Weekend Forecast: ‘Blair Witch,’ ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby,’ ‘Hillsong – Let Hope Rise’ & ‘Snowden’

Though the box office usually counts Labor Day weekend to be the final weekend of summer, the official end of the season is the Fall Equinox, September 22, which makes this upcoming weekend the season’s actual bookend. To help us celebrate the transition to chillier times four new movies will be opening in wide release, targeting each of the four quadrants of moviegoers (males and females below and above 25). Universal will release the third film in their Bridget Jones franchise entitled Bridget Jones’s Baby, 12 years after we last saw the bumbling character grace the screens in Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason. Lionsgate will release Blair Witch, the surprise sequel to one of the most profitable movies of all time The Blair Witch Project. Pure Flix releases the oft-delayed Christian themed Hillsong – Let Hope Rise while Open Road Films unveils their biopic of infamous whistleblower Edward Snowden simply titled Snowden.

Blair Witch

PROS:

  • The Blair Witch Project was one of the most successful independent movies of all time with a reported budget of $60,000 versus a worldwide gross of close to $250 million. Even outside of the phenomenal ticket sales it was a huge part of the horror pantheon thanks to its use of the shaky camera/found footage genre. While it did not create the technique (that honor goes to 1980’s Cannibal Holocaust), the preceding two decades saw seven other movies use the technique, with a total box office of less than $8 million for all. In the years since Blair Witch the technique has been used in some form in a whopping 127 films. Safe to say Blair Witch created an entire genre single-handedly which is one of the most profitable sub-genres of all in Hollywood.
  • While there has been 17 years between the Blair Witch movies it has remained in the public eye thanks to the popularity of the technique which it made famous.
  • Last year’s The Visit was very successful in the same genre with a $25 million opening in September.

CONS:

  • Doubtful that lightning can strike twice here. The original was a novelty which is no longer the case and the genre has been filled with very similar films in the 17 years that have passed. Audiences might just be tired of it all.
  • Horror has had a bounce-back year in 2016, having the genre’s best year since 2010 but that also means that fans of the genre have had plenty to feast on. Blair Witch might just be lost in the midst with fans looking to embrace fresher entries.

Bridget Jones’s Baby

PROS:

  • The first two films in the romantic comedy series, 2001’s Bridget Jones’s Diary and 2004’s Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, have a passionate fan base. Renée Zellweger received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her role in the first installment.
  • The first two films generated over $500 million in worldwide box office.
  • The three novels written that feature Bridget Jones have all sold over 1 million copies, making writer Helen Fielding one of the most successful authors of the past 20 years.
  • Early reviews have been nothing short of great, with a 88% fresh rating at present on Rotten Tomatoes, it is one of a handful of second sequels to be the best reviewed film in the franchise (the first films was 81% fresh, the second just 27% fresh).
  • Bad Moms proved that the over 25 female quadrant was more than ready to embrace something other than the blockbusters of summer, and Bridget Jones is aiming to tackle the same audience once more.

CONS:

  • It’s been 12 years since Edge of Reason came out and Bridget Jones has fallen out of the mainstream pop culture’s view for the most part. Fans of the novel will line up no doubt but outside of that group it might have a hard time capturing the interest of audiences once more. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 comes to mind as another example of a film hitting the same demographic that had a long wait between installments and failed to live up to the lofty marks set by its predecessor.
  • The second film grossed only $40 million domestically versus $71 million for the first (and was panned critically as well). Regardless of how strong reviews are the third may follow the same trend.

Hillsong – Let Hope Rise

PROS:

  • Christian-themed films have seen an explosion in popularity in recent years, and 2016 is no different with 16 films being released in the genre making it one of the most active years ever. Many people automatically point to 2004’s Passion Of The Christ as the catalyst for the recent boom, but discount recent releases since none have lifted up to its lofty earnings records. However, the genre has had many low budget releases which have raked in handsome profits over the last decade, with titles such as FireproofWar Room and Miracles From Heaven coming to mind. Like the found footage horror genre mentioned earlier, the Christian genre is one of the few that can consistently rake in big profits and box office dollars with micro-budgets.
  • With over 200,000 Facebook likes it has generated a lot of buzz online prior to release on the service, especially impressive when you consider that Pure Flix is a relatively new distributor with only four prior films to its resume.

CONS:

  • Pure Flix has never released a film to gross more than $21 million at the box office.
  • With less than 1,000 theaters this weekend it will severely limit its opening potential.
  • The film was originally scheduled for the Easter weekend of 2015 but was bounced around three different distributors before landing on this weekend. With trailers being in circulation for over a year audiences might be weary to rush out and see it as numerous release date shifts and delays are red flags for most. This also explains some of the hefty Facebook like number.

Snowden

PROS:

  • National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden revealed classified documents showing the previously-unrevealed extent of NSA digital surveillance. Everybody has an opinion: some call him a hero, others call him a traitor. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump implied in a recent speech that Snowden should be executed, while rumors abound that President Obama might pardon Snowden during his lame duck session. No matter your stance, the film should certainly stir up some controversy, which is often good for ticket sales.
  • With the presidential election right around the corner,  and with politics and surveillance on Americans’ minds, perhaps the film’s mid-September release date — usually a time of comparatively lower grosses — could actually play to the movie’s advantage.

CONS:

  • The film was unable to find a major studio willing to finance or distribute it, leaving it to independent distributor Open Road Pictures. Considering there are several A-listers in the cast and it’s based on a person who almost everybody knows about, that’s a likely sign that the major distributors didn’t think it would make much money.
  • Originally slated to open in December 2015 in time for awards season, the film was pushed back to May 2016 for the start of the summer movie season, then delayed again to its current September 2016 date. That doesn’t indicate much confidence in the film. Films generally make more money in December or May — traditionally two of the highest grossing months on the calendar — than September. This may have been a squandered opportunity from a box office perspective or a straight out dump of the film to salvage what they could.

Top 10 Forecast

BoxOffice Pro forecasts this weekend’s top ten films will generate $82.5 million. That would mark a 14% decrease from last year’s $96.1 million when The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials ruled supreme with $30.3 million.

Check out our complete weekend forecast below.

Title Distributor Weekend Domestic Total through
Sunday, September 18
Sully Warner Bros. $24,000,000 $73,100,000
Blair Witch Lionsgate $20,500,000 $20,500,000
Bridget Jones’s Baby Universal $14,000,000 $14,000,000
Snowden Open Road $6,000,000 $6,000,000
When the Bough Breaks Sony / Screen Gems $5,680,000 $23,100,000
Don’t Breathe Sony / Screen Gems $4,130,000 $73,950,000
Suicide Squad Warner Bros. $3,150,000 $312,230,000
Hillsong – Let Hope Rise Pure Flix $2,500,000 $2,500,000
Kubo and the Two Strings Focus Features $1,820,000 $43,580,000
The Wild Life (2016) Lionsgate/Summit $1,670,000 $5,730,000
Boxoffice Staff

3 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Don't Mind Me Now September 15, 2016

    You might want to point out in the cons for Snowden that star Joseph Gordon-Levitt (an actor I like) has a terrible track record at the box office of late – The Walk, Sin City 2, Don Jon and Premium Rush all did mediocre-to-terrible business, and The Night Before did below-average business for a Seth Rogen comedy. With the exception of Looper (which had a killer concept and a pre-Die Hard 5 Bruce Willis to back him up) he does not have a lead-role hit to his name, and one of those failures was another biopic. At this point, banking a movie on him is a bad call – especially considering most of those movies got better reviews than Snowden is currently getting.

    Reply
  2. Avatar
    BoxOfficeWeekend September 15, 2016

    IMO, the problem is not the Snowden movie itself. The studio releasing Snowden, Open Road Films, had a hand in releasing Silent HIll 2 and other box office flops. This studio has won many weekends where there were a weak lineup of films released during that given time.

    Whenever I see Open Road Films is attached to projects, I steer away from these films. Visit http://www.OpenRoadFilms.com and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

    Of course, this is all in my opinion. Other moviegoers may enjoy watching their low budget films.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Unbreakable September 16, 2016

      Okay I’m not in love with Open Road Films, but to steer away from their low budget films seems a bit rediculus to me! They released last year’s Oscar winner for best picture in Spotlight, and other solid films like End of Watch, The Grey, Chef, Nightcrawler, etc…
      Don’t get me wrong Silent Hill 2 and other films they have released are garbage but that’s every studio!
      P.S. I’m sure you’re right about the film not making very much money this weekend.

      Reply

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