The first weekend of October is not messing around, starting with two releases that have both Best Picture potential, as well as blockbuster potential of varying degrees. The drudgery of September gives way to tremendous quality in all respects, right off the bat.
Weekend Forecast for October 2-4, 2015
By Reagen Sulewski
October 2, 2015
The Martian is the big ticket item here, starring as it does one Matt Damon in a science-fiction action-thriller, directed by Ridley Scott and based off last summer's page turner of the same name. Add in an all-star supporting cast, and this killer premise is set to explode the fall season.
About that premise – it's several decades into the future and on one of the manned Mars missions – and they've become kind of blasé by this point – an astronaut is left stranded and thought dead on the surface thanks to a sudden storm and an emergency evacuation. But – surprise! - he's only badly injured and managed to crawl back into the crippled habitat for the mission, with little food and barely any water or air. Plus, you know, it's four years for a rescue mission, so... good luck surviving? As high-concept premises go, that's a doozy, and is effectively Apollo 13 meets Cast Away, with a dash of Gravity, which shows you why many people have it on their must-see list for the season.
Damon seems like perfect casting for the jovial, sarcastic character of Mark Watney, with the end of the trailer getting one of those long list of vertically stacked names such as *deep breath* Jessica Chastain, Rooney Mara, Kristin Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover and Michael Pena. It's a great combination of premise and cast, a paean to engineering, ingenuity and just plain hard-headedness, all glitzed up with Hollywood dazzle and FX. The tone the film strikes, a step-by-step survival guide leavened with a razor-sharp dry wit, is one of the easiest slam-dunk adaptation properties in some time.
Of course, Ridley Scott is not immune to screwing up a golden premise (*cough*Prometheus*coughcough*), but trailers, commercials and promo clips indicating that they've hit that tone exactly, with the Rise of the Nerds becoming complete in the movie. The question becomes how high this film can reach at the box office. Two years ago this weekend, Gravity opened to $55 million on the strengths of a spectacular trailer and a sequence they were confident enough to release in total, showcasing the FX. It's not quite the same strategy here, but there's also a bit of proof of concept, in that audiences know what heights this kind of film can reach. The recent announcement of the discovery of flowing water on Mars certainly can't hurt. I'm prepared to lift the ceiling from that number to a dazzling $72 million opening weekend.
Expanding into wide release after a spectacular limited run, Sicario brings another great premise and cast to bear. Emily Blunt plays a FBI agent involved in investigating international drug trafficking, dragged into an increasingly-militarized operation at the U.S.-Mexico border. Led across into Ciudad Juarez by a Mexican gun-for-hire (Benicio del Toro) as a part of a hunt for a kingpin, Blunt finds herself in a precarious situation with uncertain allies and ever-escalating danger.
Directed by Dennis Villeneuve, who has been circling around greatness for the last half-decade of films or so, Sicario may be his leap into the big-time, which crisp action sequences, a sharply twisting narrative and intense settings. It reminds me a little bit of an expanded version of one-quarter of Traffic, and just points to how much worse things have gotten in this area in the last 15 years. Advance buzz has been terrific, with the worst reviews just pointing to a few flaws. The acting is noted as a particular highlight to this, and Blunt has gained a significant amount of credibility as an Action Female since last year's Edge of Tomorrow. After a break into the top 10 on just 59 screens, this expansion to 2,600+ venues should bring to about $18 million this weekend.
Also opening in limited release in premium format venues is the much talked-about The Walk, which is a fictional telling of the same story that the documentary Man on Wire depicted several years ago. It debuted on Wednesday, actually, and managed about $240,000 on that first day. It's not too likely to crack the top 10 this weekend as other heavy hitters are high on the priority list, but it will be a big factor in our discussion next week.
Hotel Transylvania 2 broke the September opening record with $48 million, which is an instant qualifier for the Low Bar Olympics. But, credit where credit is due, and Adam Sandler may have found a strange new outlet for his career – milking the kids of his former core audience. This should drop to about $30 million this frame.
Nancy Meyers' Big Bag of Mediocrity otherwise known as The Intern managed almost $18 million last weekend in its debut, marking the long-awaited combination of Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro in a gentle workplace comedy about nothing in particular. See it on the big screen! Twice! $12 million this weekend.
Everest should slip ahead of The Maze Runner in its third weekend, its second in wide release, after hitting $13 million in a non-large format role out. The mountaineering/disaster film likely suffers a bit in comparison to its IMAX showings, but these sort of niche films seem to have quite a devoted following, and I'd expect about $9 million this frame.
Meanwhile, The Maze Runner's second film is in a predictable free fall, losing over half its opening weekend take, and should wind up at about $7 million this weekend. It's still cheap enough and profitable enough overseas that they should finish the trilogy, but it's a limp home.
Johnny Depp's Quest for Oscar, aka Black Mass, took a big hit in its second weekend, and should wind up short of $100 million domestic. That's not fatal to his nomination chances, but the movie sure seems to be one that's left on the sidelines. $6 million is its landing spot this weekend.