Timing really is everything.
That seems especially true for Universal Pictures’ “The House With a Clock in Its Walls” as a mid-teens launch looks to be enough to top the domestic box office. After “The Meg” and “Crazy Rich Asians” led a roaringly successful August, the rest of September looks muted with just a few wide releases on the horizon.
Universal and Amblin Entertainment’s “The House With a Clock in Its Walls” hopes to earn between $18 million and $20 million when it launches in 3,500 North American locations. Studio insiders are cautiously anticipating the lower part of that range, though some estimates show it could make over $25 million. Based on the 1973 children’s book by John Bellairs, the fantasy film follows 10-year-old Lewis (Owen Vaccaro), who goes to live with his uncle (Jack Black) in an old house that has a mysterious ticking heart. Cate Blanchett plays a witch who lives next door. The cast also includes Kyle MacLachlan and “Hamilton” alum Renee Elise Goldsberry. Director Eli Roth, known for R-rated horror titles like “Cabin Fever” and the “Hostel” movies, took a stab at PG for “The House With a Clock in Its Walls.”
Black has had repeated success with family-friendly audiences. He toplined another book-to-movie adaptation, 2015’s “Goosebumps,” which generated $150 million globally. Earlier this year, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” the follow-up to Robin Williams’ iconic 1995 film, became a surprise hit at the box office, earning a massive $962 million worldwide. He also voiced the main character in the animated “Kung Fu Panda” films. Blanchett’s most recent box office outing, “Ocean’s 8,” was also a success as the female-led heist thriller grossed more than $295 million to date.
Otherwise, the weekend’s new wide releases — “Fahrenheit 11/9,” “Life Itself,” and “Assassination Nation” — are all targeting single-digit debuts. Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9” should lead that company with estimates showing the political documentary making around $5 million to $8 million from 1,500 screens. The latter two are each on track to make around $4 million.
Moore’s latest undertaking, “Fahrenheit 11/9,” centers on the 2016 presidential election and subsequent presidency of Donald Trump. The title references the day after the election, when Trump’s win was announced. It’s also a nod to Moore’s 2004 political documentary, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” on George W. Bush and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which became the highest-grossing documentary ever, launching with $23 million in North America for a $222 million total worldwide. Moore’s last box office effort was “Michael Moore in TrumpLand,” also based on the last election. It only showed in 51 theaters, picking up just $149,090.
Meanwhile, the mind behind TV weeper “This Is Us,” Dan Fogelman, is returning to the big screen at 2,500 locations with another tear-jerker, “Life Itself.” The romantic comedy — featuring the ensemble cast of Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Mandy Patinkin, Olivia Cooke, and Annette Bening — follows the interconnection between multiple couples over generations. Amazon Studios is handling distribution. Unlike Fogelman’s award-winning series “This Is Us,” the movie is facing brutal reviews.
That leaves Neon’s “Assassination Nation,” written and directed by Sam Levinson, the son of filmmaker Barry Levinson. It follows a small town whose residents turn on each other after they are targeted in a malicious data hack, where their privacy is destroyed. The cast includes Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse, Maude Apatow, Joel McHale, and Bella Thorne.
A number of films will open in limited release at the specialty box office. Bleecker Street is launching “Colette,” a biographical drama with Keira Knightley and Dominic West about the life of the French novelist who was forced to publish her novels under her husband’s name. Fresh off its Venice Film Festival debut, Annapurna’s “The Sisters Brothers” will show in four theaters. Jacques Audiard’s western dark comedy stars John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix as two assassin brothers who get caught up in the California Gold Rush. Other new offerings include Magnolia’s “Love, Gilda,” a documentary on the late “Saturday Night Live” icon Gilda Radner, as well as IFC’s “Tea With the Dames,” a doc featuring Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins, and Joan Plowright.