I think the best strategy to maximizing your chances at the box office, is to do extensive surveying by people over what films they chose to watch over a period of time and why. I don't think there's enough emphasis on this in box-office analysis. The two measures that box office analysts look at are actual opening weekend numbers and cinemascore (the grade the moviegoer gives the film upon walking out of the theater). As far as I know there's not much surveying being done as to what drew the moviegoer into the theater in the first place.
Nevertheless, here's what drew me to the films I wanted to see this year. This has no relation to whether I was satisfied by the films or whether I actually made it to the movie theater. I admit the second factor is important, but sometimes circumstances determine whether you see the film in a theater or not (for example, was I busy that weekend, did I have anyone to go with). Coincidentally, if someone drags me to a movie, that doesn't mean it's a movie I wanted to see, so I didn't include those films. As you read this, think about what draws you to a film:
Disclaimer: I'm going to be doing some rambling here
Be Kind Rewind: Movie enthusiasts naturally want to see films that are self-reflexive and are about the movies and while the movie's main draw was that it would present 2-minute parodies of classic films, that you might also be able to see on youtube, the whole theme seemed very intriguing. In this day and age, anything that's a compilation of sketches and skits does not bode well in movie or tv form, considering you can watch great 3-minute pieces of entertainment all day. Movies are about wanting to be entertained by a 90-minute arc and that can't be found on youtube. Anyway, I'm going on a tangent here.....Be Kind Rewind also had Jack Black who I absolutely love and Danny Glover, and the setting of a video store resonated with me since I worked at Blockbuster the summer before
21: Bringing Down the House: An interest in seeing a new side of Kevin Spacey combined with the fact that I've heard much about this interesting story. Of course, as the film got closer to the premiere date, I heard on chasingthefrog.com that it has absolutely nothing to do with the actual story, so I lost considerable interest.
Iron Man: If I knew that Jon Favreau directed it beforehand, I might have had second thoughts (yes, I knew he directed Elf), but it's a standard superhero film and when it hit #1 and broke records, there definitely was a bandwagon aspect. You want to be on board the next big thing. A lot of people talk about the unconventional casting of Robert Downey Jr but I don't think that's so unconventional: Nothing about Tobey MaGuire, Ed Norton or Ben Affleck ever screamed out "action star." It's been the standard for the last decade to have an A-list actor with box office draw as opposed to an action-hero type: Bruce Willis, Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone, or Vin Diesel. Besides, Robert Downey Jr. was by no means a down-and-out actor. Rather, the inclusions of Gwenyth Paltrow and Terrence Howard were points of interest to me. The overall visual look of the film and the idea of self-made superhero as opposed to superhero through scienctific freak accident.
The Happening: M. Night Shamylan's films are always original and inventive, whether they're hit or miss, so even if it ultimately doesn't hold up, I tend to appreciate the effort. Mark Wahlberg is also a fascinating actor and this felt like an out-of-his-element kind of role
Indiana Jones: How could you not see it, considering Indiana Jones is my favorite movie series
Get Smart: Fan of the TV show and the supporting cast struck me as an insanely interesting combination: You have the standard SNL guys in Koechner and Kevin Nealon, the action hero trying to expand himself into comedy in Dwayne Johnson, the nerd from Heroes in Masi Oka, and the established comic vet in Arkin, who alone is enough reason to want to go see the film. Oh yeah, and the guy from Borat. There's also the allure of the James Bond-like gadgets.
Wall-E: I like sci-fi dystopian movies, and the idea of making a children's cartoon out of that is highly intriguing. Not to mention the good reviews and the fact that I missed out on Ratatouille last year.
The Dark Knight: Heath Ledger as the Joker sounded like an interesting choice, and the Joker vs Batman is a great matchup. Besides, I usually see sequels of films I like. Simple as that.
Hancock: Will Smith always makes it a point to infuse blockbusters with humor and fun. I also love genre deconstructions, particularly superhero spoofs. Jason Bateman has become gold in the last year and a half and never lets you down. Also Charlize Theron is a wonderful actress. So Bateman, Smith, Theron struck me as a trio with potential.
Pineapple Express: To be honest, I don't think I've ever really seen a film that's so exclusively about pot, so I thought that would be interesting enough in itself. I wasn't a humongous Superbad fan, but I think that Seth Rogen is a capable actor (not a great writer, IMO) and the idea of a cross-hybrid between stoner and action was an interesting blend. Plus, I was in the mood for something really dumb, really lightweight, really funny, and perhaps a little action-oriented.
Step Brothers: Anchorman is one of my favorite comedies of all time, and Talladega Nights is one of the best of its year, so it's safe to say I'm a big fan of the improvizational style of the McKay-Ferrell writing team. It seemed like a lackluster concept, but on the upside, Mary Steenburgen cusses a lot in this film!
Bottleshock: I'm not particularly interested in wine, but I would like to see wine culture scrutinized and possibly parodied. I also liked the period aspect of it, even if it was 30 years ago, and it seemed like a good ensemble piece.
Encounters at the End of the World: I don't usually see a lot of documentaries at the theater, but when it comes to a documentary, the key is picking a subject that is a) interesting and b) something which we don't know a lot about, and Warner Herzog found the perfect subject here. Explorers in the Arctic: neat stuff
Burn After Reading: I didn't really want to see another Coen Brothers film and I have zero interest in seeing more of George Clooney on screen but two things that drew me to this were: 1) Brad Pitt was acting really wacky in the preview and 2) It takes place in Washington D.C. where I'm from, and the Coen Brothers usually incorporate a strong sense of place into their films
Ghost Town: Seemed like a lighthearted comedy with a good concept. Also Ricky Gervaise is relatively funny and he picks his projects carefully. I knew he wasn't doing this for a paycheck. I also like Greg Kinnear
Blindness: Fernando Meirelles is someone I have only seen one and a half films of and I absolutely think he's genius, so that was a good reason. Julianne Moore is selective about her roles, so that had a certain stamp of crediblity. I also felt the whole humanity fighting against a large force of nature concept carries interesting appeal to it: I liked Day After Tomorrow and Independence Day, for example.
Religulous: I have to see this. I love Bill Maher, and I'd be curious for a good examination on the state of religion. I also like that he's going to be equal opportunity about offending the three main Western religions.
W: We see so much parody of the president, but I see very little portrayal of the man's past. Even if Stone might be biased (or maybe he isn't), it would be a highly eye-opening look into the man.