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Hollywood's New Box-Office Problem: Fall's Prestige Movie Pileup
And you thought summer was bad. As Hollywood reels from a wave of big-budget tentpole flameouts, insiders are beginning to fret about the unprecedented number of adult dramas set to hit theaters in September and October. Some are predicting more box-office carnage.
Blame Argo: Last year's hit hostage drama debuted Oct. 12 and played in theaters for six months on its way to a best picture Oscar and $232.3 million in worldwide grosses for Warner Bros. In recent years, studios and indie companies have opened most of their awards contenders between Thanksgiving and Christmas to keep films fresh in the minds of voters. But Argo has led to a shift in thinking. "Everybody is trying to get in early and first because of Argo," says Erik Lomis, head of distribution at The Weinstein Co., which mostly is opting to avoid the September/October crush.
The lineup of early fall movies is dizzying in terms of talent in proximity to one another. Within six weeks, studios will open Ron Howard's Formula One period pic Rush; the space thriller Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney; Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake's thriller Runner Runner; the Somali pirate drama Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks and directed by Paul Greengrass; Bill Condon's WikiLeaks biopic The Fifth Estate; J.C. Chandor and Robert Redford's All Is Lost; Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave, starring Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender; and Ridley Scott's The Counselor, starring Fassbender and Pitt opposite Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz. (Yes, Pitt and Fassbender have two movies opening within a week of each other.) "This is a play to get early visibility and become a touchstone. But this year is going to be brutal," says one concerned film executive.
These titles won't have to face the major holiday tentpoles, but they will compete with the usual autumn class of genre movies, including Insidious: Chapter 2 (Sept. 13), Machete Kills (Oct. 4) and Carrie (Oct. 18). Falling in between is the action thriller Prisoners, starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal (Sept. 20).
Argo certainly wasn't the first adult prestige pic to launch in early fall. Other recent examples include Affleck's The Town, which debuted in September 2010, and two high-profile Sony films, The Social Network and Moneyball, which opened in October 2010 and September 2011, respectively. Social Network and Moneyball were nominated for best picture, but both lost to movies released in November and December. Recent films that have gone out early and struggled even more to maintain momentum include Drive, The Ides of March and The Master. But Argo proved a well-funded campaign can maintain awards buzz (and box office) from the Toronto International Film Festival in early September through February, hence others following suit.
This year, the action gets underway in earnest on Sept. 20, when Universal opens Rush, starring Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl, in New York and Los Angeles. Also opening in limited runs are Fox Searchlight's Enough Said, starring the late James Gandolfini, and Roadside Attractions' dramedy Thanks for Sharing, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Mark Ruffalo. The following Friday, Sept. 27, Rush expands nationwide opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt's sex romp Don Jon, from Relativity.
On Oct. 4, Warner Bros.' Gravity and Fox's Runner Runner roll out (Fox actually pushed the film back by a week to avoid Rush). Sony will open Hanks' Captain Phillips nationwide the following Friday, while Fifth Estate opens in New York and L.A. before expanding nationwide Oct. 18 -- the same day Roadside's All Is Lost and Searchlight's 12 Years a Slave begin battling.
Compare that with October 2012, when Argo had little competition. Cloud Atlas and The Paperboy were busts, and The Sessions never crossed over from art houses.
- Good. Hopefully, some of them will actually be worth viewing.
- That's not to say that I don't enjoy superhero movies or science fiction movies. ("Elysium", for one, seems interesting, and I actually have appreciated several of the Marvel flicks.) I just think that the overall quality of Hollywood has been declining for the past decade.
Rush arguably has a key advantage being first.
"We love our date for this kind of film," says Universal president of distribution Nikki Rocco. "I'm always worried about there being too many movies, and that's why we are out in September. And it gives us a two-week berth before Captain Phillips."
The danger, of course, is consumer fatigue, which has plagued the 2013 summer box office. A record number of big-budget tentpoles have been released, most of them vying for the same male audience. Some, including The Lone Ranger, After Earth, Pacific Rim and White House Down, will result in hundreds of millions of dollars in losses for Hollywood studios. The fear now is that the crush of fall adult films could result in more casualties.
- As usual Hollywood wants to take a shortcut and learns the wrong lesson. Argo didn't do well because it was released early, it did well because it was actually.... wait for it.... a GOOD MOVIE that people recommended to friends. You can't release a turd in October and expect it to make $300 million and win Best Picture.
- lmfao @ the Timberlake movie mentioned among that lineup. That's going straight to Razzie baby.
Also this is bullshit. Argo's success was cause it was a popcorn movie AND prestige one. Much like Silver Linings Playbook. Those were mainstream films with mass appeal that just happened to be Oscar worthy.
- [quote]"We love our date for this kind of film," says Universal president of distribution Nikki Rocco. "I'm always worried about there being too many movies, and that's why we are out in September. And it gives us a two-week berth before Captain Phillips."
I'd bet good money Nikki Rocco had gold plated knee pads.
- And this is a problem because? Some of us would like movies of potential interest to intelligent adults to open within the first 2/3 of the year in addition to Sept., Oct., and Nov.
- There's too much product. The market will weed out the weak from the strong. Hopefully, some studios will go bankrupt.
- There were too many CGI action flicks this summer, one after another after another and it was just sensory overload. They're all pretty much the same plotline as well. The public just got burned out.
- [quote] starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal (Sept. 20).
Jesus! Did they fuck?
- When is Saving Mr. Banks premiering? That's the only one I'm really excited to see.
- Not ONE of those films would entice me back to the cinema...
- Meryl Streep's bid for another Oscar AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY opens Christmas Day. Next Christmas it will be a battle of the musicals. Unless one is pulled, HIP-HOP ANNIE and INTO THE WOODS will be going head to head for the Christmas day dollars.
- The only reason Argo had such a long run and ended up with all the awards was because people were waiting for something better to come along and it never did so Argo's reputation grew and grew as the taste makers decided it would be the awards magnet of the season. Great ensemble, well made film despite its weak script.
A lot of these movies sound like crap. Chris Hemsworth (and Daniel Bruhl!) isn't going to open a film. JC Chandor's Margin Call was a terrible film - no idea how that got so overrated but I'm sure no one is holding their breath waiting for a follow-up with box office gold (not!) Robert Redford. I love Steve McQueen's work but that's strictly art house fare. Also, The Ides of March wasn't very good; Gosling was unconvincing and not very compelling in a weak script - it was no Michael Clayton.
The only beads I can read here say, in keeping with the unexpected success of Mama, The Conjuring and The Purge, Carrie is likely to open well.
- I'm most excited for Daniel Bruhl, an actor I've long admired who's finally getting some major Hollywood attention by appearing in both "Rush" and "The Fifth Estate" -- if he's as good as he usually is, he could be an Oscar contender.
But, yeah, I do wish they'd push some of these up to the summer. I'm already tired of the popcorn crap. Fruitvale Station is a magnificent film, but it's the only "mature" drama that's been released all summer, so far.
- Sometimes you get them in July at the earliest, but it's rare.
Occasionally something worthy is out in like February but they of course have no memory so it's forgotten. Then there's the Oscar buzz flops/films that came out later than intended or earlier as they knew they wouldn't make it. *cough* The Great Gatsby*
- Then possibly I'll get my fucking screeners sooner than later!
- well none of thsoe "presitage" movies seems interesting enough, i hope they all fail miserably in the box office
- Did you vote for "Crash", R17?
- Nope, BBM.
- Of those listed, the only ones I'm remotely interested in seeing are "Rush," "Gravity," "The Fifth Estate" and "12 Years a Slave."
- Glad to hear it, R20.
- Get a life R22.
- Kill Your Darlings is the only think I'm interested in and of course, it wasn't mentioned. They should have opened it last spring, the way they originally intended.
Gravity is a big zero. There will be no Oscar interest there. It was pushed back twice.
- Hijacking is a Danish Somali pirate drama that would interest me more than the Tom Hanks, although I'm sure hanks will fare well.
Bill Condon's Wikileaks I'll be following whatever happens (much like I went to Social Network and ended up disappointed because I liked the script better).
The two BradPitt-Fassbender movies. You can't really go wrong with Ridley Scott or Steve McQueen.
Also The East (which I liked, very much so actually) was produced by Scott Free. And it reminded me of Tony Scott's untimely death. And that was a shame.
- What? No film of Sully Sullenberg landing in the Hudson River starring Tom Hanks as the grizzled near-retirement airline pilot?
I guess it's too soon.
- Who R26? Haven't been following local news thousands of km away.
- Kill Your Darlings hasn't opened yet? I'd forgotten about that one. Tbh, it doesn't seem like much.
- Has anyone here seen and enjoyed THE EAST?
Wondering if the title did them in. It was a pretty good movie.
- I saw The East. It was ok. Best part was Skarsgaard's ass.
- Tom Hanks is over.
- Good I hope a number of these either flop or underperform (hopefully the bad/mediocre ones only) and studios start spreading out the wealth over the year.
Every summer it seems there's at least a couple of solid movies aimed at adults. Did I miss them this summer or did they never come?
- [quote]Gravity is a big zero. There will be no Oscar interest there. It was pushed back twice.
I don't know about Oscars but are audiences going to want to watch Sandra floating in space waiting to die for nearly two hours?
- What about Foxcatcher ? The new Bennett Miller movie?
I guess it's not supposed to be a big box office contender. It's more aiming for the art-house, Oscar bait with another interesting role for Ruffalo, a dramatic role for Steve Carrell, and maybe more respectability for Tatum. I wish them well and hope they don't get lost in the crowd.
- Tom Hanks will never be over unless he is revealed to be peadophile. He's the male Julia Roberts (minus the looks, but he has a little more talent so it all balances out).
Ironically enough, the two together don't make hits.
- How about Thank You For Sharing, the lite sex addicts movie? How is that not mentioned? It's got Goop in it.
- It's hilarious that an industry that fools the public into thinking it is "creative" is so uncreative with their marketing, release dates, etc.
- [quote]lmfao @ the Timberlake movie mentioned among that lineup. That's going straight to Razzie baby.
Leave Justin alone! The movie hasn't been released yet, and don't be surprised if he gets nominated for an Oscar.
- I do not like Justin's face, I do not like Justin's nose, I do not find him attractive and have never, ever, ever understood his appeal or success.
- R8, traditionally, that doesn't hold true for the film industry, the idea being that the market expands to accommodate the product. Good films will always have an audience, as bad films won't. If the audience wants to see something, it will. If it doesn't, it won't.
None of the tent poles that died this summer were worthy of an audience.
- Bennett Miller is a terrible director.
- AMERICAN BEAUTY opened in September and went on to win Best Picture, just like ARGO.
This is nothing new.
But Hollywood executives are constantly new. They're also ignorant of history and have short memories, chasing fads like lemmings.
- Argo was a good movie, I don't think it being released in Oct made it so. Giant pieces of crap are released during award season. Although Argo was not the best movie I have seen, consider the fact that the Muppet movie was better reviewed than most of the shit that comes out nowadays.
- Hollywood is going through in 2013 what the music industry did in 2000 with Napster. People seem sot be choosing quality tv and indie films via alternative outlets lie Netflix and Hulu. So obviously clueless suits figure that the way to combat this is to produce "adult oscar bait" shite and to flood the cinemas with it post Venice/Telluride/Toronto. Too bad this model does *not* work anymore. People can see what they want whenever on whatever device they choose.
- R24, GRAVITY was only pushed back because the post=production work took long. Feedback from early screenings says that the film is very good.
- I'm mostly curious about GRAVITY because of Bullock. After all it's only the second big-girl role from an nearly 50 year old woman.
- What's the holdup with Into the Woods? I haven't heard anything about that movie in months.
- "There's too much product. The market will weed out the weak from the strong. Hopefully, some studios will go bankrupt."
Since more prestige movies are being released earlier, wouldn't that spread the range of openings for them over a four month period, rather than over the Thanksgiving to December 4 weeks? And, accordingly, wouldn't that mean less product rather than more concentrated in a very short period?
- Fargo was a good film, but it wasn't the best film release that year. Their are far better films showing on Netflix, as r44 stated.
- What bull. Argo won because it was a really great movie in every way. Many of the other films were either shit or watchable but not great. They can fuss all they want about release date but in the end it depends if you deliver or not.
- INTO THE WOODS isn't coming out until December 2014.
- Fargo, r49, or Argo?
- Argo's biggest asset was that it perfectly toed the line between prestige and popcorn. It was a movie anyone could enjoy.
- It also helped last year that a) support did not coalesce around a single film and b) Ben Affleck was snubbed for a Best Director nomination, thus giving it an element of a sympathy vote.
- Oh my God, I meant "Argo"...how embarrassing.
- Argo was one of the most overrated things I've seen in ages. Poorly written rubbish, two-dimensional characters. Ben Affleck should never be a leading man, he's duller than dishwater.
- You can't really go wrong with Ridley Scott....
Did you see "Prometheus?"
- What r44 said. Hulu, Netflix, On Demand and for the younger people bittorrents and the streaming sites are where it's at now instead of paying $$ to go to the movies. And also, there are so many damn good shows on cable tv that are better than what's playing at the theater. It's turning into a different world.
The CGI action/comic book movies are getting played out as well, I think. The plots are becoming redundant and CGI isn't as new and exciting as it used to be. I think the public is finally beginning to tune out on that genre.
- Yet the traditional wisdom, r40, was created in a pre-VOD/Netflix world. The audience for entertainment--not just movies--is so fragmented now.
And we of course have had a down economy with ticket prices continuing to rise.
- R25 " You can't really go wrong with Ridley Scott" , didn't he make that dreadful "Prometheus"?
- Oh God, here come the DL Prometheus trolls.
- When I first saw "Prometheus" I wasn't sure if I loved it or hated it. But, the more I saw it, the more I liked it. It's not a perfect film, but it really makes you think. I can't wait for the sequel, when the girl confronts the human aliens.
I saw it 5 times already. I think people hate "Prometheus" because they don't understand it. And, fast becoming legendary cult status.
- [quote]What [R44] said. Hulu, Netflix, On Demand and for the younger people bittorrents and the streaming sites are where it's at now instead of paying $$ to go to the movies. And also, there are so many damn good shows on cable tv that are better than what's playing at the theater. It's turning into a different world.
That's why more film stars are doing TV shows.
- They make movies for 12 year old boys. I've switched to Netflix, especially the new miniseries they're showing now.
- Their will be a ton of action comic book films coming in the fall. So, I guess I'll sit this one out, and watch Netflix.
- And to think that this is the best Hollywood has to offer... I think I'll stick with HBO and Showtime, thank you very much.
- Haha I've not seen Prometheus. My colleague said it was great (he's an idiot, who studied "film" for two or three years to avoid the military and is now an office clerk).
American Gangster was my last foray into Ridley Scott land. He's still a very good director, but I only go see material that I find interesting. If I like the material, I know he'll do well.
- Yes, A Good Year is an underrated modern classic. Along with Robin Hood.
- I want to see this! Not before 2014.
- Why you say that R41 ?
Could you develop if you are still here ?
Just curious, as I would have labeled him "good director" since he brought Oscar noms to his actors.
- Some of these predictions were really wrong!
- Gravity will disappear? Biggest miss on the list, although there are some other howlers.
- So many of these "prestige" pics disappeared without a trace.