October 2010 Forecast
By Michael Lynderey
October 1, 2010

I wish I had a box of sparklers

Quite a month we've got here, with the usual assault of horror movies (especially down in limited release), some potential sleepers, and not as much Oscar bait as usual (the latest Jackass sequel is a notable exception, of course).

1. The Social Network (October 1st)

The prestige project of the month. There's a carefully assembled batch of rising stars here (Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, and the soon-to-be very prolific, film-wise, Justin Timberlake), and the behind-the-scenes names (David Fincher, Aaron Sorkin) are impeccable. Give any other drama those credentials, and I'd peg it as having cautious but optimistic box office potential. But something very special has happened here: the reviews have been as enthusiastic as for any film of late, and the buzz has certainly began to assert itself. I don't know much about Facebook, but The Social Network is starting to look like a lot more than your average Oscar film (especially as far as opening weekends are concerned).

Opening weekend: $29 million / Total gross: $92 million

2. Jackass 3D (October 15th)

Through circumstance rather than malicious intent, I have never seen a Jackass movie before. So, while I can give no personal testimony to the matter, I assume that whatever worked before has been replicated in this third go-around - and thus, when it comes to predicting the numbers here, who am I to argue with the history books? Four years should have starved the fanbase into anticipating a third film, and the 3D ought to bump the numbers up some, even if they won't make it a runaway smash - as Resident Evil: Afterlife can personally testify to.

Opening weekend: $31 million / Total gross: $71 million

3. Paranormal Activity 2 (October 22nd)

In producing a sequel just one year after its predecessor's shaky cam-imbued success, the Paranormal Activity folks seem to have followed the Blair Witch model right down the line. Except for one thing: unlike Book of Shadows, this part 2 has eschewed conventional filmmaking and returned to the style of the first film, and that's looking like it will make all the difference. The trailer is okay, if you like that kind of thing, and the release date is just about perfect - far away enough from the critically-acclaimed little vampires, and close enough to Halloween to count. First-time horror sequels almost never outgross their predecessors, something that'll likely be demonstrated once more here, but the difference in opening weekends between this and P.A. 1 should certainly be a hoot.

Opening weekend: $33 million / Total gross: $68 million

4. Let Me In (October 1st)

The weekend's other hyper-praised star-making film, and one with perhaps just a bit less hype (odd to see a vampire unable to outrank a preppie - or is it?). As a decidedly R-rated horror film about two middle school-age protagonists, Let Me In is certainly an oddity. But that's where the reviews come to the rescue again, and I think we'll see just how far that near-100% Rotten Tomatoes rating can carry a horror film in October, especially when it's not a sequel. Nosferatu films may have worn out their welcome, but quality still sells.

Opening weekend: $22 million / Total gross: $64 million

5. Red (October 15th)

Fans of character actors, perk up. Indeed, films based on graphic novels unfortunately almost never have casts as prestigious as this, with a saddle of very Oscary people (Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich) teamed up with the no less-masterful Bruce Willis and Mary-Louise Parker. Aside from a snappy trailer, Red is looking like the thematic sequel to the Coen Brothers' Burn After Reading - with a madcap cast of characters involved in some potentially incomprehensible misadventures, and the presence of Malkovich, essentially reprising his character (still writing his memoirs, is he?). As far as action films go, it ought to do pretty well, even if it won't put some of Willis' recent films (Surrogates, Cop Out) all that much to shame.

Opening weekend: $18 million / Total gross: $51 million

6. Hereafter (wide on October 22nd)

Clint Eastwood joins the Halloween fray. Opening in more or less the same slot as Eastwood's other recent thriller, Changeling, Hereafter packs just a touch more star power. The premise might seem a bit ambiguous, and those looking for a mainstream thriller are likely to be disappointed. But the trailer gets better as it goes along, and there were some good notices from the Toronto Film Festival. Matt Damon does have a knack for generating roughly $40 million grossers, and that's a tradition he might just slightly one-up here. Just slightly.

Opening weekend: $15 million / Total gross: $50 million

7. Saw 3D (October 29th)

Saw 3D? What an inconsiderate title for a movie: for years to come, video store owners will have to explain how, no, this is really part 7. John Saw's latest symphony of terror is the only film scheduled for wide release on October's last weekend, and it's a date that comes no less than six years to the day after the first Saw film helped bring on the resurgence of low-budget horror filmmaking (thanks, I guess?). Hard to say what to make of the 3D - which, as has recently been demonstrated, no longer guarantees unrivalled box office prosperity, at least not for sequels. Every Saw film since Saw 3 (the real Saw 3) has depreciated in gross; this will not, and there should be enough gusto left to get this one up to some respectable numbers. Footnote: They say it's the last Saw movie. This time, I believe them.

Opening weekend: $26 million / Total gross: $48 million

8. Conviction (October 15th)

Here's another one of those dramas about the underdog saving the day, and another hard-to-resist Oscar bait for the masterful Hilary Swank. But where Amelia failed last year, this looks to succeed, and Swank may face up against Annette Bening at the Oscars yet one more time. Conviction shouldn't jump too far out of the gate in the opening weekend, but a few good legs are pretty much a guarantee, especially with some of the critical notices this has been amassing.

Opening weekend: $12 million / Total gross: $42 million

9. Life as We Know It (October 8th)

This was bound to happen: between the two of them, Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel already have three romantic comedies to their name in 2010, and so their cinematic team-up was only a matter of time (think of them as the uglier version of Freddy Vs. Jason). Heigl has box office pull left, and the premise, while unapologetically predictable, should utilize that very obviousness to pull off at least a modest box office success, if not quite a game changer. The film has to get marks for that poster - bold, funny. May the film follow suit.

Opening weekend: $16 million / Total gross: $41 million

10. Secretariat (October 8th)

Yet another chapter in the equine sweepstakes that have occasionally captivated the nation. To be fair, Secretariat looks like a nice little movie, with that inspiring trailer and the casting of Diane Lane, always likeable. It's also being sold as a family film, but the lack of prominent characters under the age of 30 doesn't really swing the tide in that direction. Call it Dreamer without kid appeal, though it still won't end up on the too shabby side. After all, I've never heard of a movie about horses that was panned by critics. Have you?

Opening weekend: $12 million / Total gross: $34 million

11. My Soul to Take (October 8th)

Here's Wes Craven's first film in five years, and one that may well serve as the Cursed to Scream 4's Red Eye (confusing, I know). It could be a decent little tale of teen terror, and I'm always up for a non-sequel from Craven, but I dunno - it's looking more and more like My Soul to Take might just be lost in this month's horror show of remakes and sequels. The 3D might help, but it's fractional.

Opening weekend: $14 million / Total gross: $31 million

12. Buried (expands October 8th)
What we're dealing with here is a certainly atypical star vehicle for Ryan Reynolds, whose role in The Proposal has catapulted him into being cast in a whole lot of movies, for starters. There's a unique premise at work here, and one that seems hard to sell as a film. But, this is exactly the kind of movie that can grow based on buzz and word-of-mouth, even if the per-screen averages from the limited release haven't been all too encouraging. Legs, maybe?

Opening weekend: $9 million / Total gross: $25 million