September 2007 Forecast
By Nouvelle Vague
September 7, 2007

Sadly, the doll at the table has no way of smelling what the Rock is cooking.

September is a dead month for theatrical business. Dead as Dillinger. On average, the September weekends are the lowest performing weekends of the year with only $88,353,273 in theatrical revenue generated on average since 2000. That's less than 58% as July – the top performing month. The four worst weekends of the year for box office all occur in September with only the first weekend – which is Labor Day weekend - salvaging any respect for the month.

Below is a chart that shows weekend number, month, average weekend total box office and the weekend rank:

35* September $117,721,891.43 27
39 September $85,346,235.43 49
38 September $83,562,208.14 50
36 September $78,727,125.71 51
37 September $76,408,904.86 52

* Labor Day Weekend

No film has ever opened in September with over $40 million in box office, and only three films have opened above $30 million: Sweet Home Alabama ($35.6 million), Rush Hour ($33 million), and The Exorcism of Emily Rose ($30.1 million). Only eight films have gone on to pass the $100 million mark after opening in September, and only two since 2000 (Sweet Home Alabama - $127 mil in 2002 and Remember the Titans – $116 million in 2000). It can get so bad that a film like 2006's The Covenant can win the weekend with an opening of only $8.9 million.

The only positive aspect of September's theatrical existence is that it's a good month for studios to launch some films they are targeting for Academy awards. Last year, both The Queen and The Last King of Scotland opened in September and went on to capture Best Acting statues for Helen Mirren and Forest Whitaker. Studios can get these films out in the early fall, ramp up their box office through the winter and the awards season, and then cash in on their success on home video with a DVD release right around the Oscars themselves. There are a few films in this year's September batch that may be up for an Oscar – Paul Haggis' In the Valley of Elah, Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited, Andrew Domink's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and Ang Lee's Lust, Caution – that will open limited in September and are poised to take their shot.

The business is bad for the entertainment industry in general. DVD sales and rentals are down as well as kids go back to school, people return from vacations, football season starts, and the TV line-up improves from summer re-runs. There's also the movie-goer burn out from a heavy summer blockbuster schedule that adversely affects consumer spending – a symptom that likely will be increased this year with the record breaking summer we've just concluded. This summer saw 17 movies break the century mark in box office with Superbad expected to make it 18 in a few weeks - which will set a new record.

So, without further ado, here are my predictions for this September's crapfest:

The Game Plan

Last year's #1 September film was Open Season, which opened to $23.6 million on its way to $84.3 million. While The Game Plan isn't CGI, it's really the only family-oriented film this month with a shot a decent box office. Disney is so obviously looking for the same formula that made The Pacifier (opened at $30.6 million on its way to $113.1 million) and Are We There Yet? ($18.6 million opening on its way to $82.7 million) successes in early 2005. The Rock and Kyra Sedgwick bring a good amount of starpower to this formula – and the Rock opened Gridiron Gang to a decent $14.4 million last September. Families should come out to this in good numbers with pent-up demand for family entertainment and the Disney marketing machine behind it. While current awareness for this one is pretty low, I actually think I might be lowballing its potential here.

PREDICTION – $23 million opening – $82 million total

Resident Evil: Extinction

Last. Threepeat. Of 2007. There's no mystery around this one. The franchise has a loyal fanbase that, for some reason, keeps coming out for these. The first installment came out to $17.7 million in 2002 and the sequel scored a $23 million opening in September of 2004. I may be underestimating a bit here, but I see some wear-and-tear in this franchise, especially if you look at the pathetic box office of the Milla Jovovich vehicle, Ultraviolet, which bombed its way to a $9.1 million opening in 2006. Here's to hoping the subtitle refers to the franchise.

PREDICTION – $20 million opening – $45 million total

The Brave One

The question here is: Is this Flightplan ($24.6 million September opening) and The Forgotten ($21 million September opening) or Freedomland ($5.8 million opening)? It will come down to the marketing and awareness, but I think it's a safe bet for a decent opening weekend. Also consider it's a Neil Jordan production with Jodie Foster. We should see great reviews and Jordan's biggest box office return since Interview with a Vampire. While female led thrillers have made their mark two years in a row in September (and had fantastic lives on home video), I think this one isn't as audience friendly as Flightplan or The Forgotten, but it should still be a success story with great demand on DVD.

PREDICTION – $15 million opening – $51 million total

3:10 To Yuma

Until studio execs get it through their thick skulls that Westerns are an underserved genre, the few that get released will continue to be extremely profitable. With Russell Crowe and Christian Bale headlining and Peter Fonda supporting, good reviews expected, and built in fan base from the original film and the genre in general, this film has a chance to hit all kinds of age demographics and should end up #1 against decent competition (Shoot 'Em Up) its opening weekend. Expect decent legs as well and a long life on DVD.

PREDICTION – $14 million opening – $45 million total

The Kingdom

I can't see audiences coming out to see a movie about a bombing in the Middle East when they see and hear about them everyday in their real lives. Iraq War apathy will seriously diminish its box office, even if it has a good cast (Jamie Foxx, Danny Huston and Chris Cooper) and is opening against a family film in September's best non-holiday weekend. Cast couldn't save Home of the Brave, and won't save this.

PREDICTION – $12 million opening – $36 million total.

Good Luck Chuck

Alba has opened two movies as the centerpiece of the marketing – Honey ($12.9 million opening in 2003) and Into the Blue ($7.1 million opening in 2005). Dane Cook only really has opened up one - Employee of the Month ($11.4 million opening last year). If you also consider that Reese Witherspoon followed up September's best hit of all time – Sweet Home Alabama - with the massively underperforming Just Like Heaven ($16.4 million opening in September of 2005), I can't see this being a hit at all. I'm being generous with my prediction below.

PREDICTION – $11 million opening – $30 million total

Shoot 'Em Up

There are plenty of examples of films of like Shoot 'Em Up underperforming at the box office (most recently Lucky Number Slevin and Smokin' Aces), but the buzz coming out of preview screenings at this year's Comic-Con was very high, and the marketing push is already into full swing. With Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti (finally playing against type-casting) at the lead, and Monica Bellucci providing the eye candy for the primary demographic, this could be a decent performer for New Line. Unfortunately, it's opening against another film that will hit the same demographic – 3:10 to Yuma - so its opening will be negatively affected by the direct competition.

PREDICTION – $10 million opening – $32 million total

Sydney White

Amanda Bynes has a fairly consistent track record: She's the Man opened to $10.7 in 2006 and What a Girl Wants opened at $11.4 in 2003. At least the trend is on the decline.

PREDICTION – $9 million opening – $30 million total

Mr. Woodcock

School for Scoundrels opened at $8.6 million last year and Seann William Scott's next movie (Trainwreck) could be DTV.

PREDICTION – $8 million opening – $18 million total

Across the Universe

Ever since director Julie Taymor got into a publicized battle with Sony over the final cut and length of this film, it was destined for status as a bomb. Filmmakers may make art, but it's the studios that almost always know how marketable the film actually is. They obviously don't think Taymor's cut is. Taymor's cinematic history (Titus, Frida) doesn't fill me with confidence, or that this is her first film since directing The Lion King musical on Broadway. It gets even worse if you throw in star Evan Rachel Wood's recent press about actually having sex with her rocker boyfriend in his latest video. To think I actually respected her as an up and coming actress.

PREDICTION – $4 million opening – $12 million total