We arrive at mid-September with two new movies that will try to make a play against last week’s big bucks winner Insidious Chapter 2, as it tries to do its best to maintain the top spot even with a sizeable drop-off from this past weekend. One of the two new movies is definitely stronger than the other and is opening in over a thousand more theaters nationwide, but we also see a weekend with a lot of limited releases, which could cut into some of the business both movies might normally do in New York and Los Angeles. Either way, we’re into the slower period of the year and it should be more obvious this weekend than last.
Prisoners (Warner Bros.)
Starring Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Maria Bello, Terrance Howard, Viola Davis, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano
Directed by Dennis Villeneuve (Incendies, Polytechnique); Written by Aaron Guzikowski
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Tagline: “Every Moment Matters”
With September kicking off the fall film festival season, we’re going to see a lot more prestige films geared towards older moviegoers and this long-in-development crime-thriller has been greatly helped by it getting early screenings at two prominent festivals, Telluride and the Toronto International Film Festival. Directed by French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, whose previous film Incendies received an Oscar nomination in the foreign language category, the drama is looking to appeal to older moviegoers who may not have as much interest in some of the movies that have been released in the past few weeks.
Much of the attention for the film will be paid to its two main stars, both of whom are definitely considered, if not A-listers than high B-listers for sure, and Hugh Jackman certainly has remained prominent between his Oscar-nominated turn in the musical Les Miserables last year and his return as The Wolverine two months back, both which grossed over $100 million. Gyllenhaal hasn’t been in a movie since last year’s End of Watch in which he also played a police officer and that film generally did very well, at least better than expected by winning a slow September weekend (see below). Gyllenhaal has appeared in many strong dramas such as Brothers and Rendition, but neither fared particularly well at the box office even after he was nominated for an Oscar for his role in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain. Like Jackman, Gyllenhaal has become more discerning about the roles he’s taken in recent years with a starring role in the well-regarded Source Code following after a couple of post-Oscar nomination missteps like Disney’s summer flop Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The pairing of these two actors should certainly be good for some of their older female fans to show up even if this doesn’t seem like something they need to rush out and see.
Jackman and Gyllenhaal aren’t the only prominent stars as the impressive ensemble cast is rounded out by other known actors including Oscar winner Melissa Leo, Oscar nominees Viola Davis and Terrence Howard, as well as Maria Bello and Paul Dano. Davis probably has the strongest draw due to her Oscar-nominated role in The Help although that hasn’t helped many of her movies since including last year’s bomb Won’t Back Down and this year’s Beautiful Creatures.
Prisoners falls into a similar realm as Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River and David Fincher’s Zodiac, being a slower and more serious crime drama without a lot of action. Even with advance festival buzz, Mystic River opened fairly meekly in mid-October 2003 and took many months to build word-of-mouth and awards buzz in order to make its way to $90 million, while Zodiac (also starring Gyllenhaal) opened with just $13.3 million in early March 2007 and only made $33 million despite similar critical acclaim. Certainly movies like Prisoners have been able to do better theatrically in recent years as moviegoers got more discerning, waiting for movies that get strong reviews and word-of-mouth before spending their money, but it has a couple of things working against it.
First of all, the movie is rather long, roughly two-and-a-half hours, which will limit the number of screenings per day, but the tough subject matter of missing children might also put off a lot of moviegoers who are parents, because it’s not a subject they’ll want to visit. The film’s festival buzz and positive reviews will certainly help it get attention but it’s still a hard movie to sell, as is the case of most dramas, so it could be somewhat limited for how much it can do, at least opening weekend.
Weekend Est.: $14 to 16 million; Est. Total Gross: $44 million
Battle of the Year 3D (Screen Gems/Sony)
Starring Josh Holloway, Laz Alonso, Josh Peck, Caity Lotz, Chris Brown
Directed by Benson Lee (Planet B-Boy); Written by Brin Hill, Chris Parker
Genre: Drama, Musical
This is already a weird weekend at the box office, but what makes it even weirder is that it marks the return of the dance movie, a genre that seemingly had died down with each successive “Step Up” movie doing worse than the previous one. Essentially, this is director Benson Lee’s dramatic reinterpretation of his earlier documentary Planet B-Boy which won a few awards on the festival circuit. This one follows an American team of hip-hop dancers who are trying to enter a world competition with the help of a coach played by “Lost” star Josh Holloway and his assistant played by Josh Peck.
While on the surface it would seem like neither of those actors would do much to get people into theaters, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll realize this is the first movie in over a year starring the controversial Chris Brown. Brown was on his way to becoming a huge recording star until he got into trouble for beating his then girlfriend Rihanna in 2009 and things just started to go downhill for him–not that you could really tell because Brown continues to sell millions of records and all his movies continue to perform well at the box office. I guess he learned his lesson, huh?
Brown made his debut in the 2007 dance movie Stomp the Yard, which opened huge with $21 million and grossed $61 million and he followed that later in the year by being part of the ensemble cast of This Christmas, which grossed roughly $50 million. He starred in and executive produced the crime-thriller Takers, which also did very well with a late summer release and then appeared in the Steve Harvey comedy Think Like a Man, which was absolutely huge, opening with $33 million and grossing over $90 million. (Needless to say, a sequel is in the works for next year.)
Those four movies all have two things in common: 1.) They were released by Screen Gems and 2.) They were produced by Will Packer, who is up there with the likes of Tyler Perry in terms of being able to make movies that appeal to African-American audiences. Packer is involved with Battle of the Year, though only as an executive producerhe’s probably more focused on the four movies he’s making to be released in 2014. Some Chris Brown fans may be excited to see him to return to a role in which he gets to dance similar to Stomp the Yard, which is essentially the one big selling point for Battle of the Year, although his recent activities on Twitter as well as the whole beating Rihanna thing may have lost him many fans, especially women.
Originally this movie was going to be released in January, but it was then delayed to September and it seems to be getting a release without a lot of fanfare and Brown certainly isn’t doing any press for it. What’s odd is that the movie is only opening in 1,800 theaters which is miniscule for a movie that’s hoping to make any sort of mark at the box office although few of Brown’s other hits opened in more than 2,200 theaters, so clearly this is going for a very targeted urban audience and hopes to do well in big cities. It’s hard to gauge whether they’ll be interested in another competitive dancing movie, especially one that looks to use a fairly standard sports formula, but there isn’t any direct competition from the weekend’s other new movie so it should be able to do some business and probably won’t outright bomb even if it doesn’t have much potential for legs either.
Weekend Est.: $7 to 9 million; Est. Total Gross: $22 million
This weekend last year saw four new releases, three of which were in a tight race for the top spot which was one by the Jake Gyllenhaal/Michael Peña police thriller End of Watch (Open Road Films), which won the weekend with $13.1 million. It was followed in second place by The Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence in House at the End of the Street (Relativity Media) with $12.3 million and the Clint Eastwood-Amy Adams baseball drama Trouble with the Curve (Warner Bros.), taking third with $12.2 million. The one movie that failed to find an audience was the new movie incarnation of the popular British comic vigilante Dredd 3D (Lionsgate), starring Karl Urban, which tanked with just $6.3 million in 2,506 theaters to open in sixth place. With the Top 10 bringing in $72 million, this may be the first weekend down from last year in some time unless one of the two movies does significantly more than we’re projecting.
This Week’s Updated Predictions –
UPDATE: Buzz for Warner Bros’ thriller Prisoners has been building towards the weekend but we still think the long running time is going to hold it back from besting Insidious Chapter 2 in its second weekend though it might be a close race.
1. Insidious Chapter 2 (FilmDistrict) – $17.5 million N/A
2. Prisoners (Warner Bros.) – $17.0 million N/A (up 1.7 million)
3. Battle of the Year 3D (Screen Gems/Sony) – $8 million N/A (same)
4. The Family (Relativity Media) – $6.8 million -52% (same)
5. Lee Daniels’ The Butler (The Weinstein Company) – $3.9 million -30%
6. We’re the Millers (New Line/WB) – $3.7 million -32% (up .1 million)
7. Riddick (Universal Pictures) – $3.3 -52%
8. Instructions Not Included (Lionsgate/Pantelion) – $2.8 million -42%
9. Disney’s Planes (Walt Disney Pictures) – $2.2 million -30%
10. Elysium (TriStar Pictures/Sony) – $1.3 million -38%
This week’s “CHOSEN ONE” is Ron Howard’s new movie Rush (Universal Pictures), a fast-paced drama based on the 1976 rivalry between two Formula 1 racers, James Hunt, as played by Chris Hemsworth, and the Austrian racer Niki Lauda, played by Daniel Bruhl. You can read my review from TIFF below and I’ll have interviews with Howard and the cast very soon, but this was one of the most exciting movies I’ve seen in some time and I’m not even much of a racing fan. While much of that comes from the fantastic racing sequences, it’s also embellished by the chemistry between Hemsworth and Bruhl as the two racers who can’t stand each other from the moment they meet. While most of the movie focuses on their rivalry, I’d be remiss not to mention the fantastic performance by Alexandra Maria Lara as Lauda’s wife who really helps to humanize him, and Olivia Wilde is also good in a smaller role, appearing briefly as a supermodel who marries Hunt. I really can’t say enough good things about this movie except that I’ll probably want to save a few things for next week’s column (when the movie goes wide), plus I have a number of interviews to share as well.
Rush opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday and then nationwide on Friday, September 27.
Video Interview with the Cast (Next week!)
Nicole (Please Give) Holofcener’s latest movie Enough Said (Fox Searchlight) is also noteworthy as being one of James Gandolfini’s last films. This romantic comedy stars Julia Louis Dreyfus as a masseuse whose daughter is going off to college who befriends one of her clients (Keener) while having a romance with a kind man who is also sending his kid off to college. It opens in select cities on Friday.
Mark Ruffalo and Gwyneth Paltrow star in Thanks for Sharing (Roadside Attractions), the directorial debut by The Kids Are All Right co-screenwriter Stuart Blumberg, in which Ruffalo plays a man facing sexual addiction and trying to keep it from the new woman he’s seeing (Paltrow), getting help from a group of diverse people with similar problems, played by Tim Robbins, Josh Gad and pop star Alecia Moore aka P!nk.
Sam Rockwell stars in Dave Gonzalez’s A Single Shot (Tribeca Film), based on Matthew F. Jones’ novel. Rockwell plays the rare dramatic role of John Moon, a hunter who accidentally shoots a young woman in the backwoods of West Virginia and finds a box of money near her body. He soon learns that the money belongs to a group of criminals who start to come after him.
Stephen Dorff stars in Eran Riklis’ drama Zaytoun (Strand Releasing) playing an Israeli fighter pilot shot down in 1982 during the Lebanese Civil War who befriends a 12-year-old Palestinian child named Fahed (Abdallah El Akal).
Shaka King’s directorial debut Newlyweeds (Phase 4 Films) is a stoner comedy set in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, following a couple (Amari Cheatom, Trae Harris) whose love of cannabis leads to a number of questionable choices. It opens on Wednesday at the Film Forum in New York City.
Martha Shane and Lana Wilson’s documentary After Tiller (Oscilloscope) looks at the four doctors in the country who perform third trimester abortions following the 2009 assassination of Dr. George Tiller. It opens in New York at the Film Forum and the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center at Lincoln Center on Friday.
VLad Yudin’s docudrama Generation Iron (Vladar Company)–an update on the classic film Pumping Iron–follows seven of the world’s top bodybuilders including Phil Heath, Kai Greene and more, as they train and compete for the title of Mr. Olympia. Narrated by Mickey Rourke and featuring appearances by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno, it opens in select cities on Friday.
Herman Yau directs Anthony Wong in IP Man: The Final Fight (Well Go USA), the final chapter in telling the story of martial arts grandmaster Ip Man, not to be confused with the recent Wong Kar-wai film The Grandmaster.
Two movies opening exclusively in IMAX theaters this weekend are The Wizard of Oz IMAX 3D, a 3D restoration of the classic film that will play in IMAX 3D theaters for one week only, and Jerusalem (Cosmic Picture, Arcane Pictures), Daniel Ferguson’s look at Israel’s sacred city as narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek into Darkness).
Some of the other movies out this weekend include:
The sci-horror film The Colony (RLJ Entertainment) starring Laurence Fishburne; Josh Greenbaum’s golfing doc The Short Game (Phase 4 Films, Samuel Goldwyn Films); the Chinese romantic comedy My Lucky Star (China Lion), Christian Vincent’s French foodie flick Haute Cuisine (The Weinstein Company), Dennis (The Last House on the Left) lliadis’ horror-thriller Plus One (IFC Midnight) and fresh from the Toronto International Film Festival, Jonathan Sobol’s heist comedy The Art of the Steal (eOne Films), starring Kurt Russell and Jay Baruchel. Since I haven’t seen any of these, you’re just as likely to get any information you might need about them by clicking on the titles.
Next week, the month of September comes to a close with the animated sequel Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (Sony), the romantic comedy Baggage Claim (Fox Searchlight) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut, which is also sort of a romantic comedy, Don Jon (Relativity Media). Not only that, but Ron Howard’s Rush (Universal Pictures) will expand nationwide and the Weekend Warrior will have a very important, somewhat bittersweet announcement to make.
Copyright 2013 Edward Douglas