Continuing our series that began last month, Jonathan Boehle investigates what the November box office holds for the month’s crop of Oscar contenders, including a major frontrunner in The Weinstein Company‘s $7M gamble and main horse in the race, The Imitation Game. Looking back at his October predictions, Jonathan underestimated Gone Girl just a bit and heavily overestimated Men, Women & Children. But, after having one of the quickest and worst runs of a wide film of all time (it just closed at around $800,000), I don’t think anyone could have predicted that. His numbers look pretty good for St. Vincent, which is chugging along nicely. Fury is already at $60M and looks to push to at least $85M. Jonathan’s Nightcrawler numbers are spot on. – Erik Anderson
Interstellar (Nov. 5, Limited; Nov. 7, Wide)
Contending in: Picture, Directing, Actor, Supp. Actress, Original Screenplay, numerous techs
How Will It Perform: One of the few truly household name directors working today, Christopher Nolan has a way of bringing oodles of hype and interest to his movie projects, and Interstellar has been no different. The project has had the internet buzzing for months, and now that hype has been reaching more mainstream parts of the media, even nabbing the cover of Time magazine this week. So for an original sci-fi film, it should have a strong opening. However, it’s hard to determine where the movie goes from there. Early reviews have been positive, but with a lot of mixed reactions mixed in as well, including some wondering of whether or not mainstream audiences will be able to get on the movie’s wavelengths. It is worth noting that this worry has plagued Nolan his entire career, from the upside-down chronology of Memento to his dark and gritty Dark Knight trilogy to the dream-within-a-dream complexity of Inception. But despite those worries his films have always been WOM hits with audiences. Will Interstellar break his streak? I’m not certain. But I have to put down a prediction. Right now, I’m leaning towards a strong opening weekend in the $60 million range, followed by solid legs for a $220-230 million total.
Significance of its box office to its awards chances: Very High. Like Gone Girl last month, Interstellar is the kind of movie whose appeal to AMPAS is heavily tied into how much mainstream audiences embrace it, and Nolan has built a reputation as one of the few directors working today with both commercial and critical appeal (despite having plenty of vocal critical detractors on every movie he’s made). If Interstellar crashes after opening weekend, combined with a quieter critical reaction than usual, the movie could look like Nolan’s first true miss. At the same time, if audiences go wild for the movie, that success could go a long way towards keeping the movie strong in the Oscar race.
The Theory of Everything (Nov. 7, Limited)
Studio: Focus Features
Contending in: Picture, Directing, Actor, Actress, Adapted Screenplay, some techs
How Will It Perform: One of two tortured British mathematical genius Oscar contenders opening this month, The Theory of Everything has been standing in the shadow of The Imitation Game for much of the season. However, there’s actually a solid chance that Theory of Everything could prove to be triumphant in the box office arena, at least before the Oscar race is truly underway. While Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch are bigger household names than Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, Theory of Everything has had a strong marketing campaign, selling the film as more of a love story, and Stephen Hawking is, arguably, a better-known historical figure than Alan Turing. Focus Features has moved from being a prestige studio to more genre-based films this year with the leaving of James Schamus, but so long as they remember how to release a platform Oscar contender, this movie should perform well, finishing with a final total in the $25 million range.
Significance of its box office to its awards chances: Moderate. A mediocre performance wouldn’t hurt the film’s chances too badly, but at the moment it’s not really locked in any categories, despite being a contender in many. Financial success could go a long way in securing a number of those awards, and truly help it come out of The Imitation Game’s shadow.
Foxcatcher (Nov. 14, Limited)
Studio: Sony Classics
Contending in: Picture, Directing, Actor, Supp. Actor, Original Screenplay, some techs
How Will It Perform: Foxcatcher has had plenty of strong awards buzz since its Cannes premiere in May, but its financial prospects have been harder to judge. Its two stars, Steve Carell and Channing Tatum, are sizable draws with a certain amount of box office power, but the movie has been pushed as a dark, moody drama-thriller, or the exact opposite of the kind of movie that audiences like seeing Carell and Tatum in. Will the strong critical acclaim and potential oscar buzz be enough to overcome it? To a certain point, probably. It should start off strong in limited release, and will probably struggle as it expands, but a final total around $20 million would be respectable for this kind of movie.
Significance of its box office to its awards chances: Moderate to Low. Movies like Foxcatcher are almost never going to do well with mainstream auds, so a mediocre performance shouldn’t hurt it too much. However, a particularly bad performance could indicate that the movie is just too rough for most people, and therefore indicate potential hesitancy from the Academy.
The Imitation Game (Nov. 28, Limited)
Studio: The Weinstein Company
Contending in: Picture, Actor, Actor, Supp. Actress, Adapted Screenplay, numerous techs
How Will It Perform: The other tortured British mathematical genius Oscar contender opening this month, the Weinsteins are desperately hoping that The Imitation Game can prove to be some sort of Best Picture-winning hybrid of A Beautiful Mind and The King’s Speech. That involves not just wooing critics, but mainstream audiences as well. Those two movies finished with $170.7 million and $138.9 million respectively in the U.S. alone. Can The Imitation Game match that? Personally, I’m highly skeptical. Those two Picture winners were sold more as heartwarming than Imitation Game’s thriller marketing, and from what I’ve read it doesn’t come across as obvious as a mainstream crowdpleaser, Toronto People’s Choice Award win be damned. It should still do well, at least, finishing with a $65 million total, but a far cry from the breakout levels of those two.
Significance of its box office to its awards chances: Low for nominations, high for wins. Barring straight-up floppage, this movie is absolutely set for numerous Oscar nominations. However, if the Weinsteins really want this to take the top prizes, it’ll absolutely need to win audiences over.
[author image=”https://scontent-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash4/1000826_905133195637_1150756764_n.jpg” ]Jonathan Boehle is a contributor to AwardWatch and a moderator of the AW forums.[/author]