This weekend’s box office should rev up, thanks to Fox’s Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials which should push past the first installment’s $32.5M opening last year at this time. The film has already opened in overseas markets and has surpassed the first by 40%. Although that kind of percentage increase is not expected to happen domestically, tracking shows the second film based on the YA novel series by James Dashner could end the three-day weekend in the mid-$30M range, maybe $34M-$36M. It opens Thursday in previews at 8 PM. Internationally, expect another 41 markets this weekend as it plays beyond initial territories (the U.K. and Mexico).
Also opening this weekend is the Johnny Depp-starring Black Mass, the violent drama from Warner Bros. about Boston mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger that also stars Joel Edgerton and Benedict Cumberbatch. At the moment, estimates are that this one could open in the high-teens and, with luck of the Irish, could end up in the $20M-plus range. This one obviously skews older with a good multiple and also do nicely internationally for Warner Bros., especially coming off of high praise at the Venice, Telluride and Toronto film festivals. It opens this weekend in a handful of countries. Domestically, it opens at 7 PM on Thursday for previews.
Also opening is Paramount’s faith-based film Captive adapted from the book Unlikely Angel: The Untold Story Of The Atlanta Hostage Hero written by Ashley Smith. The story is a ripped-from-the-headlines account of Smith who was held hostage years ago in her apartment by a gun-wielding man who then had a change of heart and surrendered to law enforcement after she began reading him excerpts from the book The Purpose Driven Life. It’s hard to gauge what the performance of faith-based films will be — War Room has dug itself in with audiences, but 90 Minutes In Heaven was so-so this weekend — but we are looking for a gross anywhere between $5M-$6M.
In moderate release which is sure to be a hit for Imax and in international markets is Everest from Universal, Working Title, Walden Media and Cross Creek. This could be another big success at the box office for a studio that can do no wrong. It not only opens here this weekend on Imax 3D and PLF 3D before going wide on September 25, but it begins rolling out to the UK, Australia, Germany, and Spain, to name a few markets (also in Imax and 3D).
This one is also coming off of a Venice debut — it was the opening-night film — and two days later raised the curtain on the Deauville Film Festival which helped to introduce it and create buzz for the European marketplace. Everest, based on the true-life 1996 tragedy on the mountain during a freak storm and the subsequent fight for survival, plays as a human drama inside a disaster picture. It stars Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin and Jake Gyllenhaal.
Since Everest will be in a moderate release on 546 localtions, we will be watching the per-screen average to gauge how well it’s doing. It opens on Thursday morning and if it does $6M-$7M on 360-plus Imax screens and other PLF screens, it will be great as they could then push into the mid-teens. Maze Runner will also enjoy the PLF screens, but the thinking is that the YA title may burn out a bit more quickly than Everest, which skews older and could have a nice multiple and good word-of-mouth, particularly on those Imax and PLF screens where it seems most at home.
The transgender drama About Ray starring Elle Fanning, Naomi Watts and Susan Sarandon, which had been on the Rentrak schedule for a debut this weekend in moderate release, has been pulled by The Weinstein Company. The picture, which received a standing ovation at the Toronto Film Festival when it premiered there, will now go sometime later in the year.
On a platform release is Bleecker Street’s Pawn Sacrifice which opens Wednesday in New York and Los Angeles before landing in 11 other cities by Friday. The film about the intense 1972 World Chess Championship match between Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire) and Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber) goes wide September 25. It has also gotten good reviews.