Forecast: Depp's Gangster Tale, a Young Adult 'Maze' and a Trip to 'Everest'

by Brad Brevet

September 17, 2015

UPDATE: Warner Bros. is reporting Black Mass took in an estimated $1.4 million from preshows on Thursday night. The original forecast article follows.

This is a fascinating weekend. Two major titles are vying for the attention of two different audiences and are looking at a possible battle for the #1 position. Add to that Universal's premium large format-only release of Everest and we may have a lot to discuss come this Sunday.

The most likely film to take the top spot is the young adult sequel Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. The first film opened this same weekend a year ago with $32.5 million and an "A-" CinemaScore from opening day audiences. The film had strong legs domestically, not dropping more than 50% until its tenth weekend in release. Early reviews for the sequel, however, haven't necessarily been kind. MetaCritic scores put the sequel at a "40" as of this posting, fifteen points below the original with the action being praised, while the overall story appears to be coming up a bit short.

Fans of the original should help Scorch Trials match the success of the 2014 release and new converts will help push it a bit higher as The Maze Runner has been making the rounds on cable over the past few months. Scorch hits 3,791 theaters this weekend, expect a $9,500 per theater result for a total around $36 million for the weekend.

Next is the Johnny Depp gangster thriller Black Mass, which has been well reviewed. In terms of comparisons, the best would seem to be Martin Scorsese's The Departed and Ben Affleck's The Town, both of which are crime sagas set in Boston. The latter film opened this same weekend back in 2010 in 2,861 theaters also after playing the Toronto Film Festival.

The Town opened with $23.8 million ($8,322 pta) while 2006's The Departed opened in early October in 3,017 theaters with $26.8 million ($8,911 pta).

Black Mass, meanwhile, is opening in 3,188 theaters and should be looking at anywhere from $10-11,000 per theater for a three-day total around $35 million. That puts it neck-and-neck with Scorch Trials with the possibility of only a few hundred thousand dollars separating the two.

The most interesting release this weekend, however, is Universal's decision to open Everest one week early on premium large format screens only, an unprecedented move for a non-franchise release. In fact, to my knowledge, the only major studio release to have attempted such a release pattern is Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and it paid off. Ghost Protocol hit 425 IMAX screens in December 2011 and brought in $13.3 million ($30,083 pta) before going wide the following weekend.

Everest, of course, is not a sequel serving as the fifth film in a franchise and does not star Tom Cruise, but it does feature an impressive ensemble including Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Michael Kelly, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Emily Watson and Jake Gyllenhaal to go along with solid early reviews after premiering at the Venice Film Festival. The premium ticket pricing that goes along with an IMAX and large format 3D release will also help that bottom line.

As far as a prediction goes, this is a shot in the dark, but I'm looking at just over 50% of that Ghost Protocol average and going with $16,000 per theater for an $8.7 million weekend. Too high? We'll see, because if this strategy works out, and should TriStar's attempt to do the same thing with Robert Zemeckis' The Walk in late September, we might have a whole new category to add to the genre index.

The final new release looking to crack the top ten is Paramount's Captive starring David Oyelowo and Kate Mara. The film, which is based on Ashley Smith's book "Unlikely Angel: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Hostage Hero", prominently features Rick Warren's "The Purpose Driven Life", a book said to be the second most-translated book of all-time after the Bible, selling more than 30 million copies worldwide. Coming on the heels of War Room (which adds another 298 theaters this week) and last week's 90 Minutes in Heaven, this is the third faith-based movie in the last few weeks.

Paramount is ushering it into 806 theaters this weekend and it's really tough attempting to predict just how this one may land. Advance "A Night of Purpose" screenings are being set up and if it catches on it could result in a strong opening. Using, once again, 2008's Fireproof as a comparison—as it opened in a similar number of theaters (839)—we're looking at a possible $8,000 per theater average and a $6.4 million opening weekend. The question will be whether or not having too many films serving the same audience, releasing back-to-back-to-back, is an issue. 90 Minutes only brought in $2 million last weekend from 878 theaters, so while we're looking at a potential $6+ million opening, this could also finish around $3-4 million.

When it comes to last week's holdovers, The Perfect Guy and The Visit will both be looking at 60+% drops as seems to be the general history for similar films.

Below are predictions for this weekend.

  • Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (3,791 theaters) - $36 million
  • Black Mass (3,188 theaters) - $35 million
  • The Perfect Guy (2,228 theaters) - $9.8 million
  • The Visit (3,148 theaters) - $9.75 million
  • Everest (546 theaters) - $8.7 million
  • Captive (806 theaters) - $6.4 million
  • War Room (1,945 theaters) - $5.8 million
  • A Walk in the Woods (2,139 theaters) - $2.46 million
  • Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2,202 theaters) - $2.54 million
  • Straight Outta Compton (1,931 theaters) - $1.9 million

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