Saturday, September 2, 2017

Movie Preview: September 2017

Summer 2017 came whimpering to a close this past month as August could only muster up around $650 million, which may end up as the lowest grossing August since 1997. While quite the statistic there, this doesn't come at a huge surprise given that studios chose to mostly avoid this month. In recent years, movies such as "Suicide Squad" and "Guardians of the Galaxy" snuck into August and dominated the month. This year the long awaited movie adaptation of Stephen King's "The Dark Tower" was in that slot, but awful reviews and poisonous word of mouth led that to only getting around $45 million through the month, thus opening the door for "Annabelle: Creation" to win the month as it currently stands at $80 million and is slowly inching its way to the $100 million mark. Historically speaking, September is the year's worst month of the year as the September record is held by 2015 with just $626.4 million. This September, though, actually has potential to buck this trend. While it will get almost no help from August holdovers, there are several huge titles scheduled for this month that could make this one of the more interesting Septembers in recent history. Thus let's dive in and take a look at what this September has in store!

September 1st - 4th-

I said that there are several big titles being released this September. And I didn't lie. But we have to wait a week first because Hollywood avoided Labor Day weekend like the plague. It's historically the worst weekend of the year where nothing can make money. Because of that, it's become a bit of a self-fulfilling prophesy as studios just don't schedule anything big for this weekend. This year there aren't any new releases opening in more than 1,000 theaters. The biggest new release of the weekend is actually the 2017 re-release of Steven Spielberg's 1977 classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 901 theaters. Alicia Vickander and Dane DeHaan will finally take the stage in Tulip Fever, which will enter into 765 theaters after being delayed multiple times, and is about an artist in the 17th century falling in love with a young married woman that he's commissioned to paint. Marvel will release the first two episodes of their upcoming TV superhero drama Inhumans into 386 IMAX locations, while the small release that may come out on top is Pantelion's Hazlo Como Hombre, despite only opening in 382 theaters. But all this said, "The Hitman's Bodyguard" is poised to score a three-peat at the box office with around $7 million for the three-day.

September 8th - 10th-

And this is where things get real in September. Usually the second weekend of September isn't much better than the first, but this year Warner Bros. ignored that unwritten rule of not scheduling anything major in the first half of September as they slotted Stephen King's It in this spot. This high risk is looking like it's going to translate into very high reward as the September opening weekend record is guaranteed to be shattered. The current opening weekend record is "Hotel Transylvania 2" with $48.5 million. Current predictions from various sites based on tracking metrics have "It" opening to at least $60 million, and that could be a conservative estimate. The fist sign that this movie was going to be huge was when the first trailer was released and received 197 million views in the first 24 hours, breaking the record for most trailer views in the first 24 hours. The brand recognition is obviously a huge key in this as "It" was written in 1986 by King and is one of his most well-known and well-loved novels, which was then adapted into a popular two-episode TV mini-series in 1990. Thus everyone's favorite killer clown has been terrorizing people for over 30 years now and audiences are excited for Pennywise's first feature-length movie adaptation.

Those not in the mood to be terrorized by Pennywise the clown have the option of settling down with the romantic comedy Home Again. This stars the 41-year-old Reese Witherspoon look as young as ever, playing a 40-year-old single mother who, through a series of unexpected events, ends up allowing three young men in their 20's to move in with her while her ex-husband, played by the 48-year-old Michael Sheen, wants to make his way back into her life. Even though he is much closer to Reese in age, this might make for some purposefully awkward laughs as his "competition" for Reese are young enough to be his children. "Home Again" is the directorial debut for Hallie Meyers-Shyer, the daughter of popular filmmaker Nancy Meyers, known for films such as the 1998 remake of "The Parent Trap," "What Women Want," "Something's Gotta Give" and "It's Complicated." "Home Again" will determine if Hallie has the same knack for romantic comedies as her mother Nancy, while Nancy has been on the crew as producer, helping her daughter out.

September 15th - 17th-

The third weekend of September sees the first of two movies this month with the word "American" in the title. I'll get to "American Made" a bit later, but this weekend the "American" movie is American Assassin. This continues the "Keatonaissance" as the latest movie headlined by Michael Keaton after starring back-to-back best picture winners, "Birdman" and "Spotlight," revitalized his career, turning him into one of the most popular actors of the day. "American Assassin" has Keaton teaming up with "Maze Runner" and "Teen Wolf" star Dylan O'Brien. Or rather, the movie has Keaton, a Cold War veteran in the film, training O'Brien to be an assassin after O'Brien is enlisted in the CIA as a black ops recruit as he is seeking revenge following a terrorist attack on a beach that killed his girlfriend right after they got engaged. Keaton and O'Brien then are out on a mission to stop a mysterious character nicknamed "Ghost," who is played by Taylor Kitsch. If "American Assassin" can match the $21.4 million opening of last month's "The Hitman's Bodyguard," that will be considered a win. Although great reviews will be required to hit that mark as opening the weekend before "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" may prove to be a tricky prospect financially.

The second movie of the week is the return of acclaimed filmmaker Darren Aronofsky with mother! Aronofsky has been absent since 2014's controversial outing in "Noah" and mostly likely hopes to return to form after being most well-known for 2000's "Requiem for a Dream" and 2010's "Black Swan," the latter of which was nominated for five Oscars, which included a best picture nomination, a best director nomination for Aronofsky and a best leading actress win for Natalie Portman. Can "mother!" bring Aronofsky back into Academy relevance? It's had the early pre-release buzz, but that's mainly because it's Aronofsky teamed up with Jennifer Lawrence, Michelle Pfiefer and others in a movie released in the fall. In reality, "mother!" might not be the type of movie that the Academy goes for as it's more of a mysterious horror/thriller where Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem play a couple who start getting visits from strange guests that keep coming and coming. Thus if this is going for a horror vibe like the trailers make it out to be, releasing it the weekend after "It" might prove to be a bit questionable in terms of timing and Oscar nominations might simply be reserved for acting categories.

The final release of the weekend may end up becoming a small release with a wide expansion later, but we'll talk about it here anyways. This movie is All I See is You. If this does end up as a normal wide release this weekend, mid-September thrillers have a history of performing well. Although usually it's with Screen Gems and has a predominately black cast ala "When the Bough Breaks," "The Perfect Guy" and "No Good Deed" from the last three consecutive years. Screen Gems has their own horror film towards the end of the month that breaks this trend a bit, but we'll get to that. "All I See is You" is directed by Marc Forster, director of "Finding Neverland," "Stranger than Fiction," "Quantum of Solace" and "World War Z," and stars Blake Lively and Jason Clarke as a couple whose relationship changes drastically once Blake Lively, who was blind, receives her sight and discovers disturbing details about their relationship. The movie debuted last September at TIFF to mixed reviews. Open Roads are probably hoping that general audiences react a little better than the festival audience did.

September 22nd - 24th-

After "It" is set to shatter the September opening weekend record in the second weekend of September, two weeks later we have two major films targeted towards very different audiences that are both set to rock the box office as well. It's a bit of a coin toss to see which one will win the weekend, but we'll talk about Kingsman: The Golden Circle first. The first "Kingsman" movie took the world by storm around Valentine's Day 2015, providing great counter-programming to "Fifty Shades of Grey," as a high-octane, violent action thriller similar to a very intense, bloody James Bond like action movie with the Kingsman being a secret organization of very gentlemanly individuals with all sorts of gizmos and gadgets hidden in their suits as they are prepared for any sort of situation. The movie made a star out of Taron Egerton and will see him return to the sequel along with much of the original cast while adding a whole host of new names, highlighted by Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges. The Kingsman have to band together with an American version of their organization to take down a common enemy who destroyed the Kingsman's headquarters. Matthew Vaughan returns to the directing chair with the very first sequel he's directed.

The other movie opening alongside "Kingsman" will be The LEGO Ninjago Movie. The "LEGO" franchise is building themselves quite the brand in the animation realm as this is the second "LEGO" movie to come out this year following "The LEGO Batman Movie," both of which are building off the major surprise success that was "The LEGO Movie" in 2014, which many people mistakenly thought would be awful. "Ninjago" is a natural direction for LEGO to go with their next movie as the Ninjago series has been one of LEGO's most popular series with a ton of various LEGO Ninjago sets that have come into popularity due to the "Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu" TV show that began in 2011 and recently aired its seventh season earlier this year on Cartoon Network. While the movie does feature the same characters as the TV show, the movie is not a continuation of the TV show and has a different voice cast than TV show. Thus being caught up with the TV show is not a requirement for this movie. That said, "Ninjago" hits more of a niche crowd than that of "The LEGO Movie" and "The LEGO Batman Movie," so naturally this should have more of a dip financially from the previous two, although the lack of competition at the moment should be a major advantage.

Finally for this fourth weekend, we have another thriller. That being Friend Request. With this being potentially the fourth horror/thriller of the month, we can definitely tell that studios are doing their best to take advantage of the Halloween season as this influx of horrors will continue in October with the likes of "Happy Death Day" and "Jigsaw." Naturally, too many movies of the same genre at the same time is a problem, thus not all of these movies can make money. With "It" and "mother!" likely being the horror/thriller hits of the month, "Friend Request" is likely to fall by the wayside along with "All I See is You" and the two that I'm about to get to in the final weekend of September. As you can guess by the title, this is another Facebook horror movie. A certain college girl unfriends this mysterious girl and starts being haunted by this girl because of it. If it sounds like something you've heard of recently, that's because in April of 2015 we had a similar movie called "Unfriended" that had a similar premise. That movie had an opening weekend of $15.8 million and went onto make $32.5 million domestically and $64.1 million worldwide. Pretty good for a $1 million production budget. "Friend Request" will be lucky if its final total equaled that movie's opening weekend.

September 29th - October 1st-

The final weekend of September, which includes one day of October, will be headlined by our second "American" movie of the month, that of American Made. The movie is a biographical crime thriller that stars Tom Cruise as Barry Seal, who was a former pilot that became a drug smuggler for the Medellin Cartel in the 1980's and later served as an informant for the DEA in order to avoid jail time. The movie is directed by Doug Liman, director of "The Bourne Identity" and "Edge of Tomorrow" and co-stars Sarah Wright and Domhnall Gleeson alongside Cruise. This could end up as a decent sleeper hit at the end of September, leading into October, given that it's already been released in several countries around the world, which includes its August 25 release in the U.K. Word from all of those countries is very positive. If that translates into positive hype over here in the U.S. and the critic reviews stay strong, the movie currently holds an 87 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, this could have a solid opening and a long run. Last September, "Sully" was the top release, opening to $35 million on its way to $125 million total domestically. While not a perfect comparison, I wouldn't be surprised to see "American Made" get close to these numbers. Maybe even some Oscar potential?

Five weekends in September. Why not five horror/thrillers as Flatliners joins the market. This here will be our annual September Screen Gems thriller, although it bucks their trend a bit as the previous three Septembers saw Screen Gems release a thriller in early- to mid-September, all with a predominately black cast. This is late September and is not really the same type of thriller as their previous three. "Flatliners" is actually a sequel to the 1990 film of the same name. Yes, sequel. Not reboot. The original was directed by Joel Schumacher and starred Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts and Kevin Bacon among others and was about five medical students experimenting on near death experiences that end up having dark consequences. Cut and paste the premise this time around, most likely 30 some odd years later, with Ellen Page, Diego Luna and Nina Dobrev this time around highlighting our main crew of medical students. The 1990 "Flatliners" debuted to $10 million and grossed $61.5 million total. This 2017 sequel might get a similar opening weekend, although 27 years later the ticket price inflation makes that less impressive and I'd be shocked if this matches that movie's final total.

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