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2016 Preview: August

August 1st, 2016

Suicide Squad

July did reasonably well, thanks mostly to The Secret Life of Pets, which will top $300 million shortly and could earn double its nearest competitor when all is said and done. That said, there were also a quartet of $100 million hits as well, so the month had good depth as well. August isn’t as lucky. There is one film that is expected to earn $100 million during its opening weekend, Suicide Squad, and one more that is expected to reach $100 million in total, Pete’s Dragon. There could be a surprise hit among the rest of the releases, (my long shot with a shot is Sausage Party) but for the most part, the rest of the wide releases would be happy with just $50 million at the box office. Last August was a disaster and Straight Outta Compton was the only hit of the month. Unless Suicide Squad bombs compared to expectations, 2016 will come out ahead in the year-over-year comparison.

Weekend of August 5th, 2016

Suicide Squad

Every year at this time, there’s a game box office analysts play. It’s called, “Guess when summer will end.” Usually summer lasts one or two weeks into August. Last year, it ended right away. This year, Suicide Squad could miss expectations by 50% and it would still be good enough for a summer hit. The other wide release of the week is Nine Lives, which is a live-action family film. If it can get to $50 million, the studio will be very happy. This week last year, Fantastic Four bombed hard, thus ending summer. There are some who think Suicide Squad will make more during its first day than Fantastic Four earned in total. 2016 will easily win the year-over-year comparison.

Nine Lives

Nine Lives
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: NineLivesMovie.com/
Distributor: EuropaCorp
Release Date: August 5th, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements, language and some rude humor.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Dysfunctional Family, Animal Lead, Body Swap, Curses
Directed By: Barry Sonnenfeld
Written By: Dan Antoniazzi, Ben Shiffrin
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, Christopher Walken, Malina Weissman
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Kevin Spacey plays a workaholic father who doesn’t have time for his wife, Jennifer Garner, or daughter, Malina Weissman, so Christopher Walken turns him into a cat. This film has a surprisingly good cast for how silly the premise is, but live-action family films rarely do well at the box office. There is no real direct competition for the film, as The Secret Life of Pets will barely be in the top five by this time. Unfortunately, that’s not enough to think it will do well and even $50 million seems out of reach.

Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: SuicideSquad.com/
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: August 5th, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content and language.
Source: Based on Comic/Graphic Novel
Genre: Action
Keywords: Ensemble, Villain's Point of View, Mercenaries, D.C. Comics
Directed By: David Ayer
Written By: Justin Marks
Starring: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood, Cara Delevingne, Karen Fukuhara, Adam Beach
Production Budget: Estimated at $100 million to $125 million
Box Office Potential: $225 million

Suicide Squad could be a monster hit, or it could be a major sign that the DC Extended Universe is in serious trouble. There are a lot of people who are very bullish about this film’s chances, but I’m not so sure. First of all, while there’s plenty of buzz, not all of it is good. There’s a lot of backlash against the Jared Leto version of The Joker, so much so, that there are people speculating that it is not really The Joker, but one of the Robins gone insane, so think they are the Joker. Personally, I think he’s going to go down as the worst part of this movie, much like Lex Luthor was the worst part of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. After BvS failed to connect with audiences and moviegoers, the studio decided to do reshoots to give the film a more humorous tone. I can understand doing reshoots to add a bit more action to the third act, but completely changing the tone of the movie will be a lot harder to do. In fact, having a GrimDark movie with a few additional jokes added in through reshoots could backfire. Finally, the film makes its worldwide debut on the third of August. The review embargo doesn’t get lifted until the second. That’s a really bad sign. Although to be fair, Warner Bros. does this a lot. They need to cut it out.

On the other hand, there’s enough hype that the film should break the August opening weekend record, currently held by Guardians of the Galaxy, even if it is a critical flop. That said, I don’t think it will have the same legs, even if it is a critical success.

Weekend of August 12th, 2016

Pete’s Dragon

Summer could end this week, if Pete’s Dragon doesn’t live up to expectations. It’s the only film coming out this week that has a shot at $100 million. On the other hand, Florence Foster Jenkins should earn yet another Oscar nomination for Meryl Streep and that might be enough buzz to help it become a midlevel hit. Finally there’s Sausage Party, an animated film aimed at a decidedly adult audience. There are not a lot of these made, so it is hard to gauge its box office potential. It does have the potential to become a cult classic on the home market. This weekend last year, Straight Outta Compton topped the chart, earning just over $60 million. The rest of the top ten, however, made less than $70 million, so there was no depth. This year won’t be as strong at the top, but it should have better depth giving 2016 the win in the year-over-year comparison.

Florence Foster Jenkins

Florence Foster Jenkins
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: FlorenceFosterJenkinsFilm.com
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: August 12th, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief suggestive material.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Genre: Drama
Keywords: Opera, Singers, Biography, New York City, Celebrity Worship
Directed By: Stephen Frears
Written By: Nicholas Martin
Starring: Meryl Streep
Production Budget: Reported at $29 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million

Meryl Streep plays Florence Foster Jenkins, a real-life woman who really wanted to be an opera star, only she really couldn’t sing. She was wealthy and used this wealth to fund her singing career.

This story seems tailor made for Meryl Streep and the early reviews suggest she will earn yet another Oscar nomination for her performance. It is likely that won’t be the film’s only Oscar nod. However, films like this are rarely breakout hits and it struggled in the U.K., opening in fourth place. I think it will perform better here, but it won’t become a midlevel hit and will need help on the home market to break even.

Pete’s Dragon

Pete’s Dragon
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Movies.Disney.com/Petes-Dragon-2016
Distributor: Walt Disney
Release Date: August 12th, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG for action, peril and brief language.
Source: Remake
Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Dragon, Remake, Orphan
Directed By: David Lowery
Written By: David Lowery, Toby Halbrooks, Malcolm Marmorstein
Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley
Production Budget: Estimated at $100 million
Box Office Potential: $115 million

Apparently Disney is going to remake every classic of theirs ... but that doesn’t explain this film. To be fair, the original Pete’s Dragon isn’t bad, it is just very average. Early reviews for this version of Pete’s Dragon are currently 85% positive. Even if it drops 10 percentage points, it will still be a certified fresh film on Rotten Tomatoes. On the other hand, The BFG earned reviews that were nearly as good, but still struggled at the box office. There’s a lot less direct competition at this point of the year, (I don’t think Nine Lives will put up a fight) so that should help Pete’s Dragon do better at the box office. I would be surprised if it didn’t at least hit $100 million, while $150 million is a remote possibility.

Sausage Party

Sausage Party
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: SausagePartyMovie.com/
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Release Date: August 12th, 2016
MPAA Rating: R for strong crude sexual content, pervasive language, and drug use.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Food, Animated Inanimate Objects
Directed By: Conrad Vernon, Greg Tiernan
Written By: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Jonah Hill
Starring: Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Sugar Lyn Beard
Production Budget: Reported at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

Before we get to the movie... baby carrots are not actually young carrots. They are full-sizes carrots that are cut up into smaller carrots. This brings me to my biggest problem with this movie. It’s unrealistic. I can understand the Potato being surprised about being eaten; after all, it’s produce. It was dug up from the ground, sorted, and shipped. But Frank? Do you know how many horrible things happen in the process of making a hot dog? For any heavily processed food, being eaten would be a sweet release from the nightmare of its production.

... I’m over thinking this movie, right?

The number of R-rated animated films that get wide releases domestically is close to zero. Batman: The Killing Joke got a special event release in over 1,000 theaters, but that is as close as we’ve seen. That makes predicting this film’s box office chances really difficult, because there’s nothing to compare it to. Given its budget and release date, I’m sure the studio would be happy with a midlevel hit. That’s probably all that will happen. However, there’s a chance it will be a breakout hit earning more than $100 million, because of pent up demand for R-rated animated films. Or it could bomb in theaters, because there is no demand for an R-rated animated film. There’s a lot of uncertainty here.

Weekend of August 19th, 2016

Kubo and the Two Strings

This is very likely the weekend where summer ends. There are three wide releases, four if you count Hell or High Water, which opens in limited release on the 12th and is expanding wide on the 19th. Or it could bomb on the 12th and never get a wide release on the 19th. It is too soon to tell. Kubo and the Two Strings is a stop-motion animated film and there hasn’t been one of those to reach $100 million since Chicken Run in the year 2000. Most that have come out since then struggle to reach $50 million. Ben-Hur looks like a typical late August release. It’s a big budget film that the studio was probably really bullish about when they gave it the greenlight, but they now know they have a dud, so they are dumping it in theaters during a weak time of the year. Finally there’s War Dogs, which has midlevel hit written all over it. That might be enough to win the weekend. This weekend last year, the biggest new release was Sinister 2, which barely made more than $10 million. Straight Outta Compton did lead the way with $26.36 million and I don’t think any of the new releases this week will top that. Then again, 2016 does have a lot more depth. There could be five or six films earning more than $10 million this weekend.

Ben-Hur

Ben-Hur
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: BenHurMovie.com/
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: August 19th, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence and disturbing images.
Source: Based on Fiction Book/Short Story
Genre: Drama
Keywords: Remake, Religious, Adopted Family, Dysfunctional Family, Falsely Accused, Slavery, Revenge, Miscellaneous Racing, Ancient Rome, Bible Epic
Directed By: Timur Bekmambetov
Written By: Keith Clarke, John Ridley, Lew Wallace
Starring: Jack Huston, Morgan Freeman, Toby Kebbell, Nazanin Boniadi
Production Budget: $95 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Ben-Hur is a remake of the 1959 classic, which in turn was a remake of the 1925 silent film classic, which in turn was a remake of the 1907 short film, which in turn is based on the 1880 book, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. I mention this, because it shows that just because a film is a remake doesn’t mean it won’t be a classic. ... This film won’t be a classic, but it has nothing to do with the other versions of this story.

Ben-Hur cost close to $100 million to make and was originally set for a February release. Which is a fine release date. Nothing special. Then Paramount pushed it to August 12th, which is arguable a worse date. Then they switched it with Florence Foster Jenkins. The studio thinks Florence Foster Jenkins has better box office potential than their nearly $100 million epic. ... I think they are correct. The buzz for this film is abysmal and a lot of the people talking about it are making fun of it. $35 million isn’t even the lowest prediction I’ve seen. Some think it will open below $10 million and disappear shortly after that.

Hell or High Water

Hell or High Water
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: HellOrHighWater.movie
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: August 12th, 2016 (Limited Release)
Release Date: August 19th, 2016 (Expands Wide)
MPAA Rating: R for some strong violence, language throughout and brief sexuality.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Keywords: Texas, Money Troubles, Bank Foreclosure, Bank Robbery, Texas Ranger, Heist
Directed By: David Mackenzie
Written By: Taylor Sheridan
Starring: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million

Two brothers, Chris Pine and Ben Foster, are desperate for money, so they rob a bank. Meanwhile, Jeff Bridges plays an aging Texas Ranger who is looking for one last bust to end his career.

It’s really hard to judge this film’s box office potential, because it is opening in limited release before expanding wide. If it bombs in limited release, it might never expand truly wide, and this uncertainty carries over into its wide release. There’s also not a lot of buzz. Granted, nearly everything opening in August is being drowned out by Suicide Squad, plus the film’s target audience isn’t exactly the most active online demographic. However, if things don’t change for the positive, then the film is likely going to flop. This is too bad, as the early reviews are stunning.

Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo and the Two Strings
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: KuboTheMovie.com/
Distributor: Focus Features
Release Date: August 19th, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements, scary images, action and peril.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Japan, Feudal Japan, Coming of Age
Directed By: Travis Knight
Written By: Marc Haimes, Chris Butler
Starring: Art Parkinson
Production Budget: Estimated at $50 million to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

I really want this to be a big hit, because I love Stop-Motion Animation and this movie looks cool. However, I am well-aware that Stop-Motion Animated films rarely do well at the box office. The most recent wide release in this style was Shaun the Sheep, which made less than $20 million, while The Boxtrolls earned just over $50 million in 2014. This film should finish in-between those two movies.

War Dogs

War Dogs
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: WarDogsTheMovie.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: August 19th, 2016
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, drug use and some sexual references.
Source: Based on Factual Book/Article
Genre: Comedy
Keywords: 2000s, War Profiteers, Afghanistan War
Directed By: Todd Phillips
Written By: Stephen Chin, Jason Smilovic
Starring: Jonah Hill, Miles Teller
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

Jonah Hill and Miles Teller play business partners who use a little-known program to get into the arms dealer business. They start making lots of money, but soon get in over their heads. This is the most commercial of the four wide releases this week, but only if they can sell it as a buddy comedy of sorts. If they try to sell it as a political comedy, it will bomb, because that genre is box office poison. There is certainly a political element here, so even if they downplay that in the trailers, I think it will struggle to become a midlevel hit at the box office.

Weekend of August 26th, 2016

Don’t Breathe

This is the last weekend in August, the weekend before Labor Day. It is traditionally one of the worst weekends of the year at the box office. There is only one genre of film that tends to do relatively well this time of year: Horror. We do have one horror film opening wide, Don’t Breathe, and if its early reviews are any indication, it will be a financial hit. Mechanic: Resurrection is a sequel that I’m not sure anyone asked for. Finally there’s Hands of Stone, a film that might not be opening legitimately wide. More on that below. This weekend last year, Straight Outta Compton still led the way with $13.13 million. I think Don’t Breathe will top that. The genre has been doing really well this summer, or to be more accurate, horror films have been doing really well compared to their low budgets. I think 2016 will end the month with a win.

Don’t Breathe

Don’t Breathe
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: DontBreathe-Movie.com/
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Release Date: August 26th, 2016
MPAA Rating: R for terror, violence, disturbing content, and language including sexual references.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Keywords: Heist, Money Troubles, Blindness
Directed By: Fede Alverez
Written By: Fede Alverez, Rodo Sayagues
Starring: Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Stephen Lang
Production Budget: Estimated at $10 million, maybe less
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Jane Levy plays a young lady who needs money to get her and her younger sister out of town and away from their terrible lives. She hears from her boyfriend, Money, about a blind man, who has a ton of cash and since he’s blind, he will be easy to rob. This turns out to be wrong and she, Money, and her friend get stuck in his house.

The early reviews have been excellent and so far this summer, three of four previous horror films have done really well at the box office. There’s a chance this film will match The Shallows and Lights Out and earn in the $50 million to $60 million range. However, it could earn half that and still break even eventually.

Hands of Stone

Hands of Stone
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Facebook.com/pages/Roberto-Duran-Hands-of-Stone-the-movie
Distributor: Weinstein Co.
Release Date: August 26th, 2016
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout and some sexuality/nudity.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Genre: Drama
Keywords: Boxing, Biography, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s
Directed By: Jonathan Jakubowicz
Written By: Jonathan Jakubowicz
Starring: Edgar Ramirez
Production Budget: Reported at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million

This will be a short prediction, because I don’t think it is opening wide. The film is being released by Weinstein Co. and they’ve struggled a lot lately. It is reported that part of the distribution deal involves a guaranteed 2,000 theaters, but there’s a difference between releasing a film in 2,000 theaters and supporting that release. Worst case scenario has this film opening below the Mendoza Line and disappearing with a few weeks. Even the best case scenario has it barely matching its production budget domestically.

Mechanic: Resurrection

Mechanic: Resurrection
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Mechanic.movie
Distributor: Summit Premiere
Release Date: August 26th, 2016
MPAA Rating: R for violence throughout and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Action
Keywords: Hitmen, Out of Retirement, Delayed Sequel, Kidnap
Directed By: Dennis Gansel
Written By: Philip Shelby, Tony Mosher, Rachel Long, Brian Pittman
Starring: Jason Statham, Jessica Alba
Production Budget: Estimated at $40 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

The original Mechanic wasn’t a hit in theaters. Even if you take into account its worldwide theatrical totals and the home market, it likely lost a lot of money. I’m a little surprised it is getting a sequel. There are some reasons to make a sequel instead of an unrelated action film. Mechanic: Resurrection will serve as an advertisement for the original movie, boosting its home market numbers a little. Also, the film seems to be aiming for a Chinese audience, but I’m not sure audiences there will be interested in this movie, as opposed to a homemade action film. I certainly don’t think it will be a hit here.

Filed under: Monthly Preview, Ben-Hur, Sausage Party, Suicide Squad, Florence Foster Jenkins, War Dogs, Mechanic: Resurrection, Kubo and the Two Strings, Pete’s Dragon, Hell or High Water, Hands of Stone, Nine Lives, Don’t Breathe, DC Extended Universe, Morgan Freeman, Will Smith, Meryl Streep, Kevin Spacey, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jessica Alba, Ike Barinholtz, Adam Beach, Timur Bekmambetov, Jeff Bridges, Viola Davis, Jesse Eisenberg, Ben Foster, Stephen Frears, Jennifer Garner, Jay Hernandez, Jonah Hill, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Stephen Lang, Jared Leto, Todd Phillips, Chris Pine, Edgar Ramirez, Seth Rogen, Barry Sonnenfeld, Jason Statham, Conrad Vernon, Christopher Walken, Kristen Wiig, Miles Teller, Keith Clarke, Evan Goldberg, Scott Eastwood, Chris Butler, Dennis Gansel, Joel Kinnaman, Sugar Lyn Beard, Kyle Hunter, David Mackenzie, John Ridley, David Ayer, Travis Knight, Jane Levy, Jai Courtney, David Lowery, Fede Alverez, Rodo Sayagues, Ariel Shaffir, Art Parkinson, Dylan Minnette, Toby Halbrooks, Margot Robbie, Nazanin Boniadi, Greg Tiernan, Cara Delevingne, Justin Marks, Malina Weissman, Oakes Fegley, Nicholas Martin, Marc Haimes, Taylor Sheridan, Jason Smilovic, Rachel Long, Brian Pittman, Lew Wallace, Jonathan Jakubowicz, Dan Antoniazzi, Ben Shiffrin, Malcolm Marmorstein, Stephen Chin, Philip Shelby, Tony Mosher, Karen Fukuhara