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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7. mother! (September 15th)
This should be the first of the Toronto Film Festival's Oscar season entries to begin a theatrical release.
The title may poke more at comedy, but mother! should get at horror or thriller all the way, especially considering it comes from the surprisingly unprolific Darren Aronofsky, making his first film since 2014's underseen and effective Noah, which itself was his first film since Black Swan in 2010. From the plots of these titles and others, we can deduce that mother! may involve obsession, familial strife, mental torment, and a slab of body horror.

The setting here is a country home, where outside assistance is scare, and pregnancy is in the air. Star Jennifer Lawrence fights malevolence on her own, surrounded by a cast of suspects: Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer as instigators of an unknown evil, Javier Bardem as the husband who maychance to join them, and supporting roles filled by both Domhnall and Brian Gleeson, and Kristen Wiig, who I assume will use her poker-faced gallows delivery to elicit its most logical intent: horror.

Lawrence remains one of the biggest (and youngest) movie stars of the present day, and while each and every one of her space explosion and dystopia-hating films have grossed at least $100 million (yes, even Passengers was dragged across that finish line, kicking and screaming), her recent dramas have hit a somewhat lower threshold. Still, mother! seems an interesting early fall horror story, the kind whose look and feel inspires every preview write-up to name-check Rosemary's Baby (done), though a few sneakier ones will mention Nicole Kidman's Birth (2004), a much less sinister film that's mostly faded from collective memory, sadly.

I may be low-balling the total here by a multiple of at least 2. These weird fall movies are hard to predict.

Opening weekend: $5 million / Total gross: $33 million

8. American Assassin (September 15th)
American Assassin is a film version of the late Vince Flynn's 2010 novel, with Dylan O'Brien, one of our younger action stars, cast as Mitch Rapp, a CIA recruit with a past that includes an above-average amount of dead parents, girlfriends, and household pets. One, some, or all of those untimely demises were the result of conspiracy by unwholesome individuals, and I presume it is Mr. Rapp's ultimate fate to confront the horrible people and bring the circle of life all the way around.

O'Brien, a genial actor with a flair for sarcasm, here plays off Michael Keaton, as a helpful mentor who will probably turn out to be a dastardly villain harboring an elaborate plot (just guessing, I swear!), while Taylor Kitsch marks a return to genre films as another, even more mysterious, assassin. O'Brien has starred in two Maze Runners over similar September frames, carrying at least one of them over the rainbow and past $100 million. His source material here would seem to have less die-hard teenage fans, while the story reminds me of other thrillers about junior entrants into the covert business of the CIA, like Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014), or perhaps even simply THE Recruit (2003), and the ingredients - action, international locations, beautiful women, screenplay complications - could on paper just as easily star Jason Statham.

Having said that, the casting has promise. I have faith that O'Brien can stamp the material with some of his quirky star power.

Opening weekend: $9 million / Total gross: $28 million


9. Stronger (September 22nd)
The recent film Patriots Day covered the April 2013 attacks on the Boston Marathon and their immediate aftermath. Jeff Bauman, who famously lost his legs in the bombings, was unmentioned in that film, a fact Stronger rectifies by telling his story of recovery and adjustment.

The role is another big physical change for Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays Bauman with the help of special effects. He continues his line-up of dedicated transformations (Nightcrawler and Southpaw in particular), and delves into another role, like his Demolition and Moonlight Mile, about the day-to-day recovery from tragedy. Tatiana Maslany plays Bauman's girlfriend Erin Hurley, later his wife (should I have issued a spoiler alert?), and the film is directed by David Gordon Green, a perceptive indie filmmaker who had veered wildly into raunch comedies a few years ago (remember Pineapple Express and Your Highness, even through a hazy cloud of cannabis? That's the guy); Green is now settling back somewhere into the middle of the Hollywood spectrum, as the maker of studio dramas like the underrated political thriller Our Brand Is Crisis (that's an increasingly relevant title).

I forecast $100 million dollars for Patriots Day, a number I don't regret calling, although not exactly the correct one (it finished with $31 million, even with an 81% fresh Rotten Tomato, and whip sharp-efficient direction by Peter Berg. I don't get it.). Stronger might not have the large scope or stacked cast of Berg's film, but it's got a decent chance to outgross it.

Opening weekend: $8 million / Total gross: $26 million

10. Home Again (September 8th)
Reese Witherspoon headlines this featherweight romantic comedy about three straggling and struggling young filmmakers who through some collection of circumstance end up residing in the upscale, multi-million dollar home of a Los Angeles divorcée and her small children; at that point, the woman embarks on an affair with the visitor who looks most like a classic matinee idol.

Home Again is directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer, whose mother is Nancy Meyers and whose film seems to look enough like Meyers' stories of the problems of the rich and problemless. Here, Witherspoon is the female lead, of course, and the visiting lads are played by Nat Wolff, currently busily scribbling in the notebook of death in Death Note; Jon Rudnitsky, formerly of SNL; and Pico Alexander, who was memorable as the fraternity president in Philip Roth's Indignation, and who in this film more or less serves the same function as Brad Pitt did to Geena Davis in Thelma & Louise.

Home Again appears to be opening as a sort-of counterprogramming to the red-nosed, cackling elephant in the room, in the way romantic comedies used to face off against Marvel movies on the first week of summer, until roughly seven years ago or so, when their makers understandably just gave up. Reviews for Home Again could be fair enough, and Witherspoon has star power, and more than enough charm, to carry a first world wish-fulfilment fantasy like this to a respectable high.

This fact, I endorse: I dig Meyers' movies, and have only sympathy for the next generation.

Opening weekend: $5 million / Total gross: $23 million

There wasn't a particularly vibrant amount of content on the first weekend of the month, September 1st, although Tulip Fever did open on a bunch of screens, after a long and hardy road through years, release dates, and unwelcome terrain. And so at last, last weekend, 17th century Dutch painter Dane DeHaan finally seduced nobleman's wife Alicia Vikander, while said blue blood (Christoph Waltz) properly scolded at the conduct of these horny post-teenagers. The film led the count for new releases on September 1st (at a cool 765), but did not lead the weekend. The film to watch is, still, Annabelle: Creation, which is fighting to take itself over the line to $100 million. If it doesn't, as I've obsessively written here before, August 2017 will be the first August since 2000 not to launch a single $100 million grosser, something I've yearned to see for my entire adult life.

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