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September 2016 Box Office Forecast

By Michael Lynderey

September 1, 2016

Magnificent?

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2. Deepwater Horizon (September 30th)
Other than Mr. Washington and Mr. Pratt, September 2016's box office seems unduly dominated by three major films depicting extremely recent events in American history. One (Sully) has a happy ending, the other one (this) not too much, and the third (Snowden) is, I guess, yet to be determined. Deepwater Horizon is about the same-named off-shore oil rig's multi-week spill right outside the shores of Louisiana, and is also one of two upcoming films directed by Peter Berg and starring Mark Wahlberg to re-tell a recent American tragedy (the other, Patriots Day, about the Boston bombing, will get an awards-friendly platform date in December).

Berg previously directed Wahlberg to great unexpected success in the military thriller Lone Survivor (2013), so we know this is a filmmaking pair that works. Playing one of the oil rig employees, Wahlberg is surrounded here by a blend of recognizable faces, all who seem plucked from different compartments of the acting world (Kurt Russell, Gina Rodriguez, Kate Hudson, and Dylan O'Brien, who is himself no stranger to workplace accidents [sorry]). The other big cinematic version of a 2010 disaster, the Chilean miners film The 33, came and went last year, but this story is more down-home, and Wahlberg, who exudes the right working-class star power, opens this kind of film extremely well.

Opening weekend: $40 million / Total gross: $110 million




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3. Sully (September 9th)
Two iconic and very different symbols of American filmmaking, and indeed, of American masculinity, team here as Clinton Eastwood directs one Thomas Jeffrey Hanks in the film that presumably officially opens the fall season of serious, adult-aimed entertainment. The story is of course about the "Miracle on the Hudson," title pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger's miraculous 2009 landing of a full passenger plane in the idle waters of Manhattan, and the subsequent investigation as to the self-apparent worth of his aeronautical talents. It's a story that recalls the 2012 Denzel Washington film Flight so much so that you can imagine one must have been inspired by the other. Hanks may not have seemed like the most obvious choice for Sully, but he looks and feels right in the role, and there is a sort of continuity after his recent turn playing Captain Phillips in a film based on a different 2009 three-day news story (a film I still say should have had a slightly more Hollywood ending, with Hanks' captain storming the island lair of the pirate king, in the tradition of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando). Eastwood is also atop a very long career high, following American Sniper, which was his biggest commercial success, the highest domestic grosser of 2014, and so on.

So, these two veterans of many an Oscar-season battle are a hell of a draw. The release date is very early as far this kind of prestige film goes, but that shouldn't take away much from what I assume will be a critically-successful title, and one that has already identified and advertised to its target audience: I expect that the sort of people who perhaps sit out the summer months of moviegoing these days are ready to go back to the cinemas.

Opening weekend: $28 million / Total gross: $85 million


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