2014 Preview: September

The Equalizer poster

August was a great month, it is as simple as that. Not only did Guardians of the Galaxy break records, but Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a surprise hit as well. These early gains led to an extended winning streak in the year-over-year comparison. Granted, 2014 is still more than $300 million behind 2013, but this is substantially less than the gap was before the month. Can September maintain this run? I'm not sure. Last September was strong compared to most Septembers with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 earning more than $100 million while Insidious Chapter 2 came relatively close. This year, there likely won't be any $100 million hits, but I think The Equalizer should at least come close. Meanwhile, there are some who think The Maze Runner will be the biggest hit of the month, but I'm not among them. There have been too many similar releases that have struggled to think this one will be a hit. I think September will get off to a terrible start, but overall I think it will be close to last year.

Weekend of September 5th, 2014

The Identical poster

The weekend after Labor Day is historically one of the weakest weekends of the year, if not the weakest weekend of the year. This year it is particularly bad, as neither of the two films that were supposed to open wide are going to open wide. The Green Inferno was pulled from the schedule due to financial troubles with the production company. Meanwhile, early theater estimates have The Identical not opening truly wide. It might not open in the top ten. This weekend last year, Riddick opened with nearly $20 million. This is going to be more than twice as much as the number one film will be this year, as Guardians of the Galaxy will likely continue its run on top.

The Identical

The Identical poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheIdenticalMovie.com
Distributor: Freestyle Releasing
Release Date: September 5th, 2014
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic material and smoking.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Musicians, Singers, Twins, Adopted Family, Family Secret, Separated at Birth, Music Industry, Religious, Dysfunctional Family, Father's Footsteps, and more
Directed By: Dustin Marcellino
Written By: Howard Klausner
Starring: Blake Rayne, Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Seth Green, Joe Pantoliano, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $12 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million

Blake Rayne plays twins separated at birth, one of whom went on to become a rock'n'roll legend and the other struggled to balance his love of music with his adoptive father's desire to have him follow in his footsteps and become a preacher. There is almost no buzz for this movie and there's not a lot of star power, as this is Blake Rayne's first acting role. Add in the low theater count and the film will likely fail to find a significant audience. Worst case scenario has the film opening below the Mendoza Line and disappearing from theaters shortly after that. Even the best case scenario has it barely topping its low production budget with $15 million to $20 million. The above potential is a weighted average of the two extremes.

Weekend of September 12th, 2014

Dolphin Tale 2 poster

The box office should bounce back this weekend, obviously. It certainly couldn't get worse than the previous weekend. Dolphin Tale 2 looks to live up to its predecessor and while I don't think it will match the first film's total, it should come close enough to become a midlevel hit. The second new release of the week is No Good Deed, which feels like a rather generic thriller, only it is aimed at African-Americans. This weekend last year, Insidious Chapter 2 opened with just over $40 million, which is likely more than both new releases will open with this weekend combined. Granted, Insidious Chapter 2 and The Family were the only two films that earned $7 million or more at the box office last year, which is terrible depth, 2014 will be weaker at the top and with no true wide releases the week before, its depths might be even weaker. Look for another lose in the year-over-year comparison.

Dolphin Tale 2

Dolphin Tale 2 poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: DolphinTale2.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: September 12th, 2014
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild thematic elements.
Source: Sequel / Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Animal Lead, Inspired By Real Life Events, and more
Directed By: Charles Martin Smith
Written By: Charles Martin Smith
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Nathan Gamble, Cozi Zuehlsdorff, Harry Connick Jr., Kris Kristofferson, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $60 million

The followup to Dolphin Tale, which opened this time of year back in 2011. That film earned excellent reviews and became a solid midlevel hit. I'm not surprised a sequel is being made, but I would be shocked if this film matched its predecessor at the box office. Its predecessor wasn't a film that demanded a sequel and this is hurting the buzz. Additionally, if the reviews are weak, it might be impossible to shake that "Unnecessary Sequel" label. Then again, it wouldn't have to become a midlevel hit again, so in the end, the studio should be happy.

No Good Deed

No Good Deed poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: NoGoodDeedMovie.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: September 12th, 2014
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence, menace, terror, and for language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Prison Break, On the Run, Home Invasion, African-American, and more
Directed By: Sam Miller
Written By: Aimee Lagos
Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Idris Elba, and other
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million

Idris Elba stars as a violent criminal who breaks out of custody while being transported. He goes to a nearby house where Taraji P. Henson lives and pretends he had car trouble and she lets him in to use the phone. Since it is a thriller, you can guess where this goes. Unfortunately, the trailer makes the movie seem like a very generic home invasion movie and that's hurting the buzz. It might open below $10 million and disappear before the end of the month. I'm a little more bullish than this, but not by much.

Weekend of September 19th, 2014

A Walk Among the Tombstones poster

The third weekend of September could be led by The Maze Runner. It's yet another adaptation of a Young Adult novel. Some see it as the obvious number one film, not just of the weekend, but of the month. I look at it and see The Giver: Part Two. A Walk Among the Tombstones is the latest action film starring Liam Neeson. There have been almost as many of these as there have been Young Adult adaptations, but the most recent such film, Non-Stop, made more than $90 million at the box office. Granted, I don't think A Walk Among the Tombstones will match that figure, but it should become the biggest hit of the weekend. The final wide release of the week is This is Where I Leave You, a dysfunctional family dramedy. It is the smallest of the three wide releases coming out this week and I think it will get lost in the crowd. This weekend last year was led by Prisoners with just over $20 million. I think the number one film this year will earn more than that and the depth will also be better. 2014 should come out on top of the year-over-year comparison. One final note, Tusk is opening this weekend and while some sources say it will open wide, I don't think it will. It is being released by A24 and they've never released a film truly wide. If it does open wide, it is probably too out there to find a wide audience. On the other hand, early buzz suggests it could become a cult classic.

The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheMazeRunnerMovie.com
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: September 19th, 2014
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images.
Source: Based on a Novel
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Young Adult, Dystopian Future, Ensemble, Post Apocalypse, Robots, and more
Directed By: Wes Ball
Written By: James Dashner, Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers, and T.S. Nowlin
Starring: Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $40 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

The Maze Runner is the latest Young Adult adaptation to hit the home market. There have been too many of these films released recently and many of them have struggled in theaters and with critics. For instance, The Giver earned 32% positive reviews while it is struggling to get to $40 million at the box office. The Maze Runner could earn better reviews, but I see no reason to bet on it. If it were a good movie, the studio wouldn't have pushed back from February to September. Meanwhile, the first review is in and it is negative, which is another bad sign. Additionally, the star power here is really weak. Dylan O'Brien being part of the new Teen Wolf show could draw in some of the right crowd, but the most of the rest of the cast have very few major movie roles under their belts. On the other hand, the film reportedly only cost $40 million to make, so it won't need to be a $100 million hit at the domestic box office to break even. If it makes more than $100 million worldwide, it will probably break even sooner rather than later.

This is Where I Leave You

This is Where I Leave You poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ThisIsWhereILeaveYou.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: September 19th, 2014
MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual content and some drug use.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Dysfunctional Family, Funeral Reunion, Ensemble, Jewish, Religious, Novel Adapted By Author, and more
Directed By: Shawn Levy
Written By: Jonathan Tropper
Starring: Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Jane Fonda, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Why isn't the buzz surrounding this film louder? Shawn Levy, while not an Oscar-worthy director, has made some big hits at the theaters. In fact, Date Night, which also starred Tina Fey, made nearly $100 million despite having a rather weak release date. A lot of people are expecting this to bomb outright earning $25 million or less. That seems a little harsh and I think the film has a shot at becoming a midlevel hit, not a great shot, but a shot. It is the smallest of the three films opening wide this week, but it is the only comedy opening this month, so that should give it a leg up. On the high end, it could earn $50 million, but given the pessimism of a lot of analysts, I think I should be more conservative.

A Walk Among the Tombstones

A Walk Among the Tombstones poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: AWalkAmongTheTombstones.net
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: September 19th, 2014
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, disturbing images, language and brief nudity.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Ex-Cop, Narcotics, Organized Crime, Kidnapping, Private Eye, Crime Thriller, and more
Directed By: Scott Frank
Written By: Scott Frank and Lawrence Block
Starring: Liam Neeson, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million

Liam Neeson stars in an action film. ... I don't think I need to say more. Let's go to the next film.

Okay, I'll say more than that. Liam Neeson stars as Matt Scudder, a former star cop who accidentally shot an innocent bystander while chasing down a suspect. Now he is an unlicensed private eye that works outside the law. His latest case has him hired by a major drug dealer whose wife was kidnapped and ransomed. The drug dealer paid the ransom, but the kidnappers killed his wife anyway. Now he wants to find them and get revenge. When Liam Neeson investigates, he begins to suspect this wasn't the first time a crime like this has happened.

Liam Neeson's most recent action film, Non-Stop, earned $91.74 million when it opened in February of this year. Since it is opening in September, there's almost no chance that A Walk Among the Tombstones will match that figure. On the other hand, it has enough buzz to at least become a midlevel hit. On the downside, if the studio thought it would be a big hit, they wouldn't be releasing it in September. Also, the week after this film opens, The Equalizer debuts and it has higher buzz and it is direct competition. I still think it will be a midlevel hit and the biggest hit of the weekend.

Weekend of September 26th, 2014

The Equalizer poster

The final weekend in September has actually become a pretty strong weekend to release a film, especially family films, like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, which opened this weekend last year. The Boxtrolls look to fill that role this year, but it is a stop-motion animated film and those rarely become big hits. Only one such film, Chicken Run, reached $100 million, so it is unlikely Boxtrolls will live up to Cloudy 2. Fortunately, the other genre that tends to do well this time of year is action films and The Equalizer fits that bill. Also, the film stars Denzel Washington, a.k.a., Mr. Reliable. The last time he had an action film bomb was Out of Time and that movie came out more than a decade ago. This weekend last year, Cloudy 2 led the way with $34.02 million, but the other two wide releases were well back. The Equalizer might match that figure, but even if it doesn't, I think the depth will be better this year.

The Boxtrolls

The Boxtrolls poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheBoxtrolls.com
Distributor: Focus Features Release Date: September 26th, 2014
MPAA Rating: PG for action, some peril and mild rude humor.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Orphan, Underground, Adoptive Family, Monsters, 3D, Shot in 3D, and more
Directed By: Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi
Written By: Irena Brignull, Adam Pava, and Alan Snow
Starring: Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Elle Fanning, Ben Kingsley, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $60 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million

This movie is from the same studio that also made Coraline and ParaNorman. Both of those films earned amazing reviews, but neither came close to earning $100 million. It is too soon to tell if The Boxtrolls will match those previous films with critics, but it is just as unlikely that it will reach $100 million. Stop-motion animated films almost never reach that milestone and the buzz for this one suggests it won't be one of the rare exceptions. The buzz isn't bad, but it isn't incredible either. It is the first kids movie to come out since Planes: Fire and Rescue, so there should be some pent up demand. Overall, the evidence suggests it will be a solid midlevel hit and it should do well enough to break even early in its home market run.

Last Minute Update: The reviews are trickling in and they are all negative so far. "Unappealing" seems to be the most common phrase to describe the movie. Because of this, I've dropped the box office potential from $70 million to $50 million.

The Equalizer

The Equalizer poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: EqualizerTheMovie.com
Distributor: Sony Release Date: September 26th, 2014
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence and language throughout, including some sexual references.
Source: Based on TV show
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Ex-Soldier, Special Ops, Gangs, Revenge, Organized Crime, and more
Directed By: Antoine Fuqua
Written By: Richard Wenk, Michael Sloan, and Richard Lindheim
Starring: Denzel Washington, ChloŽ Grace Moretz, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $50 million
Box Office Potential: $85 million

Denzel Washington stars as a former Special Ops who befriends ChloŽ Grace Moretz. When she is attacked and nearly killed, he gets revenge on the people who do it. Afterward, he learns these people weren't just run of the mill criminals, but were Russian Mafia and now he's got a target on his back.

While Denzel Washington rarely makes $100 million movies, nearly all of his movies at least come close. The buzz for this film is strong, if you ignore the people complaining it isn't the same as the TV show. It has the potential to reach $100 million, but I don't think it will get there. On the downside, A Walk Among the Tombstones opens a week before and the direct competition will eat into both films' box office numbers. This one has a slightly better release date and louder buzz, so I'm giving it an advantage at the box office.


- C.S.Strowbridge


Date posted: 2014-09-01