From Mazes to Mass:
Why September’s Movies Have A New Look

Box Office Brasserie: Movie News For Movie Lovers

It’s pretty obvious the studios can’t wait to dish out their Oscar bait flicks, as “Black Mass” starring Johnny Depp, Lionsgate’s drug-fueled drama “Sicario,” and Bleecker Street’s “Pawn Sacrifice” all launch their campaigns this weekend…and it’s still technically summer, folks.

Seems a tad bit early, doesn’t it? Well, remember when the slew of summer blockbusters didn’t officially roll out until Memorial Day back in the day? Well, forget November; consider the middle of September the new beginning of awards season.

That’s fine by me, as September used to be a tragic wasteland of films that probably never should have been conceived, much less reared into theaters.  Bad choices, probably while under the influence.

I know; you’re skeptical. I don’t blame you, but if the critics are right (and they often are in a consortium) all these new entries are worth checking out, including the “Maze Runner” sequel, and Universal’s mountain-climbing epic, “Everest.”

Let’s dig into Depp, shall we? Here’s an actor that has never been afraid to take risks, and to his credit, now that he has a blockbuster franchise under his belt, he still takes the same chances he always has, much to the ire of studio execs.

The problem is, when he isn’t donning his Jack Sparrow duds or teamed up with Tim Burton, bad things happen at the box office. Just ask the producers of “Lone Ranger,” “Transcendence” and most recently, “Mordecai.”

But, on the flip side of that, Depp is a supremely talented actor, and when you get the right group of creative-types together, well, there is magic up on them thar screens.

That’s exactly what “Black Mass” looks like—a real-life drama where Depp can truly grind his teeth, dig his claws in, and turn sales of Whitey Bulger biographies into best sellers again.  And truth is, Depp has already proved deft in this crime drama genre, as he powered Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies” to over $200M worldwide.

In 3000+ theaters expect “Black Mass” to pull in upwards of $25M+, which would be an exceptional start to the awards season and a good start for the $63M R-rated flick. Dramas making money. Whoa. This is some crazy Hollywood arithmetic we got going on here, folks.

Fox is going the other direction and bringing some of that Indian summer into theaters with their YA sequel, “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials,” which should turn the box office into its own personal blaze.

The original launched just last year with a surprising $34M, with a loud, boisterous fan base that carried it past $100M domestically, and to an impressive $340M worldwide. This one will likely shoot past $400M globally.

We all know how absolutely crappy YA adaptions can turn out, but to Fox’s credit, they hired all the right people (that cast, right?) to make sure this series went the distance: threequel-land.

And I would be remissed if I didn’t give them extra credit points for not mooching us all by truncating the last chapter, and splitting it into two parts. That’s a trend that got really old, really quick. I mean, was “Mockingjay Pt. 1” even a film?

I contend it was merely the longest trailer in the history of filmdom—a trailer that soaked up $750M worldwide. With that kind of math, there is no room for reasoning. It’s that simple, folks.

At its core, “The Maze Runner” is a highly inventive and rich story from author James Dashner, with pitch perfect direction from newcomer Wes Ball, who returns for the sequel.

They ain’t greenies anymore, so expect upwards of $40M from the Gladers, and overseas, expect even bigger results as it already opened in 21 territories, grossing $26.8M this past weekend, with every single market exceeding the original. Slay on, slayers.

Universal is going big with “Everest” this weekend,  as it launches exclusively in 500+ IMAX screens. Usually a studio does this to help word-of-mouth on a film that might be under the radar. Not really the case here, with a cast that features Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Keira Knighley, Jason Clarke and a host of others.

The main reason the $65M, PG-13 film is getting an early IMAX push is the fact that “Everest” looks stunning in 3D, probably the best visuals since “Gravity,” and with that kind of word-of-mouth, Universal is likely hoping it encourages others to go see it in IMAX 3D next weekend when it opens wide, as tickets are exponentially higher.

Also in moderate wide release is Paramount’s true-story thriller, “Captive.” Shot for just $2M, the PG-13 film is courting the same faith-based African American audiences that have made “War Room” a hit, as well as “The Perfect Guy.”

In 800+ theaters it should easily match its budget, and likely double it on opening weekend.

In exclusive release, Bleecker Street makes their first move with the chess drama, “Pawn Sacrifice” starring Tobey Maguire and Liev Schrieber, while Lionsgate drops the Mexican cartel drama, “Sicario” featuring Emily Blunt, Benecio Del Toro, and Josh Brolin.

Both have been well received, and will be a breath of fresh air to art houses and eventually multiplexes, as audiences will have a lot of solid choices this weekend.

Is it just me, or has Maguire not aged in, like, twenty years? We need to bottle his essence.

Denis  Villeneuve (“Incendies,” “Prisoners”) directs, which is reason enough to seek this out: “Sicario.” He’s another one of the most interesting young filmmakers out there right now, so it’s no surprise to see his R-rated film is one of the best-reviewed movies of the fall thus far.  “Sicario” is budgeted at a modest $30M, expands into wide release October 2.



  1. Maze Runner: Scorch Trials – $36M
  2. Black Mass – $28M
  3. The Perfect Guy – $13M
  4. The Visit – $11M
  5. Everest – $7M


CHOICE CUT OF THE WEEK: Disney’s “The Jungle Book” (April 15, 2016)

Never underestimate Jon Favreau when he’s at the helm. All he’s done is make a fantastic collection of films including “Iron Man,” “Chef,” the wildly underrated “Zathura,” and the holiday classic, “Elf.”


PRIME CUT OF THE WEEK: Saban’s “Man Up” (Nov. 13, 2015)

Simon Pegg and Lake Bell have some pretty great chemistry here. I love it when actors look like they’re really having fun while pretending to have fun. Might not make it into many theaters, but definitely looks like a great addition for the rom-com crowd.


Jeff Bock, NewsWhistle’s movie editor, is the senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations in Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at


“Black Mass” Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.; Poster design by Concept Arts