Jan­uary

Mandate - - Hollywood -

and Fe­bru­ary are the dump­ing months for movies. Any film with award as­pi­ra­tions has been re­leased dur­ing Novem­ber and De­cem­ber to qual­ify for Os­car nom­i­na­tions, while tent­pole pies hit screens dur­ing the block­buster-mak­ing hol­i­day sea­son. Those first few weeks of the year are when movies that have got­ten lousy scores in test screen­ings or have been gath­er­ing dust on stu­dio shelves get their day, with the ex­pec­ta­tion that they’ll hang around the­aters no longer than the pop­corn stick­ing to the floor.

The box- of­fice takes the deep­est dive on Su­per Bowl week­end, so it was a Hail Mary pass when on Fri­day, Jan­uary 30, 2009—two days be­fore nearly 100 mil­lion Amer­i­cans would watch the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers de­feat the Ari­zona Car­di­nals—20th Cen­tury, Fox re­leased Taken. The ac­tion flick had a paltry bud­get of $25 mil­lion and a familiar re­venge plot—for­mer CIA agent Bryan Mills sets out to res­cue his daugh­ter when she’s kid­napped in Paris by a gang of sex traf­fick­ers. “That re­lease date took guts,” says Paul Der­garabe­dian, a box- of­fice an­a­lyst for Ren­trak, a provider of view­er­ship data. “It went against the grain. You only see ro­man­tic come­dies aimed at a fe­male au­di­ence at this time.” Even the movie’s star, a then 56-year- old Liam Nee­son, had thought that the movie—what he de­scribes as “very, very ba­sic, sim­ple sto­ry­line”—would stay un­der the radar.

By Shel­ley Event

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