September 2017 Box Office Forecast
By Michael Lynderey
September 7, 2017
3. The Lego Ninjago Movie (September 22nd)
The year's second Lego movie switches over to mocking and / or precisely re-enacting a whole new set of genre tropes, as Dave Franco stars in the Chris Pratt role, voicing a western apprentice living in an Asian metropolis (um....). The teen (?) discovers that he is the chosen one, genealogically speaking, as the son of a Very Important Person (voiced by Justin Theroux, who is also important), and will with any luck fulfill the destiny prophecy holds for him (for more information on this plot element, the very special young man who rather easily shakes up a conflict that long predates him, see The Dark Tower, Spider-Man, Kingsman, and any number of films released in the last three months alone. This happens a lot).
The dad looks like a particularly demonic transformer, but doesn't seem nearly as rude, and the son is just lucky to take more after mom (she's voiced by Olivia Munn). There's a punchy supporting cast assembled here, in the tradition of other CGI behemoths - Jackie Chan in a mentor role, Michael Peña and Abbi Jacobson as warrior siblings, Fred Armisen as the weird one, and so on. Newsmakers Chris Miller & Phil Lord directed the first Lego movie, and as with its first spin-off, The Lego Batman Movie, they at least return to produce.
Their Lego movie made a lot of money ($257m!) for discernible reasons that are nevertheless still alien to me, while Lego Batman grossed $175 million, and was thus successful enough to end up only the fifth lowest grossing Batman movie (yes, in this tally, aside from the obvious sequels, I'm counting 1966 Batman as well as Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, which was just about the only film in the franchise that the Lego version failed to sneak in a reference to - for shame!).
Naturally, I'd assume Lego 3's box office will trickle down just a bit more, though probably not so much so as to not guarantee this September a rare-for-the-month collection of three $100m grossers (the entirety of last September-October felt deprived, at just one of those $100m films). CGI animations cashing out September have a healthy tradition, including but not limited to the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs films and the less attention-hounding Boxtrolls, and indeed this latest but far, far, far, far, far, from last entry in the Lego cannon should sail ahead as smoothly as we'll have it.
Opening weekend: $38 million / Total gross: $120 million
4. Battle of the Sexes (limited September 22nd; wide by Halloween)
The title could refer to any number of confrontations, or perhaps all of them, but Battle of the Sexes recounts the infamous May 13, 1973 tennis match in Ramona, California, viewed by some 90 million, as Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, two tennis greats who shared a profession but not a gender, faced off to the death (should I spoil it? Should I? Ok. She won).
Like mother! and Strong, the film will play the Toronto Film Festival, and probably represents the higher floor of box office for Oscar gold seekers this month. I did not look much into the 1973 press coverage of this sport war, but the film positions it like an epic culture-media battle between a hard-working and book-smart woman and a loud, chauvinistic press hound (... this is topical, right? Well, not anymore). The battle is re-enacted by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the directing pair who previously shepherded Little Miss Sunshine and the less illustrious Ruby Sparks. Emma Stone throws on a pair of eye goggles as King, while Steve Carell stomps on some ungainly hair contraptions as Riggs; he replaced Will Ferrell in a role that would have certainly dovetailed with Ferrell's comic persona of a feckless coward with too much false confidence (although I'm sure Carell can feign gender-based hostility, too). Sarah Silverman and Alan Cumming provide support, among others, but I'd look out for Martha MacIsaac, Stone's co-star from their legendary Superbad (2007), who appears here just in time for a ten year reunion.
I'll reasonably assume that reviews will be positive, and the film is advertised with enough star power, comic heft, period flare, and indie credibility to play well for a good couple of weeks. Right before the more demanding Oscar contenders get here.
Total gross: $52 million