The Weekend Warrior looks at the movies opening on Friday, September 25, including Hotel Transylvania 2, The Intern and The Green Inferno
After a summer that came crashing to a dismal end, September is proving to be a stronger month than it’s been in the past with two successive weeks of two movies opening over $20 million (which isn’t bad at all) and this weekend will hopefully offer at least one more before we move onto October. Both of the two new widest releases offer something for audiences who haven’t been catered to much by earlier September entries, which should help continue the box office’s somewhat healthy run.
Distributor: Sony Pictures Animation
Back in 2012, Adam Sandler had a substantial animated hit when he teamed with Sony Pictures Animation for Hotel Transylvania, released in late September (a similar release as Sony Pictures Animation’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs), where it opened with $42.5 million, the second-largest opening for an Adam Sandler movie ever (granted, his biggest opening was The Longest Yard remake over the Memorial Day weekend). It went on to gross $148 million domestically and another $210 million overseas, which isn’t quite on par with the numbers made by Pixar, DreamWorks Animation or other animated films from Universal and Disney, but was pretty good for Sony’s animation wing, as it had a worldwide gross second only to The Smurfs.
It didn’t take too long for a sequel to be greenly, although we’ve seen a few times now that sequels to animated films don’t necessarily do as well as their predecessor, which was the case with both Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 and The Smurfs 2, the latter which grossed half as much domestically as the original movie two years earlier.
There’s no denying that Adam Sandler’s box office power has fizzled in recent years as seen by the disappointing showing for his video game movie Pixels over the summer, which grossed just $221 million worldwide. That was a movie that seemed like it might have potential for being a big hit, but it was trashed mercilessly by critics who generally hate Sandler (and his friends like Kevin James), no matter what they do. The fact that Sandler had to run to Netflix with his tail between his legs is further proof that his career as a major box office star is pretty much over at this point.
Then again, the business for the Hotel Transylvania sequel will be driven as much by the popularity of the horror characters and their comic iterations voiced by Sandler, Samberg and their friends, including the great Mel Brooks, who has been doing more voice work than anything else in recent years. (He voiced Albert Einstein in Mr. Peabody & Sherman and provided a voice for the Weinstein Company’s Underdogs, which seems to be delayed indefinitely.) Of course, a movie like this would probably do even better if it was saved for closer to Halloween, but Sony is hoping that their next family film Goosebumps will pick up any audience that this movie misses.
The biggest thing going for Hotel Transylvania 2 is that there haven’t been many family movies in the past few months, the last one being Shaun the Sheep Movie and that alone could work in the movie’s favor similar to how it’s helped other September animated releases. On the other hand, the marketing for the movie doesn’t seem to be nearly as pervasive as what Disney and Universal did for Inside Out and Minions this past summer, so it’s likely to end up closer to $40 million or less.
The lack of family movies should help balance out the Sandler backlash that’s going on, but it feels like Hotel Transylvania 2 will open more in the mid-to-high $30 million range of Cloudy 2 rather than up there with some of Sandler’s best. It should still be good for a $100 to 120 million total in theaters.
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Six years since her last movie It’s Complicated, filmmaker Nancy Meyers returns with a light comedy starring two generations of Oscar-winning actors in Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro, both of them appearing in their most commercial film in some time, a light comedy that should appeal to both their audiences.
It’s been roughly a year since Hathaway co-starred in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, although she’s basically been laying low, only appearing in the little seen indie Song 1. Both movies came off her Oscar win for her role in Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables, which followed shortly after her portrayal of Catwoman in Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. The Intern is more in the vein of Hathaway’s popular The Devil Wore Prada, which opened with $27.5 million in the summer of 2006 and grossed $125 million domestic, and it’s probably no coincidence that this similar-looking film was greenlit.
It’s been longer since De Niro has had a substantial hit although his 2013 comedy Last Vegas did okay, appealing to a similar audience as The Intern. Before that, it was David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook that helped bring De Niro attention for the first time since the “Fockers” comedy series fizzled out. It would also get him his first Oscar nomination in over 20 years.
Fortunately, they’re teaming with a filmmaker in Meyers, who has had a number of big hits including 2000’s What Women Want, the aforementioned It’s Complicated, starring Meryl Streep and Steve Martin, and Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson’s rom-com Something’s Gotta Give, all which grossed over $100 million.
The Intern isn’t the type of no-brainer blockbuster that can just be released and do big business based on its stars alone, so Meyers has thrown in a number of actors popular to younger women, including Pitch Perfect’s Adam DeVine and Nat Wolff from The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns (the latter only has one scene, yet he appears in the advertising).
Even more importantly, The Intern will be appealing to a female demographic over 30 that just isn’t being catered to right now, which is why like Hotel Transylvania 2, it’s bound to do better this weekend… that is, as long as the animated sequel doesn’t keep mothers with small children from seeing The Intern (at least this weekend).
Warner Bros. has been doing great with the marketing, focusing on lots of female tastemaker groups to generate buzz and word-of-mouth, and the good thing about The Intern is that it’s actually pretty good (better than The Internship!) and should get decent reviews which can certainly help a smaller movie like this find a bigger audience.
The lack of movies for older women and the popularity of Nancy Meyers’ films in general should be a good pairing with the duo of Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro to bring in a good number of women over 30, which should allow The Intern to open in the $17 to 19 million range this weekend. Strong word-of-mouth should help push it to $50 million or more with small drop-offs each weekend.
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Last weekend, the latest film from Iceland’s Baltasar Kormakur opened in IMAX 3D and other large platform screens to the tune of $7.2 million in 546 theaters, or $13,846 per theater, and on Friday, Universal will expand it nationwide into over 2,800 theaters so that the rest of the country can check it out. This isn’t the first time that Universal has released a movie more limited before expanding wider as it worked well with movies like Bridget Jones’ Diary and Pitch Perfect. Everest is a different movie from those because it’s the type of action-adventure that normally would just get a wide release right off the bat.
Everest is also different from the two American movies Kormakur has done previously with Mark Wahlberg, Contraband and 2 Guns, and more in line with his Icelandic films, but he has a great ensemble cast that includes Josh Brolin and Jake Gyllenhaal, who have both proven themselves as box office stars in a number of different roles. As it were, Gyllenhaal takes more of a supporting role in this while Brolin is one of the main characters, but it’s a true ensemble where each character gets their own story. Others in the cast include Oscar nominees John Hawkes and Keira Knightley, Robin Wright, Emily Watson and Sam Worthington, also in a rare supporting role.
More importantly than the cast is the fact that the movie has a very easy to sell title, because when you say “Everest” you basically know what to expect, unlike last week’s vaguely-titled Black Mass. That should help its expansion, as should word-of-mouth from its IMAX opening, although that first weekend could also cut into the second weekend business since so many people already went to see it in IMAX.
In September 2013, Universal released Ron Howard’s racing film Rush into just five theaters in New York and L.A. before expanding to 2,297 theaters where it opened with $10 million, and doing the IMAX-only release first is something that worked well for Paramount with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Everest certainly has even more reasons to see it on the biggest screen possible, which may be why it did so well this past weekend, and we can probably presume that word-of-mouth will get more people to see it this weekend.
I underpredicted how much Everest might make last weekend and I’ll probably do so again this weekend although it should be good for $13 to 15 million based on its strong opening, which should be enough to get it into fourth or even third place, and it will probably end up grossing $60 to 70 million domestically.
Distributor: Blumhouse Tilt (Universal)
Two years after the movie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and over a year since its initial planned release, director Eli Roth is back with his first movie as a director since 2007’s Hostel: Part II (if you don’t include his contributions to Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, in which he also acted). In that time since, Roth has been busy producing other’s movies, including The Last Exorcism and its sequel, as well as establishing a film industry in Chile with films like 2012’s Aftershock.
He’s back with another intense “travelogue horror” film where the film’s protagonists go somewhere and end up being slaughtered by the locals, a movie that’s so violent that Open Road, the original distributor for The Green Inferno, opted out of releasing it as planned last year. After a social media campaign, Jason Blum stepped in to release the movie nationally through his Blumhouse Tilt distribution deal with Universal, so now it’s getting a wide releases about a year after its initially planned release date.
While the movie stars Roth’s wife Lorenza Izzo (who also stars in his upcoming thriller Knock Knock, which will be released in a few weeks) and Ariel Levy who appeared in the Chilean thriller Aftershock with Roth and Izzo, the biggest “name star” is probably former “Spy Kid” Daryl Sabara. And to be honest, most of the kids who loved Spy Kids are now old enough to be into a movie like this.
BH Tilt are giving the movie an ambitious release into 1,500 theaters, but that doesn’t mean that there will be enough interest to fill those theaters since we’ve seen other edgy cult horror films like Kevin Smith’s Tusk fail when given a wide release right away. (But the other option of giving it a limited release and expanding later also doesn’t make sense since most horror fans go see something opening weekend and we’re long past the days of being able to platform horror films ala The Blair Witch Project.)
It’s been so long since The Green Inferno debuted and it’s played so many festivals and opened in so many other countries already, there’s a danger that many of the people who want to see the movie will already have seen it via pirated copies. Other than that, awareness is pretty low, because there isn’t a huge budget for marketing the movie and it is opening in a busy weekend with a lot of other choices in theaters.
Even with a wide release and the marketing muscle of Universal (who are more focused on Everest), The Green Inferno may have a tough time making a mark this weekend. It’s such a horrifyingly violent film that it might actually scare away some of the more casual horror “tourists” other than the die-hard horror fans that pushed for the movie to get a theatrical release in the first place. It seems like an opening weekend in the $2 to 3 million range would be seen as an achievement in itself on its way to $5 or 6 million and a long life on cable and DVD.
This Weekend Last Year
Box office superstar Denzel Washington took on the role of The Equalizer (Sony), reteaming him with his Training Day director Antoine Fuqua, and it won the weekend quite easily with $34 million in 3,236 theaters, or $10,549 per theater. It would go on to gross over $100 million, only Washington’s fourth movie to cross that benchmark, but its success bodes well for a sequel. LAIKA Studios returned with their latest stop-motion animated film The Boxtrolls (Focus Features), but it had to settle for third place behind Fox’s The Maze Runner, which had a 46% drop-off from its opening weekend, which isn’t bad compared to other young adult adaptations. The Top 10 grossed $96 million and this weekend may actually be up if Hotel Transylvania 2 and The Intern do as well as I’ve predicted.
This Week’s Updated Predictions
Just like last weekend, the two new movies should displace last week’s top two movies although Hotel Transylvania 2 will be the clear winner this weekend with more than twice what The Intern makes in second place. Everest should have a successful expansion into over 2,500 theaters on Friday allowing it to move up the ranks to fourth or even third place.
UPDATE: Not a ton of changes except Everest doing well enough to surpass The Intern and Bleecker Street’s drama Pawn Sacrifice will open nationwide into over 750 theaters but probably will end up outside the Top 10 with $1.6 million.
1. Hotel Transylvania 2 (Sony Pictures) – $39.2 million N/A (up .8 million)
Ridley Scott returns with his adaptation of the best-selling sci-fi novel The Martian (20th Century Fox), starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor and a cast of thousands, while Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario (Lionsgate) will expand nationwide as well.
This Week’s Must-Sees
Mississippi Grind (A24)
Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon (Magnolia)
99 Homes (Broad Green)
This was one of my top films from the Toronto International Film Festival last year and it was one I was quite impressed with, because previously I’d been mixed on the films of Ramin Bahrani, who began with more verité-style films with non-actors like Man Push Cart and then started making films with better-known actors like At Any Price (which I also didn’t like). In fact, Goodbye Solo was his only movie that I honestly enjoyed.
99 Homes is quite a coup for the filmmaker as he’s put together an impressive cast that includes Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon and Laura Dern, all doing amazing dramatic work, but it still has the naturalistic feel of his other films as it explores the economic crash of 2008 that forced thousands of Florida homeowners into foreclosure when the real estate industry crashed.
Andrew Garfield’s character of Dennis is a departure from anything he’s done previously, playing a very young single father struggling to make ends meet when he’s evicted along with his son and mother (Laura Dern) by the bank. This is his first encounter with Shannon’s callous and unfeeling realtor Rick Carver, who only cares about one thing—getting homes for cheap, flipping them and selling for more money.
Carver sees that Dennis is a talented handyman who can help in his crooked endeavors to bilge the banks and the government out of money, often at the homeowners’ expense, and Dennis, needing money and a job, jumps at the opportunity despite Carver’s involvement in stealing his family’s home. Dennis learns fast and he quickly moves up the ranks to become Carver’s right-hand man, which puts him in a tough situation as he is sent to evict others from their homes.
Bahrani has created a very emotional film, mainly because we see a lot of people who are in a similar situation as Dennis with all the emotions that go along with losing your belongings and life-long memories and being left homeless, which makes the film quite tragic. While there’s certainly a danger of 99 Homes feeling dated, especially after the decision to wait a year before releasing it, these feelings are still surprisingly timely and resonant.
More than anything, Bahrani’s three main actors deliver great performances with Garfield confirming he’s a much better dramatic actor than we’ve been able to see in recent years. Shannon is playing another unforgettable baddie and Carver is given some of the best lines in the top-notch script, but Dern is also bringing as much to this as she did to last year’s Wild. The film’s interesting ambient score also adds a lot to what the film delivers dramatically.
99 Homes may be Bahrani’s best film yet, maybe because he finally found a way to combine what he did so well with his earlier movies with real actors, and his casting of Garfield and Shannon really helps make 99 Homes deliver in ways it might not have with other actors.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velazquez Story (Cinedigm)
Other Limited Releases of Note:
(There are a LOT of them–hence the delayed column this week!)
The Keeping Room (Drafthouse Films)
Stonewall (Roadside Attractions)
Ashby (The Film Arcade)
Misunderstood (Sundance Selects/IFC Films)
Finder’s Keepers (The Orchard)
Pay the Ghost (RLJ Entertainment)
Mission to Lars
Lost in Hong Kong (Well GO USA)
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Copyright 2015 Edward Douglas