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2015 Preview: September

September 1st, 2015

Hotel Transylvania 2

As September begins, the box office is in a slump. August was terrible and only Straight Outta Compton escaped with its dignity intact. Fortunately, we expected August to be terrible, so the box office isn't any lower than anticipated. As for September, there are two wide releases expected to earn more than $100 million, which is better than most years. Those two films are Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials and Hotel Transylvania 2, both sequels. There are four other films that could become midlevel hits, so we have good depth as well. By comparison, last September there were also two $100 million hits, The Maze Runner and The Equalizer. However, there were only two midlevel hits, so it appears this year has better depth. Frankly, 2015 has such a large lead over 2014 that all it needs to do is maintain pace for the rest of the year to be considered a success. If September can help 2015 grow its lead, then the overall industry should be very happy.

Weekend of September 4th, 2015

The Transporter Refueled poster

The first weekend of September has only one truly wide release, The Transporter Refueled, a reboot of the Transporter franchise. The original trilogy starred Jason Statham and was never more than a middling hit. (They made money, but mostly due to lower than average production budgets, not higher than average revenue.) Rebooting the franchise with a lesser known star seems like a bad idea to me. There is one other film that is reportedly opening wide this week, A Walk in the Woods. However, given its distributor, it is likely it is opening semi-wide, at best. This weekend last year, the biggest new release of the week was The Identical. Don't remember The Identical? I'm not surprised. September should start out with an easy win in the year-over-year comparison.

The Transporter Refueled

The Transporter Refueled poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheTransporterRefueled.com
Distributor: Relativity Media / EuropaCorp
Release Date: September 4th, 2015
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, sexual material, some language, a drug reference and thematic elements.
Source: Original Screenplay / Sequel and / or Remake?
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Reboot, Car Chase, Heist, France, Russian Mafia, Revenge, and more
Directed By: Camille Delamarre
Written By: Luc Besson, Adam Cooper, and Bill Collage
Starring: Ed Skrein and others
Production Budget: Reported at $28 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million

Why? Why does this movie exist? The original Transporter movies starred Jason Statham and while they were profitable, they were never serious hits at the box office. Rebooting the franchise just seven years after the most recent installment seems like a pointless thing to do. Worse still, Ed Skrein is no where near as well-known as Jason Statham was when the first film came out, so the film's box office chances are even weaker. Unless the reviews are surprisingly strong, I just don't see how it will become a hit. On the other hand, there's no direct competition to deal with and last year was terrible at the box office, so 2015 likely won't be significantly worse.

Weekend of September 11th, 2015

The Perfect Guy poster

This weekend is the weekend after the Labor Day long weekend. Historically, it is the worst weekend at the box office for the entire year. This year could be different. The Perfect Guy tries to be this year's No Good Deed. This rarely works and the later film tends to perform weaker, unless it is a much bigger film in terms of production budget. This is not the case here. The Visit is the latest attempt by M. Night Shyamalan to rehabilitate his career. It has been more than a decade since his last unquestioned hit, Signs. He's had some box office successes since then, but rarely domestically, and usually combined with terrible reviews. This weekend last year was the weekend No Good Deed and Dolphin Tale 2 debuted. Dolphin Tale 2 was the smaller of the two films earning $15.87 million. There's a chance neither of the two wide releases this year will match that number. There's almost no chance 2015 will come away with a win on the year-over-year comparison. Also coming out this weekend is 90 Minutes in Heaven, a faith-based film opening semi-wide. That might still be enough to open in the top five, but I wouldn't bet on it. I wouldn't bet on the box office chances of any faith-based film. It's just too risky.

The Perfect Guy

The Perfect Guy poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: SonyPictures.com/movies/ThePerfectGuy/
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Release Date: September 11th, 2015
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, menace, sexuality and brief strong language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller / Suspense
Keywords: African-American, Romance, Relationships Gone Wrong, and more
Directed By: David M. Rosenthal
Written By: Tyger Williams
Starring: Sanaa Lathan, Michael Ealy, Morris Chestnut, and others
Production Budget: Unknown, estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million

Sanaa Lathan stars as a woman who breaks up with her boyfriend, Morris Chestnut, and soon after starts dating Michael Ealy. At first he seems like the perfect gentleman, but she learns of his anger management issues. It seems like a fairly typical thriller, only aimed at an African-American target audience. There's not enough buzz to suggest it will be a huge hit. Then again, it likely cost $20 million, or less, so it doesn't need to be a huge hit to break even.

The Visit

The Visit poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: StayInYourRoom.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: September 11th, 2015
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including terror, violence and some nudity, and for brief language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Black Comedy
Keywords: Vacation, Single Parent, Found Footage, Mental Illness, Fake Identity, Surprise Twist, Unnamed Character, Internet, and more
Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan
Written By: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Kathryn Hahn, and others
Production Budget: $5 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

A mother, Kathryn Hahn, sends her two kids, Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould, to her parents' remote home while she goes on a cruise. At first, the kids love it, but soon realize there's something not quite right with their grandparents.

M. Night Shyamalan filmed and edited three versions of this movie. The first was pure comedy, the second was pure horror, and the third, the one we will see in theaters, is a mix of the two. That's an interesting hook, but is it enough for moviegoers to forgive him for his most recent misses? I don't think so. On the other hand, it only cost $5 million to make and it is being released by Universal, who are on an unprecedented winning streak, so maybe it has a shot at becoming a midlevel hit. I think it will beat Devil, the most similar film in M. Night Shyamalan's filmography, but not by a huge amount.

Weekend of September 18th, 2015

The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials poster

At one point, this was the busiest week of the month, but it appears Everest is now going to open in limited release with an expansion a week later. This should help the other wide releases this month, as it was expected to be a midlevel hit. By far, the biggest release of the week is The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, which has at least a 50/50 chance of reaching $100 million. Some even think it will top its predecessor. Black Mass has Johnny Depp playing real-life mobster, Whitey Bulger. Johnny Depp clearly has box office drawing power, but it has waned in recent years. The film is still primed for midlevel success, but it likely won't be a major hit. Finally there's Captive, which is the smallest of the three films opening wide this week and the one most likely to bomb. It's buzz is so quiet that there are some limited releases coming out this month that are more hotly anticipated. This weekend last year was the weekend The Maze Runner debuted. Even if The Scorch Trials doesn't finish as strongly, it will likely start faster due to the Sequel Effect. Neither of the other two wide releases from 2014 became midlevel hits, so it will be up to Black Mass to help 2015 over the top. I think 2015 will come out on top, but it will be close.

Black Mass

Black Mass poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: BlackMassTheMovie.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: September 18th, 2015
MPAA Rating: R for brutal violence, language throughout, some sexual references and brief drug use.
Source: Based on a Factual Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Biography, Boston, Mafia, Irish Mob, FBI, Informant, 1970s, 1980s, Crime Thriller, True Crime, and more
Directed By: Scott Cooper
Written By: Mark Mallouk, Dick Lehr, and Gerard O'Niell
Starring: Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, and others
Production Budget: $35 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

Johnny Depp stars as Whitey Bulger, the head of an Boston Mob family and an FBI informant. He used his position as an informant to rat on rival mob families and solidified his hold on the Boston crime empire. We've already seen his story turned into a movie, sort of. The character of Frank Costello in The Departed was inspired by Whitey Bulger. The buzz for Black Mass is excellent for a September release and there is a slim chance it will become more than just a midlevel hit. However, while Johnny Depp has starred in some of the biggest movies of the past decade, his smaller films have struggled to find an audience. Hopefully this film will help rebuild his reputation as more than just that guy who wears funny hats.

Captive

Captive poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: CaptiveTheMovie.com
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: September 18th, 2015
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving violence and substance abuse.
Source: Based on a Factual Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Prison Break, Faith-based, Hostage, On the Run, and more
Directed By: Jerry Jameson
Written By: Brian Bird and Ashley Smith
Starring: David Oyelowo, Kate Mara, and others
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $10 million to $20 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million

David Oyelowo plays an escaped convict who holds Kate Mara hostage. She uses a book, The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, to stay alive. ... This is the same Rick Warren who said teaching evolution in school was to blame for the Aurora movie theater shooting. ... Yeah. ... Back on topic, Captive is the smallest of the three wide releases this week, so much so that I'm not convinced it will open truly wide. On the other hand, it likely didn't cost a lot to make and faith-based films can become hits even if they open in less than 2,000 theaters, so there is some hope.

The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheMazeRunnerMovie.com/
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: September 18th, 2015
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for extended sequences of violence and action, some thematic elements, substance use and language.
Source: Based on a Book / Sequel
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Young Adult Adaptation, Dystopia, and more
Directed By: Wes Ball
Written By: T.S. Nowlin and James Dashner
Starring: Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, and others
Production Budget: Unknown, estimated at $40 million to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $120 million

The Scorch Trials is the follow-up to The Maze Runner. The Maze Runner only cost $35 million to make and was released in September, but earned $100 million. To say it was a shocking success is an understatement. A sequel was inevitable, but a sequel just one year later is a bit of a risk. Granted, sequels like this usually see growth at the box office, but this is not always the case. We've done research on this topic and based on the bigger movies (production budgets that were $100 million or more) the average sequel earned 20% more, with a 40% standard deviation. That's a wide range of possibilities. Hunger Games is a good example of a franchise that grew, while The Divergent Series fell domestically. The first film did earn good reviews, so if this one can match those reviews, it should grow at the box office. I don't think it will become a monster hit, but it will likely do well enough to ensure the rest of the franchise gets turned into movies.

Weekend of September 25th, 2015

Hotel Transylvania 2 poster

The final weekend of September is the busiest week of the month with four wide releases, or to be more accurate, three wide releases and a wide expansion. Of these four films, Hotel Transylvania 2 is easily the biggest release of the week. In fact, it could be the biggest hit of the month. Everest opens in limited release last week and expands wide this week. Given its subject matter and its cast, it has a shot at earning some Awards Season Success and that could help it at the box office. The Intern is a low-key comedy that is aiming to become a midlevel hit, nothing more. I think it will get there. Finally there's The Green Inferno. I have a funny feeling that the behind-the-scenes drama will overshadow anything the film does at the box office. This week last year, there were only two wide releases, The Equalizer and The Boxtrolls. I think Hotel Transylvania 2 will top The Equalizer's opening weekend, while at least one of the other three films will top The Boxtrolls giving 2015 a win in the final week of the month.

Everest

Everest poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: EverestMovie.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: September 18th, 2015 (IMAX)
Release Date: September 25th, 2015 (Expands Wide)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense peril and disturbing images.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Thriller / Suspense
Keywords: Mountain Climbing, Extreme Sports, Disaster, Weather, 3D, Shot in 3D, Digital Cinematography, and more
Directed By: Baltasar Kormakur
Written By: Mark Medoff and Simon Beaufoy
Starring: Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, John Hawkes, and others
Production Budget: Unknown, reported at $65 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million

While we are a little too early to be in Awards Season, any movie released in the fall that is based on real life events raises some flags. Additionally, the major members of the cast and crew have a dozen Oscar nominations between them. Is this going to be an early Awards Season player? There are no reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, so it is too early to tell, but I think Universal is cautiously optimistic. They are opening the film a week early in IMAX theaters hoping the impressive 3D cinematography will build word-of-mouth. This seems risky, but given their track record this year, I would hate to bet against them.

The Green Inferno

The Green Inferno poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: GreenInfernoMovie.Tumblr.com/
Distributor: BH Tilt High/High Top Releasing
Release Date: September 25th, 2015
MPAA Rating: R for aberrant violence and torture, grisly disturbing images, brief graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Environmental, Amazon, Cannibalism, Torture Porn, Development Hell, and more
Directed By: Eli Roth
Written By: Eli Roth and Guillermo Amoedo
Starring: A bunch of victims
Production Budget: Estimated at $6 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million

It has been nearly a decade since Eli Roth directed a film that was an unqualified hit. That film was Hostel and it was made during the peak of the Torture Porn fad. That fad is over and I seriously doubt The Green Inferno will bring it back. The film was made nearly three years ago, but its release was delayed due to financial problems with the production company. Now it is coming out with such low buzz that I'm not 100% convinced it will be opening wide. There is some good news, as the early reviews are good. Then again, I've seen early reviews much better than that turn sour really fast. Even if it does open wide, there's nearly no chance it will be even a midlevel hit. On the other hand, it only cost $6 million to make and the production company, Worldview Entertainment, already has a sequel in the works, so clearly they think it will earn them a profit.

Hotel Transylvania 2

Hotel Transylvania 2 poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: HotelTMovie.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: September 25th, 2015
MPAA Rating: PG for some scary images, action and rude humor.
Source: Original Screenplay / Sequel
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Werewolf, Monster, Frankenstein Monster, Romance, Zombies, Vampire, 3-D, Mummy, Dysfunctional Family, In-laws, and more
Directed By: Genndy Tartakovsky
Written By: Robert Smigel
Starring: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Mel Brooks, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $80 million to $90 million
Box Office Potential: $125 million

This film takes place several years after the first film. Johnny and Mavis are married and have a son. They leave to visit his normal parents and leave their son with Dracula. Dracula is worried that his grandson doesn't have any monster powers, so recruits the other monsters to have a boot camp to train the little one. Meanwhile, Dracula's father, Mel Brooks, shows up and is horrified that his great-grandson isn't fully vampire and that the hotel is now accepting human guests.

The first film earned mixed reviews, but did well with its target audience earning nearly $150 million. That's amazing for a September release. It comes as no surprise that Sony made a sequel. The question is whether or not the sequel will live up to its predecessor. I'm betting it won't. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs earned better reviews, but its sequel still slipped at the box office. Because Hotel Transylvania was such a huge hit, it would take a massive decline for Hotel Transylvania 2 to not be a hit domestically. In fact, it could fall by $25 million and still come out on top for the entire month.

The Intern

The Intern poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheInternMovie.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: September 25th, 2015
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some suggestive content and brief strong language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Autumn Years, Entrepreneur, Retirement, Out of Retirement, Internet, Fashion, and more
Directed By: Nancy Meyers
Written By: Nancy Meyers
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Robert De Niro, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $35 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

Nancy Meyers isn't the most prolific writer / director around, but three of her last four films earned more than $100 million at the box office. All four of them earned at least $200 million worldwide. Unfortunately, this is a September release so its chances of getting to $100 million is around zero. That's not to say I think it will flop at the box office. It should do well enough to break even early in its home market run, which is better than most September releases manage.


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Filed under: Monthly Preview, A Walk in the Woods, Hotel Transylvania 2, The Green Inferno, Everest, The Intern, The Visit, Black Mass, The Transporter Refueled, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, Captive, The Perfect Guy, 90 Minutes in Heaven, Transporter, Hunger Games, The Divergent Series, Robert De Niro, Johnny Depp, Jack Nicholson, Luc Besson, Josh Brolin, Mel Brooks, Morris Chestnut, Scott Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Ealy, Joel Edgerton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Kathryn Hahn, Anne Hathaway, John Hawkes, Sanaa Lathan, Kate Mara, Nancy Meyers, Eli Roth, Andy Samberg, Adam Sandler, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kaya Scodelario, M. Night Shyamalan, Robert Smigel, Jason Statham, Selena Gomez, Baltasar Kormakur, Simon Beaufoy, Genndy Tartakovsky, David Oyelowo, Adam Cooper, David M. Rosenthal, Camille Delamarre, Dylan O'Brien, Wes Ball, Guillermo Amoedo, Brian Bird, Mark Mallouk, Tyger Williams, Mark Medoff, Dick Lehr, Gerard O'Niell, Bill Collage, T.S. Nowlin, James Dashner, Ed Oxenbould, Ed Skrein, Jerry Jameson, Ashley Smith