The fall movie season is here and thus begins my multi-part preview of the years final three months in film. This piece will focus on the box office this coming fall so let’s dive right in!
Studios for the last couple years have labored for ways to bring fans back to the theaters. There’s no doubt Star Wars will obviously bring people in despite a very divisive last installment a couple years ago. But will another Terminator spark interest? How about visual master Ang Lee’s latest film with Will Smith? Did you even know there’s a Will Smith lead film coming in a little under a month? As big studios fight for the box office crown, how will small indies like Waves or Uncut Gems do?
Last year seemed to be an odd year at the fall box office. Much like 2019, most of last years blockbusters came and went early in the year. Several big-budget tentpole films failed to live up to expectations. A Harry Potter-verse film drastically underperformed and even animated sequels didn’t get people to the movies. Aquaman was a hit, but the 2018 fall box office was dominated by the Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody. Even A Star is Born was a pretty big box office hit. Both Rhapsody and A Star is Born brought in over a combined $430 million. Both films sported budgets of just above or below $40 million, making these mid-budget Best Picture nominees smashing successes.
This year seems to really be no different, with one fairly large exception. Avengers: Endgame became the highest-grossing film of all time over this past summer. Disney also had several billion-dollar hits. With no superhero fare, well almost none but more on that later, this fall seems like it will belong to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
After The Force Awakens set the all-time opening weekend record back in 2015, along with favorable reviews, it looked like the long-awaited reboot had set the mega property up for a high grossing return. While The Last Jedi was no slouch in the money department, its somewhat puzzling divisiveness kept it from topping its predecessor. Now, the buzz seems to be back surrounding Star Wars.
Nothing seems like it could challenge The Rise of Skywalker. Frozen 2 will undoubtedly be a pretty large hit and good reviews coupled with positive word of mouth will certainly help the cause. Disney has the potential to add two more billion-dollar club films to its 2019 lineup. With Endgame, Captain Marvel, Toy Story 4, Aladdin and The Lion King already newly minted members of said club, Frozen 2 and certainly The Rise of Skywalker could make for their 6th and 7th billion dollar movies. Disney also drops Maleficent: Mistress of Evil in October and I would expect modest box office success but it has the potential to get lost among other more interesting fall releases.
The buzz surrounding Terminator: Dark Fate seems to be none. Originally slated for a summer release, Paramount pushed this back, and they’re dumping on a weekend that also includes some of the years most anticipated indies and Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman.
Then there’s Joker. The clown prince of crime’s origin story starring Joaquin Phoenix is already drawing massive praise and DC movies when they get good reviews or even somewhat positive ones, tend to do very well, see Aquaman. Joker opens on October 4 so in a few short weeks, moviegoers will get to see what audiences and critics from the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals have been raving about.
So what will be the Bohemian Rhapsody of 2019? My money is on James Mangold’s Ford v Ferrari. It’s a seemingly glossy, high energy docu-drama with some movie stars attached. Matt Damon and Christian Bale star in this film that had it’s premiere at the Telluride Film Festival and continued to draw praise in Toronto. Other films that could jump into this conversation of mid-budget movies with box office potential include Warner Brothers’ The Shining sequel Doctor Sleep, Ang Lee’s Gemini Man, Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, Tom Hooper’s Cats adaptation, Zombieland: Double Tap, or even Taika Waititi’s (Thor: Ragnarok) JoJo Rabbit could also play well.
As far as the indie circuit goes, it is usually very hard to tell. If the fall festival season is any indication this year movies like Waves and Uncut Gems could be hits. But, if they play poorly with audiences, they could just be critical darlings. Two foreign films could also be hits including Bong-Joon Ho’s new film Parasite which has been the years most talked about indie and Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory could both drum up some solid numbers.
Finally, Netflix’s fall film lineup could bring people out to the theater to see them. Chief among the possible big draws is Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. The much-anticipated film does sport a three and a half hour runtime which could drive audiences away to wait the two weeks to watch it at home when it premieres on Netflix in homes on November 27. Other Netflix films that will be debuting in theaters before hitting streaming a few weeks after are Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, Dolemite is My Name, The King, The Two Popes and Steven Soderbergh’s second film this year The Laundromat. With these films not playing at any of the large multiplex chains and in smaller theaters, it remains to be seen how audiences will go about viewing these films. The same could be said for Amazon’s The Report and The Aeronauts, both of which will also observe the two-week theatrical window before hitting Prime Video.
What do you have to say? Are you going to the movies this fall? For a continued look at this fall movie season stay tuned!