The Weekend Warrior looks at the releases for Friday, September 18, including Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, Black Mass and Captive
I’m still super-busy with the Toronto International Film Festival going on for the rest of the week, but that doesn’t keep Hollywood from releasing movies to the rest of the country and it’s another typically busy week with three wide releases and a couple of smaller releases, including ones that will expand wide in the weeks to come.
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Due to the success of young adult movies like The Twilight Saga and The Hunger Games, every even slightly popular genre book series for teens has been optioned for a movie and James Dashner’s 2009 book The Maze Runner is no exception. Director Wes Ball made his feature film debut with the adaptation released this weekend last year with a respectable $32.5 million on its way to $102.5 million domestic and $340.7 million worldwide. Granted, that’s not quite on par with either of those other franchises I mentioned, but it’s a start, and the first movie received better reviews than these young adult movies normally do with 64% on Rotten Tomatoes–the sequel so far is slightly lower with 62%–and a decent 6.8 out of 10 on IMDb.
Most of the original cast members are back joined by Aidan Gillen from HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and Giancarlo Esposito from “Breaking Bad,” but as is normally the case with these movies, they’re primarily targeting teen girls and slightly older women who’ve read the books and find the likes of Dylan O’Brien and Thomas Brodie-Sangster to be quite dreamy. Unlike some of those other young adult movies, The Maze Runner does appeal to guys (maybe because the protagonist is male) and that should allow The Scorch Trials to bring in a larger audience than the original movie, since the original movie is likely to have found more fans after its theatrical release via download and home entertainment releases. That should help The Scorch Trials open significantly higher, although it could also be more frontloaded than The Maze Runner.
The Scorch Trials might lose some teen and older males to the gangster flick Black Mass (see below), but there should still be a large audience of moviegoers that liked The Maze Runner and want to find out what happens next, so it should be good for an opening in the low-to-mid $40 million on its way to closer to $115 to 120 million domestic.
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Any doubt that we’re into the fall festival and awards season should be put aside as we’re given our first major (attempted) awards contender with a film that follows in the footsteps of movies like Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Trilogy, Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas and his Oscar-winning Best Picture The Departed, which was hugely influenced by the myth of Boston crime boss “Whitey” Bulger. Before winning its Oscars, The Departed opened in early October 2006 to the tune of $26.9 million, grossing $132 million domestically and more than that overseas, helped by the pairing of Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg and Jack Nicholson.
This crime drama is directed by Scott Cooper (Out of the Furnace) and it stars Johnny Depp in a performance as Bulger that’s had everyone talking about the strong potential for him receiving a fourth Oscar nomination.
There’s no denying that Depp’s career has been on a downwards spiral in recent years with his recent comedy Mortdecai bombing with a total domestic gross of less than $10 million and that was the low of a long run of flops, including 2014’s Transcendence, 2013’s The Lone Ranger, 2012’s Dark Shadows and 2010’s The Tourist opposite Angelina Jolie. Depp did appear in the Disney musical Into the Woods last year, which grossed $128 million, but few would attribute that success to Depp’s small role. The biggest thing in favor for Depp in Black Mass is that he’s doing something very different by playing a criminal, something he’s only done twice before in Michael Mann’s Public Enemies ($97.1 million gross in 2009) and Blow ($53 million in 2001). The thing is that unlike many of Depp’s recent movies and roles, critics are praising his performance highly as one of his best in many years. That alone should pique the curiosity of Depp’s substantial fanbase to see him doing something different.
Although there’s an impressive cast around Depp, it’s not quite on par with that of The Departed, although Joel Edgerton is already getting buzz from his performance and his recent directorial debut The Gift, and there’s plenty of other actors that could help with the film’s prestige if not its box office such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Dakota Johnson and Sienna Miller… no, wait, she was cut from the movie.
Another big factor is the movie’s location and the mythic nature of Bulger’s relationship to the city. Boston was also the main location for Ben Affleck’s The Town, which opened this same weekend five years ago after playing at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals similar to Black Mass, and that ended up doing huge business in the Boston area, which helped it open to $23.8 million on its way to $92.2 million. That was only nominated for one Oscar for Affleck’s co-star Jeremy Renner, but it paved the way for Affleck to return a few years later with his own Best Picture winner, Argo.
With tons of buzz out of the early September festivals, the movie should do huge business among mostly male moviegoers who have flocked to other crime thrillers including The Departed, but Depp’s popularity among women should allow it to do well among older women who won’t be as interested in some of the weekend’s other offerings, which should help the movie open between $25 and 30 million on its way to close to $100 million.
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
What It’s About: When Ashley Smith (Kate Mara) is taken hostage in her own apartment by escaped prisoner Brian Nichols (David Oyelowo), she turns to Rick Warren’s inspirational “The Purpose Driven Life” to find her own purpose as well as to bond with her captor to end her hostage situation peacefully.
I’m not sure what I did wrong that God wants to punish me with the third faith-based movie in less than a month, but honestly, I just don’t have a handle on these things, especially when I literally haven’t seen any marketing whatsoever. Apparently, the book that has such a great effect on the lives of the characters, “The Purpose Driven Life,” has sold 30 million copies worldwide and is the most translated book after the Bible. I’ve never read or heard of it personally, but the makers of this movie obviously are hoping those who have been drawn to the book and affected by it will realize that a movie called “Captive” involves it. Honestly, I haven’t even heard of this story from 2005 about an escaped prisoner who was talked into surrendering after taking a hostage, but apparently someone felt it was worth turning into a movie.
Unlike the recent hit War Room, this movie at least has two fairly recognizable stars with David Oyelowo getting a lot of attention (but not the deserved Oscar nomination) last year for his portrayal of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Ava Duvernay’s Selma (also released by Paramount), and Kate Mara from “House of Cards” and the ill-fated Fantastic Four playing Ashley Smith, but at this point neither of them has much of a track record at the box office. 83-year-old director Jerry Jameson’s career goes all the way back to television shows from the ‘60s and ‘70s including “Mod Squad” and “The Six Million Dollar Man,” although he hasn’t directed many movies in recent years and nothing of major significance either.
Captive is only opening in around 800 theaters and there hasn’t been much of a marketing campaign, although Paramount could be focusing it in the Southern States particularly Georgia where the story took place and where there could be a groundswell of moviegoers similar to Black Mass in Boston.
Basically, this is another one of those big question marks although the lack of theaters and marketing doesn’t bode well that anyone who might be interested in the subject matter will even realize this movie exists. An opening somewhere in the $3 to 5 million range is likely and probably less than $15 million total even if it’s helped by word-of-mouth.
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Due to time constraints, I’m not going to write too much about this new drama from the Icelandic director of the hit thriller Contraband just now, because the movie is getting an IMAX 3D-only release this weekend (plus other large format 3D screens) before expanding nationwide on Friday, September 25. It’s not the only movie to get a limited release and then expanding as that’s going to be the norm for the next few weeks including this week’s Sicario (see below), next week’s The Walk and October’s Steve Jobs, which shows that more studios are fine slowly rolling things out and giving them more time to figure out the marketing before their wide release. This is actually something normal for Universal during this time of year, although Everest probably seems like a movie that should be getting a wide release straight away—although this weekend would be bad since its primarily male audience is going to get a lot of competition from both The Scorch Trials and Black Mass.
This weekend, Everest should be good for about $3 to 5 million over the weekend, thanks to the higher ticket prices and per-theater averages normally seen by IMAX theaters and many will probably choose to see the larger scale movie in that format. Again, I’ll have more to say about this in next week’s column when Everest expands wide.
Baltasar Komarkur Interview (Coming Soon!)
This Weekend Last Year
As mentioned above, The Maze Runner (20th Century Fox) opened at #1 with $32.5 million in 3,604 theaters or $9,000 per location, followed in a distant second place by Liam Neeson’s crime thriller A Walk Among the Tombstones (Universal) with $12.8 million. Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and an ensemble cast teamed for the dysfunctional family comedy This is Where I Leave You (Warner Bros.), directed by Shawn Levy, which tried to capitalize on buzz from its Toronto International Film Festival premiere but had to settle for third place with $11.6 million. Despite its release into 602 theaters, Kevin Smith’s horror flick Tusk (A24) bombed with just $890,000 or $1,472 per theater as it ended up outside the Top 10, which brought in $90 million over the weekend. That amount should be bested by the one-two punch of The Scorch Trials and Black Mass.
This Week’s Predictions
1. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (20th Century Fox) – $43 million N/A
September will be almost over next week. Where did it go? Still, a number of high profile movies will open including Adam Sandler’s animated sequel Hotel Transylvania 2 (Sony Pictures Animation), Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro team for the comedy The Intern (Warner Bros.), while the mountain climbing drama Everest (Universal) will expand nationwide and Eli Roth’s South American horror film The Green Inferno (Lionsgate/BH Impact) will finally be released nearly two years after its Toronto International Film Festival premiere.
This Week’s Must-Sees
Sicario will open in New York and L.A. on Friday and then will expand nationwide on October 2, but right now, it’s the best thing I’ve seen at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Denis Villeneuve Interview (Coming Soon!)
Video Interview with the Cast (Coming Soon!)
Cooties (Lionsgate Premiere)
My (Brief) Thoughts…
This may be one of my favorite horror-comedies since maybe Black Sheep or Severance, and fans of Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead should enjoy this combination of humor and gore. It’s another great production from Elijah Wood’s production company Spectrevision, who managed to assemble quite a strong comedic cast including Jack McBrayer and Rainn Wilson, playing off all sorts of high school archetypes. It will open in select cities and On Demand this Friday.
Interview with Elijah Wood (Coming Soon!)
Other Limited Releases of Note:
Pawn Sacrifice (Bleecker Street)
The Cut (Strand Releasing)
The New Girlfriend (Cohen Media Group)
Hellions (IFC Midnight)
Forsaken (Momentum Pictures)
And then we have a bunch of highly-regarded docs…
Songs from the North (Kino Lorber)
Racing Extinction (Discovery)
Prophet’s Prey (Showtime)
Peace Officer (Gravitas Ventures)
You can post any comments or questions below, or you can get in touch with the Weekend Warrior on Twitter.
Copyright 2015 Edward Douglas