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Will Gangster Squad set a January box office record? It wouldn't be hard

(Photo: Warner Bros.)

Gangster Squad was never intended to be a January release. After all, the month is a notorious dumping ground for movies not appealing enough for summer or spring and not Oscar-worthy enough for fall.

The mob movie, starring A-listers Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin and Emma Stone, simply doesn’t fit the January mold. The first month of the year is reserved for, or rather given to, movies like Meet the Spartans and Bio-Dome. Even this year, the first big January release, Texas Chainsaw 3D, is every bit as bad as it sounds, at least going by its Rotten Tomatoes score, 18%.

And it’s not just quality that January films lack. Studios don’t consider them particularly profitable either. A writer over at Metacritic, gathering data from Box Office Mojo, compared the first three months of the year between 2000 and 2009. Over the course of a decade, January saw a total of 88 wide releases, only two of which were box office hits. In February, the numbers jump to 117 and 7; in March, 130 and 13.

So why then is Gangster Squad hitting theatres this Friday? The reason is a unique one.

The release, initially set for September 2012, was quickly pushed back following The Dark Knight Rises shooting in Colorado. The original cut of Gangster Squad had a scene in which gangsters shot up a theatre audience from behind a movie screen. Wary of controversy, Warner Bros. killed that part of the film, which meant reshoots and a delay. Thus, against all odds, a star-studded movie meant for September has landed in January.

And it could easily break a record or two. The best opening weekend record for a January release currently belongs to the surprise-hit Cloverfield, which opened at just over $40 million—a number that would be considered disappointing for a summer blockbuster. And the best-grossing January release of all time? Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Not exactly stiff competition.

That said, for an R-rated movie like Gangster Squad, the battle is an uphill one. Most blockbusters are PG-13. Early reviews are also lukewarm, which may hurt its longevity (but probably not its opening weekend).

In any event, it should at least break a January top 10 list or two. Perhaps it can take away the ninth-best opening weekend record from Big Momma’s House 2.