Last weekend, a horror film blew through all expectations to shatter a huge number of records. This weekend, another horror movie (of a sort) wonders if it can follow this up with some records of its own (spoiler alert: it won't).
Weekend Forecast for September 15-17, 2017
By Reagen Sulewski
September 15, 2017
Since his experimental debut film Pi in 1998, director Darren Aronofsky has specialized in bizarre, off-putting, psychologically challenging films (with the occasional turn into conventionality). Here, in Mother!, he dives into some disturbing territory, taking on some big time archetypal story telling ideas. Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem play a young (he's 48!) couple whose relationship is tested when a continually larger and larger group of strangers invade their house, led by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer to start. All this, seemingly, with the acquiescence of Bardem and to the befuddlement of Lawrence, who can't understand why all these people are invading her home.
It's psychological terror with a bit of a glamorous sheen to it, playing a bit like Edward Albee Presents: Rosemary's Baby, especially given that no characters in the movie have actual names, instead going by such monikers as Him, Younger Brother and Damsel, just to name a few. A dark allegorical film, it plays with the comfort of audiences and veers into grotesquery fairly often and aims to disturb. Naturally, this film is being released to mass audiences in over 2,300 venues.
Such is the strength of Jennifer Lawrence, one supposes. She's no bulletproof star, but even a relative disappointment like Passengers last winter managed $100 million domestic (I'll ignore opening weekends for now, given that it was a Christmas release). Aronofsky isn't totally a stranger himself to success, with Black Swan hitting that $100 million mark thanks to an Oscar-winning performance from Natalie Portman, though it had to build to that. Lawrence seems like a good bet for a nomination from this too, but even though this has solid critical support, it also feels singularly off-putting for mass audiences. Artsy horror, instead of horror horror. A heavy ad push and some buy in from Lawrence and/or Aronofsky fans could get this to around $13 million this weekend, but watch out for a huge drop if it can't live up to its buzz.
American Assassin handles action this weekend, with “wait, he's a thing” Dylan O'Brien starring as counterterrorism agent Mitch Rapp from the Vince Flynn series of novels. After losing all his loved ones to terrorist attacks, Rapp attempts to infiltrate the cell that instigated the attacks. Getting pulled out by American authorities in the nick of time, he's recruited by a secretive black ops group headed by Michael Keaton. After your typical training period (~we gotta have a montage~) he's sent out to the world to kill bad guys... then runs across a disgruntled former protege of Keaton's. Played by Taylor Kitsch, he's teamed up with a mad scientist in a plot to detonate a nuke in the middle of America with the hopes that it'll start WWIII in the Middle East (this we call the Reverse Watchman).
The whole thing feels a bit like Bourne Identity for Millenials, with O'Brien, best known for The Maze Runner and Teen Wolf, striking a spectacularly unintimidating profile as a CIA assassin. It's the kind of casting that would have given us Chris O'Donnell in the role 20 years ago. Reviews are pretty dismal and the film looks extremely generic, so it's hard to imagine this one breaking out in any real fashion. I think we're looking at a typical September action performance, with about $11 million for a debut.
Meanwhile, It should dominate the frame yet again. Last weekend, if you saw a movie, three out of four of you were going to It, a mark not approached this year since the release of Guardians of the Galaxy 2's opening weekend. The adaptation of Stephen King's evil clown novel grossed an utterly amazing $123 million, on the strength of precisely zero stars. Not just a September record, it blew past any October opening weekend and as the seventh highest opening film in the history of the last third of the calendar. It didn't quite break the R-rated opening record, which still belongs to Deadpool, but it's a hell of an effort. On the heels of the disappointing Dark Tower film makes, this year is a weird one for King adaptations. It's hard to imagine a horror film opening this big having legs, but even with a typical blockbuster drop it'll own this weekend (and maybe the next), with about $64 million.
Thanks to the weak August slate, almost nothing else is contention for attention, with the possible exception of Home Again. The wish-fulfillment rom com may manage $5 million in its second weekend, but it's headed for a dismal $30 million domestic total.