It’s Labor Day weekend, another one of those times during the year where box office is particularly difficult to predict, maybe because we’re reaching this strange intersection where summer is ending but school has already started in some places and everyone is generally off on Monday. The quality of the movies that open over Labor Day generally isn’t very good, and yet, you’ll often seen one or two of those bad movies do very well. This weekend we have two new wide releases, a straight-up horror movie and an action flick starring a former James Bond, then on top of that we still have a couple of early August movies that are still playing very strong and may get some lingering business.
Currently, the biggest Labor Day opening belongs to Rob Zombie’s remake of Halloween, which made $30 million over the four-day holiday weekend, but horror movies in general like 2012′s The Possession–the second-highest Labor Day opening with $21 million–Jeepers Creepers and its sequel Jeepers Creepers 2, have all done well over the late summer holiday.
This gives a clear advantage to As Above/So Below (Legendary/Universal), the first attempt by the studio responsible for big budget blockbusters like Godzilla and Pacific Rim to go the lower budget route that’s proven successful for Blumhouse Pictures, responsible for the likes of the “Paranormal Activity” and “Insidious” movies as well as The Purge and its sequel. This one takes place within the catacombs under Paris where a group of researchers explore the maze of bones to discover its darkest and deadliest secrets.
It’s the latest film from John Erick and Drew Dowdle, the filmmakers responsible for the [REC] remake Quarantine, the M. Night Shyamalan-produced Devil and The Poughkeepsie Tapes, a movie that was finally released on VOD this past month after premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2007. They have a relatively no-name cast, which is par for these types of movies where it’s all about the marketing of the scares more than it is about the experience of the actors.
With a strong marketing campaign, this seems like the kind of movie that will benefit from the success of previous horror movies over Labor Day and it’s not being screened for critics in advance, probably for obvious reasons. It probably won’t win the weekend over the August champions Guardians of the Galaxy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles but it is likely to gross between $14 and 16 million over the four-day weekend.
Offering some competition for older males is The November Man (Relativity), the return of Irish actor Pierce Brosnan to the world of spy action-thrillers since his years playing James Bond between 1995′s GoldenEye and 2002′s Die Another Day, each which did better than the previous installment. Based on Bill Granger’s spy novel “There Are No Spies,” which was published in 1987, Brosnan plays a deadly ex-CIA agent named Peter Devereaux and it’s a pet project Brosnan produced with his company Irish Dreamtime that reteams him with director Roger Donaldson (Dante’s Peak).
Brosnan hasn’t had too many huge hits since his James Bond days other than his role in the musical Mamma Mia!, which grossed $144 million domestically and $610 million worldwide. A year later, he had a role in Chris Columbus’ Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, which grossed $89 million in North America and another $138 million overseas. Other than those, he has mostly been in barely-seen limited releases (including this year alone) with one exception being Edgar Wright’s The World’s End with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, which was also his only movie since “Percy Jackson” to break the $20 million mark.
It’s hard to tell whether Brosnan’s presence will have any effect on how well the movie does, because it hasn’t done much for other movies, but having him back in action certainly will appeal to older guys and possibly even to women who might still find him attractive enough to give this one a look.
Plenty of political thrillers have opened over Labor Day weekend to varied results, everything from George Clooney’s The American ($16.6 million 4-day) to The Constant Gardener ($10.8 million) and Traitor starring Don Cheadle ($10 million). The first two were released by Focus Features who bombed last Labor Day with Closed Circuit (see below). Similar to many of those movies, The November Man is opening early on Wednesday.
Oddly, it was announced last week that Relativity Media is already hoping to make a sequel to The November Man with Brosnan returning as the character, and you have to wonder how successful they expect this to be to announce a sequel before the movie’s release (similar to Guardians of the Galaxy in fact). Regardless, Brosnan’s return to action should do well enough among older males and woman as well to bring in somewhere between $11 and 13 million range over the four-day holiday and maybe another $3 to 4 million in its first two days.
Ivan Reitman’s classic comedy Ghostbusters, starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, the late Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson and Rick Moranis will get a 30th Anniversary rerelease into roughly 700 theaters with a remastered edition for one week only and it should be good for a $3 to 4 million holiday weekend and possibly $7 million during its week in theaters.
Although it’s not getting a wide release, being released into just 350 theaters, there’s a chance that the Mexican biopic Cantinflas (Pantelion/Lionsgate) might do better than expected, similar to last year’s Instructions Not Included (although not that well). That one’s more likely to bring in $2 to 3 million over the four-day weekend.
This week’s “CHOSEN ONE” is David Mackenzie’s Starred Up (Tribeca Film), a different look at the classic prison film genre starring Jack O’Connell, an actor who I personally think is going to be as big as Michael Fassbender and Tom Hardy within the next couple of years.
O’Connell plays Eric Love, an extremely violent and dangerous young inmate who has been moved into the prison for adults where he immediately gets in trouble with the guards, who are less patient with troublemakers. Trying to settle the young man down is a prison counselor named Oliver (Rupert Friend), who convinces Eric to sit in on his group mostly made up of black inmates.
Australia’s Ben Mendelsohn, one of my favorite actors after great roles in Animal Kingdom and many others, plays Eric’s father Neville, who hopes to watch out for his son but discovers Eric making decisions he doesn’t approve of, including making friends with the prison’s black population.
Some of the best scenes are the ones involving Mendelsohn confronting O’Connell, but the group scenes are also quite impressive with many little known actors interacting in a manner that often explodes in angry emotions but then calms itself down just as quickly. It’s not the type of resolution we expect to see after shows like HBO’s “Oz” and other violent prison films.
I’ve been a fan of David Mackenzie’s films for years, although the subject matter and genre of his movies have varied from one to the next, but he takes a more naturalistic approach with this prison flick. Much of it is shot with hand-held camera and natural light to make it feel like more of a fly-on-the-wall movie, which just makes the performances more intense in the bargain.
“Starred Up” is one of the best prison dramas you’re likely to see in some time, but the real stand-out is the introduction of Jack O’Connell, an actor whose name is going to be on everyone’s lips by year’s end.
Starred Up opens in New York and Los Angeles on Wednesday, August 27, in Los Angeles on September 5, and then in other cities over the course of September. You can find out where it will play on the Tribeca Film website.
Interview with Ben Mendelsohn (Coming Soon!)
Last Labor Day, three new movies opened in wide release with the Morgan Spurlock documentary One Direction: This is Us (TriStar Pictures/Sony) winning the three-day weekend with $15.8 million but succumbing to Lee Daniels’ The Butler over the four-day weekend to end up in second place with $18.5 million. (Going by 4-day, that would give The Butler a third weekend at #1.) The big surprise for the weekend was the Mexican comedy Instructions Not Included (Pantelion/Lionsgate), starring Eugenio Derbez, which opened in less than 350 theaters and shocked everyone with a $10.4 million opening for fifth place. (That’s an average of nearly $30 thousand per location.) The other two wide (or semi-wide) releases bombed with the Ethan Hawke-Selena Gomez action movie Getaway (Warner Bros.) opening in 10th place with $5.6 million in 2,130 theaters, and the political thriller Closed Circuit (Focus Features), starring Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall, bombing with $3.2 million in 862 theaters for 16th place! The Top 10 grossed $110 million over the four days although that was with two movies making more than $18 million. It’s really going to be up to the returning movies doing well for this weekend to match last year and I think that’s definitely possible.
This Week’s UPDATED Predictions -
All the below predictions are for the four-day holiday weekend.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy (Disney/Marvel) – $20.6 million +20% (up .2 million)
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Paramount) – $19.5 million +16% (up .1 million)
3. As Above/So Below (Legendary/Universal) – $15.0 million N/A (down .6 million)
4. The November Man (Relativity) – $12.8 million N/A (up 1 million)
5. If I Stay (Warner Bros.) – $11 million -30% (up .5 million)
6. Let’s Be Cops (20th Century Fox) – $9.7 million -9%
7. When the Game Stands Tall (Sony/TriStar Pictures) – $9.3 million +11%
8. The Hundred-Foot Journey (DreamWorks) – $6.3 million +17%
9. The Giver (The Weinstein Company) – $4.8 million -25%
10. The Expendables 3 (Lionsgate) – $4 million -38%
11. Ghostbusters 30th Anniversary Re-Release (Sony) – $4 million N/A
This Week’s Limited Releases:
Jennifer Aniston stars in Daniel Schechter’s adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s “The Switch,” which had its title changed to Life of Crime (Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions) to avoid confusion with Aniston’s previous rom-com The Switch. In this crime-comedy, Aniston plays the trophy wife of a real estate developer (Tim Robbins) kidnapped by a couple of bumbling criminals–younger versions of De Niro’s Louis and Samuel L. Jackson’s Ordell from Tarantino’s Jackie Brown–played by John Hawkes and Yasiin Bey (the former Mos Def). They don’t realize her husband is hoping to divorce her anyway so he refuses to pay the ransom. Also starring Isla Fisher, Will Forte and Mark Boone Junior, it opens in select cities on Friday.
Tom Dolby and Tom Williams’ dark comedy Last Weekend (IFC Films) stars Patricia Clarkson as Celia Green, who has become wealthy from the fitness empire she’s established with her husband, but still feels something is missing. She decides to get her two adult sons and their partners together for a weekend together, which is thrown into disarray by unexpected guests and incidents. It opens in select cities.
Foreign Films of Interest:
Directed by Sebastian del Amo, the Mexican biopic Cantinflas (Pantelion/Lionsgate) stars Goya award-winner Óscar Jaenada as Mexico’s most beloved comedy film star, following him from his early days on the stage to Hollywood. It opens in 350 theaters on Friday and we’ll have to see if it fares as well as last Labor Day’s Pantelion release Instructions Not Included, which grossed more than $10 million in the same number theaters to place 5th in the Top 10.
Not to be confused with the popular romantic drama starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, Janos Szasz’s The Notebook (Sony Pictures Classics), based on the novel by Agota Kristof, is about two 13-year-old siblings (played by actual twin brothers) who try to survive the harshness of WWII living with their grandmother in a village on the Hungarian-German border as they document how they’re becoming desensitized by their surroundings in a notebook left to them by their father. It opens at New York’s Quad Cinema on Friday.
Action, Thrillers and Horror:
Susan Sarandon stars in Jason Stone’s crime-thriller The Calling (Vertical Entertainment), playing Detective Hazel Micallef whose quiet jurisdiction is disturbed by a series of murders in the countryside that points to a serial killer. It also stars Topher Grace.
Adapted from the book by Christopher Barzak, Carter Smith’s Jamie Marks is Dead (Gravitas Ventures) is about a small town where the body of a bullied teenager named Jamie Marks (Noah Silver) is discovered by the river and the high school cross country star Adam (Cameron Monaghan) becomes fascinated (and then haunted) by the dead boy. It opens in select cities following its Sundance Film Festival debut in January.
Aaron Wilson’s war-based action drama Canopy takes place during the Japanese invasion of Singapore in 1942 and involves an Australian fighter pilot (Khan Chittenden), who must make his way through a jungle filled with hostile forces, getting the aid of a Chinese resistance fighter who also must escape without getting caught.
Part live action, part animation, the sci-fi drama The Congress (Drafthouse Films) from Waltz with Bashir writer/director Ari Folman, stars Robin Wright playing a version of herself, as she decides to preserve a digital likeness of herself for the future. Her agent (Harvey Keitel) makes a deal with the head of Miramount Studios (Danny Huston) so that her alias will be controlled by the studio to star in any movie they want her for. In exchange, her sick son will be taken care of. It opens in select cities Friday.
Kevin Kline plays Errol Flynn in The Last of Robin Hood (Samuel Goldwyn Films), the new movie from Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland (Quinceanara and Still Alice, premiering at the Toronto Film Festival next month). This shows Flynn in his later years where he began an affair with a much younger wannabe actress Beverly Aadland (Dakota Fanning) with the support of her fame-hungry mother Florence (Susan Sarandon) until the relationship goes public. Having premiered at the Toronto Film Festival one year ago, it will be in select cities on Friday.
Documentaries of Note:
Thomas Allen Harris’ Through a Lens Darkly (First Run Features), inspired by Deborah Willis’ book “Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers 1840 to the Present,” explores the realities of race relations through the differences between the work of black photographers and how it contrasts with historical photos by white photographers that demean African-Americans.
Being that next week there’s only one wide release and not a particularly high profile one, I’ve decided to take a rare week off from the Weekend Warrior while I get ready for the Toronto International Film Festival, but I’ll have a couple other things to share, including my summer box office wrap-up.
You can read stuff like this and regular box office, awards and festival coverage on the Weekend Warrior Blog and to keep up with the latest articles and posts, you can follow us on Twitter.
Copyright 2014 Edward Douglas