September continues to be marked with a strange slate of wide releases, as the studios clear their throats a little before Oscar season starts in earnest. An unusual entry into children's filmmaking marks the week's highest profile film but otherwise it's a pretty forgettable bunch.
Weekend Forecast for September 21-23, 2018
By Reagen Sulewski
September 21, 2018
If Eli Roth has to make a kid's film (and doesn't that seem like some community service he'd have to do?) The House with a Clock in Its Walls sure seems like the kind of kid's film he'd do, like a slightly more malevolent Tim Burton. The title is a great example of Does What It Says On The Tin, as an orphan (no doubt as the result of one of Roth's other movies) is sent to live with his uncle, played by Jack Black, who happens to be a magician that lives in the titular house and dresses like he still hasn't gotten over being passed on for Doctor Strange. Along with another practitioner of the mystic arts, played by Cate Blanchett, he gets revenge on his bullying classmates and does battle with the previous owner of the house (a scenery-chewing Kyle MacLachlan), who set it up as a kind of doomsday device.
Within the constraints of a PG rating, Roth still manages to find place for “gore”, though mostly of the CGI variety. There's a distinct gothic vibe to everything, with the goal here of warping yet another generation of kids, which I am all for. A problem here being that some of the larger kids franchises are already doing this and being blockbusters at it, so this bargain basement version may just not cut it. The presence of Black does spice things up a ton, a la Goosebumps, but there's not quite the name recognition for this series of books. Reviews are middling, when a great set of critics' responses could have really elevated it. I think we're looking at a pretty average result for a kid's movie of around $21 million.
If you really pressed him, Michael Moore would probably admit the George W. Bush years were arguably the best ones for him, at least in terms of relevance. The triple threat of Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11 and Sicko were veritable blockbusters in the realm of documentaries, F 9/11 greatest among them with an eye-popping $221 million internationally. The Obama years were kind of fallow, so with the Trump years upon us, will Moore return again to activist glory? Fahrenheit 11/9 is his attempt to answer the question of how we got to ... here, as well as how things have become perhaps even more screwed up since the Bush years.
Probably cathartic for some people, one problem with a Fahrenheit sequel is that the political environment is so ugly, so toxic, that many people aren't really looking for a way to confront it head on, but more a way to ignore it. Activist filmmaking also clearly didn't work, so, is this really something that can galvanize people in the run up to midterm elections? That said, Moore certainly has a brand and if we're talking in terms of documentaries, it's still going to be wildly successful. I'd expect around $10 million worth of self-punishing box office.
Dan Fogelman has one bit and he's going to continue to run it until we're sick of it. The creator of the hit TV show This Is Us (a.k.a. Cry Goddamnit, Cry) is at it again with Life Itself, another one of his sprawling, interconnected, hyper-romantic, time shifting stories, all about the events leading up to the birth and life of a child, produced by Oscar Isaac and Olivia Wilde. Also featuring Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening, Mandy Patinkin, Jean Smart, Olivia Cooke and Sam Jackson as... Sam Jackson, this looks like a mauldin experience in the extreme. Isaac's character in particular seems difficult to take, as one of those insanely idealized partners who falls in love like a car crash.
While his TV show is one of the most acclaimed programs there is, what works well in 15+ hours a year is somewhat trickier in just two hours and reviews are savage towards it. Effectively grief porn, it's like a velvet painting of a crying clown, only in this case, it's one that's been handed down for generations as a family heirloom. But hey, when you get a hit, you get one Get Out of Jail Free card. You'd probably just rather not use it this quickly. This should flop hard, with around $6 million to start.
Every generation gets the Heathers it deserves, and Assassination Nation appears to be this one. Taking advantage of the social media era , it follows four high school girls in the town of Salem (subtle, guys) who are set upon by the entire town after they're blamed for a mass hacking event that reveals everyone's dirty secrets. Cue the battle royale and the airing of everyone's worst impulses, of course. While reviews are pretty good, it's an ugly film in spirit, and satire is always a tough sell. With no particular stars and very little ad support, this is headed straight for cult status, which means box office in the $3 million area to start.
The Predator leads the group of returning films after a $24 million start for the revived franchise. While there's clearly hopes for a sequel, that's a difficult task based on these figures unless international box office kicks up to an incredible degree. Based on past action reboots, we're looking at a total of around $60-70 million, with around $13 million this weekend.
The high society drama of A Simple Favor was a solid performer in its opening weekend with $16 million, with the Anna Kendrick/Blake Lively mystery from Paul Feig showing some life. Word of mouth is mostly just... there so I don't expect legs, but it should see about $9 million this frame.
The Nun was a tremendous success for the Conjuring universe with its opening weekend, but that proved to be one weekend only, as it dropped by two-thirds. That's not too far out of the ordinary for horror so there's no real panic, especially since that opening weekend was very much a proof of concept. I'd give it $7 million this weekend.
Crazy Rich Asians may have run out of its original supply of steam, but will limp along for a couple more weeks to probably hit $175 million domestic. It should take in about $6 million this weekend.