Things get serious this weekend. Three studio released with a combined cost of some $300 million —”Deepwater Horizon” (Lionsgate), “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” (20th Century Fox) and “Masterminds” (Relativity)— are opening on a single early fall release date.
After three fall weeks, Clint Eastwood’s “Sully” is the sole clear winner with “The Magnificent Seven” opening in the mid-$30 millions. So the season is down 15% so far.
For all three new releases, this timing could be perilous. The same weekend in 2015, “The Martian” opened at $54 million and the second weekend of “Hotel Transylvania 2” scored $33 million, boosting a Top Ten total to $140 million. Weekend results could bring both marginal returns for the three studios as well as a continuation of the downward trend.
At least each of this week’s debut films can rely on some pedigree to boost their chances. But their anticipated results will all fall short of what their budgets demand to wind up in the black. Strong holds and stronger international results will be needed to bring success.
“Miss Peregrine” comes from Tim Burton, whose three releases have dramatically disappointed since his massive “Alice in Wonderland”($334 million domestic): their combined grosses total $200 million less. At a reported $110 production budget, “Miss Peregrine” is actually less expensive than either “Alice” or the subsequent “Dark Shadows.” Based on a popular children’s fantasy novel, its best hope is to capture some of the appeal of the Harry Potter series. Its advance reviews are mixed, but they are at the level of “Alice,” which in 2010 launched Disney’s juggernaut of live-action classic redos.
Advance estimates suggest this will end up closer to $30 million or even less for the weekend, not a disaster but hardly stellar. That will elevate pressure on both its domestic multiple and international reaction.
Of note is the unusual positioning at this stage of the fall of an expensive film aimed at the “Harry Potter” crowd – reaching for school-age kids as well as elements to draw older (Judi Dench). It’s another example of a crowded calendar forcing studios to book expensive films on an unlikely date out of necessity. Fox scored with “Deadpool” in February, so if this exceeds expectations that will increase their kudos for unexpected success defying release date norms.
Far more vulnerable is Lionsgate with “Deepwater Horizon.” Their hope is that combining director Peter Berg (who hit big with “Hancock” and “Lone Survivor”) with the often reliable “Lone Survivor” star Mark Wahlberg will score pay dirt with wide audiences.
This $150 million-plus project isn’t Berg’s most expensive. That distinction goes to mega-flop “Battleship” at over $200 million, which only managed $65 million domestic (with a $25 million start). It managed overseas to reach $300 million, reducing its losses.
This retelling of the Gulf of Mexico oil rig disaster is getting better advance reviews than “Survivor,” but doesn’t necessarily boast its built-in war appeal to men. And “Deepwater Horizon” likely needs to thrive with older audiences who have boosted “Sully” and “The Magnificent Seven,” which are both still drawing well.
This is a big bet from Lionsgate, which will also release at Christmas (with partner CBS Films) another Berg/Wahlberg teaming, the Boston Marathon drama “Patriots Day.” This will likely trail “Miss Peregrine” and struggle to reach $20 million. That number for this budget is problematic.
But it will not make or break its studio. That can’t be said for “Masterminds,” the more than a year delayed release from Relativity, which needed to emerge from bankruptcy. That done, this bank robbery comedy of uncertain cost must make a decent showing.
Director Jared Hess clicked with Sundance breakout “Napoleon Dynamite” and followed with the $80 million grossing “Nacho Libre” (which opened to $28 million in 2006). With Zach Galifianakis (the “Hangover” series and other comedy hits) and Kristen Wiig (“Ghostbusters”).
With mixed reviews so far, it will take clicking on all cylinders to get this to minimal success. Expect it to lag: $10 million is an optimistic total. No comedy has broken out since “Bad Moms” some weeks back, so this might benefit from the recent dearth. But it could end up no better than #6 (adding “Storks” among the other holdovers). And that won’t help Relativity’s cause.
“Queen of Katwe” (Disney) expands to around 1,500a theaters after a spotty initial result at 52 locations. The early dates resulted in a best-possible A+ Cinemascope which combined with active targeted marketing give it a shot at improved word-of-mouth results, but it looks to end up at the lower end of the Top Ten.
Among the limited releases, the two getting the most attention are “Denial” (Bleecker Street) and “American Honey” (A24). “Denial,” which premiered in Toronto, stars Richard Weisz, Timothy Spall and Tom Wilkinson in a recounting of a British U.K. trial over Holocaust denial. It debuts at key New York and Los Angeles theaters with modestly positive reviews.
Earning strong kudos since its Cannes competitive premiere is “American Honey” (A24) from acclaimed British director Andrea Arnold. Her first American-made film is an ambitious road movie starring Shia LaBeouf and Riley Keough and an ensemble of unknowns in a story about a runaway girl who gets caught up with a rag-tag cross-country magazine sales team. Clocking in at over 2.5 hours with appeal to a more limited audience, the movie has secured top-tier theaters for A24’s bicoastal opening.