After three up weekends in a row, September moviegoing continues to clickety-clack with Sony Animation’s Hotel Transylvania 2 set to take No. 1 with a FSS in the low $30Ms, maybe $40M at 3,752 theaters. The studio will be very happy if they hit $32M; in fact that would make it their highest opening calendar year to date before Spectre stacks bodies. If the Adam Sandler vehicle –which he produced, co-wrote and voiced — hits that high mark, attribute it to the fact that there hasn’t been a full-blooded studio family toon in the market since Universal/Illumination’s Minions. However, sequelitis is in effect in the current B.O. atmosphere with ticket sales easing between franchise part 1s to 2s, evident in last weekend’s Maze Runner: Scorch Trials which posted a debut that was 7% off from its first chapter. Sony has primed this late September frame for families throughout the millennium going back to 2006’s Open Season ($23.6M) continuing through to the Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs films ($30.3M and $34M respectively) and capped off by the first Hotel Transylvania which owns the record as the highest September debut with $42.5M. Hotel Transylvania 2 carried a reported estimated production cost of $80M, not too far from the first installment’s price tag.
Then there’s a cluster of films in the $15M range, comprised of both new and holdover titles. Warner Bros.’ breezy workplace comedy The Intern starring Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro is tracking strong among older females, who traditionally head to the cinema in groups. While $15M at 3,305 engagements would be a decent opening for the Burbank-based studio, there’s an anticipation that the film could go higher to $20M since there’s nothing like it on the marquee. Thursday previews start at 7PM. Many are debating the right comp for the film — it’s been close to 20 years since femme fave First Wives Club was released ($18.9M) and played throughout the fall to $105.5M. Director Nancy Meyers is blessed with her adults dramedies, and has continually slept them to uber-higher numbers in the century range.
Then there’s Universal’s Everest which stole $7.2M worth of high-priced Imax and PLF cash last weekend. It’s going to surge its theater count from 545 to about 3,000 this weekend, also with an eye on hooking a $15M second weekend range gross. The film’s expansion to 2D won’t slow its pace, in fact it will make the pic more accessible as most U.S. audiences typically shell out for that format over 3D. Word is that exhibitors are over
the moon the mountain for the Baltasar Kormakur film. Everest is a co-production between Cross Creek, Walden Media and Working Title.
20th Century Fox’s Maze Runner: Scorch Trials is currently estimated to be down between 46%-50% from its $30.3M opening. Maze Runner declined -46% in its second weekend. Yesterday, Warner Bros.’ Black Mass got some revenge on Scorch Trials beating the YA film $2.1M to $1.67M. In its second weekend, Whitey Bulger is looking for slightly less than a 50% dip, about $13M.
The third film opening this weekend is Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno in conjunction with BH/Tilt, Universal and High Top releasing. Blumhouse’s BH/Tilt acquired the horror film for less than seven figures in turnaround from beleaguered financier Worldview Entertainment. It’s been a long time comin’ for the latest Roth title, which was scheduled to open over Labor Day weekend last year via Open Road. Under the new Blumhouse boutique division, Green Inferno will open in 1,539 venues, backed largely by a thrifty digital P&A campaign in the single digits. Industry projections see the film at $3M-$4M. The whole concept of this roll out is to specifically target horror aficionados with microbudget fare that will continually be profitable with a low to mid single digit opening weekends. Previews start at 9 PM on Thursday.
Brian Brooks will weigh on the curtain raiser for limited and arthouse fare, which is breaking out fast like foliage in Vermont. Lionsgate is upping its bunkers for critic fave Sicario from six to 59. This is another title that has some hot word of mouth among theater owners. Roland Emmerich’s Stonewall about the 1969 Greenwich Village LGBT riots is opening at 128 playdates. A24 has Mississippi Grind, Broad Green Picture’s has last year’s Venice-Telluride-TIFF festival fave 99 Homes in two New York theaters: The AMC Loews Lincoln Square and The Angelika.