September 2012 Preview

by Ray Subers
Resident Evil: Retribution

August 31, 2012

September is typically the slowest month of the year at the box office—last September set the record with a measly $607 million—and this year looks to be no different. Resident Evil: Retribution and Finding Nemo's 3D re-release should both do decent business, and Trouble with the Curve will generate a lot of interest thanks to Clint Eastwood's first on-camera role in nearly four years. Otherwise, though, things are looking pretty quiet, and it would be surprising if September 2012 set a new monthly record.

September 7 - 'The Words' Vs. 'Cold Light of Day'

The weekend after Labor Day is always a quiet weekend overall, but in each of the past three years there's at least been one movie that opened north of $20 million (Contagion, Resident Evil: Afterlife and Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself). There's absolutely no chance that happens this year; instead, the box office will likely resemble this weekend in 2008 when Bangkok Dangerous led with just $7.8 million.

Awareness is decent on The Words thanks to a pretty substantial marketing effort thus far, though that's only one component to getting people out to theaters. More importantly, people need to actually think the movie looks interesting, and it doesn't seem like that's happening. Previews are about as vague as the title, and at best show Bradley Cooper playing essentially the same role as he did in Limitless (an author who makes some sort of Faustian bargain in order to achieve fame and success). Unfortunately, The Words lacks the striking visuals and intriguing sci-fi premise that made Limitless such a break-out hit, and if the movie somehow winds up successful it will be a true demonstration of Cooper's star power.

For the longest time, it seemed like The Cold Light of Day was going to get buried with a limited release, but Lionsgate/Summit ultimately made a last-minute decision to release the movie in 1,500 locations. It's possible that's a contractual obligation with Bruce Willis who, unlike Nicolas Cage, doesn't appear in limited release action movies. Regardless, because this decision was made so late there's been virtually no marketing effort, and therefore the movie will probably be one of the least-successful outings in Willis's career.

September 14—'Resident Evil 5' Vs. 'Nemo 3D'

The second week of September features the month's two most predictable movies, from a box office perspective. The Resident Evil series has been fairly consistent over the past decade, and 2010's Resident Evil: Afterlife is the highest-grossing entry with $60.1 million. More importantly, the movie earned an outstanding $236 million overseas, which was way above its predecessors, and is the main reason why Sony is back with a clearly more-expensive fifth edition. Previews suggest that previous stars like Sienna Guillory and Michelle Rodriguez are back, making this an all-star edition of sorts (similar to Fast Five). Add in the typical butt-kicking action led by franchise regular Milla Jovovich, and there's a very good chance this sets a new series high at the domestic box office.

Last September, Disney scored with its 3D re-release of The Lion King ($94.2 million), and it soon-after added four more animated re-releases to its upcoming schedule. Finding Nemo is the second of these movies, and the first one from Pixar (though Toy Story and Toy Story 2 were previously re-released as a double-feature). Nemo remains one of Pixar's highest-grossing and most-popular movies, and the underwater sequences seems well-suited for a 3D upgrade. Unfortunately, this year's 3D re-releases have had a fairly low ceiling: Titanic 3D was tops with $57.9 million, followed by Beauty and the Beast ($47.6 million) and Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace ($43.5 million). Those movies were all at least 12 years old, though, while Finding Nemo came out less than a decade ago. Matching Beauty and the Beast's gross seems like a given, but getting much higher than that would be a surprise.

Also opening this weekend in limited release is The Master, which is writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson's follow-up to There Will Be Blood ($40.2 million). Anderson's fans were already stoked for this one thanks to its impressive cast (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams) and potentially controversial subject matter (is it or isn't it a Scientology movie?), and the anticipation is even higher following a series of well-received advanced screenings. That being said, the movie is getting a reputation as a think-piece of sorts, and reportedly doesn't have a "I drink your milkshake!" showstopper to drive word-of-mouth. Matching There Will Be Blood's $40.2 million is going to be tough, but its undeniable that this will be one of the most interesting arthouse stories of the year.

Continued with a look at 'Looper,' 'Dredd,' 'Trouble with the Curve' and more >>

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Related Charts
September 2012 Release Schedule
2012 Grosses (2012-only releases)
Year-to-Date Comparison

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> MORE: News | Features
WEEKEND: Weekend Estimates, 'Equalizer 2' #1
DAILY: Friday Estimates, 'Mamma Mia! 2' #1
WEEKLY: 'Hotel Transylvania 3' Tops the Week with $66.6m
DAILY: Thursday 7/19 (38 tracked)
DAILY: Wednesday, 7/18 (30 tracked)
DAILY: Tuesday, 7/17 (33 tracked)
New MPAA Ratings Added
DAILY: Monday, 7/16 (32 tracked)