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2012 Preview: September

September 1st, 2012

August is over and let's just be glad we never have to talk about that month again. It is too early to tell how a couple of the wide releases from the month will do, but of the other fourteen we have solid numbers for, none of them were a pleasant surprise. There were a few that were mildly disappointing, but likely still profitable. There were also a few that were "What were they thinking?" level of box office bomb. This September, there about a dozen films opening wide, depending on your definition of wide. (Plus, For A Good Time, Call might expand wide on the 14th, while The Master is opening in limited release on the 14th, but might expand wide before the end of the month. "Might" is the key here. I don't think either will get it done.) None of the dozen films are likely to get to $100 million. In fact, there's a good chance no film opening this month will get to $75 million in total. The biggest film of the month could be Finding Nemo, which is getting a 3D Re-release. As long as the movie going public hasn't tired of 3D re-releases, it should be a hit, but there are signs that the trend might be ending soon. There are a few others that should become midlevel hits, but most will struggle to find an audience. Last September was not terrible with one $100 million film and a few other midlevel hits. For 2012 to come out ahead, it will have to rely on depth, and I'm more than a little worried in that regard.

Weekend of September 7th, 2012

It's the weekend after Labor Day long weekend. Often times, this is the worst weekend of the entire year. It seems the studios are extra wary this year, as only one film, The Words, is opening truly wide. So far CBS Films has really struggled and they've only released one film that has made it to $50 million, The Woman in Black. I don't think The Words will be that strong. The Cold Light of Day was supposed to open wide, but it is now opening in 1500 theaters, which is not enough to be truly wide, but wide enough that we'll include it on the list. By comparison, this week last year was actually surprisingly strong with Contagion earning just over $22 million during its first three days. There's a slim chance The Words won't make that much in total. There's almost no chance 2012 will win on the year-over-year comparison. On a side note, the film opening this weekend that I'm most interested in seeing is Bachelorette, but it is only debuting in limited release. Its reviews started out well enough, but have slipped below the overall positive level, which means it is very unlikely that it will expand. I look forward to seeing it on the home market.

The Cold Light of Day

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheColdLightOfDay.com
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Release Date: September 7th, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Secret Agent, Kidnap, Rescue, Family Vacation, and more
Directed By: Mabrouk El Mechri
Starring: Henry Cavill, Bruce Willis, Sigourney Weaver, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million

Henry Cavill goes on family vacation with his family, but after they are kidnapped, he learns his father, Bruce Willis, works for the C.I.A. and may have gone rogue by stealing an important briefcase. Now he has to get it back, or his family will be killed.

I do not think this film will be a success at the box office. There's too much evidence against that happening. First of all, it is being released by a studio that has struggled to find box office success. Yes, Summit is the studio behind Twilight films, but outside of that franchise, they only have a handful of films that have topped $50 million at the box office, while they have released a number of high profile bombs. Secondly, there are some early reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and they are nearly universally negative. Finally, the film has opening in a number of major markets internationally and bombed in almost all of them. Its best market has been Spain, which is where the film was shot, but it only earned $2 million there. It made less than $2 million in the U.K., just over $1 million in France, less than $1 million in Germany, and constantly opened in the lower half of the top ten in those markets.

The Cold Light of Day is opening in 1500 theaters and there's a chance it will open below the Mendoza Line before disappearing two weeks later. Even $20 million is likely too generous.

The Words

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheWordsMovie.com
Distributor: CBS Films
Release Date: September 7th, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language and smoking.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Romance, Writers, Plagiarism, Unnamed Character, Interracial Romance, Ensemble, and more
Directed By: Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde, Zoe Saldana, Ben Barnes, J.K. Simmons, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Bradley Cooper stars as a writer who is struggling to get published. He is close to giving up on his dream when he finds a manuscript tucked away and decides to re-write it as his own. After it becomes a huge success, the man who actually wrote the novel, Jeremy Irons, finds him.

CBS Films have yet to find break-out success and while this film has an impressive cast, there are reasons to worry. First of all, this is the directorial debut for co-writers / co-directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal. That's a bit of a risk. Secondly, there's not a lot of buzz surrounding this film. Thirdly, it is opening on what could become the worst weekend of the entire year. Finally, its early reviews are bad.

Perhaps The Words will surprise and become a solid midlevel hit. Unfortunately, it appears it is more likely it will open below $10 million, which would mean a weak per theater average and bad legs.

Weekend of September 14th, 2012

There is only one wide new release this week, Resident Evil: Retribution. However, the biggest release of the week is the 3D Re-release of Finding Nemo. In fact, it could be the biggest hit of the month, but it likely won't be as big as The Lion King's re-release was, as 3D Re-releases are showing a downward trend at the box office. Likewise, Retribution could struggle to become anything more than a midlevel hit, all of the previous installments in the franchise were in the $40 million to $60 million range, more or less. Last year the best film was The Lion King with just over $30 million, while the other three wide releases combined for just over $20 million. I don't think Finding Nemo / Retribution will be able to top the combined openings and with weak holdovers from the previous weekend, 2012 will suffer yet another loss in the year-over-year comparison. Also opening this weekend is The Master which has a chance at expanding wide. It depends on if it can earn some Awards Season buzz and early reviews are promising.

Finding Nemo

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Disney.Go.com/Finding-Nemo
Distributor: Pixar
Release Date: September 14th, 2012
MPAA Rating: G for General Admission
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Rescue, Underwater, Faulty Memory, Talking Animals, Animal Lead, 3D, 3D Re-release, Animals Gone Wrong, and more
Directed By: Andrew Stanton
Starring: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, and others.
Production Budget: Originally $94 million, unknown amount for 3D conversion
Box Office Potential: $75 million

Finding Nemo is a classic. I don't think many would argue about that. However, there are some who think this whole 3D re-release fad needs to end and this film will struggle when it re-enters theaters. There is some evidence to support that. The Lion King made more than $100 million at the box office during its re-release, but neither Beauty and the Beast, nor Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, nor Titanic matched that. However, Finding Nemo has one advantage that none of those films had. It was digitally animated. It should be much easier to convert the film into 3D from the original computer files. Granted, some of the software upgrades will make this harder than simply re-rendering everything in 3D, but it should still be the best-looking 3D conversion ever.

I don't think it will be the most lucrative and getting to $100 million is likely out of reach; after all, the novelty of these conversions is gone. But it should do well enough that more films, especially digitally animated films, will be converted in the coming years.

Resident Evil: Retribution

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ResidentEvil-Movie.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: September 14th, 2012
MPAA Rating: R for sequences of strong violence throughout.
Source: Based on a Video Game / Sequel
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Zombies, Corporate Malfeasance, Post Apocalypse, 3D, and more
Directed By: Paul W. S. Anderson
Starring: Milla Jovovich, and others.
Production Budget: Estimated at $50 million to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

This is the fifth film in the Resident Evil franchise to come out in theaters. I've really run out of things to say about these movies. The worst of these earned just over $40 million at the box office, while the best earned just over $60 million and the other two earned just over $50 million. That's consistency. I think this film will increase the franchise's average, but not by a whole lot.

Weekend of September 21st, 2012

This is the busiest weekend of the year with three or four films opening wide. One of the them might not crack 2000 theaters, but could still turn out to be the biggest hit of the weekend, possibly the month. That film is Trouble with the Curve, which could be this year's Moneyball. However, it will certainly have to rely on legs rather than a big opening weekend and if it stumbled out of the gate, it could be gone before we are halfway done with October. On the other hand, Dredd 3D could be the most front-loaded film of the weekend. It is yet another attempt to remake / reboot a potential franchise, but so far these attempts have mostly fallen flat. Since the original Judge Dredd was a box office failure, this one will likely be the same, despite the early reviews. House at the End of the Street has a lot of buzz going for it, at least compared to most September releases, and a rising star in the lead, but until I see reviews, it is hard to judge its potential. Finally, End of Watch could be a high quality film, but the buzz isn't strong enough to think it will be a big hit. Also opening this weekend is The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which has the potential to earn some Awards Season Buzz and expand enough to earn some measure of mainstream success. Last year, there were also four wide releases which pulled in a combined $60 million, while the top five managed $80 million. I think the four new releases will be stronger this year giving 2012 a much needed win, but it might be close.

Dredd

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: DreddTheMovie.com
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: September 21st, 2012
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, language, drug use and some sexual content.
Source: Based on a Comic / Remake
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Post Apocalypse, Dystopian Future, Narcotics, Gangs, Organized Crime, 3D, Independent Comics, and more
Directed By: Pete Travis
Starring:
Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey, and many others
Production Budget: $45 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

When I first heard this movie was being made, my initial thought was, "Why? Why remake a movie that earned 15% positive reviews and bombed at the box office?" Then I remembered something Roger Ebert said, and I'm paraphrasing. 'Don't remake good movies. Remake bad movies. Movies that had a good idea but bad execution.' That described Judge Dredd very well. So does Dredd fix the mistakes its predecessor made? The early reviews suggest that it has. Granted, there are only ten reviews on Rotten Tomatoes at this point, but they are all positive. Unfortunately, the film will still have to deal with the bad memories of the first film and it is opening during a weak time at the box office and it is the busiest weekend of the month. If these reviews hold up, and that's a big if, it might become a solid midlevel hit. On the other hand, if the reviews tumble to the 50% range, it will likely be a one-weekend wonder.

End of Watch

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: EndOfWatchTheFilm.com
Distributor: Open Road
Release Date: September 21st, 2012
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, some disturbing images, pervasive language including sexual references, and some drug use.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Suspense
Keywords: Beat Cops, Narcotics, Gangs, Organized Crime, and more
Directed By: David Ayer
Starring:
Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $10 million
Box Office Potential: $5 million to $35 million

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña star as two beat cops working in Los Angeles. They spot something suspicious happening in a neighborhood known for drugs and decide to investigate, even though they are beat cops and not detectives. What they find is major, but it put them on the cartel's most wanted list.

This could be a really good movie, there are no early reviews to judge. However, the chances of this film being a box office hit are far from good. Open Road is a very new distributor and it has not had a lot of luck so far. Also, it is a bad time of year to release and it is the busy weekend of the month. Finally, there's talk it might not open truly wide. If it does open in limited release, it might earn enough praise and Awards Season Buzz that it will at least earn some measure of mainstream success, but that's rarely a safe bet. On the other hand, if it does open wide, it might slip between the cracks regardless of its reviews. Or it might just be a bad movie. It is from the same director as Street Kings, so it could be a flop with critics as well. Maybe there's a reason it's opening in September. If that is the case, a lot of people will be disappointed, because the buzz is good.

House at the End of the Street

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Facebook.com/HouseAtTheEnd
Distributor: Relativity
Release Date: September 21st, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and terror, thematic elements, language, some teen partying and brief drug material.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Life in a Small Town, Orphan, Child Dealing with Divorce, Dysfunctional Family, Death of a Parent, Death of a Sibling, Mental Illness, Mistaken Identity, and more
Directed By: Mark Tonderai
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Elisabeth Shue, Max Theriot, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $10 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million

Jennifer Lawrence moves into a new home with her mother, Elisabeth Shue. They were able to afford a really nice house in a rich rural town, but the house next door was home to a tragedy. A young girl killed both her parents and only her brother, Max Theriot, survived. Jennifer begins a friendship with Max, she begins to suspect there's something still evil about that house. Perhaps the ghost of the little girl is still angry.

This film is earning more buzz than most new releases for the month, but there are still no reviews to show if that buzz is warranted. Its star, Jennifer Lawrence, has shown she is capable of both Award-worthy performances in smaller films (Winter's Bone) and lead an action blockbuster (The Hunger Games). This film will obviously finish on the lower end of that scale, but something tells me it will be among the biggest hits of the month. If its reported production budget is accurate, it won't need to be one of the biggest hits to be massively profitable.

Trouble with the Curve

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TroubleWithTheCurve.WarnerBros.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: September 21st, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language, sexual references, some thematic material and smoking.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Baseball, Autumn Years, Dysfunctional Family, Lawyers, and more
Directed By: Robert Lorenz
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

First of all, Clint Eastwood and Invisible Obama is now a meme, actually several memes. I'm not an expert in politics, but I don't think it is a good sign for Romney's campaign that the most memorable part of the GOP National Convention was an interview with a chair.

I don't think it will affect this film's box office chances, on the other hand. Clint Eastwood stars as an aging scout who is about to be fired, because the team management thinks he is too old for the job. His boss and friend, John Goodman, convinces his daughter, Amy Adams, to go on his next scouting trip to make sure he's okay. There they meet up with Justin Timberlake, a rival scout and former baseball player that Clint Eastwood scouted originally.

Trouble with the Curve could be this year's Moneyball. Anything with Clint Eastwood has a lot of buzz attached to it, including Awards Season buzz. This film is especially special, as it is his first acting job since Gran Torino and the first acting job in a movie he didn't also direct since In the Line of Fire. (That's not counting his cameo in Casper.) On the other hand, the person directing him, Robert Lorenz, is making his directorial debut, which is a bit of a risk. Also, there are some reports that the film won't be opening wide, at least not truly wide.

If it doesn't open truly wide, Trouble with the Curve might get squeezed out by the competition. That could happen even if it does open wide. Hopefully it won't suffer that fate, but I'm not overly optimistic.

Weekend of September 28th, 2011

The last weekend in September is home to three wide releases, maybe. I'm not 100% sure Won't Back Down will open truly wide. It is one of the least talked about new releases of the month and definitely the least talked about new release of this week. However, it's target demographic tends to avoid hyping films. Looper is getting the most hype and there's a real chance it could become the biggest hit of the month. Sometimes films released on the last weekend of September act more like an October release. Not often, but sometimes. Likewise, Hotel Transylvania is hoping to tap into the family market and have the same level of success as Open Season had, for example. The overall box office could crush this weekend last year, which had no new release top $10 million, although it did have three holdovers reach that mark.

Hotel Transylvania

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: WelcomeToHotelT.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: September 28th, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG for some rude humor, action and scary images.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Monsters, Werewolves, Vampires, Zombies, Romance, Letting Go, and more
Directed By: Genndy Tartakovsky
Starring: Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $100 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million

Adam Sandler stars as Dracula, who in this movie runs a hotel for monsters who want to get away from humans. Andy Samberg stars as a regular human who accidentally stumbles into the hotel. While the monsters freak out, he falls in love with Dracula's daughter, Selena Gomez.

Open Season made $85 million way back in 2006. If Hotel Transylvania can just sell as many tickets, it will crack $100 million. There is some pretty good buzz for this movie, when compared to other similar releases. It is a family film and those rarely generate a massive amount of buzz, unless they are tentpole releases. The trailer looked okay, in a secondary animated film sort of way. Open Season earned 48% positive reviews and I figure this one will do about the same. Unfortunately, since 2006 digitally animated films have become so common that the average box office numbers are much lower. Also, Finding Nemo will still be in theaters and that could hurt this film at the box office.

I would be really happy if it were a surprise $100 million hit, but a second place opening and better than average legs is probably as good as it will get for Hotel Transylvania.

Looper

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: LooperMovie.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: September 28th, 2012
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug content.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Same Role, Multiple Actors, Organized Crime, Hitmen, Time Travel, and more
Directed By: Rian Johnson
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $15 million to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million

From the director of Brick. I'm instantly interested. It has a strange setup. In the year 2072, the mob uses time travel to send victims back to 2042 where they are killed. ... Why? This seems like a convoluted plan and a waste of time travel. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays one of the hitmen, but when Bruce Willis arrives as his target, he recognizes him as his future self.

I hope this film will be the Eagle Eye of 2012, i.e. a surprise $100 million action hit opening late in September. But it could also be the Premium Rush of September, i.e. an action film that earns great reviews, but still bombs. The buzz is good, but not very loud. Then again, it has nearly a full month to build, so I choose to remain cautiously optimistic.

Won't Back Down

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Facebook.com/WontBackDown.com
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: September 28th, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Inspired By a True Story, Inspirational Teacher, Politics, Academics, AgitProp, and more
Directed By: Daniel Barnz
Starring: Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Holly Hunter, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $10 million to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million

Before we get to the preview... charter schools perform worse than public schools, on average. I believe this film is based in part on the school featured in Waiting for Superman, a school that failed to deliver better results when it switched from being a public school to a charter school. Yet people are still pushing the idea that charter schools are the way to go. Personally, I would look to Norway and how they run their education system. It's one of the best in the world.

Viola Davis plays a teacher and Maggie Gyllenhaal plays a mother who try to improve their schools, but are thwarted by the evil teacher's union president, Holly Hunter. The film is produced by Walden Media, whose track record is pretty bad. Sure they've had a few hits, but more major flops. It is directed by Daniel Barnz, whose previous two films missed expectations both at the box office and with critics. Finally, there are some reports that the film isn't opening wide and it might not debut in more than 2000 theaters.


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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Finding Nemo, Hotel Transylvania, House at the End of the Street, Looper, The Cold Light of Day, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Dredd, Resident Evil: Retribution, Won't Back Down, The Words, Trouble with the Curve, End of Watch, The Master, Bachelorette