Box Office Preview: The Calm Between the Sequels

It’s halfway through October and so far we haven’t seen the type of box office slowdown that’s often hit this month in past years, which hopefully means things will remain bullish through Halloween and the holiday season that follows.

The strongest movie of the weekend is probably Ben Affleck’s thriller Argo (Warner Bros.), his third movie as a director following 2010’s The Town, which opened in mid-September to $23.8 million and went on to gross $92 million with great word of mouth and potential awards buzz. Even though this one also stars Affleck, this is a very different movie, not being an action-filled crime-thriller set in Boston, but instead, being a period piece set during the Iran hostage crisis of the early ‘80s. Co-starring Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin and John Goodman, the movie is more like Steven Spielberg’s Munich in that it should appeal to cinephiles and older moviegoers who remember the events from the news, but it’s not something that may jump out as a must-see to anyone else, particularly younger audiences. That said, Argo played at Telluride and Toronto to rave reviews and as of this writing, it’s sitting at 94% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, but it’s hard to imagine that it can appeal to younger guys in the same way as The Town, so one has to presume that its audience, at least opening weekend, will be slightly more limited. Opening in over 3,000 theaters, it still should do well based on interest from early reviews and we think it should open well in the high teens, which won’t be enough to take down Liam Neeson’s Taken 2 in its second weekend.


The next strongest movie and the one that will probably appeal most to younger moviegoers is the horror film Sinister (Summit Entertainment), starring Ethan Hawke, which teams the producers of the “Paranormal Activity” movies and James Wan’s Insidious with director Scott Derrickson, whose debut horror film The Exorcism of Emily Rose was a huge hit back in September ’05. While the movie does have a lot of the tried and true horror tropes we’ve seen in so many movies, including actual found footage, it’s generally creepy and scary and it’s getting decent enough reviews–the fact it’s being screened for critics is already an anomaly–that it should bring in diehard horror fans as well as casual moviegoers who enjoy scares. Sinister is also following the recent trend of opening early on Thursday night for 10PM screenings, which should be of interest to those diehard horror fans, but unlike last week’s Taken 2 and next week’s Paranormal Activity 4, it’s doubtful anyone’s rushing out to see this even though the title alone should help let moviegoers know what they’re in for. Despite the strong competition for males from all the other movies, Sinister should have enough interest among women for an opening between $12 and 14 million, although it’s going to be hard to hold onto any of that business once the real Paranormal Activity movie opens next week, so it’ll probably tap out around $35 million.


Former “King of Queens” Kevin James, who just provided his voice for Adam Sandler’s animated hit Hotel Transylvania, is back in front of the cameras with the MMA comedy Here Comes the Boom (Sony), which seems to be a family comedy version of the critically-acclaimed box office flop Warrior. James has had huge success moving into the family comedy realm with 2009’sPaul Blart: Mall Cop, which grossed $31 million opening weekend and nearly $150 million at the domestic box office. Since then, James teamed with Vince Vaughn for Ron Howard’s dark comedy The Dilemma, reunited with Sandler for the ensemble comedy Grown Ups and starred in last year’s talking animal family comedy Zookeeper (for which Sandler provided his voice) – the middle one did the best. James has proven himself to be a popular actor among mass audiences, but one has to think that if he continues to make bad movies, he’ll start losing his audience, and “Boom” has the misfortune of being a movie getting dumped into October – much like Zookeeper was going to be at one point. The mostly male moviegoers who might go see the movie for its MMA aspects–which are very few, going by Warrior–might see this as a kiddie movie, while parents might not want to subject their younger kids to a movie that takes place in the world of extreme fighting, making this a tougher sell. Although Sony has screened the movie for audiences the past few weeks, they’ve kept it well hidden from critics, probably because they know there’s no way they’ll give a Kevin James a good review. It’s kind of a shame since this looks better than some of James’ other recent efforts, and though “Boom” is opening in over 3,000 theaters, we’re seeing this as being James’ first outright bomb, probably ending up with $10 million or even less its opening weekend and less than $30 million total.

Another strong movie this weekend, but also somewhat of an anomaly is the crime-comedy Seven Psychopaths (CBS Films), the second movie from Irish playwright Martin McDonagh following the sleeper hit In Bruges, for which actor Colin Farrell won a Golden Globe award. Farrell is back for this one, joined by Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson and Abbie Cornish, none of whom have proven themselves as solid box office draws. Regardless, CBS Films has done a great job selling the film’s dark comedy with really funny commercials that might interest those who flocked to see unlikely comedy hits like The Whole Nine Yards. What’s odd is the decision to open the film more moderately in roughly 1,500 theaters with plans to expand it wider over the weekend of the 26h when there isn’t as much direct competition. This is a bit risky on their part, but as we saw with Universal’s decision to release Pitch Perfect a week earlier, having a funny movie with strong word-of-mouth could help create interest for its expansion. (Like with Sinister, the movie’s going to benefit greatly from having a really good title.) Even with the moderate theater count, we think this will do decently this weekend with enough business per theater to allow it to bring in $7 to 8 million even if it’s going to end up in the bottom half of the Top 10, and if word-of-mouth is good, we can probably see it ending up with roughly $27 to 28 million total.

We’re not quite sure what to think about Atlas Shrugged Part II (The Strike Productions), the sequel to the Ayn Rand adaptation which opened in April 2011 to the tune of $1.7 million in just 299 theaters on its way to $4.5 million. “Part II” is opening far wider into 850 theaters, which would make one assume it would have a much bigger opening, although we’re not even sure how many people know this sequel even exists. Apparently, there have been commercials, but we haven’t seen any, nor have we seen the original movie, so we have little to say about the potential for a sequel. Noticeably missing is the original film’s star Taylor Schilling, not that we think she had anything to do with the initial film’s success, but we’re not sure the film’s distributor, The Strike Productions, knows how to get people into the 850 theaters it’s booked. We think it should be good for a $2 million opening or slightly more ,which means it will be fighting against some of the returning movies for 10th place. We don’t see it having much success in the long term and probably will end up grossing roughly the same as the original movie.

This weekend last year was more like the October we’re used to seeing with three new movies and only one of them grossing more than $15 million, that being Craig Brewer’s remake of Footloose (Paramount), starring Kenny Wormald and Julianne Hough, which had to settle for second place with $15.5 million as DreamWorks’ Real Steel, starring Hugh Jackman, remained in first place with $16.3 million, down 40% from its opening weekend. Taking third place was another remake, that of the horror-thriller The Thing (Universal), a prequel to John Carpenter’s classic starring Joel Edgerton and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (star of this week’s “Chosen One”), which made a paltry $8.5 million in nearly 3,000 theaters. Even so, the big bomb of the weekend was the comedy The Big Year (20th Century Fox), starring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson, which tanked with just $3.2 million in 2,150 theaters to take ninth place. Terrible. The Top 10 grossed $72 million and it shouldn’t be any problem for this week’s offerings to surpass that amount.

This Week’s Updated Predictions

UPDATE: No big changes, just a few minor adjustments due to final theater counts. We will add Summit’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower to the Top 10 as it expands into 726 theaters which will put it in a horse race with Atlas Shrugged – Part II for tenth place.

1. Taken 2 (20th Century Fox) – $22.4 million -55%

2. Argo (Warner Bros.) – $18.5 million N/A (down .1 million)

3. Hotel Transylvania (Sony Pictures) – $16.8 million -38%

4. Sinister (Summit Entertainment) – $12.4 million N/A (down .4 million)

5. Here Comes the Boom (Sony) – $10.6 million N/A (up .2 million)

6. Pitch Perfect (Universal) – $9.3 million -38%

7. Seven Psychopaths (CBS Films) – $7.7 million N/A (down .1 million)

8. Looper (FilmDistrict) – $7.3 million -40%

9. Frankenweenie (Walt Disney) – $7 million -39%

10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Summit) – $2.7 million

Atlas Shrugged Part II – $2.5 million N/A (up .3 millIon)

This week’s “CHOSEN ONE” is James Ponsoldt’s Smashed (Sony Pictures Classics), starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and Aaron Paul (“Breaking Bad”), as married California couple Kate and Charlie, whose relationship is put to the test when she realizes that their drinking binges is starting to adversely affect her job as a school teacher so she joins AA to try to sober up.

You can read our review here and read interviews with Ponsoldt, Winstead and Paul here and here.

Oddly, we haven’t seen many of this week’s other limited releases.

Romain Duris stars in Eric Lartigau’sThe Big Picture (MPI Pictures) as Parisian corporate lawyer Paul Exben, whose life with a wife and two children is torn apart when he learns she may have been having an affair with their neighboring photographer. When he dies mysteriously, Paul sees it a way that he can change his life, moving first to Hungary and then to Italy to start a new life for himself.

Charlie Hunnam and Ron Perlman from the FX show “Sons of Anarchy” star in Jordan Roberts’ 3, 2, 1… Frankie Go Boom (Variance Films) with the former playing Frank Bartlett, a guy who has been repeatedly humiliated by his older brother Bruce (Chris O’Dowd from Bridesmaids. With the latter coming off drugs, he hopes things will change… but they don’t. Also starring Lizzy Kaplan, Nora Dunn, Whitney Cummings and Chris Noth, it opens in select cities Friday.

Having won an award at Sundance for its direction, Ava Duvernay’s Middle of Nowhere (AFFRM) opens in select cities this weekend as it follows Ruby, a medical student who sets her life aside when her husband is sent to prison for eight years, as she tries to live a very different life than the one she was expecting.

Paris 36 writer/director Christophe Barratier returns with War of the Buttons (The Weinstein Company), a film set in occupied WWII France as it follows the pre-teened Lebrac who is involved in a “war” between two rival kid gangs, something they set aside to try to save a young Jewish girl in hiding from the Nazis. Also starring Laetitia Casta and Guillaume Canet and produced by Academy Award-winning producer Thomas Langmann, it opens in select cities Friday.

The Vicious Brothers return to write but not direct the horror sequel Grave Encounters 2 (Tribeca Film), which follows a film student named Alex who is obsessed with the original movie, trying to prove that there was more to it than just being a movie, revisiting the psychiatric hospital where they have to face the same evil and trying to survive.

Michael Gallagher’s horror film Smiley (Fever Productions) involves a demented serial killer of the same name who is summoned through the internet as a young girl named Ashley has to figure out if she’s going to be his next victim.

Jonathan Lisecki’s comedy Gayby (Wolfe Releasing) stars Jenn Harris and Matthew Wilkas as best friends from college now in their 30s who find themselves single and decide to have a child together even though he’s gay.

Diane Kruger stars in Stéphane Rybojad’s Special Forces (Entertainment One), playing a war correspondent taken hostage by the Taliban, so a Special Forces unit, made up of Djimon Hounsou, Benoît Magimel, Denis Ménochet, is assembled to try to save her. It opens in select cities this weekend.

We’ll wrap up this busier than normal weekend with three docs we haven’t had a chance to see, though all three sound interesting:

Ben Moses’ A Whisper to a Roar, narrated by Alfred Molina, focuses on activists in Egypt, Malaysia, Ukraine, Venezuela and Zimbabwe, telling their stories of struggle to fight against the oppression of their respective governments.

Till Schauder’s The Iran Job (Fork Films) follows American basketball player Kevin Sheppard as he gets a job playing for a season in Iran, learning that it’s a very different place then he expects as he bonds with three Iranian women. Having opened in L.A. on September 28, it opens in New York on Friday.

Lastly, Kelly Nyks’ Split: A Deeper Divide looks at the partisan politics that have divided our country with interviews with politicians on both sides of the aisle and political analysts from the major newspapers and news networks.

Next week, the big movie is going to be the horror four-quel Paranormal Activity 4 (Paramount), which opens early on Thursday night, but that’s not gonna stop Tyler Perry from taking on James Patterson’s famous literary FBI profiler Alex Cross (Summit Entertainment)… as much as we’re hoping it might.

You can read stuff like this and regular box office, awards and festival coverage on the new Weekend Warrior Blog and to keep up with the latest articles and posts, you can follow us on Twitter.

Copyright 2012 Edward Douglas


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