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2016 Preview: November

November 1st, 2016

Doctor Strange

October turned out to be a mixed month. On the one hand, not one movie earned $100 million, or even came close. However, it was also a more steady month than last October and the last two weeks really helped 2016 in the year-over-year comparisons. In November, we have five films with at least a shot at $100 million, three of which should have no trouble getting to at least $200 million. A little while ago, I thought Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them would be the biggest hit of the month, but the buzz took a hit recently. More on that below. Meanwhile, Doctor Strange’s reviews are currently 90% positive and that should help it out at the box office. The third very likely $200 million hit is Moana. There is certainly precedent for an animated movie to be a monster hit at this time of year, but there is also a lot of competition. Last November was similar in strength, with five films that earned more than $100 million and two films that earned more than $200 million. None earned more than $300 million, so that’s the goal for this November. If we can get one $300 million and / or three $200 million movies over the month, then it will be seen as a victory.

Weekend of November 4th, 2016

Doctor Strange

There are three films opening wide this weekend and all three are currently earning amazing reviews. However, Doctor Strange is the only one with a realistic shot at first place. It is the latest release in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is all you really need to know to judge its box office potential. Also opening is Trolls from DreamWorks Animation, which used to be the biggest animation studio at the box office. Used to be. Finally there’s Hacksaw Ridge, which feels like Oscar-bait. I’m not sure it will get there. This weekend last year, Spectre opened with $70.40 million, while The Peanuts Movie earned $44.21 million That’s a great one-two punch. I’m very confident Doctor Strange will beat Spectre, but I don’t think Trolls will hold up its end of the deal.

Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Marvel.com/DoctorStrange
Distributor: Walt Disney
Release Date: November 4th, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action throughout, and an intense crash sequence.
Source: Based on Comic/Graphic Novel
Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Marvel Comics, Secret Magic, Origin Story, Car Accident, Paralysis / Loss of a Limb, New York City, London, Hong Kong, Alternative Dimensions / Parallel universe, Same Actor, Multiple Roles, Scene in End Credits, Demons
Directed By: Scott Derrickson
Written By: Jon Spaihts, C. Robert Cargill, Scott Derrickson, Steve Ditko
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen
Production Budget: Reported at $165 million
Box Office Potential: $275 million

Benedict Cumberbatch plays Dr. Stephen Strange, a brilliant, and very arrogant neurosurgeon who gets into a car crash and loses the use of his hands. (Not completely, but enough to end his medical career.) He then spends his entire fortune trying to find a medical way to heal his injuries. When that fails, he learns of a potential mystical way.

There has been magic in the Marvel Cinematic Universe before; after all, both Loki and Frigga are illusionists. However, it has never been the center of a film, before Doctor Strange. Because of that, I was worried that the film would be too, well... strange. The world of magic wouldn’t translate to the big screen and this would hurt the film’s reviews and that in turn would hurt the film’s box office chances. Fortunately, the film’s reviews are amazing at over 90% positive. Assuming it stays in that range and the buzz continues to grow ahead of its release, the film has a slim shot at $100 million during its opening weekend and long enough legs to get to $300 million. Even the low end has it earning more than $70 million during its opening weekend and $200 million overall. I’m a little more bullish than most, but the MCU hasn’t had a flop yet, so it has earned its reputation.

On a side note, there is a bit of controversy surrounding this movie, specifically the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One. In the comics, the Ancient One is an Asian man, while Tilda Swinton is not. Erasing Asian representation is a serious issue, but the Ancient One is an Oriental stereotype, so something needed to change. Making it less stereotypical would have been hard, because it is the core of the character, mystical Asian man, that is the problem. However, Marvel really should have compensated by including more Asian characters in the supporting cast.

Last minute update: We have some early international numbers and they look really good, for the most part. Overall, the film’s early box office numbers are nearly 50% better than Ant-Man’s numbers were. With better reviews and the holidays coming up, it could have longer legs, making $300 million domestically possible. I’m not willing to go that far, but I’m not willing to dismiss the possibility either.

Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw Ridge
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: HacksawRidge.movie
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: November 4th, 2016
MPAA Rating: R for intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence including grisly bloody images.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Genre: Drama
Keywords: World War II, Anti-war, Conscientious Objector, Pacifism, 1940s
Directed By: Mel Gibson
Written By: Robert Schenkkan, Randall Wallace
Starring: Andrew Garfield
Production Budget: Reported at $40 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million

Andrew Garfield stars as a real life soldier, Desmond T. Ross, who was a pacifist. He wasn’t drafted, he volunteered, but refused to even carry a weapon. Instead he became a medic and the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor. This is perfect Oscar-bait... except that it is directed by Mel Gibson. During the past decade, Mel Gibson has been in the press more for alcohol abuse, drunk driving, domestic violence, racist language, etc. than he has for his acting or directing. He has been dealing with alcohol abuse since he was barely a teenager, so if he has truly worked to deal with his addictions, and is heartfelt in his apologies and truly wants to make amends, then he can move on from this. However, all it will take is one really bad interview and he’s back to square one and this could kill the film’s box office chances. Hopefully this doesn’t happen, because the film’s early reviews are excellent.

Trolls

Trolls
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Dreamworks.com/Trolls/
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: November 4th, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild rude humor.
Source: Based on a Toy
Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Food, Rescue, Escape, Makeover
Directed By: Mike Mitchell
Written By:Jonathan Aibel,Glenn Berger<
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake
Production Budget: Reported at $120 million
Box Office Potential: $105 million

This is a hard film to predict. It’s not earning a lot of buzz and frankly I thought the trailer looked terrible. Okay, not terrible exactly, but the film is certainly aimed almost exclusively at kids, unlikely Zootopia, for example. Zootopia was clearly going to win over adult fans of animation. That said, while I’m not in the target audience for Trolls, its early reviews are excellent, while its international debut suggests a $100 million run here. There is direct competition at the end of the month, so that could hurt its legs, but I think it will still be a hit.

Weekend of November 11th, 2016

Arrival

The second weekend of November is the only weekend in November without a sure $100 million hit. That’s not to say no film opening this weekend has a chance to get to the century mark, but no film has a 50/50 chance of doing so. Arrival is earning 100% positive reviews at the moment and that could turn into Awards Season buzz and long legs. Almost Christmas is a Christmas film aimed at African-Americans. There have been a number of similar releases and they tend to do okay at the box office. Finally there’s Shut In. This is the film’s fourth release date. Hopefully this one sticks. Speaking of dancing release dates, Billy Lynn’s Long Half-time Walk got shuffled around and is now opening in limited release this week, before expanding wide next week. I think this will be a mistake. This weekend last year was a mess. The biggest new release of the week was Love the Coopers, which only managed $8.32 million. It is very likely all three of the wide releases are going to top that figure by a large margin. Meanwhile, the sophomore stint of Doctor Strange should top the $33.68 million earned by Spectre giving 2016 the win in the year-over-year comparison.

Almost Christmas

Almost Christmas
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: AlmostChristmasMovie.com/
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: November 11th, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for suggestive material, drug content and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Drama
Keywords: Christmas, Christmas in November, Family Reunion, African-American, Dysfunctional Family, Ensemble, Generational Conflict, Widow/Widower, Romance, Divorcée Romance
Directed By: David E. Talbert
Written By: David E. Talbert
Starring: Danny Glover, Gabrielle Union, Kimberly Elise, Mo'Nique, Omar Epps
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million

A dysfunctional family get together for the first Christmas after the death of the matriarch of the family. This is a Christmas film aimed at African-Americans, which could be a subgenre all on its own. They tend to be solid performers with the occasional breakout hit, as well as the occasional box office flop. The buzz is rather quiet, even compared to other similar films, so the lower end is a little more likely than the higher end. That said, $40 million will likely be enough to break even sooner rather than later.

Arrival

Arrival
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ArrivalMovie.com
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: November 11th, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Source: Based on Fiction Book/Short Story
Genre: Drama
Keywords: First Contact, Surprise Twist, Single Parent
Directed By: Denis Villeneuve
Written By: Eric Heisserer, Ted Chiang
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
Production Budget: Reported at $50 million
Box Office Potential: $90 million

In this movie, a dozen alien spaceships arrive on Earth and it is up to linguistics expert Amy Adams to decipher their language so the aliens and humans can communicate. Meanwhile, the governments of Earth are starting to panic and might preemptively attack the aliens. So far this film is earning 100% positive reviews. More impressively, it already has more than 50 reviews, so it is very unlikely its reviews will suddenly tank. Additionally, it is the biggest release of the week. Unfortunately, there are much bigger releases coming out the week before and the week after this film comes out, so it might be lost in the crowd. If it does well enough to earn some Awards Season buzz, then it could top $100 million domestically. Even if it doesn’t, as long as it comes relatively close, it will break even sooner rather than later.

Shut In

Shut In
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ShutInMovie.com
Distributor: EuropaCorp
Release Date: November 11th, 2016
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Keywords: Isolation Horror, Car Accident, Death of a Spouse or Fiancée / Fiancé, Paralysis, Young Child Dealing with the Death of a Parent, Extreme Weather
Directed By: Farren Blackburn
Written By: Christina Hodson
Starring: Naomi Watts
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million

Naomi Watts plays a psychologist whose husband died in a car accident and her son was paralyzed and reduced to a near vegetative state. Non-communicative. ... I’m not sure what the medical term is. Mute? She takes in one of her clients, a young boy whose mother recently died. At first, this really helps her as well, but then the boy tries to run away and dies in a blizzard. She then thinks the boy’s ghost has returned to haunt them.

Something is certainly haunting this film. It has been pushed back three times and now I’m not 100% sold it is going to open truly wide. If it debuted in 1,500 theaters, I wouldn’t be shocked. Even if it opened truly wide, I would be shocked if it opened in the top five. It could be the worst film at the box office this month.

Weekend of November 18th, 2016

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

The third weekend of the month will be dominated by Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It will make more during its opening weekend than any of the three other films will make in total. It might make more during its opening weekend than all three of the other films make combined. The only other film with a shot at being a midlevel hit is The Edge of Seventeen, which was pushed back from a September release at the last minute. Normally this is a bad sign, but it was done so it could turn its early reviews into Awards Season buzz. Bleed for This is an Award Season contender that was supposed to open in limited release before expanding wide, but that was changed in October. Meanwhile, the opposite happened Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, which was supposed to open wide last weekend, but now it has a one-week limited release first. This weekend last year, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 dominated the weekend with more than $100 million. That’s the bad news. The good news is only two other films earned more than $10 million. I think 2016 will have better depth, but not by enough to win in the year-over-year comparison. It should be relatively close, on the other hand.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: BillyLynn-Movie.com
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Release Date: November 11th, 2016 (Limited Release)
Release Date: November 18th, 2016 (Expands Wide)
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, some war violence, sexual content, and brief drug use.
Source: Based on Fiction Book/Short Story
Genre: Drama
Keywords: War, Iraq War, Returning Soldiers, 3-D, 3-D - Shot in 3-D
Directed By: Ang Lee
Written By: Simon Beaufoy, Ben Fountain
Starring: Joe Alwyn
Production Budget: Reported at $40 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk feels like Oscar-bait, but the critics are not overly impressed. Additionally, because the film is opening in limited release on the 11th and expanding on the 18th, there is a real chance its reviews will cause it to stumble out of the gate and kill its chances at the box office before it even expands wide. That’s the worst case scenario, but it is something that has to be taken into account.

On a side note, the film was shot in 120 frames per second in 3D at 4K HD resolution so the film should look amazing in a theater that can show it at the maximum resolution / frame rate. There are only two such theaters in the entire United States.

Bleed for This

Bleed for This
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: BleedForThisFilm.com
Distributor: Open Road
Release Date: November 18th, 2016
MPAA Rating: R for language, sexuality/nudity and some accident images.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Genre: Drama
Keywords: Inspirational Sports, Boxing, Car Accident, Paralysis, Comeback
Directed By: Ben Younger
Written By: Ben Younger
Starring: Miles Teller
Production Budget: Reported at $16 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

An inspirational sports story based on real life events. In the film, Miles Teller plays a boxer, who breaks his neck in a car crash and the doctors tell him he will likely never walk again. However, he not only walks again, he re-enters the boxing ring. So far there are a dozen reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and 75% of them are positive. However, if you dig deeper, most of the positive reviews are not very enthusiastic. It’s not Awards Season material and a film like this needs to earn some Awards Season buzz to stand out from the monster hits. If it doesn’t, it will fade before finding an audience.

The Edge of Seventeen

The Edge of Seventeen
Trailer: Coming Soon
Official Site: STXMovies.com/TheEdgeOfSeventeen
Distributor: STX Entertainment
Release Date: November 18th, 2016
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, language and some drinking — all involving teens.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Drama
Keywords: Coming of Age, High School, Romance, First Love, Dysfunctional Family, Teachers, Inspirational Teacher
Directed By: Kelly Fremon Craig
Written By: Kelly Fremon Craig
Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, Woody Harrelson
Production Budget: Estimated at $10 million to $20 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million

Hailee Steinfeld plays a high school student who is a social outcast and has only one friend. However, that friend starts dating her brother, her friend becomes popular and she is left alone.

This film was pushed back from September to November and getting pushed back is rarely a good sign. This is likely an exception, however, as the film’s reviews are award-worthy and November is a better time of the year to release an Oscar-bait flick. Will it work? I don’t know if it will win awards, but I think it will be the best of the counter-programming this week and it will break even sooner rather than later.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: FantasticBeasts.com/
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: November 18th, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some fantasy action violence.
Source: Spin-Off
Genre: Adventure
Keywords: 1920s, Prequel, New York City, Secret Magic, Supernatural, Monster, Cryptozoology, Secret Societies
Directed By: David Yates
Written By: J.K. Rowling
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston
Production Budget: Reported at $225 million
Box Office Potential: $275 million

When this film was announced, I assumed it would be a monster hit. After all, it is the continuation of the Harry Potter franchise and those films nearly averaged $1 billion a movie. However, when it was announced it would be a trilogy, a lot of fans of the books felt there wasn’t enough material for three movies and we saw what happened to The Hobbit’s reviews. ... Then the studio announced it was extending the trilogy into five films. There wasn’t a lot of fans cheering this news. Most people I heard talk about it were annoyed that they would start working on four films without seeing how well the first film turned out. There is also talk that this is a reaction to the D.C.E.U. not winning over critics and potentially failing. Warner Bros. needs a new franchise to take over from the DCEU flop going forward. This is the worst motivation to stretch out limited source material.

On the other hand, J.K. Rowling is writing the screenplays, so at least someone with a passion for the world is writing this and this isn’t just some paycheck for a screenwriter.

Weekend of November 25th, 2016

Moana

The last weekend of November is Thanksgiving weekend, which is the official start of the Holiday Box office season and one of the biggest weekends of the year. Moana hopes to improve upon the last two Thanksgiving family film releases. There’s a good chance Moana will make more than those two films made combined. Allied is aiming for a more mature audience, but the buzz hasn’t grown the way it should. Bad Santa 2 is the delayed sequel for Bad Santa. Sometimes these sequels out-perform the original film. Mostly they don’t. Finally there’s Rules Don’t Apply, a film written, directed, and starring Warren Beatty. The buzz is so quiet that I’m not 100% sure it is opening truly wide. Last year, the last weekend of November wasn’t as strong as expected, meaning 2016 has the opportunity to end the month on a high note.

Allied

Allied
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: AlliedMovie.com/
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: November 23rd, 2016
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rate - Likely R-Rated
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Drama
Keywords: 1940s, North Africa, World War II, Secret Agent, Dysfunctional Family
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis
Written By: Steve Knight, Graham King
Starring: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard
Production Budget: Estimated at $40 million to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million

Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard play spies who are hunting the same Nazi agent and fall in love along the way. After their mission, they move to London, get married, and have a child. Their life seems perfect, despite the war, but then Brad Pitt learns that Marion Cotillard is suspected of being a double-agent still working for the Nazis.

The movie looks good, but there’s not a lot of buzz at the moment. Granted, it doesn’t open until the end of the month, so there is time to build buzz. If the film is as good as it looks, it should have long legs throughout December. Even at the low end, it will surpass Robert Zemeckisprevious film during its opening weekend and should earn more domestically than that film earned worldwide.

Bad Santa 2

Bad Santa 2
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: BadSanta2.com
Distributor: Broad Green Pictures
Release Date: November 23rd, 2016
MPAA Rating: R for crude sexual content and language throughout, and some graphic nudity.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Delayed Sequel, Christmas in November, Christmas, Santa Claus Impersonators, Heist, Dwarfism, Addiction
Directed By: Mark Waters
Written By: Johnny Rosenthal, Doug Ellin, Shauna Cross
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates, Christina Hendricks, Tony Cox
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million

Delayed sequels to comedies rarely pan out. For every Anchorman, there’s a Dumb and Dumber and a Zoolander. Bad Santa 2 looks like it will be one of the latter films, not the rare hits. The original film earned $60 million back in 2003 and there were rumors about a sequel shortly after that. Bad Santa 2 has been “in production” for seven years, which is another bad sign. On the other hand, the first film has a cult following and I think this should help it do well enough that it will break even, eventually. I don’t expect there to be a third film in the franchise any time soon.

Moana

Moana
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Movies.Disney.com/Moana
Distributor: Walt Disney
Release Date: November 23rd, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG for peril, some scary images and brief thematic elements.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Pacific Islanders, Gods and Goddesses, On a Boat
Directed By: Ron Clements, John Musker
Written By: Jared Bush
Starring: Auli'i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson
Production Budget: $150 million to $200 million
Box Office Potential: $225 million

Moana is the third digitally animated film released by Disney this year. The first two each earned more than $1 billion worldwide. This film has a lot to live up to. The buzz for the movie is great, but there’s another digitally animated film opening earlier in the month, Trolls, and another opening a month later, Sing. That’s a lot of competition. The competition will likely prevent it from being that big a hit, but if it doesn’t make at least $200 million domestically, I will be disappointed. It could come close to $300 million, if everything goes perfectly.

Rules Don’t Apply

Rules Don’t Apply
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: FoxMovies.com/Movies/Rules-Dont-Apply
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: November 23rd, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual material including brief strong language, thematic elements, and drug references.
Source: Based on Fictional Book/Short Story
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Directing Yourself, Screenplay Written By the Star, Hollywood, Aspiring Actress / Actor, Romance, 1950s
Directed By: Warren Beatty
Written By: Warren Beatty, Warren Beatty, Bo Goldman
Starring: Warren Beatty, Lily Collins, Alden Ehrenreich
Production Budget: Reported at $27 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Lily Collins plays an aspiring actress and Alden Ehrenreich plays the man hired to be her driver. They fall in love, only their boss strictly forbids romance between employees. Their boss is Howard Hughes, played by Warren Beatty. This is one of those films where the lack of buzz is troubling. It has been nearly two decades since Warren Beatty has directed a movie, so you would think that would be enough to get some buzz going, but so far there’s nearly none and because of that, the film’s box office potential is rather low.

Filed under: Monthly Preview, Trolls, Moana, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Doctor Strange, Shut In, Hacksaw Ridge, The Edge of Seventeen, Arrival, Bleed for This, Almost Christmas, Allied, Bad Santa 2, Rules Don’t Apply, Harry Potter, Dumb and Dumber, Marvel Cinematic Universe, Anchorman, The Hobbit, Zoolander, Bad Santa, DC Extended Universe, Mel Gibson, Brad Pitt, Kathy Bates, Warren Beatty, Forest Whitaker, Amy Adams, Ron Clements, Marion Cotillard, Tony Cox, Benedict Cumberbatch, Scott Derrickson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kimberly Elise, Omar Epps, Andrew Garfield, Danny Glover, Woody Harrelson, Tom Hiddleston, Dwayne Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Ang Lee, Mads Mikkelsen, Mo'Nique, John Musker, Eddie Redmayne, Jeremy Renner, Rene Russo, Tilda Swinton, Billy Bob Thornton, Justin Timberlake, Gabrielle Union, Mark Waters, Katherine Waterston, Naomi Watts, David Yates, Robert Zemeckis, Lily Collins, Graham King, Christina Hendricks, Randall Wallace, Simon Beaufoy, J.K. Rowling, Miles Teller, Hailee Steinfeld, Steve Ditko, Mike Mitchell, Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, Denis Villeneuve, Eric Heisserer, Shauna Cross, Bo Goldman, Jon Spaihts, David E. Talbert, C. Robert Cargill, Steve Knight, Farren Blackburn, Alden Ehrenreich, Doug Ellin, Ben Younger, Ben Fountain, Christina Hodson, Jared Bush, Haley Lu Richardson, Robert Schenkkan, Joe Alwyn, Kelly Fremon Craig, Ted Chiang, Johnny Rosenthal, Auli'i Cravalho
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