2013 Preview: October

October is an awkward month. It sits between the dumping ground that is September and November, the unofficial start of Awards Season / holiday blockbuster season. For the most part, September was stronger than average for the month and there's reason to be optimistic going forward. After all, box office success tends to feed on itself, as does box office struggles. That said, there are not a lot of sure hits over the coming four weeks. Of the nine or ten films opening wide this month, only Gravity has a better than 50/50 chance at $100 million. Captain Phillips could have a shot at the century mark, but only if it becomes a serious Awards Season player. Its early reviews suggest that could be a possibility. Last October, there were two films to reach the $100 million mark, Taken 2 and Argo. On the other hand, pretty much everything else that opened that month crashed and burned. While this October doesn't have as strong a top end, it will hopefully have much better depth.

Weekend of October 4th, 2013

The month begins with two wide releases, Gravity and Runner Runner. Most people are predicting Gravity will be the biggest hit of the month, as it has a stellar cast and crew and terrific reviews. Most people think Runner Runner was designed to make people panic about the upcoming Superman vs. Batman film. Its reviews are terrible and its box office prospects are almost as bad. A lot of people are going to look at this movie, but not watch it, and say, "Ben Affleck is going to make a terrible Batman!" This weekend last year there was also a massive hit and a box office disappointment. Ironically, the box office hit, Taken 2, earned terrible reviews, while the box office disappointment, Frankenweenie, earned amazing reviews. I hate it when quality isn't rewarded at the box office. Unfortunately, last year's new releases were stronger than this year's new releases, so 2013 will likely lose in the year-over-year comparison.

Gravity

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: GravityMovie.WarnerBros.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: October 4th, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images and brief strong language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Space Program, Marooned, Rescue, 3D, Shot in 3D, Hallucination, Suicide, and more
Directed By: Alfonso Cuaron
Written By: Alfonso Cuaron
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $80 million
Box Office Potential: $105 million

This is the first full movie made by Alfonso Cuaron since Children of Men. That film cost $76 million to make, but pulled in less than $70 million worldwide. It also stars George Clooney, whose last $100 million hit was Oceans Thirteen. The other star is Sandra Bullock, who has had three $100 million hits in her last five films. At least one of them is on a hot streak. Fortunately, the reviews for Gravity are amazing and the buzz is also very strong. Unfortunately, it cost $80 million to make, so even if it does cross $100 million domestically, it will need help on the international market if it wants to break even.

Runner Runner

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: RunnerRunnerMovie.com
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: October 4th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual content.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Internet, Gambling, Revenge, FBI, and more
Directed By: Brad Furman
Written By: Brian Koppleman and David Levien
Starring: Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck, Gemma Arterton, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Justin Timberlake stars as a man who uses online gambling to pay for his way through Ivy League university. When he loses everything, he blames Ben Affleck and tracks him down to the Caribbean. However, Ben offers him a job, which Justin takes. Later, after Justin realizes how ruthless his boss is, he's approached by the FBI, who want his help to take down his new boss.

Early reviews are terrible and there's almost no buzz. Also, Justin Timberlake has very few hits to his credit and most of his lifetime box office has come from voicework. Recently, Ben Affleck's box office numbers have been terrible, unless he's in a movie that he's also written and directed. He's not writing or directing this movie, so that's another bad sign.

Weekend of October 11th, 2013

The second weekend of October could represent the unofficial beginning of Awards Season. If Captain Phillips' reviews are close to what they are now when the movie opens, that will certainly be the case. It might even help the film reach $100 million. Machete Kills is aiming for mindless fun and hopefully it will get there. But even under the best circumstances, there's really no chance this film will be anything more than a midlevel hit. Romeo and Juliet is the third wide release of the week, maybe. It is being released by Relativity, so it might come out in just under 2,000 theaters, meaning it will only open semi-wide. This weekend last year, there were five films that opened wide or semi-wide, and while I think Captain Phillips will beat last year's best new release, Argo, but I think there was too much depth for 2013 to come out on top.

Captain Phillips

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: CaptainPhillipsMovie.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: October 11th, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sustained intense sequences of menace, some violence with bloody images, and for substance use.
Source: Based on Real Life
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Pirates, Hostage, Rescue, Hijacking, and more
Directed By: Paul Greengrass
Written By: Billy Ray
Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $60 million to $80 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million to $125 million

This is a tough film to predict. I think it will open with about $20 million, but thanks to great reviews, it will have long legs earning $75 million, maybe even a little more than $80 million. However, because of the nature of the film, it could do much better, much, much better. It stars Tom Hanks, who has five Oscar nominations, including two wins. The director, Paul Greengrass, has an Oscar nod, while Catherine Keener has two. Additionally, it is based on real life events, which is something Oscar voters tend to love. That could spell Oscar Glory. If so, it could open with $25 million and earn well over $125 million, making it the biggest hit of the month. This may seem overly optimistic, but Argo did even better last year, so it is not out of the question. That said, I think sticking to the lower range would be wiser for now. Maybe if the Oscar buzz grows over the next few weeks, I will become more bullish.

Machete Kills

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Facebook.com/MacheteKills
Distributor: Open Road
Release Date: October 11th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence throughout, language and some sexual content.
Source: Original Screenplay / Sequel
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Secret Agent, Terrorism, Political, Corporate Malfeasance, Grindhouse, Ensemble, Gratuitous Cameos, and more
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez
Written By: Robert Rodriguez, Marcel Rodriguez, and Kyle Ward
Starring: Danny Trejo, and many others
Production Budget: Reported at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

The original Machete only cost $12.5 million to make and it had a lot of pre-release buzz, so it looked like it would be a big hit. The reviews were also very good, especially considering it started as a joke. (It first appeared as a fake trailer in Grindhouse.) However, this buzz turned out to be an illusion. It was Internet buzz, not real buzz, and the film struggled at the box office. It made enough to break even, eventually. It didn't make enough for Fox to want to release a sequel, so Open Road is handling Machete Kills. The sequel cost more to make, but it likely won't do significantly better at the box office. Maybe it will be a hit on the home market, like its predecessor was.

Romeo and Juliet

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: RomeoAndJulietTheFilm.com
Distributor: Relativity
Release Date: October 11th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language.
Source: Based on a Play
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Romance, Suicide, Revenge, Romeo and Juliet Romance, and more
Directed By: Carlo Carlei
Written By: William Shakespeare and Julian Fellowes
Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Douglas Booth, and others
Production Budget: £15 million or $24 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million

This is another film that is tough to predict, because I'm not sure if it will open wide. Relativity usually releases films wide, but there's a lot of talk this film will open in limited release. If it does open in limited release, I'm pretty confident it won't expand wide. The director, Carlo Carlei, is known mostly for his TV work. Douglas Booth has made almost no films that have earned a theatrical release here; his last movie was LOL, which was dumped direct-to-DVD here. Hailee Steinfeld has only made one previous movie. Granted, that movie was True Grit, which earned her an Oscar nomination. That said, she hasn't proved she can carry a movie like this. Additionally, there are many films based on this play, so people who love this story likely have a favorite adaption. If you have a favorite adaptation, you are less likely to see this one, unless the reviews are excellent, and right now it is way too early to tell. The final bit of bad news is the competition. If the film does open wide, there will be three wide releases this week and that might make it the busiest weekend of the month and it might get lost in the crowd.

Weekend of October 18th, 2013

There are two wide releases this week, as well as two releases that may or may not open wide. Carrie and Escape Plan are both opening wide, but only Carrie has a shot at being a midlevel hit. A lot of people think Escape Plan will bomb, hard. Meanwhile, both The Fifth Estate and 12 Years a Slave may or may not open wide. On the other hand, 12 Years a Slave is earning some level of Awards Season buzz, so even if it opens in limited release, is has an excellent chance at expanding wide. Paranormal Activity 4 led the way last year, but with a lower than expected opening of $29 million. As much as I want Carrie to be a major hit for Halloween, I don't think it is going to match that number. Also, the depth last year was better than it will be this year, so I think 2013 will lose in the year-over-year comparison, again. If I'm right about this losing streak, it will be getting close to panic time. This many losses in a row this close to the end of the year is very troubling.

Carrie

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Carrie-Movie.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: October 18th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for bloody violence, disturbing images, language and some sexual content.
Source: Based on a Book / Remake
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Dysfunctional Family, Bullies, Psychic Powers, and more
Directed By: Kimberly Peirce
Written By: Stephen King, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, and Lawrence D. Cohen
Starring: ChloŽ Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million

I really hope this is a good film. There are many people who are dismissing it, because it is a remake, but I think that is unwise. There have been a lot of great remakes, like The Thing, which is widely considered to be better than the original was. There are also many, many movies based on original scripts that are just terrible. Granted, the original Carrie is a classic, so this Carrie has a lot to live up to. Then again, this is not the first horror remake that ChloŽ Grace Moretz has starred in. Let Me In was amazing. On the other hand, it bombed at the box office. I fear this will be the case for this movie as well. It could earn great reviews, but the "Horror Remake" label could still kill it at the box office. I don't think that will be the case, but I also don't think it will be anything more than a midlevel hit.

Escape Plan

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: EscapePlanMovie.com
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: October 18th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language throughout.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Prison Break, Falsely Convicted, Revenge, and more
Directed By: Mikael Hafstrom
Written By: Miles Chapman and Jason Keller
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Caviezel, and others
Production Budget: $70 million to $120 million, reports vary
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Sylvester Stallone stars as Ray Breslin, a man who helps design prisons, by being sent into them and breaking out. His latest job involves the latest high security prison, but when he gets sent there, he learns it is a setup. He isn't supposed to look for weaknesses in the prison security, but the people who hired him want him to remain in prison, forever. Fortunately, he meets Arnold Schwarzenegger and the pair team up to break out of this inescapable prison.

This might be the most expensive bomb of the year. Some reports say it cost $70 million to make, but I've also seen a story on the movie that said it cost £75 million, which would be $120 million. If the higher number is true, there's no chance this film will break even. Even if it only cost $70 million to make, there's very little chance it will break even. The buzz is quite weak and one of the big limited releases coming out this week might top it at the box office.

The Fifth Estate

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheFifthEstateMovie.com
Distributor: Walt Disney
Release Date: October 18th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for language and some violence.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: News, Journalist, Internet, and more
Directed By: Bill Condon
Written By: Josh Singer, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, David Leigh, and Luke Harding
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million

This is one of several films opening this month that may or may not open wide. It better open wide, because if it opens in limited release, its reviews will probably kill it quickly. Benedict Cumberbatch is earning a lot of praise for his performance, but even positive reviews note how superficial the story is. Even if it does open wide, it will likely be seen as busted Oscar bait and fade away, possibly before matching its production budget here. If it does open in limited release, it might not get to $1 million. The above box office potential is a weighted average of those two extremes.

Twelve Years a Slave

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: FoxSearchlight.com/12YearsASlave
Distributor: Fox Searchlight>
Release Date: October 18th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for violence/cruelty, some nudity and brief sexuality.
Source: Based on a Factual Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Biography, Slavery, Escape, On the Run, and more
Directed By: Steve Rodney McQueen
Written By: Solomon Northup and John Ridley
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Solomon Northup, who, in 1841 was kidnapped and forced into Slavery for 12 years. That's a powerful story and it practically screams Oscar bait. Additionally, the reviews are nearly perfect and the film won the People's Choice Award at this year's Toronto Film Festival. All of this suggests it could be a major hit. However, the film is opening in limited release. It still has a chance at reaching $100 million, if it becomes the big winner during Awards Season, but it could also stumble out of the gate and disappear before Award Season buzz begins to build. I think the former is more likely that the latter. At the very least, it should pick up a number of major award nominations and expand wide enough to earn some significant measure of mainstream success.

Weekend of October 25th, 2013

October ends with two wide releases, both of which have the potential to become midlevel hits, but likely won't go beyond that. The Counselor is aimed at more mature audiences. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa is for very, very immature people. All Jackass movies are for immature people, even the people making them will proudly admit that. Both films should top $50 million with relative ease, while Bad Grandpa has a chance at becoming a surprise $100 million hit, just like Jackass 3D was. Last year, there were four wide releases, but combined they opened with just $25 million. Four films? $25 million combined opening? That's awful. If 2013 can't top that, we are in trouble.

The Counselor

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheCounselorMovie.com
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: October 25th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for graphic violence, some grisly images, strong sexual content and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Lawyer, Romance, Narcotics, Organized Crime, and more
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Written By: Cormac McCarthy
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $60 million to $80 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million

This film has an incredible pedigree, including a multi-Oscar nominated director, Ridley Scott. The script was written by Cormac McCarthy, who wrote the novel No Country for Old Men. Its five stars mentioned above have ten Oscar nominations and two wins, not to mention lots of Golden Globe nomations, SAG nominations, etc. Unfortunately, the buzz is not quite where I would like it. Granted, it doesn't open for nearly a full month, so there's still time for buzz to build. It will need really strong reviews, because this film's target audience will not only have films like Captain Phillips, but limited releases like Twelve Years a Slave will likely be expanding significantly this weekend. On the other hand, if the film's reviews are great and it can earn some Oscar buzz, then it will have a shot at being a breakout hit.

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: BadGrandpa.com
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: October 25th, 2013
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Very Likely R
Source: Based on Real Life Events / Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Road Trip, Improvised, Dysfunctional Family, Old Age Make-Up, and more
Directed By: Jeff Tremaine
Written By: Jeff Tremaine, Spike Jonze, and Johnny Knoxville
Starring: Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million

The film is a spin-off from the Jackass franchise, but will fans of the zany stunts be interested in the more hidden-camera focused gags? This is more Borat than Jackass, although with less politics than Borat had. There is a plot, unlike with the Jackass movies, but also has some hidden-camera jokes, like the Jackass movies had. On the one hand, I liked Borat. On the other hand, the grandpa jokes from the original Jackass movies were some of my least liked parts of those movies. On the other, other hand, I'm not in the target audience for this movie, so I'm not sure my opinion means anything. I think this movie could open with $30 million, but have very short legs. That said, it likely cost less than $30 million to make, so a $30 million opening would be a great start, no matter what its legs are like.


- C.S.Strowbridge


Date posted: 2013-10-01