September 2016 Box Office Highlights: 'Sully' Leads Third Largest September Ever
After May and June of 2016 saw the monthly box office fall short of 2015 by 12.8% and 11.9% respectively, July and August both saw upticks compared to last year. In fact, August delivered near-record grosses and topped $1 billion in domestic earnings for only the second time, thanks in large part to nearly $290 million from WB's Suicide Squad. That said, while September was a down month—the calendar gross was $586 million from 248 total films, down 6.4% compared to last year ($626.4m)—it was the third largest September gross ever, just behind 2015 and 2011, the only years to ever see the September box office top $600 million.

Leading the September 2016 charge was Clint Eastwood's Sully, which nearly doubled its closest competitor with $99.4 million by the end of the month after releasing on September 9. In second was Sony's The Magnificent Seven remake, which grossed $50.5 million in just eight days after releasing on September 23. That same weekend also saw the release of Warner Bros's Storks, which rounded out the top five, grossing $28.1 million in its first eight days of release.

Also in the top five for the month were carryovers from August, beginning with Don't Breathe, which grossed $49.4 million of its $87+ million so far in the month of September. The other was WB and DC Comics' Suicide Squad, which brought in $33 million in September as it finished the month with a cumulative gross of $319.9 million and has since gone on to gross over $322.5 million. In the month of September Suicide Squad passed both Iron Man 2 and Iron Man to become the thirteenth highest grossing superhero release of all-time domestically.

Looking at the top five new releases of the month, it was extremely back-loaded as four of the top five were released in the final eight days of the month with only Sully emerging from the first half.

  • Sully (9/9) - $113.2m Total Gross / $35m Opening
  • The Magnificent Seven (9/23) - $75.8m Total Gross / $34.7m Opening
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (9/30) - $51.2m Total Gross / $28.9m Opening
  • Storks (9/23) - $50m Total Gross / $21.3m Opening
  • Deepwater Horizon (9/30) - $38.3m Total Gross / $20.2m Opening Total Gross is calculated as of October 9

Speaking of opening weekends, while Sully's $35 million opening ranks as the fifth largest September opening of all-time and The Magnificent Seven's $34.7 million opening ranks as the sixth, September featured more than its fair share of disappointments, of which Relativity was two-for-two.

September featured two films from Relativity's previous regime in the form of the Kate Beckinsale-led thriller The Disappointments Room and the ensemble comedy Masterminds featuring Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig and Jason Sudeikis. The Disappointments Room opened in 1,554 theaters on September 9 to the tune of $1.4 million, resulting in a $903 per theater average, enough to make it one of the worst opening weekend per theater averages of all-time. Masterminds, which endured six release date changes over the course of 18 months before its September 30 release, debuted with $6.5 million from 3,042 theaters and ranks in the top 15 as one of the worst openings ever for a film in 3,000+ theaters.

The month also saw the lackluster openings for Bridget Jones's Diary and Blair Witch, two sequels that were expected to do much better than they did. And Fox's release of Morgan into 2,020 theaters managed to only generate $2 million becoming the seventh worst opening of all-time for a film debuting in 2,000+ theaters.

From a yearly perspective, 2016 was +4.2% ahead of 2015 with $8.559 billion in gross domestic earnings compared to $8.216 billion by the end of September 2015.

At this point last year, 2015 had seen six films gross over $300 million, which included $650+ million from Jurassic World and $458+ million from Avengers: Age of Ultron. By the end of September 2015, the top ten films had grossed a combined $3.25 billion, or 39.6% of the year's domestic gross revenue.

By comparison, the top ten films at the 2016 box office so far have grossed a combined $3.44 billion or 40.2% of the year's domestic gross revenue. Within that number are eight films that have grossed over $300 million, including Finding Dory and Captain America: Civil War, both of which have grossed over $400 million at the domestic box office. Here's a look at the top ten films of 2016 by calendar gross as of September 30:

  • Finding Dory - $484.3 M
  • Captain America: Civil War - $408.1 M
  • The Secret Life of Pets - $364.6 M
  • The Jungle Book - $364. M
  • Deadpool - $363.1 M
  • Zootopia - $341.3 M
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - $330.4 M
  • Suicide Squad - $319.4 M
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens* - $284.7 M
  • The Revenant* - $182.8 M * First released in 2015

Looking ahead through the end of October, which saw The Girl on the Train top last weekend's box office with $24.5 million, a few highlights include this weekend's release of the Ben Affleck thriller The Accountant and Kevin Hart's latest concert film Kevin Hart: What Now? along with the following week's release of Tyler Perry's latest Madea film, Boo! A Madea Halloween.

October also features three more sequels (if you don't count the Madea and Kevin Hart films) beginning with Tom Cruise back in the title role in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back and Ouija: Origin of Evil, both releasing on October 21. The month then concludes with Tom Hanks back again as Robert Langdon in Inferno.

Sequels have been an interesting test case this year with the average sequel performing 15% below its predecessor. From that perspective, should the average hold true we'd be looking at an opening around $12.8 million for Jack Reacher, a $16.8 million opening for Ouija 2 and a $39 million opening for Inferno.

Several factors obviously play into whether or not these averages hold true (such as the Jack Reacher sequel releasing two months earlier than its predecessor), but to just add a little more fuel to the contemplative fire if you compare other 2016 sequels based on the time between the release of the new film and their predecessor the numbers look like this:

  • Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Estimated $12.4 million opening based on an average -18.78% drop for sequels that were released four years after their predecessor
  • Ouija: Origin of Evil

Estimated $18.6 million opening based on an average -6.25% drop for sequels that were released two years after their predecessor
  • Inferno

Estimated $42.3 million opening based on an average -8.45% drop for sequels that were released 6+ years after their predecessor Opening weekend estimates are based on the average performance of sequels from earlier this year. In this case, 2016 has had eight sequels released that were separated by two years or less, five that were separated by four years and seven that were separated by 6+ years, excluding My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.

For a look at September's performance click here and for the full October release calendar click here.

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