September will reflect the collective impact of the actors and writers’ strikes: Few stars at film festivals, a handful of titles removed from presentation, and the ongoing lack of actors’ pre-release publicity.
One thing that September does have going for it: Theaters won’t suffer from the removal of wide-release films. (That changes starting in October.) There was Luca Guadagnino’s “Challengers” (MGM), originally the opening-night title for the Venice Film Festival, but the tennis-world love triangle starring Zendaya was expected to be more of a niche success.
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For now, we can expect to see continued improvement over last year, thanks to sequel and franchise titles, starting with “The Equalizer 3” (Sony) this weekend. The Denzel Washington actioner might exceed $30 million for the four-day weekend. “The Nun 2” (Warner Bros.) should equal that.
August will end up somewhat over $800 million, about a 70 percent improvement over 2022. Combined with the massive late-July boost from “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer,” the industry’s summer total (first May Friday through Labor Day) will reach $4 billion no later than Monday.
Like July, those two films were the best for August and contributed over 40 percent of the month’s total gross. Best among new releases was “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” (Paramount), which just reached $100 million. Next best was “Meg 2: The Trench” (Warner Bros.) with $75 million. That’s a bit more than half of the 2018 initial film, which cost far less than the $130 million pre-marketing cost this time. With close to $300 million foreign, it’s easily profitable.
If recent results inspire studios to make more original films once production resumes, we won’t see that impact for more than a year. Of September’s eight wide releases, seven are sequels or extensions of existing franchises. Only one — “The Creator” (Disney), an AI post-apocalyptic thriller from Gareth Edwards (“Godzilla,” “Rogue One”) — is an original project.
Other wide titles include: “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” from Focus (September 8); “A Haunting in Venice,” the latest Kenneth Branagh/Hercule Poirot mystery from Disney (September 15); “The Expend4bles” and “Saw X” (both Lionsgate); and “Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie” from Paramount (September 29).
The “Equalizer” and “Nun” sequels have the best shot at exceeding $75 million. Others project to $50 million, or a little more at best. Still, both in number of releases and their expected grosses, it looks like an improvement over last year when the month took in only $323 million. Figure this September will fall between $450–$500 million.
That increase would project to $9.3 billion for the year, but the strike’s impact may threaten reaching that level.
The early stages of awards season will begin with theatrical openings of festival-premiered films. Sony is releasing Toronto debut “Dumb Money” from Craig Gillespie starting September 15. Other festival films include “It Lives Inside” (Neon) and “Flora and Son” (Apple TV+) on September 22, “Dicks: The Musical” (A24) and “Carlos” (Sony Pictures Classics) on September 29.
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