, like Lionsgate (NYSE:LGF), will have to hope that they fare better in the coming months. Here are four films that performed significantly against what they were expected to.

1. Lone Survivor, dir. Peter Berg

There were a number of factors that would have led most pundits to believe that Lone Survivor, based on the true story of a NAVY Seal mission in Afghanistan, wouldn’t rake in big bucks at the box office. Thus far, films about the war in Afghanistan haven’t pulled in moviegoers. The last feature from the film’s director, Peter Berg, was the spectacular 2012 failure Battleship, which left many wondering if he could helm a hit. However, the film features only one actor — Mark Walberg — who’s proven to be a box office success.

Lone Survivor defied expectations after its wide release on January 10. Strong reviews and word of mouth helped the film earn some 11th hour buzz, and it was the top-grossing film its opening weekend. To date, it’s earned over $104 in the U.S., and it’s also earned the honor of being the first surprise hit of 2014.

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