September 2017 Box Office Forecast

By Michael Lynderey

September 7, 2017

Eddie the Eagle, Mr. Darcy and Oberyn Martell walk into a bar...

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Stephen King's It will plunge through the first half of September 2017 with an iron-clawed hand and gaping red-tinted jaw, though the month's two big sequels could try and put up a fight. Elsewhere down the theatre hall, Oscar season begins in full, and I think this month can break the nomination deficit of recent Septembers.

1. It (September 8th)
With apologies to Ronald McDonald, Stephen King's It stars perhaps the most famous clown in modern pop culture history, and hits the big screen for the first time, after a long, dry, summer, and months of trailers, ads, stills, and mounting anticipation. One line from the poster has become so famous that I can already imagine the Scary Movie parody, wherein the murderous clown encounters an obese child, and pronounces "you'll float too!" before taking it back ("in your case, no guarantees").

King's work has inspired innumerable adaptations, many successful, all interesting in one way or the other. This It is based on King's 1986 book, and is thus basically a remake of the 1990 mini-series that seems to have been an essential part of the childhood of much of the North American millennial population (though I didn't see it until two months ago, oddly). The various frightful tracking estimates for It 2017 - $50 million opening! No, $60 million!, and onwards - reflect a pent-up desire to revisit ghoulish younger years on the big screen.

The mini-series was a reasonable entertainment with a perfect format for two nights of airing, split into halves, the first combining scenes of adult It survivors and their childhood flashbacks, and the second restricted only to the grown-ups' plight. The film focuses only on the kids, with a second one featuring their adult versions slated for production soon enough (let the fancasting begin, of course).
The setting of late 1950s Americana is moved forward in time about 30 years, though the clown still haunts King's trademark Maine, where, as the material suggests, he has lived since time immemorial (that's a lot of frightened dinosaurs who floated, too). A group of plucky and socially disadvantaged children must again unite to combat the hissing Pennywise, and so this is also the rare R-rated horror film specifically starring the genre's most protected class of victims, children. The role played by the late Jonathan Brandis (RIP) is essayed here by Jaeden Lieberher, the plucky child actor who stood up to Bill Murray in St. Vincent and most recently defeated abusive stepfather Dean Norris in The Book of Henry, which was fascinating if overly nutty. I think Jaeden has what it takes to save the world again. The rest of the kids are mostly newcomers, except for Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things, who is here thrust back into the 1980s.

The new It is directed by Andy Muschietti, previously of Mama, the 2013 horror film in which a punk-rock Jessica Chastain fought off a ghostly grotesque (spoiler: it was a draw). The mini-series' Pennywise was played by Tim Curry in one of his top five most memorable roles (a complement to both his career and the film, of course), and here, the role is taken over by Bill SkarsgÄrd, whose work has thus far been restricted mostly to television and Swedish films, and who should get a nice bump out of this role, even through all the make-up (Will Poulter had been cast before the original director left, indicating that the clown's age was always going to ring closer to pubescent).

Given all the craziness in the world today, It may well outgross Mama's entire run in three or four nights; especially with a visual style and flash advertising that reminds me of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the 2003 remake from New Line Cinema, the studio that's also behind It (shoutout to the recently deceased Tobe Hooper, director of the original Chainsaw). There've been a lot of remakes since, but none have picked the right material at the right time quite like it.

Opening weekend: $73 million / Total gross: $151 million


2. Kingsman: The Golden Circle (September 22nd)
Studios seem to have pegged September's fourth frame as a weekend that wouldn't look too out of place in the middle of summer, and so we get a pair of sequels to some of the biggest surprise hits of recent years.

The first Kingsman was a parody and collage of such English preoccupations as the private school system, the James Bond mythos, and intractable class boundaries. All of that is boring, of course, but the movie made it kind of fun, if a little nasty, and so North America carried it from a $36 million first weekend to a $128m total.

If you liked that film, then the team is all here, again. Matthew Vaughn re-directs. Breakout star Taron Egerton is the lead, now a more seasoned spy, with a bigger pair of glasses. Mark Strong is the always reliable assister, and, oh, Colin Firth returns, with what I assume must be one heck of an explanation (he was shot point-blank in the face, and now wears an eye-patch, which does make a certain amount of sense).

The setting moves from English crypts and manors to the United States, though is boringly devoid of any incendiary and topical political references. We do get Halle Berry, who's been almost totally absent from the screen for too long, in what I hope is a juicy role; along with Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, and Julianne Moore as other Americans, some good, some bad, all potential cannon-fodder for Vaughn's fondness for violent action (lots of eye patches to be handed out for part 3).

Kingsman: The Golden Circle was moved from a June release date and into September, which is okay, now that Summer doesn't seem to inspire any more consumer attendance than, say, winter, spring, fall, or any other seasons that may be common around your neck of the woods. The first film was a reasonable hit playing opposite the more richly attended Fifty Shades of Gray (which finished with $162 million). They're both back this year, of course, but Kingsman, Jr. has a chance to overtake the spawn of S&M's $114m total. The trailer opens with some vintage Frank Sinatra, the reviews could be good (or they could hate it), and the last action film blockbuster was practically months ago.

Oh, and despite what I said, Kingsman is actually opening on the very last day of summer. It still counts.
Opening weekend: $41 million / Total gross: $125 million

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