September Forecast

By John Hamann

Since it feels hot enough to be summer, looks nice enough out to be summer, and still just generally feels like summer, is it? Simply put, no; the movie release schedule just doesn’t abide. Yes, after a summer of somewhat predictable fare, we get back into the topsy-turvy spin of the autumn releases. Will September bring films like Love Stinks (lowest Sept. gross with a debut on over 1,000 screens) or Sweet Home Alabama (biggest opener for the month of September with $35.7 million)? I hate to say it, but September 2003 looks like a car accident.

1. Duplex

I can’t believe I’m giving Duplex the number one slot in my top ten list. Duplex itself looks tired, the release date has been pushed around more times than Ben Affleck, and the trailer and marketing have been circumspect at best. However, because the month is so totally soft, I don’t see anything rising above the $20 million mark, so the stars' names alone (Ben Stiller/Drew Barrymore) could bring the film over the top. Duplex has moved around the release schedule since the middle of 2002, and these days it seems like media/public can sense this sort of impending failure. On the other hand, maybe I’m completely wrong (that’s there to keep my chances with Drew Barrymore alive).

Open: $18 million
Total: $48 million

2. Underworld

Underworld is another film I would pick for a breakout opening weekend if it didn’t have a couple of not-so-positive things about it. The film has a great look, and it’s had a great marketing campaign that has stirred awareness since early in the summer. On the other hand, problems include the fact that the film has no legitimate stars, and that the studio releasing the film is Screen Gems, which handles Sony’s lower-budgeted fare. Their highest grossing release is Resident Evil ($39.5 million total) which not surprisingly carries some of the elements of Underworld (female star, sci-fi, violence). Resident Evil opened in March 2002 to $17.7 million, and since Underworld has a budget of only $23 million, Screen Gems would be very happy with a similar opening weekend score.

Open: $16 million
Total: $45 million

3. Once Upon A Time in Mexico

First off, no I’m not on crack, I really think Once Upon a Time in Mexico can open in the mid-teens. Even though Desperado opened to only $8 million in August ’95 with a similar cast, recent box office god Johnny Depp has joined Robert Rodriguez’s team, which could lead to a spike in the film’s opening weekend allotment. The problem is, Once Upon a Time in Mexico faces some stiff competition over the September 12th weekend from the likes of Cold Creek Manor, Cabin Fever and Matchstick Men. All of these films seem to be vying for the same box office dollar, but as BOP has repeatedly said, competition means bupkus when predicting opening weekend take. I think Once Upon a Time in Mexico will find enough of the younger 17-25 audience to make for a decent opening weekend, although if I was Sony, I would have trumpeted the release of the El Mariachi Special Edition DVD a little louder.

Open: $15 million
Total: $58 million

4. Matchstick Men

Yeah, those con-men stories are big box office draws, especially when you add in a long lost daughter. What the heck is this? Nicolas Cage and Sam Rockwell play con men, and Alison Lohman plays the Cage's daughter. The good news is that the director is Ridley Scott, but the release date has my flop-sense tingling. Going back to 1998 and excluding his arthouse fare, Nic Cage has been somewhat predictable at the box office. Five of his last eight films have opened between $14 and $16 million, and this one should fare no differently -- if anything, it will open below the average.

Open: $14 million
Total: $40 million

5. Cold Creek Manor

Ah, the age old question: is the Dennis Quaid box office curse really over? Quaid is coming off of the critically acclaimed Far from Heaven and the financial hit The Rookie -- does that mean Cold Creek Manor is destined to flop, or will the lucky streak continue? I also wonder if Quaid was attached before Sharon Stone signed on or after? Speaking of the cursed, Stone did have a hit in 1998 -- her voice was in the animated Antz ($90 million), but since then the only highlights were 1995’s Casino ($42.4 million) and 1994’s The Specialist ($57.4 million). Now I’m thinking I should move this down my list, but the trailer looks interesting and the distributor is the recently successful Buena Vista Films. On the downside, the director is Mike Figgis, who makes good and innovative films, but they don’t make money -- someone must have owed him a favor.

Open: $13 million
Total: $45 million

6. The Rundown

At one point a few years ago, this film was titled Helldorado. Now, it's called The Rundown. Here is today’s question, kids. Would you rather have your new movie, starring wrestler The Rock, called Helldorado or The Rundown? Producer Art Linson wrote a great book called What the Hell Just Happened? about the movie production process from the producer’s point of view. There, Linson tells the story of a movie called Bookworm, starring Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin, about two men getting lost in the wilderness and are left to fight off a bear. After the movie was shot and edited, the 20th Century Fox marketing department was desperate to change the title from Bookworm to something else… can you remember what the title of the movie ended up being? (Hint: it opened to $7.8 million and grossed $27.8 million overall). For Universal’s sake, it had better do better than my prediction, as the budget is rumored to be in the $75 million dollar range.

Open: $12 million
Total: $28 million

7. The Fighting Temptations

On paper, this film looks like a disaster. The Fighting Temptations stars Cuba Gooding, Jr. as a man who must start a choir to collect an inheritance. Huh? After reading that I was prepared to put this film in the "ill-conceived September disasters" file with movies like The Stupids and Chill Factor -- but hold the phone --it also stars Beyonce Knowles (mmmm Beyonce), Mike Epps, and Faith Evans. Jonathan Lynn (My Cousin Vinny) directs, and I’m going to bet this has more legs than opening potential. Paramount is distributing the MTV Film, and the music channel based movie company has definitely had their past successes and know how to market a film. Hits have included Varsity Blues, Save the Last Dance, Orange County, Jackass and the Original Kings of Comedy.

Open: $9 million
Total: $60 million

8. Under The Tuscan Sun

I guess we get to find out whether it was Diane Lane or Richard Gere who opened Unfaithful, Lane’s 2002 film that garnered her an Oscar nomination. Under the Tuscan Sun looks to me like it could be called How Stella Got Her Groove Back 2 and could launch Lane into an even higher level in the tiered world of the Hollywood Actress. If Tuscan doesn’t open, get ready for the Marisa Tomei references.

Open: $8 million
Total: $55 million

9. Dickie Roberts: Child Star - $7.5 million

No matter how funny this film looks, it's not going to pop when it opens in early September. David Spade just isn’t that big of a draw. The question is whether Dickie Roberts performs like Joe Dirt (open: $8 million) or the truly forgettable Lost & Found (open: $3 million). Because of a plethora of old TV faces, I’m willing to bet it’s the former.

Open: $7.5 million
Total: $23 million

10. (opening weekend tie) Cabin Fever and The Order

How many horror films can Hollywood cram down our throats over a one month period? We’ve already had Freddy vs. Jason and Jeepers Creepers 2, now they want us to pay to see four more in September (okay, Underworld and Cold Creek Manor are a stretch but you get the gist). After the Summer of Same, one might think that a couple of these would have gotten the bump into October, but no. Seriously, though, The Order looks and feels like the studio is embarrassed by the product. As of the Tuesday before the Friday release, Fox was tightening the ad budget by pulling (awful looking) newspaper ads, which is always the most consistent sign of utter failure. As for Cabin Fever, it may still have a chance, but as a low budget feature, it needs to permeate the pop culture media beyond chat rooms and the Fangoria bulletin boards. Early reviews are good and a 2,000+-venue count is planned, but it needs some serious marketing if it's going to make an impact.

Cabin Fever total: $20 million
The Order total: $14 million


Missing out on the party in September will be Woody Allen’s Anything Else, DreamWorks' latest kick at the Woody can. Also opening are Secondhand Lions, a comedy-drama with Robert "I Hate Canada" Duvall, Haley Joel Osment and Michael Caine. Limited release films include Lost in Translation with Bill Murray and Kart Racer with Randy Quaid. If there was a month for limiteds to dominate the box office news, this is definitely it.

  • Read Marty Doskins' September forecast
  • Read Kim Hollis's September forecast
  • Read David Mumpower's September forecast



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