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2013 Preview: September

September 1st, 2013

August ended, and we should be very grateful for that. Lee Daniels' The Butler was a surprise hit, while We're the Millers did better than expected. However, most other films that were expected to be solid hits failed to live up to expectations. Fortunately, August of 2012 was even worse, so 2013 regained the lead on the year-to-year comparison during the month. Looking forward, there is exactly one film that will likely become more than a midlevel hit in September: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. That film has a chance to reach $100 million in total. Most of the rest of the new releases will be lucky if they get halfway there. Fortunately, September of 2012 was even worse. Hotel Transylvania was a surprise hit, earning nearly $150 million, and there were a few others that topped $50 million, but there were also several outright bombs. If we can avoid those types of bombs, then 2013 should continue its winning streak.

Weekend of September 6th, 2013

The weekend after Labor Day is historically the worst weekend of the year. I know I've said that in the past, numerous times. However, this likely won't be the case in 2013. There is only one film opening wide, but it is Riddick, which actually has quite a bit of good buzz. I'm not saying it has good buzz for a September release, but it actually has good buzz compared to most non-tentpole releases. Since it does have the weekend to itself, it should open rather well. In fact, it should open with more than the combined totals of last year's two wide releases, The Words and The Cold Life of Day. Granted, that's not a really high bar to set, but it should get over it and help September start with a solid win.

Riddick

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Riddick-Movie.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: September 6th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, language and some sexual content/nudity.
Source: Original Screenplay / Sequel
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Marooned, Bounty Hunter, Revenge, Delayed Sequel, and more
Directed By: David Twohy
Written By: David Twohy
Starring: Vin Diesel, Karl Urban, Katee Sackhoff, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $38 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

Pitch Black opened in February of 2000 with low expectations. It was a relatively inexpensive film starring an unproven actor, Vin Diesel. It earned mixed reviews, but did well enough to earn a profit. Then someone at Universal lost their ever-loving mind and decided to greenlight a sequel with a $120 million production budget. With that budget, it would have needed to make well over $100 million domestically and double that internationally to break even. It barely made that much worldwide. This explains why it took nearly a decade for the third film to come out. Given the critical acclaim of the first two films, or lack thereof, and the time of year, I don't expect an award-worthy film. However, if it can avoid truly bad reviews (a Tomatometer Score of less than 40%) then it should do relatively well at the box office. On the high end, it could easily become the biggest domestic hit of the franchise. On the low end, it could fail to live up to the original, despite the 13 years of inflation. I think the higher end is more likely.

Weekend of September 13th, 2013

The second weekend of September looks stronger than the first weekend with a couple new releases: Insidious: Chapter 2 and The Family. The original Insidious cost just $1.5 million to make, but earned roughly $100 million worldwide. It is no surprise that it is getting a sequel. The only surprise is it took two years and the studio didn't try and turn it into a yearly event. The Family is written and directed by Luc Besson, who has had some success here, but not a lot. Perhaps teaming up with Martin Scorsese, who was an executive producer, will help it at the box office. I'm not betting on it. Last year, Resident Evil: Retribution opened with just over $21 million, while Finding Nemo's 3D re-release came second with $16 million. I think this year's new releases will top last year's, at least when you combine the two films, which should extend 2013's winning streak a little more.

The Family

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Facebook.com/TheFamilyMovie
Distributor: Relativity
Release Date: September 13th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language and brief sexuality.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Black Comedy
Keywords: Mafia, Witness Protection, Fake Identities, Revenge, Hitmen, Voiceover, and more
Directed By: Luc Besson
Written By: Luc Besson, Michael Caleo, and Tonino Benacquista
Starring: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Agron, John D'Leo, Tommy Lee Jones, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Robert De Niro stars as a Mafia man who rats out the rest of his mob family, so he and his real family have to go into Witness Protection. However, they tend to make a mess each new place they go, so eventually they are sent to France. However, even here they go back to their Mafia roots and this allows the Mob to track them down.

It will be interesting to see what the critics think about this movie, because the buzz isn't there. That's not to say there is bad buzz, but the lack of buzz is troubling. Then again, it is September and it is very rare for a September release to have any real hype behind it. At best, this film will become a midlevel hit with $50 million or so, but $30 million is much more likely.

Insidious Chapter 2

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Facebook.com/InsidiousMovie
Distributor: FilmDistrict
Release Date: September 13th, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of terror and violence, and thematic elements.
Source: Original Screenplay / Sequel
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Demons, Possession, Hauntings, and more
Directed By: James Wan
Written By: James Wan and Leigh Whannell
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey, Ty Simpkins, and others
Production Budget: More than the original
Box Office Potential: $65 million

The original Insidious only cost $1.5 million to make, but it pulled in nearly $100 million worldwide. I suspect this film cost a lot more to make, perhaps as much as James Wan's and Patrick Wilson's earlier supernatural horror film, The Conjuring, which cost $20 million to make. That film has so far earned $130 million domestically and $220 million worldwide. If this film can made $130 million worldwide, the studio should be happy. I think that will happen. Insidious's reviews were good, but not great. There have also been a few sequels that failed to live up to their predecessors this year, including The Last Exorcism Part II, which clearly has the same target demographic. It was also a sequel to a low-budget horror movie movie that was a hit in theaters. However, while The Last Exorcism earned better reviews than Insidious did, its audience reaction was not nearly as strong as Insidious's were. This suggests Insidious Chapter 2 will have a much easier time building on its predecessor's success. It is possible that it won't do as well as the original did earning $40 million or so. On the other hand, it could be a surprise hit with $75 million. I'm a little more bullish than most, so keep that in mind, but I think $65 million is a solid goal.

Weekend of September 20th, 2013

There are two wide releases this week, plus another opening in limited release that is expanding nationwide the following weekend. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like any of them will be significant hits. Prisoners has an impressive cast and the first review is positive, but it is a September release, and that's never a good sign. Battle of the Year is a 3D dance competition movie, which is two genres that are on the decline. Rush also opens this week, but only in limited release. It then expands next week, which is the busiest weekend of the month. It was a lot busier last year with four wide releases, but it was clearly a case of quantity over quality and none of the releases were even midlevel hits. End of Watch came the closest, because it had a low production budget, low for a wide release, anyways. Prisoners should open better than last year's winner and the holdover will help, but I think 2012 has the slight edge here and 2013's winning streak could end.

Battle of the Year

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: BattleOfTheYear-Movie.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: September 20th, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language and some rude behavior.
Source: Based on a Movie
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Dancing, Hip Hop, Underdogs, Tournament, Inspirational Coach, Gratuitous Cameos, Director Remaking His Own Film, Romance, 3-D, and more
Directed By: Benson Lee
Written By: Benson Lee, Brin Hill, and Chris Parker
Starring: Josh Holloway, Laz Alonso, Caity Lotz, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Based on the documentary Planet B-Boy, which was also directed by Benson Lee. In the film, America is on a losing streak at the world Breakdancing championships and Laz Alonso hires Josh Holloway to be the new coach, even though he was a basketball coach and knows nothing about dancing. Because of this, they hire a choreographer, Caity Lotz, who as Josh Holloway points out, is a girl! He says this as if girls can't be choreographers! Did the writers of this movie step out of the 1950s?

The trailer is not effective, at least in my opinion, while the dancing genre is on a downward slope. The same can be said of 3D films. Critics will occasionally praise the 3D effects, when done right, but adding 3D to a movie is no longer enough to draw in millions of moviegoers. The buzz is really quiet and rather negative. On Rotten Tomatoes, the audience anticipation is second lowest with the number of user ratings at less than 4000. (Only Baggage Claim has lower, and I'm not 100% sure that film is opening truly wide.) Additionally, its only earning an 80% score, compared to scores in the high 90% positive range for nearly every other wide release. (Baggage Claim is also earning a better rating, but it is at 86%.) Perhaps it will surprise and be a midlevel hit; however, it might open with less than $10 million and disappear a few weeks later. The lower end is much more likely.

Prisoners

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: PrisonersMovie.WarnerBros.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: September 20th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violent content including torture, and language throughout.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Suspense
Keywords: Kidnapping, Police Procedural, Vigilante, Torture, Missing Person, Surprise Twist, and more
Directed By: Denis Villeneuve
Written By: Aaron Guzikowski
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, and others
Production Budget: More than the original
Box Office Potential: $55 million

After a young girl and her friend go missing, the police, led by Jake Gyllenhaal search for her. But when the cops don't move fast enough, her father, Hugh Jackman, decides to take matters into his own hands.

This is the Hollywood debut for Canadian director Denis Villeneuve. His previous film was Incendies, which earned incredible reviews and even picked up an Oscar nomination. I doubt this film will match that performance, but it could be a midlevel hit at the box office. It does have some good star power and the trailer is effective. However, the buzz is a little too quiet to predict anything significantly more than $50 million. Maybe the buzz will grow as its release date nears.

Weekend of September 27th, 2013

The final week of the month is also the busiest, as the studios hope the September doldrums can end a week early. Of these films, only Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 has a shot at anything more than a midlevel hit. In fact, if it lives up to its predecessor it will top $100 million with relative ease. Don Jon is earning some excellent early reviews and could be a surprise hit. On the other hand, its subject matter will likely prevent mainstream audiences from rushing out to see it. Rush opens a week earlier in limited release and assuming it can survive that, it might find an audience in theaters. But, Formula One racing is just not popular here, which will limit its potential to just a midlevel hit. The final wide release is Baggage Claim, but I'm not convinced it will open truly wide. After all, Fox Searchlight has only opened two films in more than 2,000 theaters. Last year was led by Hotel Transylvania with more than $42 million. I don't think Cloudy 2 will match that. Additionally, Looper placed second with just over $20 million, and none of the counter-programming films will earn that much during their opening weekends. It looks like after several wins in a row, 2013 might end the month on a mini-losing streak. Hopefully it won't last.

Baggage Claim

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: BaggageClaimMovie.com
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Release Date: September 27th, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content and some language. .
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Romance, Relationships Gone Wrong, Relationship Advice, African-American, In A Plane, Dysfunctional Family, Author Adapting Their Own Work, and more
Directed By: David E. Talbert
Written By: David E. Talbert
Starring: Paula Patton, Derek Luke, Taye Diggs, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million

I'm not as optimistic as most analysts with regards to this movie. The reason for this is simple. While it is currently listed as opening wide, Fox Searchlight has only released two films with truly wide openings, 2,000 or more theaters. So this film might not open in that many theaters, which would really hamper its chances at the box office. Any amount of theaters would be better than most of David E. Talbert's films, as he specializes in direct-to-DVD romances. Perhaps fans of those films will go to theaters to see this one, but I just don't see any buzz that would justify making that prediction. It does open at the end of the month, so there is time for things to change, but as they stand, this could be a miss.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Cloudy-Movie.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: September 27th, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG for mild rude humor.
Source: Based on a Book / Original Screenplay / Sequel
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Food, Inventor, Animal Lead, Talking Animal, and more
Directed By: Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn
Written By: Judi Barrett, Ron Barrett, John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein, and Erica Rivinoja
Starring: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $100 million
Box Office Potential: $105 million

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs opened September of 2009, but despite the release date, it was a big hit. The reviews certainly helped. Now four years later, the sequel is coming out and hoping to improve upon that result. It could happen. The buzz is very good, for a kids movie. Films aimed at families rarely generate a lot of advance buzz, but there are more people talking about this film than almost all of the other wide releases that are coming out this month. Assuming the film is relatively good, Tomatometer Score of 60% positive or better, it should crack $100 million during its run. If it can match the original's Tomatometer Score, it could perform even better, thanks to inflation. The lower end is a safer bet, on the other hand,

Don Jon

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Facebook.com/DonJonMovie
Distributor: Relativity
Release Date: September 27th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for strong graphic sexual material and dialogue throughout, nudity, language and some drug use.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Romance, Religious, Addiction, Relationships Gone Wrong, Delayed Adulthood, Relationship Advice, Sexuality, Written By Star, Directing Yourself, and more
Directed By: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Written By: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million

This is a tough film to predict. It is the feature-length writing and directing debut for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who has a lot of name recognition to add to the film. However, in the film he stars as a man who is addicted to internet porn. I'm not sure mainstream audiences will go for a film about any type of sexual addiction, especially in a romantic comedy. That said, the early reviews are amazing and this could help it become a sleeper hit. It likely didn't cost a lot to make, so hopefully it will do well enough to allow Joseph Gordon-Levitt to direct more.

Rush

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: RushMovie.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: September 20th, 2013 (Limited)
Release Date: September 27th, 2013 (Wide Expansion)
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, nudity, language, some disturbing images and brief drug use.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Auto Racing, Biography, Medical and Hospital, Comeback, and more
Directed By: Ron Howard
Written By: Peter Morgan
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde, Natalie Dormer, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $38 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million

Ron Howard directs a movie based on the real life rivalry between Formula One drivers, James Hunt and Niki Lauda, played by Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl respectively. I'm not exactly bullish about this film's chances for a number of reasons, including its release date / strategy. Releasing a film in limited release a week before the wide release is risky. If the film doesn't wow art house aficionados, it could be sunk before its run has begun. The cast is mostly untested. Granted, Chris Hemsworth's domestic career total is already over $1 billion, but more than half of that has come from playing one character, Thor, so it is still too soon to tell if he can carry a movie outside of big action films based on established characters. Additionally, it is opening during the busiest weekend of the month. Finally, Formula One is just not popular in the States. That said, while Cloudy 2 will come out on top, Rush is the biggest of the counter-programming releases.


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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Riddick, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, Battle of the Year, The Family, Rush, Prisoners, Insidious Chapter 2, Baggage Claim, Don Jon, Thor, Robert De Niro, Dianna Agron, Laz Alonso, Luc Besson, Daniel Bruhl, Rose Byrne, Cody Cameron, John Francis Daley, Vin Diesel, Taye Diggs, Anna Faris, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jake Gyllenhaal, Bill Hader, Chris Hemsworth, Barbara Hershey, Ron Howard, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Tommy Lee Jones, Derek Luke, Julianne Moore, Paula Patton, Kris Pearn, Michelle Pfeiffer, Katee Sackhoff, Martin Scorsese, Lin Shaye, Ty Simpkins, David Twohy, Karl Urban, James Wan, Leigh Whannell, Olivia Wilde, Patrick Wilson, John D'Leo, Peter Morgan, Denis Villeneuve, Josh Holloway, Brin Hill, Natalie Dormer, Aaron Guzikowski, David E. Talbert, Caity Lotz, Tonino Benacquista, Benson Lee