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Thinking outside the box office: Weirdos win as Wahlberg digs deep

The fall season has yet to find its footing at the boxoffice, and it does not seem like the debuts of the Sept. 30 weekend will putit on much firmer ground.

"Blair Witch" and "Bridget Jones's Baby"disappointedforecasters two weeks prior, and the results over the Sept. 23 weekend were notgreat.

"The Magnificent Seven," which was counting on thestar power of Chris Pratt and Denzel Washington, deliveredjust under $35 million, in the low-to-middle range of forecasts, but it buckedthe bull case that went as high as $50 million. "Storks," on theother hand, was a decided underperformer, collecting $21.3 million afterforecasts that generally crested the $30 million mark.

Despite some big investments, successful source material andcommitted celebrity performances, it seems the Sept. 30 weekend will deliversimilar middling results.

At the top of the modest heap will likely be "MissPeregrine's Home for Peculiar Children." The film is expected to collectin the mid-$20 million range, according to DeadlineHollywood, and Varietyconcurs with a firm $26 million forecast. BoxOffice.comcomes in a bit bullish, estimating a $30 million rake over the weekend.

"Miss Peregrine" represents a potential return toform for director Tim Burton, who Varietypoints out has had a tough run at the box office since 2010's "Alice inWonderland." That movie opened to $116.1 million, collecting a 52.2%profit margin after a whopping $203.3 million production budget. Variety seems optimistic on Burton'sprospects with "Miss Peregrine," an adapted best-selling novel aboutan orphanage full of children with supernatural gifts, calling the motif "aperfect fit for Burton's quirky sensibility."

Source: Summit Entertainment LLC

However, a less complimentary comparison comes from "DarkShadows," a 2012 Burton title that fell flat. "Dark Shadows"opened to $29.7 million and left on a 29.8% profit loss. Granted, that filmcost almost 50% more than "Miss Peregrine" — $157.2 million comparedto "Miss Peregrine's" estimated $110 million — and saw a far weakercritical response, clocking a 37% "rotten"rating on Rotten Tomatoes compared to a 58% "rating"for "Miss Peregrine," as of 4:50 p.m. ET, Sept. 29.

Battling it out with the orphanage of superfreaks, SummitEntertainment will launch action drama "Deepwater Horizon" about theGulf of Mexico oil rig of the same name that exploded into one of the biggestenvironmental disasters in history. But despite strong reviews, the star powerof Mark Wahlberg and a big production budget, "Deepwater Horizon" isnot expected to create much of a stir.

Variety forecaststhe film to make $18 million, splitting Deadline's range of $16 million to $20million. comes in over their heads with a $22.5 million forecast.However, any of those results would represent a disappointment against the film's$156 million production budget, according to Deadline and IMDb. Summit Entertainment willbe hoping that prerelease buzz, supported by a 79% "fresh"rating on Rotten Tomatoes, will lead to a breakout performance.

Other spectacle-driven dramas have fared generally well. Alist of comparable films compiled by S&P Global Market Intelligence —including "World Trade Center," "Captain Phillips," "LoneSurvivor," "The Perfect Storm" and "The Finest Hours"— collected an average opening gross of $26.8 million on an average budget of$74.4 million, leading to an average profit margin of 15.4%. However, with atighter opening gross and about twice that average budget, it is clear "DeepwaterHorizon" will have to dig deep for a win.

Also opening over the Sept. 30 weekend is "Masterminds,"a comedy about a ragtag group of funny people who plan to rob a bank. Led byKristen Wiig, Zach Galifianakis and Owen Wilson, "Masterminds" isanother post-bankruptcy shot from Relativity Media. When it was originallyslated to release in 2015, Relativity predicted lifetime revenue of $125.4 millionfor the comedy, leading to $47.1 million in profit. Variety points out that that sum will be difficult to achieve witha debut forecast of $10 million. Deadline echoed Variety's expectations, but undercut the group with a$6 million forecast.

A negative result would follow the ironically titled flop of"The Disappointments Room," one of Relativity's first post-bankruptcyreleases that opened to a profitless $3 million. And the S&P Global list ofcomparisons is littered with negative results, including double-digit lossmargins for "Stealing Harvard," "Tower Heist" and "30Minutes or Less." The critical response is not boding very well either,with "Masterminds" running at a "rotten" 33%rating.

Also opening is "Queen of Katwe," which wasrunning at very impressive reviews for thesmall budget title that will open in just 1,500 theaters. The story of a Ugandanchess champion, "Katwe" could generate as much as $5 million on itsmodest $15 million budget, according to Variety.

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