Hollywood studios are nothing if not creatures of habit. If something worked before, they'll try it again, even if there's no logical reason for doing so, because no one gets fired for not taking risks. Hence, particular times of the year get reputations for certain kinds of films doing well. Fall's particular genre is horror, and the placement in September of a sequel to a surprise hit from last year qualifies as a bit of a promotion.
Weekend Forecast for September 13-15, 2013
By Reagen Sulewski
September 13, 2013
Insidious: Chapter 2 brings back the lion's share of the cast of last April's moderate hit to expand on the Poltergeist-lite world that it built, with Patrick Wilson and Rose Bynre (and, I suppose the kid actor that all this is about as well...) being the important ones. James Wan, he of the Saw series, returns to the director's chair to deliver what looks like essentially more of the same. This may be good or bad from your perspective, but this also generally means a drop in perceived quality.
However, in the meantime, Wilson and Wan made another horror film, The Conjuring, which might give a sign as to how well the Insidious franchise was received. I don't expect Insidious Electric Boogaloo to recover the entire $41 million of The Conjuring's opening weekend – for one thing, it simply doesn't look as creepy or as good – but there's a lot of reason to expect that this third collaboration between Wan and Wilson is an unofficial “brand” now that horror fans will flock to. Man, horror fans pick the weirdest things to like. This should easily win the weekend with about $24 million in its debut.
Among the possible alternate histories you could come up with, an interesting one would be what would have happened had Robert DeNiro never agreed to appear in Analyze This. That first foray into comedic performances had a bit of a snowball effect, leading to Meet the Parents, but also Meet the Fockers, and such. DeNiro continues to destroy any goodwill we might have towards the latter part of his career with The Family, a mostly comedic (in that it is intended to be a comedy for the most part) mob film. He and Michelle Pfeiffer play a husband and wife who are put in the witness relocation program with their two kids after he turns State's Evidence, and relocated to Normandy for some reason important to the plot. Fish out of water wackiness ensues as they revert to their old ways and we all lose a little more respect for everyone involved.
That includes director Luc Besson (oh, so that's why France), and Martin Scorsese, who threw his name in as an executive producer. That collection of names, oh, say 15 years ago, might have been really quite exciting and intriguing – now it's just a rather obvious cash in for all involved. There's not much that you can really point to in the trailers that screams quality – DeNiro hurts his plumber, ho ho! Michelle Pfeiffer has a temper, ha ha! – and reviews are quite tepid. DeNiro's leading man power has also diminished, with The Big Wedding from this spring opening at $7 million providing a useful benchmark. Okay, so there's the benefit from not having Katherine Heigl in it, that's worth a couple million, right? I'd give it about $9 million for its start.
The Resurgence of Vin Diesel's Career v 2.0 (trademark pending) via his passion project Riddick was a moderate success, winning the weekend with $19 million. Sci-fi action can be a tough sell, particularly outside of prestige release windows where there's an implied quality, so this is a fairly unqualified win, even if the film doesn't get much past $60 million in the end run. Standard genre dropoffs apply here no matter how good the film may or may not be, so about $10 million at the outside is a good expectation for Riddick this weekend.
The Spanish language sensation Instructions Not Included expands to a few hundred more venues this weekend after a third place finish, and should be able to hold to fourth, or at worst fifth this time out. With about $21 million in the bank in the US, it's an unqualified success at the moment, and is playing with house money. There's definitely something to having a niche all to yourself. One imagines that it's something of a self-limiting phenomenon, but it's also paved the way for more films of its type, and in a slower weekend, we'd be looking at the first Mexican number one film. It should pull about $6 million this weekend.
If not this weekend, then likely before the next, The Butler will cross the $100 million mark, which was not an inevitability even given the reviews and the subject matter. It would not have been the first, or even the 50th, Oscar-bait movie to flop when exposed to actual, living, breathing audiences. I wouldn't be shocked at a re-release in early 2014, but this is probably the last weekend we talk about it in this column for a while, as it earns about $5 million.