President Obama says that Hurricane Matthew will have “a devastating effect” when it hits landfall, but as of right now for exhibitors and distributors, it’s commerce before chaos.
Currently, no major chains, including Regal and AMC, are planning to close this weekend. Calls made to southeastern theaters by Deadline say they’re holding out for the last minute, and will have a better idea tonight as to whether they’ll turn off the lights by Friday. Should Matthew torment the southeast, it could dent weekend ticket sales by an additional -5%. Currently, the fall box office which is close to $537M is down 9% from the same post-Labor Day through October 2 period a year ago. The last time Mother Nature socked the B.O. was during the third weekend of January with snowstorm Jonas which prevented wide releases that weekend from crossing $16M at the B.O.
Meanwhile, Universal is releasing DreamWorks feature adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ 2011 chick lit bestseller The Girl on the Train directed by Tate Taylor. Pic follows a divorcee who, while on the train, passes by life’s most perfect couple…until she sees something terrible happen. Many would like to think that it’s Gone Girl all over again at the box office. But this Girl isn’t expected to be with a high $20M opening at 3,135 theaters per insider and industry projections. Gone Girl opened to $37.5M, but it was fueled by Ben Affleck’s star power and director David Fincher’s fandom. The Girl on the Train‘s lead passenger is Sicario‘s Emily Blunt. In addition, Girl on the Train‘s ending, while a surprise, isn’t a whopper like Gone Girl‘s. Right now, Fandango sees advance ticket sales for The Girl on the Train zooming past fall 2013’s Prisoners which debuted to $20.8M. Girl on the Train is a DreamWorks production and cost an estimated mid $40M before P&A. Thursday showtimes start at 7PM. Girl will pull into select international territories and release simultaneously with domestic in eight markets, including Taiwan, Singapore and Colombia. The film is also being released this weekend in the United Kingdom and Australia where distribution is being overseen by Mister Smith Entertainment. Many say that if Miami gets hit by Hurricane Matthew, it won’t dent that much of the weekend’s business, however, there’s a bigger concern if the southeast gets soaked.
Last weekend’s No. 1 movie, 20th Century Fox/Chernin Entertainment’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is looking to ease at least 50% in its second go-round per industry forecasts with a FSS of $14.4M. Meanwhile, Lionsgate/Participant Media’s Mark Wahlberg feature Deepwater Horizon, is expected to only dip 40-45% to $11M-$12M thanks to that A- CinemaScore and platinum reviews.
Fox Searchlight has its $17M Sundance Film Festival acquisition Birth of a Nation, and despite the film being weighted down by its filmmaker/star Nate Parker’s controversial 17-year old acquittal on rape charges, exhibitors have been embracing this movie. Word is that they’re phoning up Searchlight for more playdates and double screens for the antebellum South slave revolt movie. It’s even playing on some PLFs. Originally, Searchlight planned on 1,500 bookings, now Birth of a Nation is in an estimated 2,100 theaters, playing everywhere from African American markets to specialty venues to malls. Projection is $7M-$9M over three days, with Fandango seeing advance ticket sales clicking aheads of STX’s Free State of Jones (which opened to $7.6M).
Lastly, there’s CBS Films’ family title Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life adapted from the James Patterson bestseller. It’s a different type of revolt movie from Birth of a Nation, specifically relating to a quiet teenager’s scheming against his rule-obsessed school. It’s at 2,750 and is projected to pull in $6M-$8M with a hope that kids 6-12 shows up. Middle School is being distributed by Lionsgate. The near $9M film was co-financed and co-produced by James Patterson Productions and CBS Films with Participant Media executive producing. CBS has been doing a lot of grass roots marketing and screening Middle School to a number of elementary and middle schools in an effort to spur word of mouth.
Elsewhere, Imax will begin to screen the Terrence Malick documentary Voyage of Time in about 17 museum locations.