It’s bound to be another downer weekend at the box office.
Following Labor Day, this fall’s ticket sales currently total $682.8M through the second weekend in October, which is -10% versus the same frame last year and -8% when compared to that time frame in 2014. According to ComScore, since 2012 the annual fall B.O. through this point in time has typically made year-on-year percent gains except for this year.
Essentially, this autumn’s ennui boils down to distributors programming a heavier dose of adult-skewing titles than usual, many of them panned by critics, and most of them not exactly awards season contenders.
In addition, there’s been a number of titles that have just flat out not worked with their target demos, i.e. Blair Witch with genre fans ($9.6M opening, $20.3M domestic B.O.), Deepwater Horizon with upscale adults ($20.2M opening, $41.1M), Bridget Jones’s Baby with older women ($8.6M opening, $22.9M domestic B.O.), When the Bough Breaks with African Americans ($14.2M opening, $29.4M), and the lists goes on. Some of this attributed to each film’s tracking being off, or moviegoers making alternate choices in regards to what’s in the market.
To date, among wide releases, Warner Bros./Village Roadshow’s Sully is the most mass-appealing with $114.5M, and the sole awards contender so far in release. Before the end of the month and into November, most of the buzzed-about titles coming out of the fall festivals like A24’s Moonlight, Focus Features’ Loving and Sony Pictures Classics’ Elle will start to hit the specialty circuit before there’s a larger quantity populating marquees from Thanksgiving until the end of the year. In previous autumns, there’s typically been a couple of five-quad titles that anchor the season, whether they’re event (Gravity, The Martian) or family titles (Hotel Transylvania 2, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2). In addition, there’s typically been a movie that’s stoked the under 25 crowd (i.e. Bad Grandpa, Maze Runner, Paranormal Activity).
Back in August, we anticipated this season to be a fierce one based on the number of wide releases on the schedule for the period of post Labor Day-mid November (that’s the weekend before Thanksgiving). A few titles have shaken out of the season, but at 33 wide releases, that’s still as many as last fall which was a five-year-high supply.
This weekend the Warner Bros. Ben Affleck drama thriller The Accountant isn’t expected to appreciate the weekend’s box office ledgers with an opening in the $15M-$20M range at 3,332 theaters. Currently, the handful of reviews out there haven’t been kind with a 36% Rotten Tomatoes Score. Last weekend we said that Girl on the Train wasn’t posting Gone Girl numbers because it lacked Affleck. Why Accountant isn’t any higher stems partly from the Oscar-winner being paired with an original screenplay, not a best-selling piece of source material. There’s even a Kevin Hart title in the mix this weekend, but it’s not a feature comedy, but one of his big screen stand-up specials from Universal, Kevin Hart: What Now? It’s projected to make $10M-$14M at 2,550 venues. Making a go for families is Open Road’s handling of the big screen take on the Mattel toy line Max Steel at 2,034 theaters. “It should bring in all the Max Steel fans!” snarked one rival distribution executive, meaning all $4M of ’em. Accountant and What Now? will hold Thursday previews at 7PM.
With the 2016 domestic B.O. set to best last year’s $11.1B record on a pace of +3.9%, no, the sky isn’t falling. It’s just that the pre-holiday period before mid-November is just softer than usual.
On the following weekend, Oct. 21-23, distributors are trying to push five wide entries out there before Halloween weekend makes the under 25 set disappear. In regards to those off from school on Oct. 21 there’s 13% K-12 schools out and 5% colleges; roughly the same percentage as this coming weekend. At a glance, that type of competition looks like a recipe for disaster, but distributors swear they’re vying for different demos: Paramount’s Tom Cruise title Jack Reacher: Never Go Back with older men ($20M est. opening), Lionsgate’s Boo! A Madea Halloween with African Americans ($17M), Universal/Blumhouse’s Ouija: Origin of Evil with teen girls and under 25ers ($15M), 20th Century Fox’s Keeping Up With the Joneses with upscale couples ($12M) and Pure Flix’s I’m Not Ashamed with faith-based teens ($2M-$3M). Given that spread and the number of choices, it should hopefully count for an uptick in ticket sales when compared to this coming weekend, not to mention it should best its Oct. 23-25 frame from a year ago when four titles grossed between $10M-$15M at the top of the chart sending 3-day ticket sales to $105.8M.
In addition to Sully, what else will cross $100M this season? Rivals bet on 20th Century Fox’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children doing so (current domestic $54.9M). Magnificent Seven is currently looking like it will fall a few dollars short of the century mark, with a total B.O. in its third week of $77.1M. The Girl on the Train is expected to decline 45% to 50% this weekend with a second FSS of $12M-$13M. Given its lackluster reviews, it’s not currently expected to make it to $100M.
However, if there’s a weekend that’s bound to turn this fall’s fate around, it’s the tried-and-true first FSS in November. Audiences have come to expect that weekend to deliver premium tentpole fare, setting the table prior to the Thanksgiving period’s big titles. The frame benefits from its proximity to the Veterans Day holiday, which this year falls on a Friday with 52% K-12 off and an additional 30% from college. But also, Tuesday, Nov. 8, Election Day Tuesday, boasts 33% K-12 schools off which will further pump the extended weekend runs for Disney/Marvel’s Doctor Strange, DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls, and Lionsgate’s World War II movie Hacksaw Ridge. While Doctor Strange and Trolls are no brainers when it comes to their legs, some are anticipating that Hacksaw Ridge, about pacifist army medic Desmond T. Doss, will click among the red states and faith-based and could generate Unbroken-like business ($115.6M).