September 2015 Box Office Forecast

By Michael Lynderey

September 3, 2015

Hey! They made it to the merge!

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1. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (September 18th)

In the sense of having a devoted audience ready to come back for seconds, Maze Runner 2 is probably the most anticipated movie of the month, but it's also tough to peg down just right. The first film was of course surprising as both a strong opener ($32 million) and finisher ($102 million, with decent legs), and its target audience of fervent Young Adult readers seems to have received it positively. On the other hand, this year has given us YA follow-ups that underperformed both somewhat mildly (Insurgent) as well as much more noticeably (Paper Towns, a de facto sequel to The Fault in Our Stars). Rejecting the guidance of these examples, I'm thinking the Maze Runner sequel will play just a little higher than the first film, and the studio certainly seems to be doing everything right: even if they've lost the sense of mystery of the first film, the trailers are generally intriguing, the advertising is prominent but not offensively omnipresent, star Dylan O'Brien appears to have gained many more fans in the preceding 365 days, and the release date is lurched smack dab in the middle of a pack of films mostly aimed at other audience groups, so competition for teens shouldn't be too much of a problem. I think this franchise can win two Septembers in a row. And speaking of the sequel's title, yes, they're running again, but are we guaranteed a maze?

Opening weekend: $40 million / Total gross: $120 million

2. Hotel Transylvania 2 (September 25th)

It's clear that two sequels aimed at young audiences will battle each other for supremacy this month (with the Oscar-bait dramas acting as potential spoilers), but I'll take a risky gamble and say that the obvious frontrunner (Transylvania 2) will come in second, though it will be close. The first film was a strong breakout success three years back, with a $42 million opening and a $148 million total that blazed through the pre-Halloween days with its sanitized and relatively bloodless take on beloved horror film staples (if only they could get the rights to Jason and Freddy, too). While not spectacularly reviewed by any stretch of the imagination, Hotel Transylvania was well-liked enough that a sequel should be a slam-dunk. But the career of the franchise's public face, Adam Sandler, is currently at an unpredictable stage, with would-be sure things (Blended) underperforming, and another comedy aimed at children, Pixels, also pulling lower-than-expected numbers. The Sandler road company's all here (Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, and so on), the casting of Mel Brooks as Sandler's father is a memorable fact, and advertising has of course been bright, lively, and extremely seasonally-appropriate, so the numbers should still be strong (CGI movies like this have their floors, after all) - though I still think that Hotel Transylvania 2 will play more like a horror sequel in coming in somewhere under its original.

Opening weekend: $38 million / Total gross: $115 million

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