Leaving aside the sad slate from last weekend, September proper jumps right into some franchise action, as it's become a safe/popular time to release horror films, though there's little chance of a repeat of last year's earthshaking performance of IT.
Weekend Forecast for September 7-9, 2018
By Reagen Sulewski
September 7, 2018
The Nun is the fifth film and the third branch of what's now become known as The Conjuring Universe, a family of films made under the umbrella of Saw-maven James Wan, surrounding stories related to, directly and tangentially, to real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. This is the second spin-off about the central demon Valak in the series of films, after Annabelle, and goes back in time to the 1950s. After the death of two nuns in a convent in Romania, a priest and a young novice are sent from the Vatican to investigate, suspecting the paranormal.
This presence is seen in the form of a disfigured and grimacing nun, who seems to have aims at more than just ordinary homicide – possession is the name of the game. The two emissaries then do battle with this spirit and spooky jump scares in poorly lit corridors ensue. Maybe bring a lamp?
Mexican actor Demian Birchir stars along with Taissa Farmiga who the alert among you might recognize as the sister of The Conjuring's main character, though this seems to be not hinting at any direct connection here.
Each of the Conjuring movies so far has opened to at least $35 million, though there's been a slight downward trend and a preference by audiences for the main branch of the tree rather than the spinoffs. The Nun has a pretty straightforward presence – there's no buy in on a haunted doll, for instance – and effective ads, so this could reverse the trend a bit. However, as budgets for these films hover in the $20-40 million range, there's virtually nothing stopping them from being wildly profitable. This looks to be entirely within the pattern of what audiences are looking for from these films and should open to around $37 million.
Not a franchise *yet* but hey who knows what our wacky future will bring is Peppermint, starring Jennifer Garner and directed by Pierre Morel from Taken. Like a gender-flipped Death Wish, Garner plays a mother whose husband and daughter are killed in a violent attack. After waking up from her coma as a result of the attack, she disappears and goes through a transformational training program that turns her into an avenging angel, starting first with the people responsible for her personal misery, then moving on to the whole of the criminal underworld.
Garner's an interesting choice as your vigilante – she's had lots of action experience through Alias, and to a more regrettable end, Elektra – and she's certainly gotten pretty buff for this. It's been a long time since she's been the lead draw in anything, though, maybe going back to Ghosts of Girlfriends Past in 2009. For the most part it's been supporting roles as a parent of the child that the film is actually about, or some other mentor figure. One gets the impression she's going to give Ben Affleck a little primer in playing a real Batman through this film.
The off brand Taken films have been fairly underwhelming, even when Liam Neeson is involved (most recent example, The Commuter, $36 million domestic total). Female-led action is often working uphill for recognition, making it doubly difficult in the current unfriendly environment for non-franchise action. Add to that, the film is... not very good, pulling in some of the worst reviews of the year, and what could be an attractive concept appears to be headed down the tubes. A blitzing ad campaign might give a little boost, but I don't expect this one to last much longer past a $13 million opening weekend.
Crazy Rich Asians will cede the field after three weeks at the top, but it's certainly not over for this insanely leggy film. Labor Day helped it to a third straight weekend in the $20 millions, and it's crossed $120 million with no particular sign of slowing down. Watch for another flood of ethnically flavored rom-coms to follow, but the lightning in this bottle will probably prove too difficult to catch twice. I'd expect $18 million this weekend.
Most of the films last weekend actually ended up with “legs” thanks to the holiday weekend, with The Meg holding well in its fourth weekend. With $120 million domestically, and more importantly, over $400 million internationally, we can probably expect to see more of this series. It's already the highest grossing Jason Statham film that doesn't involve driving a car really fast. Give it about $7 million this weekend. Meanwhile, Mission: Impossible - Fallout now looks assured to get past the second film in the series to become the highest grossing in the franchise, though with almost 20 years of ticket inflation to deal with. I'd expect $5 million this weekend.