Forecast: 'Transylvania', 'Intern' & 'Inferno' Highlight Stacked Weekend

by Brad Brevet

September 24, 2015

It's a stacked weekend with some notable holdovers and a pair of strong-performing limited releases from last weekend set to expand. Add to that a trio of newcomers including the latest from Nancy Meyers, an animated sequel and the curious decision from Jason Blum's newly formed BH Tilt to bring the long-delayed cannibal horror feature The Green Inferno to over 1,500 theaters. Let's peel this onion one layer at a time...

Likely to easily top the box office is Hotel Transylvania 2, the animated sequel featuring the voice of Adam Sandler as Dracula and recent Emmy host Andy Samberg, along with a fleet of additional, top tier voice talents. The first film hit theaters on the same weekend three years ago, opening with $42.5 million from 3,349 theaters, and Sony has added 404 theaters to that 2012 number in hopes of making sure they top the first feature.

In the sequel's favor, the original had strong legs, dipping only 36% in its second and third weekends, and earned an "A-" CinemaScore from opening night audiences, though critics weren't as kind. These facts considered, while Hotel Transylvania had a strong performance, it's not a film that captured attention in the same way as Pixar features or even the Despicable Me franchise, which just turned over its first billion dollar earner with this summer's Minions. In this respect, Hotel Transylvania 2 is playing second fiddle and it seems reasonable to expect an opening around $35.6 million, give or take a couple million on the plus/minus. It certainly doesn't help matters there still aren't any reviews online despite the fact the film was screened for critics as far back as this past Saturday, though it has been marketed heavily on television.

Next we come to The Intern, the latest film from Nancy Meyers, serving an underserved audience that really hasn't had a mass-market feature of this sort all year. Meyers continues to attract big name talent, this time featuring Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro playing off one another. Early reviews seem mixed, but that's been the case for the last few Meyers films including It's Complicated and The Holiday, which is where I'm looking for a comparison.

The Intern is opening in 3,305 theaters, almost 500 more than 2009's It's Complicated and almost 700 more than The Holiday three years earlier. Given the smart release timing and theater count I'm going somewhere in-between the two films for my prediction of $18 million.

The most fascinating new release I've seen in some time is BH Tilt's approach to Eli Roth's cannibal horror The Green Inferno. The film was originally picked up out of the 2013 Toronto Film Festival, but trouble between Open Road and the film's financier, Worldview Entertainment, took it off the 2014 release schedule. It eventually found a home at Blum's BH Tilt, which debuted the fun, low budget thriller Creep on Netflix earlier this year, but is now taking things straight to theaters... 1,540 of them to be exact.

Roth hasn't directed a feature film since 2007's Hostel: Part II, which didn't live up to the original or his debut feature, 2003's Cabin Fever. All things considered, the decision from BH Tilt to aggressively target more than 1,500 theaters with an R-rated film with a rating reason that includes phrases such as "aberrant violence and torture", "grisly disturbing images" and "brief graphic nudity" is bold, but will it pay off?

The studio's stated goal is an opening weekend around $4-5 million as Tilt paid under $1 million to acquire Inferno, but an opening in the realm of $2.3 million seems more reasonable. I'm basing this off very little as this is new territory and perhaps it will be a "shame on me" moment. Doubting Jason Blum seems a little unwise as he's done wonders with low budget releases, but with lackluster reviews and a primarily digital marketing campaign (I finally saw some trailers on television during last week's "South Park"), it's hard to imagine this one attracting too much of an audience. Tilt insists, however, the 1,539 theaters were chosen "because they are historically frequented by die-hard horror fans." Will be interesting to see how it turns out.

Just as interesting as the new releases are a pair of films expanding, one nationwide and the other still biding its time, choosing a limited expansion this weekend. First there's the impressive 3D feature Everest, which performed well on 545 IMAX and premium large format screens last weekend and now expands to 3,006 North American theaters.

Last weekend I compared Everest's release to that of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol as it was really a release plan that hadn't been tried before. To use the same comparison this weekend would mean a 131% bump from this past weekend's $7.2 million opening. I can't go quite that high, but a 110-120% increase doesn't seem unreasonable, placing it in the $15-16 million range for the weekend.

The other notable expansion is Denis Villeneuve's outstanding Sicario, which holds the record for the highest per theater opening this year with a $66,881 PTA last weekend from six theaters. This weekend it's expanding into 59 theaters before going wide on October 2, a similar release pattern to that of Sony Classics' approach to Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris a few years ago, which saw a 222% increase its second weekend. A similar sophomore effort for Sicario would have it knocking on the door to the top ten, and a second weekend around $1.2 million.

When it comes to last weekend's new releases, Maze Runner: Scorch Trials wasn't able to capture the same audience as the original, falling behind its predecessor immediately. Carrying a $61 million budget, $27 million more than the first film, it's going to have to hope for similarly long legs and a strong overseas performance ($82.4 million so far) to catch the first film. ll said, I'm picturing a 55% drop this weekend for a $13.6 million finish.

I also put a little too much stock in Black Mass last weekend, predicting it would finish around $35 million by comparing it to The Town and The Departed. I was largely looking at Scorsese's film and adjusting for inflation, not to mention the fact Mass was opening 171 more theaters. Yet, it managed only $22 million. I'm predicting a 45% drop this weekend for a three-day total of $12.4 million.

Also opening this weekend is Roland Emmerich's Stonewall, which has a bit of controversy surrounding it, into 129 theaters and the 2014 Toronto Film Festival acquisition 99 Homes into two theaters.

Just below are my predictions for this weekend.

  • Hotel Transylvania 2 (3,753 theaters) - $35,653,500
  • The Intern (3,305 theaters) - $18,177,500
  • Everest (3,006 theaters) - $15,177,294
  • Maze Runner: Scorch Trials (3,792 theaters) - $13,647,408
  • Black Mass (3,188 theaters) - $12,449,140
  • The Visit (2,964 theaters) - $5,444,868
  • War Room (1,920 theaters) - $4,602,240
  • The Perfect Guy (1,889 theaters) - $3,800,668
  • The Green Inferno (1,540 theaters) - $2,308,500
  • Sicario (59 theaters) - $1,172,861

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