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September 2016 Box Office Forecast

By Michael Lynderey

September 1, 2016

Magnificent?

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6. When the Bough Breaks (September 9th)
This Screen Gems release is a relatively low-budget thriller with an African-American cast, a fact I note only because those were the exact same fundamentals shared by No Good Deed (2014) and then The Perfect Guy (2015), two very successful recent suspense films that opened much bigger than anyone thought, on the exact same September weekend. After No Good Deed, which had been held in the studio vault for about two years, became a surprise hit, the studio seized on a hit formula, and When the Bough Breaks seems very naturally in the same ballpark. These films mostly follow a plot that roughly recalls all those early 1990s thrillers like The Hand That Rocks the Cradle or Consenting Adults, about mild-mannered suburbanites acquiring seemingly benign and helpful new acquaintances who turn out to seethe with homicidal rage (not that there's anything wrong with that). Here, a couple is terrorized by an initially friendly and kind young woman they've hired as a surrogate mother, and I imagine the plot will touch all the usual bases - the husband is tempted but does not go all the way, the surrogate kills one or two nosy family friends, the couple's love survives this unpleasantness, and so on. The trailers are slick and make extremely good use of a pop song ("The Boy is Mine"). They sell this movie well, and depending on how Sully goes, it's not all that implausible that this is the film that wins next weekend.

Opening weekend: $26 million / Total gross: $58 million

7. Blair Witch (September 16th)
Blair Witch was initially called The Woods, until what looked like another shaky-cam horror film was revealed in fact to be the sequel to the shaky-cam horror film, the original Blair Witch Project. As always with such decades-spanning franchises, I simply must recite history: blazing past the G-rated The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972), The Blair Witch Project became the most successful horror pseudo-documentary of all time. Billed as real found footage of the last days and nights of a crew of unlucky myth explorers, the Blair film debuted to howls and raves at Sundance 1999, before turning a limited platform release date into a wildly successful theatrical run during the summer of 1999, becoming a pop culture phenomenon, and taking in $140 million for its troubles. The world naturally assumed that such a ravishing success on a measly small budget ($60,000) would inspire a horde of imitator shaky-cam films to launch into theaters in the early 2000s... but the hordes never came. Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 was a conventionally-made and occasionally intriguing horror sequel released a year later to little fanfare and a total box office of just $26 million, and then a promised Blair Witch 3, a prequel, never materialized (though all these years, I have been waiting).




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Time passed, and then Cloverfield in 2008 was the film that ended up unleashing those shaky-cam found-footage horror movies upon our planet, giving all the filmmakers who had been coming up with ideas in the post-Blair years a chance to finally take them to film. And thus the trend that weirdly did not materialize in 2000 came out in full force many years later.

Which brings us to Blair Witch, in 2016. This, too, is a direct sequel, but whereas the unlucky travelers in Book of Shadows were depicted as curious viewers of the first Blair Witch film (yes, it turned the universe into a film-within-a-film), this sequel returns to the original continuity, with one of the woodsy travelers here being a sibling of the Witch's original film's most famous victim, Heather Donahue, who delivered that famous monologue in her waning hours. And the found-footage style is back, too. So, what are we to make of this? Do millennials who remember the original still care all that much about it? Does the Blair Witch sell tickets? And why was that man standing motionless in front of the wall at the end of the original film? (Betcha we won't find out). A couple of recent horror films (Lights Out, Don't Breathe) have certainly over-performed their early forecasts, so the terrain might be friendly. This one is helmed by Adam Wingard, who previously commandeered well-directed horror scenes in both You're Next (2013) and The Guest (2014), but that likely won't stop an expected second weekend drop.

Opening weekend: $22 million / Total gross: $45 million


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