The first box office weekend of the new year has wrapped up and a newly released low-budget horror film took the second slot. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, a sequel distributed by Viacom's (NASDAQ:VIA) Paramount Pictures, had an estimated weekend gross of over $18 million and came in second to Disney's Frozen, which was released last month. Can The Marked Ones stay near the top of the chart? 

January doesn't have a swell of new releases on par with the summer blockbuster season. Still, films from Paramount, Twenty-First Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOX), and Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) Universal could all see healthy long-term profits following the releases this month.

What films should investors -- and moviegoers -- watch for in January?   

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones and Devil's Due 

Will Paramount's horror flick stay at number one?

The two horror movies releasing in January share a section because they will succeed for similar reasons: low budgets and not much genre competition at this time of year. 

Paramount's The Marked Ones spins off from the "Paranormal Activity" series, which has an established track record of turning small budgets into large worldwide gross profits.  

Here's a look at how the previous four films have performed: 

Film Release Date Budget Total Worldwide Grosses
Paranormal Activity Sep. 2009 $15,000 $193 million
Paranormal Activity 2 Oct. 2010 $3 million $178 million
Paranormal Activity 3 Oct. 2011 $5 million $207 million
Paranormal Activity 4 Oct. 2012 $5 million $143 million

Source: Box Office Mojo 

The Marked Ones continues the found-footage style but breaks away from its predecessors by not focusing on the family of Katie, the female protagonist from the first film. It's also the first "Paranormal Activity" film not released near Halloween, and hit theaters less than two weeks before Devil's Due

Twenty-First Century Fox distributes Devil's Due, another found-footage horror film that bears a thematic similarity to Rosemary's Baby, with a release date of Jan. 17. The film earned early praise from noted genre director Eli Roth. Given that its budget is likely in the ballpark of the "Paranormal Activity" films, it should be easy for all of the backers to come away from the film happy. 

Doubtful that horror movies could rule the charts in January? Paramount's $1 million horror movie The Devil Inside was released on Jan. 6 last year and started at the top of the box office results before ending the month at a respectable 16th place. The Devil Inside has grossed nearly $102 million worldwide and currently holds the third place record for strongest January opening.  
Ride Along 

Will Kevin Hart continue his hot streak with Ride Along?

Ice Cube and Kevin Hart star in the action comedy Ride Along, which releases on Jan. 17 -- the same weekend that Devil's Due opens. Hart plays a security guard who volunteers to shadow Ice Cube's cop character in order to win Cube's approval to marry his sister.

Ride Along was stuck in development limbo until Universal stepped in last year and fast-tracked the project. Tim Story was hired as director.Story and Hart worked together on last year's Think Like a Man, which had a production budget of $12 million and has grossed $96 million worldwide. 

The producers behind Ride Along include Rainforest Films' Will Packer (who also produced Think Like a Man) and Ice Cube's own production company, Cube Vision. The reteaming of so many players from a previously successful film, combined with Ice Cube's star power and financial investment, should lead to a solid result.

Foolish final thoughts
January should prove profitable for the horror films as genre fans move out of the sentimental mood of the holiday season. Kevin Hart could also continue his Think Like a Man hot streak with Universal's push and Ice Cube's production power. All three distribution companies should have reason to celebrate as this month's winners all have low budgets and the potential for much higher grosses. 

What movies do you plan to see in January? Sound off in comments.