September 2016 Box Office Forecast

By Michael Lynderey

September 1, 2016


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8. Snowden (September 16th)
Oliver Stone brings to the screen the wacky misadventures of one Edward Snowden, a man who was simply unable to attend the 2015 Academy Awards for "some treason" (to quote host Neil Patrick Harris). Stone's earlier political films were incendiary in both plotting and editing, often running for hours and hours on end on a breakneck pace that blazed through scenes, cast members, and dialogue (the underseen and underrated Nixon, 1995, is my favorite), but his last political film, the George Bush biopic W. (2008), was shorter, slower, and less prone to fits of manic exasperation. Judging only by its trailers, Snowden seems to follow much in the same suit, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt's title character speaking oh so slowly in what sounds like a variation of a satire of an accent that may fit somewhere in the midwest, if it fits anywhere. The supporting cast is an overall plus, with Shailene Woodley finally getting her first non-Divergent role since The Fault in Our Stars, along with the increasingly prolific Scott Eastwood and the always-working Tom Wilkinson. Gordon-Levitt recently headlined another biopic with a questionable accent, The Walk, a film that received fairly positive critical acclamation but faded from view last fall. Given the somewhat thorny issues involved here, I'm not sure Snowden is a particularly easier sell to a mainstream audience, and in a way, Edward Snowden has already made Stone's main theme almost redundant: it's not much of a secret conspiracy theory that everyone's watching you when the whole film is about how they really are.

Opening weekend: $11 million / Total gross: $34 million

9. Masterminds (September 30th)
Like many other films this month, light comedy Masterminds is in fact inspired by a true story, even if much less obviously so (it's the big Loomis Fargo robbery in 1997, which netted close to $20 million, and many years of incarceration, for the participants). Forecasts of this motion picture are sort of obligated to outline its tumultuous path to release, I suppose, so I will also (it was delayed from last year by the various financial setbacks of its studio, Relativity Media, which really could have used that 20 million dollars). The title is ironic, and so the story depicts this particular inside-job heist as being led by rubes, played by Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson, and Zach Galifianakis, in what is really his first starring role since The Campaign (2012) and The Hangover Part III (2013). The trailers have a fair share of laughs, and through some fortuitous bit of casting, the credits include not only Wiig but two of her fellow Ghostbusters, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, in smaller roles now given a bigger highlight by the marketing. That may not matter all that much, though: the film will do well if it's good, and probably fade from the scene reasonably quickly if it's not.

Opening weekend: $13 million / Total gross: $32 million


10. Bridget Jones's Baby (September 16th)
Two of the great iconic characters of the early 2000s are back with us, as the Blair Witch and Bridget Jones face off for comeback glory on the same weekend. Directed by the original film's helmer Sharon Maguire, Bridget Jones 3 continues the romantic travails of the love-struck Londonite of the title, played for the third time by Renée Zellweger, in what is her first film role since Case 39 'six years ago' (really?!? wow). The first Bridget Jones arrived in 2001 as a combination of its best-selling source material (Helen Fielding's 1996 novel) and the Richard Curtis factory of charming and chivalrous English romantic films, ones usually prone to the presence of Hugh Grant and/or Colin Firth (and the first Bridget Jones, indeed, settled for no less than including them both).

The sequel film was not so well received in 2004 (though I liked it, if anyone really wants to know), but Bridget still had her fans, a third book was published, and, even though this new film apparently draws little inspiration from its written source material, here it is anyway. Grant's cad is replaced by Patrick Dempsey's, while Firth returns as the increasingly put-upon Mark Darcy, and the characters are then placed here into an unfortunately rather literal game of who's-your-daddy (no, really. Bridget is pregnant, see...). Their shenanigans may well inspire a reasonable opening weekend fueled by those who fondly remember Bridget Jones, even if the film will likely be one-upped by those who fondly remember the Blair Witch.

Opening weekend: $13 million / Total gross: $30 million

11. + 12. Morgan and The Light Between Oceans (September 2nd)
The first weekend of September is headlined by this pair, the former a horror picture about a pseudo-murderous semi-robot (or a pseudo-robotic semi-murderer), and the latter Derek Cianfrance's adaptation of the book of the same name, starring two actors, Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, who tend to attract a lot of awards attention just by showing up. The reviews for the Oceans are better than those for Morgan, as I suppose they must be, but both films will likely play only modest business in what has increasingly been a weekend left bereft of competitive releases (last year's sole new Labor Day movie was The Transporter reboot). These new films' critical fates will likely be reversed on the box office stage, with the horror film winning out and likely pawing a bit past a $10 million opening, while the drama might not get much past single digits. You take your victories where you can.

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