September Box Office Recap

By Steven Slater

October 11, 2018

What do you mean, you've all forgotten my movie already?

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September doldrums bring Oscar hopefuls. Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. September is often one of the slower months of the year, and usually has the worst weekend total of the year. This year is no exception on either count, as the slowest weekend of 2018 was the 21st-23rd of the month, when there was about $92 million dollars worth of business in movie theaters. This is well above the low point of $69 million at the end of August last year, but nevertheless September is cruel to the pocketbooks of movie chains. The good news, however, is that this September is the second largest of all time, just behind last year’s record when It exploded onto screens in a huge way. This month, the top twenty films earned nearly $600 million, the lowest total of the year, but less than $50 million away from September 2017. Medium-sized hits combined with some good holdovers from August to fill the coffers. Here are the top ten grossing films from the ninth month.

1) The Nun

Opening Weekend: $53.8 M
Monthly Total: $109 M

The biggest opener of September is also the biggest earner for the month, as the latest entry in the Conjuring franchise is one of its biggest. The fifth film in as many years, The Nun has the largest opening in the franchise, beating the $41.9 million of the original, but it will ultimately fall short of the original’s domestic total of $137 million. This continues a streak of titles that have earned over $100 million dollars (only Annabelle fell short of this mark), a great success story for this modern horror franchise. The Nun has, however, already broken the worldwide record for the franchise, as all prior entries ended up just over $300 million like clockwork, except for the aforementioned Annabelle. The Nun is at $335 million and counting, and could wind up as high as $400 million. With another two films scheduled for the next two years, this franchise can easily keep ticking along and branching out. We shall see if producer James Wan can continue his streak of successes producing and directing with the next DC film, Aquaman, this December.

2) Crazy Rich Asians

Monthly Total: $71.1M
Running Total: $165.6 M (through Sept. 30)

Warner Bros. quietly owned both August and September, as they had the biggest openers each month, as well as some of the leggier titles. Crazy Rich Asians is a movie that delivered on its premise in spades, riding a wave of momentum to a decent opening and incredible legs. Even though it was two weeks old by the beginning of September, it was still earning a ridiculous amount of money relatively speaking, easily giving it the second highest total of the month. The first two days of September, a Saturday and a Sunday, saw it earn more money per day than it’s opening Friday, over two weeks prior. Even now it is still earning a few million per weekend, in week number seven. Although it will not earn a place quite alongside My Big Fat Greek Wedding, it is still the leggier film this side of The Greatest Showman in recent times. Having earned five times its budget, though, is the real cherry on top.

3) The Predator

Opening Weekend: $24.6 M
Monthly Total: $47.8 M

We have had Predator, Predator 2, Predators, and now The Predator. All that’s left is either Predator5 or The Predator Strikes Back. Unfortunately, this version of the mandibled hunter looks to be one of the weaker entries in this now thirty year old franchise. Although it almost had the highest opening weekend in the franchise, just behind Predators 2010 bow, it will not be able to earn as much money as even the original managed a generation ago. Between this series and Alien, these kindred spirits have seen their pedigree decimated with odd, horrible sequels and side stories that have none of the masterpiece qualities of the originals. Director Shane Black also takes a huge hit, as not only does this film fall far below his recent marks with Iron Man 3 and The Nice Guys in terms of box office and critical response respectively, but he also lost a lot of goodwill with the sex offender friend he cast in the film, and subsequently had to cut out. All in all, this movie will quickly be forgotten, and those involved probably hope for that.

4) The House with a Clock in its Walls

Opening Weekend: $26.6 M
Monthly Total: $44.9 M

This is a movie that really ought to star Vincent Price, or now a days a digital recreation a la Grand Moff Tarkin. Jack Black, the new emcee for children’s “horror” films, teams with noted child specialist Eli Roth for a throwback film that harkens to a period when gothic horror was more mainstream. Although peppered with CGI, the ambience sells the movie more, even if the end result was nothing spectacular. With a domestic gross that has now exceeded its budget, at least Roth can push this as his biggest film, and a welcome reprieve from his awful Death Wish earlier this year. Expect to see this film hang on for a few weekends, as one of two options for children in theaters.

5) A Simple Favor

Opening Weekend: $16 M
Monthly Total: $43 M

I know, I had flashes of Billy Bob Thornton and Bill Paxton, too. Actually, this is a film that stars Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick not as brothers who discover millions, but friends, one of whom looks into the disappearance of the other. This must be the month where directors branch out, because after Eli Roth directed a children’s film, and Paul Feig directs this thriller, I now expect Steven Spielberg to direct a musical (Now wait a gosh darn moment!). With small weekend drops, this well-reviewed film should quietly earn a tidy sum, out-earning splashier entries from this month such as Predators.


6) Peppermint

Opening Weekend: $13.2 M
Monthly Total: $33.5 M

How did Hollywood know that Atomic Blonde and Peppermint are my favorite chewing gum flavors! This year, another actress tries her hand at rough and tumble action, with Jennifer Garner filling the shoes of Charlize Theron, and with similar results in terms of critical response and box office reception. Atomic Blonde sold more style, to the tune of just over $50 million, whereas Peppermint will have to suffice with about $35 million, which at least covers the budget. Good for Garner, though, that she tried to get back into a genre that she had abandoned after the stink of Elektra (remember when most comic book movies were godawful trash?).

7) The Meg

Monthly Total: $29.7 M
Running Total: $142 M

The second holdover on the list also happens to be a surprisingly leggy (finny?) film from Warner Bros., as the Meg chowed through the competition, taking quite a bite from the box office pie. It did not smash, gnash, or chomp any records on the way, although it became the second biggest shark movie of all time after the original champ. The chum was in the water, though, as without any huge blockbusters in either August or September, The Meg stood out from the pack and had staked out territory all its own. Although the feeding frenzy is over, Warner Bros. can breathe a sigh of relief as the Megaladon has improbably outearned its large budget. I cannot wait for the sequel where something completely originally and breathtakingly awe inspiring takes place, like sharks in space with lasers.

8) Night School

Opening Weekend: $27.3 M
Monthly Total: $27.3 M

Kevin Hart seems pretty indestructible. The movies that get good reviews, and especially ones where he costars with Dwayne Johnson, break out big time. But his movies with middling or awful reviews, also usually with costars (although he is usually the big draw), still always do good business. Night School seems to be more of the latter, opening a bit lower than his other recent films, but still ultimately looking for a decent domestic gross somewhere around $75 million.

9) Smallfoot

Opening Weekend: $23 M
Monthly Total: $23 M

Warner Bros. is off to a strong start for the beginning of next month as well, as Smallfoot debuted in the last remaining days of September. While opening with similar numbers to Crazy Rich Asians, Smallfoot will ultimately be lucky to see half that film’s gross. Having the animation genre all to itself, though, should allow it to remain in theaters for many weeks to come, possibly stretching towards the century mark on the domestic front. Ultimately, though, Warner Bros. Animation is still the little cousin compared to other big animation studios, and will have to hope the next LEGO Movie, due in February, pops them back up to the big leagues.

10) Searching

Opening Weekend: $6 M
Monthly Total: $22.4 M

In tenth place we find a pleasant surprise, as a smaller film was able to build over the entire month and earn a spot on the list. Searching is the type of film that could easily crash and burn based on its awkward premise, but it looks like the John Cho starrer was able to use its limitations effectively and build a credible thriller out of them. After being out for over a month, this is still earning about a million per weekend. I foresee a movie in the near future that is just a bunch of tweets and Snapchats posting on a lock screen. The suspense will come from the gradually diminishing battery life indicator.

Just outside the top ten were White Boy Rick, Mission Impossible: Fallout, Christopher Robin, Operation Finale and BlacKkKlansman. With those titles we also complete the top ten openers for September, number ten actually being Searching when it went wide. There were some hopefuls that crashed and burned, such as Kin and Life Itself, and it remains to be seen if Michael Moore’s latest, Fahrenheit 11/9, can convince people to watch even more of the disaster that is this country these days (people will pay to see that stuff?). The good news, as mentioned before, is that this September was nearly as big as last year’s, without the monster blockbuster. That means new product opened well, earned decent numbers, and that there were butts in seats in a month typically devoid of such.



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