Thursday, November 10, 2016

Movie Preview: November 2016

October has come and gone without a major hit. October is normally a very average month, but this was especially average as it was the first October since 2011 to not have any movie make $100 million or more during the month. The top grossing movie of the month was Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar People, which earned $71.3 million in October after opening on the final day of September. Out of the October releases, The Girl on the Train led the way with $66.5 million in October with surprise hits The Accountant and Boo! A Madea Halloween close behind, both of which have passed or will pass The Girl on the Train before their runs are over. Biggest loser of the month was Max Steel, which is already gone from theaters after just three weeks in and only $3.8 million. That's one of the worst totals of all time for a movie that opened in at least 2,000 theaters. Keeping Up with the Joneses, Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, The Birth of a Nation and Inferno, while not as bad as Max Steel, were also duds. Despite the middling October box office, November officially begins holiday season, which means the box office will turn around, and already has for that matter since we're a weekend in, as there are several major titles on deck, so without further delay, let's dive in!

November 4th - 6th-

The first weekend of November started very strong as Marvel's Doctor Strange made more money in one weekend than all the October releases made in the entire month with an opening of $85.1 million. This was Marvel's sixth single character intro movie and out of those six movies, Doctor Strange conjuring up the second highest opening weekend, behind only Iron Man, which opened to $98.6 million back in 2008. This was also yet another example of Marvel diving into the unknown as, outside the real of comic book junkies, not many people knew much about the Sorcerer Supreme heading into this movie. This is something that Marvel has arguably done from the beginning of their Cinematic Universe as before 2008, not many people knew much about Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, yet Marvel turned all of those three into A-listers. But they've especially done this recently with the likes of Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, finding major success every step of the way as they yet again seem to prove that they can do no wrong. Not only did Doctor Strange find success yet again at the box office, it also was very well received by critics and audiences alike, with a certified fresh score of 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes as well as a 91 percent audience score.

Providing some very successful counter-programming to Doctor Strange was DreamWorks Animation's second outing of the year in Trolls, opening to $46.6 million. After a very rough stretch financially from Rise of the Guardians in 2012 to Penguins of Madagascar in 2014, causing many changes for the studio both with their release schedule and internally, DreamWorks now must be breathing a sigh of relief as they are now on a bit of a winning streak as Trolls is now their third straight movie to open above $40 million. Based on the troll dolls that were especially popular back in the 70's and 80's, Trolls managed to hit a sweet spot on the schedule in between Storks and Moana. It'll essentially have a monopoly on the family market this month until it gets destroyed by Moana on Thanksgiving. But that should give it plenty of time to bring in good cash. Also potentially helping Trolls was Justin Timberlake's smash summer hit on the Billboard charts, "Can't Stop the Feeling," which was written for Trolls. Anna Kendrick and Gwen Stefani also provide musical talent for the movie.

The final opening this past weekend was Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge. Given that Mel Gibson is not the most popular person on the planet right now, Lionsgate strategically advertised this as being "from the director of Braveheart," without using Gibson's name. This is Gibson's first directorial effort since Apocalypto in 2006 and has so far received huge critical acclaim. The movie first opened at the Venice Film Festival in September and reportedly received a 10-minute standing ovation. The movie stars Andrew Garfield as a World War II American Army medic named Desmond T. Doss who refused to pick up a gun and kill people, instead choosing to save as many people as he could. His efforts earned him a Medal of Honor, which was the first Medal of Honor given to a conscientious objector. In addition to receiving an A Cinemascore, and an A+ Cinemascore among people over 50, the movie currently stands at 8.8 on IMDb and 87 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. It opened to $15.2 and should hold very well throughout the month until Brad Pitt's fellow war movie Allied hits theaters on Thanksgiving.

November 11th - 13th- 

Opening in between this month's two major blockbusters are three wide releases that will hope to continue the box office success that the first weekend of the month started. Leading the way is Denis Villeneuve's critically acclaimed film Arrival, which has yet to receive a negative review on Rotten Tomatoes as of the publishing of this post with over 60 reviews counted. Arrival is a thinking man's sci-fi film as it stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker leading a team of people investigating the arrival of 12 mysterious alien spaceships that land on Earth. The team hopes to communicate with the aliens to determine why they have arrived. Director Denis Villeneuve has received very high praise with all of his movies thus far, which has included Incendies, Prisoners and Sicario. If reviews continue to trend the way they have so far, this could end up being seen as his best movie to date and could easily pass Prisoner's $61.0 million total, which is Villeneuve's current highest grossing film at the domestic box office. If the cards play out well, lead star Amy Adams could be in contention to receive her 6th Oscar nomination as she continues her quest to finally win one.

Opening along with Arrival is the first holiday-themed movie of the season in Almost Christmas. This is a PG-13 comedy that features a mostly all black cast that includes Danny Glover, Gabrielle Union, Jessie T. Usher and Omar Epps. The movie is about a dysfunctional family that is forced to come together for the first time since their mom died. The goal is to make things work for just five days around Thanksgiving. Thus makes this movie have crossover appeal with two holidays. The producer on this movie is Will Packer, whose had a long string of success producing similar comedies with black casts, including This Christmas, Think Like a Man and Ride Along. Most of the movies he has produced have made between $20-40 million on their opening weekends and if last month's Boo! A Madea Halloween taught us anything, that would be that holiday themed comedies aimed at a black audience can do rather well, so this could be one of the surprise successes of the month.

The third wide release of the month is a thriller that should go mostly unnoticed and that is Shut In. The distributor here is EuropaCorp whose only previous two wide releases were The Transporter Refueled from last year and Nine Lives from earlier this year, both of which earned just over $5 million in their opening weekend, a number that probably sounds about right for Shut In. This will be director Farren Blackburn's first major feature-length after directing a variety of TV episodes over the years from shows like Doctors, Luther and Daredevil. Naomi Watts and Jacob Tremblay star in this thriller, which is about a windowed woman who is caring for her paralyzed son when she gets "shut in" from the rest of the world after a deadly winter storm hits that in turn causes her to start seeing things and thinking that someone is inside her house trying to harm them.

November 18th - 20th-

Five years ago the Harry Potter universe hit theaters for the final time with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Or so we thought. Turns out that Hollywood is pretty good at figuring out ways to continue popular franchises, which is exactly what they've done here as our second major blockbuster of the month is the Harry Potter spin-off film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This movie takes us across the seas from London and Hogwarts to New York where we follow Newt Scamander, the author of the textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them from the Harry Potter books, which is a guide to all the magical creatures. J.K. Rowling said that she became very attached to this character of Newt Scamander and now will get the opportunity of showing the world what was in her head as pertaining to the history and background of Mr. Scamander as it was her that wrote this script with David Yates, director of the previous four Harry Potter movies, back on board to direct. Everyone involved here is so confident that this will be a success that a sequel is already on the schedule for November 2018 and it has been announced that this will be a five movie series. Eddie Redmayne will play the lead role of Newt Scamander and he'll have a host of talented supporting cast around him including Ezra Miller, Collin Farrell and Ron Perlman.

Hoping for some successful counter-programming to Fantastic Beasts will be the comedy The Edge of Seventeeen. This comes to us via STX Entertainment, which is a production company that started last summer with the goal of releasing several mid-budget movies per year featuring star-studded casts. After a couple of successful thrillers, STX stumbled a bit with the action movie Hardcore Henry and flopped big time with the war movie Free State of Jones. However, they struck gold with their first try at comedy as this summer's Bad Moms became one of the huge surprise hits, earning $113.3 million at the domestic box office off a $20 million budget. Now they'll hope lighting strikes twice with their second comedy, The Edge of Seventeen. This stars Hailee Steinfeld, who is experiencing quite a bit of success on multiple fronts as she has a top 20 Billboard Hit with her song "Starving" featuring Zedd in addition to this movie coming out. The movie is about Hailee's character going through some high school drama as she's at... the edge of seventeen. Woody Harrelson and Blake Jenner co-star.

Hoping to attract some of the adult audience not interested in returning to the Harry Potter universe or seeing a high school comedy will be the boxing movie Bleed for This. Last year at about this time the boxing movie Creed took the world by storm as it was a huge critical and box office success, earning over $100 million at the domestic box office after becoming one of the most well-beloved movies of the year as Michael B. Jordan successfully took over the mantle in the successful boxing franchise. A year later, Jordan's Fant4stic co-star Miles Teller will try his luck in a boxing movie as Teller plays real life boxer Vinny Pazienza who made a miraculous comeback to the boxing ring after getting in a near-fatal accident that led many to believe he would never walk again. As far as box office success, Teller certainly isn't going to experience the same level of success as Jordan. Bleed for This isn't a part of an already successful franchise and in general boxing movies are a hard sell. Back in August, fellow true story boxing movie Hands of Stone could only muster an opening weekend of $1.7 million on its way to $4.7 million total. Another potential comparison might be 2013's Grudge Match which opened to $7.0 million on it's way to $29.8 million total.

November 23rd - 25th-

Disney is having an absolute killer year so far at the box office as they currently hold the top four spots at the worldwide box office with Captain America: Civil War, Finding Dory, Zootopia and The Jungle Book, three of those having crossed the $1 billion mark. And they're far from over as next month they have Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and this Thanksgiving weekend they are set to dominate with Moana. As far as Disney's actual animation studio, they're also doing very well with Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6 and Zootopia all receiving strong financial and critical success. With Moana, they will be adding another Disney princess into their cannon as well as another musical. The title character Moana will be Disney's first Polynesian princess and the music in the movie has been done by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Yet the actual advertising has focused less on Moana herself or the music and more on Dwayne Johnson's character, the demigod Maui. Dwayne Johnson is a proven box office king, so that's not necessarily a bad idea. A lot of parallels to Frozen here as it's a Disney princess musical released at the beginning of the Holliday season, although it might be hard to catch lighting in a bottle twice, so Frozen numbers might be unrealistic.

I briefly mentioned Brad Pitt's Allied earlier in this preview when talking about Hacksaw Ridge. This will be our adult counter-programming to Disney's Moana. One of the three such movies, anyways. There's a bit of drama surrounding this movie as the recent divorce of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie is rumored to be partially due to Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard getting along so well after filming Allied together. Not that I'm one to feed the rumor mills, but it's an interesting piece of drama. In Allied, Pitt and Cotillard play a husband and wife during World War II. Pitt is American. Cotillard is French. But Pitt's character has a huge bombshell dropped on him as he is told that his wife might be a German spy and if she is, he has orders to kill her on the spot or be hanged. Talk about a relationship tester, right? Allied is directed by Robert Zemeckis, who has a long string of huge successes, which includes Back to the Future, Forest Gump, Cast Away and Flight. Although his recent film, last year's The Walk, didn't quite catch on, earning only $10 million. So he'll be looking to recover here with this project.

Our second adult-aimed movie this weekend will also be our second Christmas themed movie with Bad Santa 2Bad Santa is a movie that was released 13 years and although it was decently well-liked and had an alright run at the box office, it's not exactly a sequel everyone was asking for. Then there's the fact that comedy sequels from movies that came out 10+ years ago haven't been doing super well recently. Recent examples include Dumb and Dumber To and Zoolander 2 disappointing. So the initial prognostic for Bad Santa 2 doesn't look that great. However, a raunchy, Holiday-themed movie for the adults could very well catch on and perform well throughout the season. Last year on this same exact weekend the movie Night Before only opened to $9.3 million, but had an excellent 4.6 multiplier when comparing opening weekend to final domestic total as it finished with just over $43 million. It's possible that Bad Santa 2 follows a similar trajectory. The movie stars Billy Bob Thornton, reprising his role from the first film.

And finally we have the highly anticipated Warren Beatty project Rules Don't Apply. Warren Beatty had a very successful run as an actor throughout the 60's and 70's, most well-known for his role as Clyde Barrow in the movie Bonnie and Clyde from 1967. On the tail end of the most successful stretch of his acting career, he directed and starred in several movies, such as Heaven Can Wait, Reds and Dick Tracy. Outside the Dick Tracy Special on TV in 2010, Beatty hasn't done much of anything on any level in the last 20 years. And now he is back doing everything in Rules Don't Apply as he wrote, directed, produced and starred in this film. The success of a film like this will be based solely on the actual reviews. Good reviews mean it could be an Oscar contender. Bad or average reviews mean it could fly under everyone's radar and be forgot. The movie is about an unconventional love story between an aspiring actress, her driver and the billionaire they work for and will definitely have an old-fashioned vibe to it. In addition to Beatty himself, the movie stars Haley Bennett, Ed Harris, Lily Collins, Alden Ehrenreich, Alec Baldwin, Annette Bening, Matthew Broderick and Martin Sheen. 

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