October 7th - 9th-
The first of two duds this past weekend was easily one of the most controversial films of the year and that is The Birth of a Nation. This was released in Sundance and got a standing ovation from audiences. Right before it was screened. An important detail that many missed in that story. You see, the Sundance Film Festival happened right in the thick of the "Oscars So White" controversy early this year and here we had a mostly black cast and crew led by actor/writer/director Nate Parker in his directorial debut. It was something for people to get behind who felt Hollywood and the Oscars especially were racist. Thus it was touted as potentially the next 12 Years a Slave and was purchased for a record-breaking $17.5 million by Fox Searchlight. A price tag that would prove to be way too high as this didn't even hit $10 million in its debut. Following Sundance, it was all downhill for this movie. Not only was the movie itself apparently very average, but rape allegations against Nate Parker surfaced from 1999. He wasn't found guilty, but was most likely was. The girl committed suicide in 2012, which doesn't help Parker's case. These revelations most likely soured general audiences away from this movie, especially considering certain scenes that were in the movie.
Our second dud of the weekend was the family-targeted film Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life. The obvious comparison here is the Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise, which has produced three successful films and has a fourth on the way next year. Both movies are based on successful books targeted at an audience of older kids and young teens. Diary of a Wimpy Kid successfully transitioned to the big screen with an opening weekend of $22.1 million while Middle School could only muster $6.8 million last weekend. I can't speak for the book, but the movie is essentially a gag-filled movie with middle school kids pulling pranks to get back at their mean teachers and mean principal for setting way too many rules that won't let the kids have any fun or creativity. This is a premise that could've worked if they played their cards right, but apparently it didn't. I guess it's possible that kids who saw it enjoyed it. I can't speak for them. But based on box office numbers, it's safe to say that not many parents were interested enough to actually take their kids to see this one.
October 14th - 16th-
Now we have the two upcoming duds. The first of these being Kevin Hart: What Now? I suppose it's unfair to call this one a dud because it's a stand-up comedy movie and the expectations for these types of movies are much different. But don't expect it to make a ton of money. However, when it does come to stand up comedians, Kevin Hart is arguably the most popular in the business at this current moment. His first two stand-up comedy movies opened up to $7 million and $10 million respectively and Kevin Hart has only gotten even more popular since those two outings, so it's entirely possible this continues the upward trend. This particular routine took place at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and broke records for ticket sales, so that's a good sign.
The other dud will be a a superhero movie! But not a Marvel or DC superhero movie. This one is called Max Steel and there's not many people on this planet that have heard of it. It started filming in 2014, then got shelved for a long time. The trailer for the movie didn't show up until late August, which is awfully late for trying to get the word out. The movie is directed by Stewart Hendler, the director of Whisper and Sorority Row, two movies no one has ever seen, and a web series called H+. In other words, he's a no-name director. The movie stars a bunch of no-name actors as well. It is based on the line of Max Steel action figures by Mattel, which are kinda like G.I. Joes. These Max Steel action figures got an animated TV show adaptation, which wasn't that popular. So nothing points to success for this. If you are wondering what it's about, a kid named Max combines with a certain alien called Steel to develop superpowers. Thus is why it gets the label of a superhero movie. One that will be quickly forgotten about. If it even gets anyone's attention in the first place
October 21st - 23rd-
Second up is the latest movie in Tyler Perry's Madea franchise with Boo! A Madea Halloween. From 2006 through 2014, Tyler Perry directed at least one or two movies per year, most of which consistently made between $30-60 million. They started to tail off a bit towards the end of that run, with his most recent movie, Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club only making $15.9 million total. Out of these series of Tyler Perry movies, the most popular ones were those that featured his character of Madea, which is a crazy, old, black lady played by Tyler Perry himself. The most successful outing with Madea was Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail, which made $90.5 million back in 2009. Boo! A Madea Halloween is the second straight holiday themed movie with the Madea character following Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas in 2013. This holiday theme could very well resurrect Tyler Perry's movies as it's one of the few movies this month that's actually Halloween themed. The other one is coming up next.
The one and only horror movie during this Halloween month is, much to many people's chagrin, is Ouija: Origin of Evil. Ouija was a movie two years ago based on the popular board game that many think is a joke while many others think is a genuinely satanic, evil board that should never be messed with. Thus there was a huge controversy when the movie came out that played off people's fear of this evil board. Basically it was a movie where a bunch of people messed with the board and all died. The major problem here was not the controversy necessarily, but it was almost a universally hated movie as most called it one of the worst and most cliché horror movies, hitting every note that all the bad horror movies these days hit. But that didn't stop the droves of teenagers from showing up to the movie as, despite the poisonous reviews, the PG-13 rating helped it earn a total of $103.6 million wordwide, half of that in the U.S. That off a $5 million budget. What happens when you have a horror movie with that huge of a profit? You ignore the reviews and make a hundred more sequels until you've squeezed every last penny out of the franchise. Thus we have Ouija: Origin of Evil.
Movie number four of the weekend is the action comedy Keeping Up with the Joneses. This movie sports a cast of Gal Gadot, Isla Fisher, Zach Galifianakis and John Hamm and is directed by Greg Mottola, the director of Superbad and Paul, two very popular comedies. The premise is a very normal couple (Fisher and Galifianakis) ends up getting caught up in a huge international espionage plot after their seemingly perfect new neighbors (Gadot and Hamm) turn out to be government spies. This has all the ingredients for a very successful action comedy and if this gets great reviews, this could turn out to be a sleeper hit even if it doesn't open super high. The obvious elephant in the room is that with five wide releases, not everything can make bank at the box office. The two established franchises will most likely take precedence in people's minds when push comes to shove, so Keeping Up with the Joneses will be fighting the hardest uphill battle in this crowded weekend, even if the specific target audiences will be different for all the films involved.
Last and probably least for this weekend will be the faith-based film from Pure Flix in I'm Not Ashamed. Faith-based films have been known to break out in the last couple of years, but this is probably not going to be an example of that. Looking at the history of the films that Pure Flix has released, Do You Believe? made $12.9, Faith of Our Fathers made $1 million, Woodlawn made $14.4 million, God's Not Dead 2 made $20.8 million and Hillsong - Let Hope Rise made $2.4 million. So there definitely seems to be a ceiling here with Pure Flix. If this ends up somewhere between Do You Believe? and God's Not Dead 2, that will be a win for Pure Flix. The movie itself tells the true story of Rachel Joy Scott, who was the first student killed in the Columbine High School shooting back in 1999. The movie is based on her journal entries. If played well, this could definitely hit the niche crowd of Christian film goers that Pure Flix aims for with their movies given that it's a subject matter that many people remember quite well.
October 28th - 30th-