This Month in . . . 1984 (January)

Thriller

VHS Revival brings you all the box office and rental happenings from January


1984



13th January

Traditionally, January is a slow month at the Box Office, and 1984 was no different following a busy festive period which included Clint Eastwood‘s fourth outing as Dirty Harry and Brian De Palma‘s seething gangster epic Scarface. January 13th would see the release of Hot Dog . . . The Movie,  a racy, teenage comedy lost in the overabundance of Porky’s clones which saturated the mid-1980’s.

The movie would star An American Werewolf in London‘s David Naughton as an Idaho farm kid who heads to the freestyle skiing championships at California’s Squaw Valley ski resort, where drunken hi-jinks and lewd innuendo go hand-in-hand. Animal House‘s Tracy Smith would play the movie’s spunky love interest, while Playboy superstar Shannon Tweed would provide the eye candy.

Angel

Also released that week was Robert Vincent O’Neill’s dual existence drama Angel. Angel is the story of a 15-year-old high school girl who spends her nights as a prostitute in downtown Los Angeles. Angel’s life is turned upside-down when a fellow hooker is murdered by a suspected serial killer with a penchant for night crawlers. Actress Donna Wilkes would prepare for the role by spending time with real-life prostitutes and underage children living on the streets of Los Angeles.

Made on a budget of approximately $3,000,000, the movie would prove an unexpected hit, grossing $17,488,564 at the Box Office and remaining in the top 10 for several months. It would also spawn a series of increasingly ludicrous sequels, including the soon-to-be misleading Angel III: The Final Chapter (1988) and Angel 4: Undercover (1993).

Unsurprisingly, those movies didn’t fair so well.


27th January




A relatively dreary January would see two high-profile stars doing mediocre business at the box office. Steve Martin‘s romantic comedy The Lonely Guy would fail to make critical waves, although the year would prove a mere blip as the comedian entered his most successful period during the latter half of the decade, starring in smash comedies Little Shop of Horrors, Roxanne and Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

In the movie, Martin plays Larry Hubbard, a greetings card writer who makes it big after penning a book entitled A Guide for the Lonely Guy following the departure of his girlfriend. The movie suffered from a confusing offbeat approach and an almost depressing tone, resulting in the kind of misfire that spells financial suicide for any comedy feature.

Broadway

The second of those movies fared much better critically, but with a dismal opening weekend of $953,794, Woody Allen‘s 13th directorial feature Broadway Danny Rose fared worse than expected following a positive consensus at the Cannes Film Festival, with glowing reviews for co-star Mia Farrow, here playing garish Italian smart mouth, Tina Vitale.

Shot in strident black-and-white, the movie tells the tale of a wretched theatrical agent caught in a love triangle involving the mob. Driven by Allen’s strangely infectious neuroticisms, the movie would slowly build momentum however, with an eventual gross of $10,600,497, and is now regarded as one of the innovative director’s most outstanding accomplishments.


US Box Office Charts for January

Rank Movie Title  Studio
Total Gross / Opening
1 Hot Dog . . . The Movie MGM/UA $20,307,325 $4,506,796
2 Angel New World $17,488,564 $2,214,824
3 Broadway Danny Rose Orion Pictures $10,600,497 $953,794
4 The Lonely Guy Universal $5,718,573 $2,072,130
5 Entre Nous MGM/UA $3,974,975 N/A

Top Video Rentals



Providing a much-needed antidote to the January Box Office blues, the VHS charts would be contested by a plethora of cult classics.

With the much anticipated Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom set to hit the big screen, rentals for Harrison Ford‘s inaugural outing as the whip-cracking Indy would soar during the month of January. First released back in 1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark would spend all four weeks topping the rental charts and would remain popular until the sequel’s release in May of that year.

Raiders UK Pre-Temple

Tailing ‘Raiders’ in the number 2 spot was Paul Brickman’s Risky Business, the movie that shot future Hollywood stalwart Tom Cruise to superstardom, and which featured one of the actor’s most iconic scenes. With his demanding parents away on a trip, Cruise’s character Joel Goodson hires a prostitute (Rebecca De Mornay) for a night of passion and awakens to find some valuables stolen, a discovery that leads the insulated youngster along an unfamiliar path.

A satire on the preoccupations of materialism, the movie would receive mostly positive reviews upon release. It also boasts one of the most impressive soundtracks in modern cinema, featuring the likes of Muddy Waters, Prince and Phil Collins, while new age electronic outfit Tangerine Dream provide movie’s sumptuous score.

Risky Business

The making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller would spend the latter half of January creeping up the top 5. Co-written and directed by An American Werewolf in London’s John Landis, the 14-minute promotional vehicle would reunite the filmmaker with Oscar winning practical effects maestro Rick Baker, as the duo set about capitalising on the decade’s horror boom and zombie sub-genre.

Filmed during the music video’s initial boom period, the Jackson choreographed dance would become a cultural phenomenon, helping to catapult it’s accompanying music album to the top of the charts for a record-breaking 37  weeks. Featuring the voice of horror legend Vincent Price, the extended video would also prove an effective exercise in horror filmmaking, one which cost many a child their nightly rest.

Thriller Behind

Other, more fleeting appearances in the top 5 would feature some rather prominent and much loved movies. Octopussy would make a brief appearance in third week of January. The late Roger Moore‘s sixth outing as the irrepressible James Bond, Octopussy would be remembered as one of the campiest of the entire series, requiring the then 56-year-old too dress up as both a gorilla and a clown, while his decreasing ability to pull off the suave ladies man persona would lead many to believe that this would be his final outing. Moore would reprise his most famous role one last time A View to a Kill two years later.

Superman III would also make a quick appearance in the top 5. The movie would suffer a critical onslaught due to its campy tone, personified by the wacky performance of comedian Richard Pryor as synthetic kryptonite turned Christopher Reeve‘s ‘Man of Steel’ evil. Although the production would recoup most of its near $40,000,000 outlay, it would mark the beginning of the end for the original franchise, which would make one last dismal attempt with The Cannon Group’s bankrupting effort Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.


Video Rental Charts Week Ending January 7

Rank Movie Title  Distributor
Released
Rating
1 Raiders of the Lost Ark Paramount Home Video 1981 PG
2 Blue Thunder RCA/Colombia 1983 R
3 Flashdance Paramount Home Video 1983 R
4 Risky Business Warner Home Video 1983 R
5 National Lampoon’s Vacation Warner Home Video 1983 R

Video Rental Charts Week Ending January 14

Rank Movie Title  Distributor
Released
Rating
1 Raiders of the Lost Ark Paramount Home Video 1981 PG
2 Risky Business Warner Home Video 1983 R
3 Blue Thunder RCA/Colombia 1983 R
4 Superman III Warner Home Video 1983 PG
5 National Lampoon’s Vacation Warner Home Video 1983 R

Video Rental Charts Week Ending January 21

Rank Movie Title  Distributor
Released
Rating
1 Raiders of the Lost Ark Paramount Home Video 1981 PG
2 Risky Business Warner Home Video 1983 R
3 Octopussy CBS Fox 1983 PG
4 War Games CBS Fox 1983 PG
5 Michael Jackson’s Thriller Vestron Video 1983 NR

Video Rental Charts Week Ending January 28

Rank Movie Title  Distributor
Released
Rating
1 Raiders of the Lost Ark Paramount Home Video  1981 PG
2 Risky Business Warner Home Video 1983 R
3 Superman III Warner Home Video 1983 PG
4 Michael Jackson’s Thriller Vestron Video 1983 NR
5 Blue Thunder  RCA/Colombia 1983 R

Cedric Smarts 




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