The month of September typically serves as a transition period between the big-budget blockbusters of the Summer and the high-minded prestige fare of the Fall. As a result, September releases tend to be fairly modest, and September is consistently the lowest-grossing month of the year at the domestic box office.
Even with appealing sequels Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 and Insidious Chapter 2, this upcoming month will be no different. Without much help from Summer holdovers, it's unlikely that September 2013 tops September 2011's $603.5 million monthly record. September 6
The only major nationwide release on the first weekend of September is Riddick, which marks the third time that Vin Diesel has portrayed the titular character. A year before Diesel starred in The Fast and the Furious, he appeared as Riddick in Pitch Black, which earned $39.2 million on its way to becoming something of a cult classic. In 2004, he was back in The Chronicles of Riddick, which grossed $57.8 million but was viewed as a miss due to its much bigger budget.
Nine years later—and on the heels of three Fast & Furious movies that have earned a combined $602 million at the domestic box office—Diesel is returning to the role in a scaled-down sci-fi thriller that appears to be closer to Pitch Black than to its sequel. Universal Pictures has been marketing the movie hard, and without any major competition it's likely to earn at least as much as Pitch Black; with significantly greater foreign potential, this should be a nice early Fall hit. September 13 Insidious Chapter 2 faces off against Luc Besson's The Family on the second weekend of the month, though it probably won't be much of a competition.
In April 2011, the first Insidious opened to $13.3 million, which is a modest figure for supernatural horror movies. It had unusually strong word-of-mouth, though, and ultimately closed with a very good $54 million total. Aside from building on Insidious's reputation, Chapter 2 should benefit from the fact that director James Wan was also responsible for Summer 2013 horror sensation The Conjuring (over $132 million to date). Add in a creepy marketing campaign and a Friday the 13th opening, and it's hard to imagine that this doesn't at least come close to its predecessor.
Action comedy The Family also opens on September 13th, though its prospects aren't nearly as high. Outside of the Taken series, Luc Besson's name doesn't go all that far—his highest-grossing non-Taken production is Transporter 2 with $43.1 million. Set in France and starring an older big-name actor, The Family calls to mind From Paris with Love, which also attempted to leverage the Taken brand in to similar grosses. That ultimately closed with just $24.1 million, which seems like a fair expectation for The Family. September 20
As a kidnapping drama set against a dreary color palette, Prisoners doesn't appear to have a ton of commercial appeal. One advantage it does have, though, is that it will be the first movie of the Fall to receive any kind of awards buzz. Combine that with the strong cast—aside from Jackman, there's also Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, and Viola Davis, among others—and this will be a solid choice for adult audiences. Battle of the Year arrives at a time when the dance movie craze seems to have completely died off: the genre has been fairly quiet since it was spoofed in 2009's Dance Flick, and the popular Step Up series had its lowest-grossing outing yet last year. If Battle of the Year seemed to evolve the genre at all, it may have a chance to find an audience. Unfortunately, it looks derivative of past hits You Got Served and Stomp the Yard, and should ultimately gross less than those movies ($40.4 million and $61.4 million, respectively). September 27
While it will make the majority of its money in October, the biggest September release will almost certainly be Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. At the same time in 2009, the first Cloudy movie opened to $30.3 million on its way to a solid $124.9 million. The movie still has a strong reputation, which the sequel appears to build off of nicely: Cloudy 2 keeps the characters, animation style, and general concept, but adds to it by introducing "foodimals" (you know, animals made of food).
With a fun marketing campaign already kicking in to gear, it's possible that it sets a new September opening weekend record ahead of last year's Hotel Transylvania ($42.5 million). After that, the movie faces zero competition for family audiences in October, and should therefore top the first Cloudy's $124.9 million total.
Romantic comedies seem to be a rare thing these days, though that hasn't stopped the studios from scheduling Don Jon and Baggage Claim against each other on September 27th. Don Jon—which finds Joseph Gordon-Levitt taking on writer, director, and star duties—was picked up by Relativity at Sundance for a hefty price tag and a guaranteed nationwide release. With Gordon-Levitt playing against Scarlett Johannson, the movie seems like a good date night option, though the thick Jersey accents and the very adult subject matter (porn plays a big role in the story) may be off-putting. It's reasonable to expect this to perform in line with Gordon-Levitt's 50/50 ($35 million), though it probably won't go much higher.
Meanwhile, Fox Searchlight has romantic comedy Baggage Claim opening nationwide, which is a rare move for Fox's arthouse division. Similar to Think Like a Man, the ensemble movie is made up of a mostly black cast, though the central concept isn't quite as strong. Ultimately, it would be surprising if Baggage Claim did much better than past Searchlight releases Just Wright ($21.5 million) and Our Family Wedding ($20.3 million).
Finally, Ron Howard's Rush is set to expand nationwide after a one-week run in New York and Los Angeles. The movie itself isn't really made for U.S. audiences, who are largely unfamiliar with Formula 1 racing and have no idea about James Hunt and Niki Lauda's legendary rivalry. Unless it picks up major awards buzz, Rush won't make much of a dent at the U.S. box office.