After a crackling summer season, movie theater owners have been sounding the alarm on the disturbingly light release schedule this fall. And yet, three new films will open in theaters nationwide over the weekend.
Perhaps the bigger issue, in the case of this weekend’s crop of newcomers, is that hardly anyone is making plans to go to the cinema. Of the trio of fresh offerings — Sony’s eerie thriller “The Invitation,” director George Miller’s dark fantasy “Three Thousand Years of Longing” and the John Boyega-led heist drama “Breaking” — not one is poised to make a splash at the box office.
Based on projections, it’ll be a close race between “The Invitation” and last weekend’s champion “‘Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” to claim the No. 1 spot in North America, with each release on track to bring in around $7 million. And to the victor goes…some pretty anemic bragging rights. Barring a miracle, it’ll be the saddest first-place finish in over a year.
If that sounds bleak, the other new releases are aiming for low single-digits. Those films will be lucky to crack the top five, which looks to be populated with holdovers like Universal’s survival thriller “Beast,” Paramount’s enduring hit “Top Gun: Maverick” and Sony’s caper “Bullet Train.”
“The Invitation” has the widest release, playing in 3,000 North American locations over the weekend while “Three Thousand Years of Longing” is landing in 2,436 venues, and “Breaking” is opening in 902 theaters.
Although the PG-13 “Invitation” may not notch double digits in its debut, it won’t take much to turn a profit in theaters. The film carries a lean $10 million production budget.
Starring Nathalie Emmanuel of “Game of Thrones” fame, “The Invitation” follows Evie, whose mother dies, leaving her with no known relatives. But she takes a DNA test and discovers a long-lost cousin, who invites Evie to their family’s home in the English countryside. But, it’s a horror movie after all, so the aristocratic facade quickly falls to reveal sinister secrets. Jessica M. Thompson directed the movie from a script by Blair Butler.
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“Three Thousand Years of Longing” was far more expensive, costing $60 million to produce. It is being released by MGM and United Artists Releasing. From Miller, the acclaimed filmmaker behind “Mad Max,” the movie follows a scholar (Tilda Swinton), who encounters a Djinn (Idris Elba) who offers her three wishes in exchange for his freedom.
Since its Cannes Film Festival premiere, it has generated mixed reviews, with Variety’s Peter Debruge calling it a “wishy-washy fantasy [that] has serious story problems” and Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson describing the “curious, messy” film as “consistently transfixing, an earnest labor of love — and one about love.”
Bleecker Street nabbed “Breaking” out of Sundance Film Festival. The tense tale is based on the real-life story of Brian Brown-Easley (portrayed by Boyega), a former Marine Corps veteran who, on the brink of homelessness, holds people hostage in a bank. Abi Damaris Corbin directed the film, which is based on an article titled (spoiler alert?) “They Didn’t Have to Kill Him.” The late Michael K. Williams appears as a hostage negotiator, marking the actor’s final film role.
Debruge, who also reviewed “Breaking,” praised Boyega’s performance in particular, calling the “Star Wars” star the “most interesting thing about the movie.”
The only question is: Will audiences be intrigued enough to show up?