'Burnt' and 'Crisis' Hope to Make Top 5 in a Weak October Weekend
Last year, the top twelve films tallied a mere $79.9 million over the final weekend in October. It was the sixth worst weekend of 2014. Looking over the list of newcomers hitting theaters this weekend—Burnt, Our Brand is Crisis and Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse—and the lackluster returns of last week's new releases, it appears this weekend's top twelve will be even worse by about $10 million.

Despite four new wide releases last weekend, none of them were able to crack the top three. The Martian has taken the #1 spot three out of the last four weekends, returning to the top position last weekend after briefly ceding to Sony's Goosebumps the week prior. Both films have shown small, weekend-to-weekend drops and it appears they'll be jockeying for first and second place again. Managing to play to two different audiences, both films should drop in the 33% range for weekend's just north of $10 million. Yes, that should be enough to compete for first and second place once again.

Last weekend, managing to keep any newcomers out of the top three was Steven Spielberg's Bridge of Spies with a satisfying 26% drop. This weekend it could take third again, but it will have to fend off the Weinstein's Burnt. The culinary drama top-lined by Bradley Cooper was originally intended to open in limited release last weekend before going wide this weekend, but those plans were scrapped at the last minute. It did, however, open in a few international territories where it collected a meager $1.7 million. The question heading into this weekend will be to ask, Just how big a box office draw is Cooper?

Cooper has been nominated for three acting Oscars for roles in Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle and American Sniper, all of which did quite well at the box office, but I'm not convinced the success of any of those films hinged on Cooper's involvement. I'm also not ready to suggest he had much to do with the success of films such as Guardians of the Galaxy or The Hangover trilogy. This isn't to discredit his work—I find Cooper brings a lot to the films he stars in—I just don't think many are showing up to see him specifically.

A good example of Cooper's draw would be Aloha earlier this year. As of the publishing of this write-up, the two films were separated by one point on Metacritic. Burnt is opening in only 188 more theaters, which would seem to make it safe to assume a similar result, but I can't do it. I'm going below Aloha's $9.6 million opening with a $8.2 million prediction, just barely edging out Bridge of Spies (which is adding 62 theaters this weekend) for third. However, expect Burnt to hang around in theaters a little longer than Aloha, which bowed out after nine weeks, finishing with just over $21 million.

Next we come to the Sandra Bullock political feature Our Brand is Crisis, from director David Gordon Green and co-starring Billy Bob Thornton and Anthony Mackie. I caught the pic at the Toronto Film Festival and, like the Metacritic score suggests, this one's a bit "ho-hum". From a box office perspective, Bullock has had several successes as of late with films such as The Heat and The Blind Side to her credit, along with Gravity. She also provided the voice for the lead antagonist in Minions, which is now over $1.15 billion worldwide. She wasn't, however, the draw for either Gravity or Minions and one might argue more came to see Melissa McCarthy in The Heat than Ms. Bullock.

While we are knee-deep in the Presidential race with a Republican debate happening only just last night, I'm not sure that's necessarily something that works in this film's favor. And without critics raving from the rooftops is there really much of an audience or "need to see it now" factor to Our Brand is Crisis? Warner Bros. is releasing it in 2,202 theaters, three more than The Ides of March played in when it opened in October 2011 with $10.4 million and much stronger reviews. For this reason I'm only predicting a $6 million opening for Crisis in a close race with Hotel Transylvania 2 for a spot in the top five.

The week's final, new wide release is Paramount's Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, which is opening in 1,509 theaters and will be struggling for a place in the top ten. Similar to last weekend's Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, Paramount is utilizing a "sooner-to-VOD" release strategy and that results in a lower theater count for opening weekend. The difference between the two films, however, is Scouts Guide doesn't carry the franchise familiarity of Paranormal Activity. I can't even draw a comparison to a similar title such as 2009's hit zombie-comedy Zombieland as it featured Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone along with a larger marketing presence and a wide, 3,036 theater opening weekend. Given the limited exposure I'm going with a $2.4 million opening, struggling to battle with Crimson Peak and The Intern for the final spot in the top ten.

When it comes to holdovers from last weekend, expect a steep drop for The Last Witch Hunter, around a 56% decline and a second weekend of $4.7 million. As for Universal's Steve Jobs, which did well in limited release but stalled when it went wide last weekend, I'm expecting a much stronger hold and a 25% drop for a $5.3 million weekend*.

In limited release, Sony will bring the curious genre comedy Freaks of Nature (previously titled Kitchen Sink) to 107 theaters, but I'm not expecting much as they may not even report weekend grosses. Focus will continue the slow expansion of Suffragette into 23 theaters this weekend, hoping to improve on the middling (for a potential prestige picture) $19,061 per theater performance from four theaters last weekend.

In other news, while this is shaping up to be one of the worst weekends at the 2015 box office, next weekend brings the arrival of the latest James Bond feature, Spectre. Opening on Monday in UK theaters, Spectre broke UK single day records with $9.2 and $8.8 million on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively. It's UK cume is now up to $24.5 million as it heads into the weekend, hoping to top Skyfall's $32.5 million opening back in 2012.

Spectre arrives in 3,600+ U.S. theaters next weekend where talk will be as to whether or not it will be able to best Skyfall's $88.3 million opening, the best of any of the Bond features. One thing is for sure, it's likely to make more on its own than the whole of this weekend's top twelve. Add the fact next weekend will also see the release of The Peanuts Movie in 3,800+ theaters and we'll have some domestic box office fireworks to discuss.

This weekend's box office predictions are below.

  • Goosebumps (3,618 theaters) - $10,246,176
  • The Martian (3,218 theaters) - $10,017,634
  • Burnt (3,003 theaters) - $8,258,250
  • Bridge of Spies (2,783 theaters) - $7,733,957
  • Our Brand is Crisis (2,202 theaters) - $6,055,500
  • Hotel Transylvania 2 (2,962 theaters) - $6,039,518
  • Steve Jobs (2,493 theaters) - $5,330,034
  • The Last Witch Hunter (3,082 theaters) - $4,758,608
  • Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (1,530 theaters) - $3,632,220
  • Crimson Peak (2,099 theaters) - $2,833,650

  • The Intern (1,521 theaters) - $2,499,003
  • Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (1,509 theaters) - $2,414,400

*FUN FACT: David Fincher was once attached to direct both Steve Jobs and Burnt (back then it was titled Chef). If you go see either film, try and think how they may have been different with Fincher at the helm.

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