Mar 19, 2020
Hit or Bomb? October 2019 movie predictions
It’s October, and since Halloween lasts an entire month nowadays, that means plenty of dark, gothic, creepy, and emo films are on the release schedule. Here to determine which of this month’s movies will put a scare into audiences (or just scare them away from the theater) are our box office gurus Jordon Davis, Thomas Stockel, Julie Kushner, and Tyler Peterson.
Joker (October 4)
A failed standup comedian (Joaquin Phoenix) living in 1980s Gotham City becomes obsessed with a Johnny Carson-like talk show host (Robert De Niro) and slowly descends into criminal madness as he transforms into Batman’s future arch-enemy.
Jordon: I do not get this trend of superhero movies without the superhero. I didn’t get Venom, I certainly didn’t get Suicide Squad, and I don’t get this. I appreciate the artistry of a small, deep-dive into an individual character. I’m glad they got Joaquin Phoenix, who can actually act, as opposed to the Four Loko and angel dust performance given by Jared Leto (whose Oscar is inscribed, “Cherish this because you are never getting within 1,000 feet of the Dolby Theater ever again”). This movie has won all sorts of festival awards and is projected to open north of $50 million. So, even though I won’t see it, I have to call it a HIT.
Thomas S: Can Joker exist without Batman? This is the question that this movie will explore. And to be honest, it’s not the movie I was expecting any producer or director to make. And also honestly, when I heard about this project I wasn’t expecting it to remotely generate the buzz it’s getting now or the controversy it’s causing. The question is, will said buzz or controversy net a huge profit at the box office? I think yes; this movie is going to be a HIT.
Julie: Harvey Dent once said, “Die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a villain.” The presumption that both options lie in each of us makes villain origin stories arguably way more intriguing (and foreboding) than hero ones. In terms of villains, who’s more worthy of such a tale than a complex, disturbing character like the Joker? And who better to play creepy, complex, and disturbing than Joaquin Phoenix (well, maybe Christopher Walken, but we’ll save that for the sequel). Look, I’m sure the box office numbers will be somewhat hurt by the fact that some theaters simply won’t be showing this one for security reasons. It may also be hindered by the early bad buzz of fanboys who go into this expecting the flash bang boom of a true action flick, and end up with… two hours of Joaquin putting on clown makeup and crying. Yet ultimately, I think the “bad buzz” and “imminent danger” inherent in this film will be enough to put it over the edge into HIT territory. Especially since, as you can see below, nothing remotely decent is coming out this month until Zombieland 2, which is still a few weeks up the road.
Tyler: An unremarkable movie with a genius ad campaign. The trailers we’ve seen are an elaborate troll, cut to highlight certain shots and lines and themes that in this context evoke similar elements in the alt-right canon. This pressed all the right buttons in the brains of extremely online liberals and set them scurrying into Pepe Silvia mode, connecting the trailer with everything from the Aurora shooter (who wasn’t actually dressed as the Joker) to incels (the Joker explicitly has a girlfriend in the trailers), and labeling the film “provocative” and “dangerous”. When this fat hit the hot pan that is the daily risk of public violence in America, the results were serious speculations about shootings taking place. Meanwhile, the alt-right, delighted to find something that upset people (since that’s 95% of what they care about), took up the film’s banner in one of those irony-drenched meme-ships they’re famous for. Director Todd Phillips was only too happy to stoke the fire with an bullheadedly (and probably intentionally) dumb interview bizarrely linking the Joker phenomenon to the “PC Culture is Killing Comedy” debate. The whole brouhaha has turned a movie that would’ve slipped under the radar into a culture-war battleground that we are pretty much required to develop an opinion about. It’s a trick worthy of the Joker himself. HIT.
The Addams Family (October 11)
In this animated remake based more on the original New Yorker cartoons than the ‘60s TV show, Gomez (Oscar Isaac), Morticia (Charlize Theron), Wednesday (Chloe Moretz), Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard), and Cousin It (Snoop Dogg??) must square off against a reality TV show host who wants to rid the neighborhood of a creepy, kooky, mysterious, and ooky family.
Jordon: I do not get this trend to turning live action films into cartoons and cartoons into live action films (and whatever the hell Cats is). I mean, I get it from a monetary perspective, but: Raul Julia, Anjelica Huston, Christopher Lloyd, Christina Ricci! Why would you mess with that? Anyway, it doesn’t look like MGM spent much money and October is the Gobi Desert for kids’ films, so I guess HIT.
Thomas S: First Joker and now this film. You can tell it’s Halloween season. I’m going to bet that with no other kids films coming out this month that this movie will be at the very least a minor HIT.
Julie: As dubiously proud as I am that this whole film seems to be an extended joke about my home state (seriously, I don’t think Hollywood has made a movie that takes place in New Jersey since that mopey Zach Braff one back in 2004), this does not look great. In fact (and maybe I am totally aging myself here), watching this trailer made me think of a really long advertisement for a Ren and Stimpy cartoon. You remember Ren and Stimpy: the adorably ugly, oddly simplistic, old-timey, hand-drawn animation; the gross out humor, focusing mainly on things like toe jam, body hair, boogers, and tooth goo; the bunch of jokey skits each week, with little-to-no plotline drawing them together? And don’t get me wrong, I loved Ren and Stimpy… as a kid… in the mid ’90s… when I watched it in my parent’s kitchen, on my small, not-yet-flat screen TV for a half hour each week, for free. But on the big screen, in 2019, for nearly two hours, and costing me $17.95 for the price of admission? BOMB!
Tyler: An increasingly risk-averse studio system, and a moviegoing public rubbed too raw by their dystopic lives to engage with new stories and eager to retreat into the womb of nostalgia strike again, this time besmirching the legacy of two perfect movies. HIT.
Gemini Man (October 11)
Director Ang Lee’s latest is about a government assassin (Will Smith) who finds himself the target of a mysterious operative who can guess his every move. He soon finds out that the operative is a younger clone of himself (a CGI de-aged Will Smith) created and raised by his nemesis Clive Owen.
Jordon: I do not get how Will Smith picks projects. It seems like he spends most of his energy worrying about his screen time. I feel like he said to his agent, “There’ll be two of me? I’ll never be offscreen!” Also, the release date has me a little worried. The fact that Ang Lee hasn’t really had a domestic hit in the US for, um, ever is a problem. Early negative reviews aren’t going to help. A projected opening weekend of $30 mil for a sci-fi action movie? Not great. The fact that this movie has been in development hell since 1997? A little disheartening. It’ll do fine internationally, as Ang Lee movies always do, but in the US, it’ll be a BOMB.
Thomas S: You know what movie I’m interested in? It’s not Gemini Man. No, I’m interested in the documentary they’ll someday make about Gemini Man. This movie has been in development hell for almost twenty years and now we’ve got Will Smith giving it a go. My issue with Will Smith as the lead is he just doesn’t look old and grizzled enough; not the way Harrison Ford would have had this film been made a couple decades back. I’ll be curious to know how much money got spent on this movie over the years, but likely it’s a secret only the accountants know. Oh, will it be a success? With Smith in the lead and an intriguing premise I think at the very least it will be a modest HIT.
Julie: Hey, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, in the words of the Joker, “Why so serious?” Visually speaking, the whole CGI-de aging thing is very cool. And I’m sure everyone in Hollywood old enough to have developed even the slightest hint of a wrinkle is undoubtedly thrilled by the possibility of potentially being able to extend their careers an extra twenty years, while still being able to play parts other than the lead’s senile grumpy grandpa. That said, Hollywood has been CGI de-aging since three X-Men movies ago, and with Netflix now effectively de-aging the entire cast of Goodfellas, you don’t even need to pay big box office bucks to see it happen. So, in order to succeed, unfortunately, this film is going to need an actual plot. A new one. Not this one, which seems like a less interesting version of the movie Looper, starring Joseph Gordon Levitt in the “Bruce Willis de-aged” role. Because sometimes in Hollywood, you don’t need the magic of CGI to find someone to play a younger version of yourself. You just need—wait for it—someone who’s actually younger than you. BOMB.
Tyler: Hmm, maybe original stories aren’t so great after all. BOMB.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (October 18)
In this sequel to Disney’s revisionist take on Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is enraged when her goddaughter Aurora (Elle Fanning) gets engaged to a prince, whereupon his mother Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) uses the wedding to try to divide humans and fairies forever.
Jordon: I do not get how Disney is picking projects, but I give up. Whatever they’re doing, they keep making money and I am currently eating government cheese. I didn’t see the first one, and I’m not going to see this. The original cleared its production budget (but maybe not production plus advertising) in the US. It made $500 million worldwide on top of that. This one will make money, just not my money. HIT.
Thomas S: Who was asking for this sequel? BOMB. Moving on.
Julie: So, a few years back, Maleficent went to war on her entire kingdom, because she wasn’t invited to a birthday party, and now, she’s going to do the same thing because her wedding invitation got lost in the mail? Get some new friends, honey! Start a book club, or something! Or better yet, learn to fly solo. You complete you, girl! I’ve always enjoyed the idea of fairy tales told from the perspective of the bad guy. The book The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, where the wolf admitted he had a bad cold and was just trying to borrow sugar from his unfriendly neighbors, that was one of my favorites growing up. That’s why the original Maleficent seemed like such a good idea at the time. And it was good. But this just seems like a cash grab that never needed to be made. And worse, it threatens to undue any goodwill/sympathy that Maleficent built up during the first film. So, I’m checking off “no” on this Evite. BOMB.
Tyler: Good God, are we still doing this? I thought the Grim Gritty Gloomy Dark Boogety Boo fairy tale movie was dead in a deep grave by now. There’s no way Disney can make any money from this. It feels like a flex, like Disney’s rubbing it in our faces that they have so much money they’re making movies we don’t even want. I can’t see this getting much traction, but I don’t think that’s the point. BOMB.
Zombieland: Double Tap (October 18)
Ten years later, the original cast of survivors of the zombie apocalypse (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin) are back to face off against evolved zombies, new survivors (Rosario Dawson, Zoey Deutsch), more SNL vets playing themselves, and all the problems of a typical dysfunctional family.
Jordon: Finally, something I understand. I loved Zombieland. I couldn’t find anybody who agreed with me, but I thought everything about it was perfect. And now they’ve got everybody back including Jesse Eisenberg, who was nominated for an Oscar for laying a more likeable version of Mark Zuckerberg, and Emma Stone, who actually won an Oscar for singing under her breath. And then there’s Abigail Breslin, who was 12 when the first movie was made and can now legally drink, and in Colorado and Washington, go into Woody Harrelson’s trailer. Sure, the first one only made $100 million total, but this one has a big push. More than any other movie this month, I hope that this one is a HIT.
Thomas S: Who was asking for—Okay, yes, there seems to be some legit love for the first Zombieland and I did enjoy it. But I sure as hell don’t need to see a sequel. Wouldn’t all the zombies be gone after ten years? Or am I just supposed to ignore things like that and switch my brain off and watch Woody and the rest get up to shenanigans? Whatever. I won’t see it, but it’ll be a HIT.
Julie: I know sequels made nearly a decade after the first film became a cult classic haven’t exactly always had a great track record. (See: Zoolander 2, Dumb and Dumber 2, Sex and the City 2, etc.) But this trailer made me chuckle multiple times, and I’m like the British Royal Guard of movie trailers, meaning I never laugh at them. It also has an already amazing cast, that has seemingly been made even more amazing by these new add-on characters. Plus, it seems to have introduced an “every survivor has a doppelganger” subplot that’s rife with meta-Hollywood in-joke possibilities. All in all, this looks, at least from the trailer, like its going to be a pretty solid sequel. But even if it isn’t, and even if all the best lines from the movie are in the trailer, and the rest of it is just awful, to be a box office success, you only have to fill seats. And this movie will fill them, even if some of those seat fillers just so happen to be… undead. Mwah-ha-ha! HIT!
Tyler: Speaking of things that have gone out of style, here we’ve got zombies and Jesse Eisenberg. They’re clearly releasing this now because zombies = Halloween or whatever, and for whatever reason horror releases are thin on the ground this October, but I honestly don’t think it matters when you release it. People have fond memories of the original and it’s not like cartoon-y gore is ever going to go out of style. HIT.
How’d we do on last month’s predictions?
It: Chapter Two
Budget: $79M | Earnings to date: $194M | Projected total earnings: $210-215M
Prediction: 100% said HIT (3 of 3)
Budget: $20M | Earnings to date: $80M | Projected total earnings: $100M
Prediction: 67% said HIT (2 of 3)
Rambo: Last Blood
Budget: $50M | Earnings to date: $33M | Projected total earnings: $45-50M
Prediction: 67% said HIT (2 of 3)
Budget: $100M | Earnings to date: $35M | Projected total earnings: $50-55M
Prediction: 33% said HIT (1 of 3)
Reality: In space, no one can hear you BOMB
Budget: $75M | Earnings to date: $20M | Projected total earnings: $60-75M
Prediction: 33% said HIT (1 of 3)
Reality: ABOMBinable (Dude, you didn’t even make me reach for that one. Too easy.)
Final Score: 4 right, 1 wrong
How movies are judged:
- The Agony Booth judges a movie to be a HIT if we project that it will significantly exceed its production budget in domestic (U.S and Canada) box office earnings. Our rule of thumb is +20%, but this may slide up or down based on the marketing budget.
- The Agony Booth only considers domestic box office total, because the share of international ticket sales that ends up with the studio varies not just from studio to studio, but often from movie to movie (although this is less true than it used to be).