As sometimes happens over the Labor Day weekend, the summer block buster season comes to a quiet and uneventful close. This is often a result of a lack of blockbuster titles themselves reigning in the unofficial end of the summer season, and this was just such a weekend. Instead of an action-packed flix for audiences to go see as part of their holiday festivities, the films this weekend were rather slow and melodramatic leading to the summer season going out with more of a whimper than with a bang, ending with Don't Breathe taking the top of the box office with $19.5 million.

While that means that audiences weren't really interested in the newcomers this past weekend, this is pretty great news for Don't Breathe. As of Sunday the film had only dropped 40% in its second weekend ticket sales when compared to it's opening weekend performance. But even better than that by the end of the 4-day weekend the film ended with only a 26% drop! That's pretty great for any film really, but definitely for a horror film. The last horror film to top the box office two weeks in a row was Ouija back in 2014, and even that film dropped 46% it's respective weekend. Its success this weekend really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone as Don't Breathe has been going strong since opening night and what with overwhelmingly positive feedback, growing praises, and awesome word of mouth.

The major disappointment this weekend was actually finding this weekends two wide-release newcomers, Light Between Oceans and Morgan placing significantly low on the box office charts. In fact, only Light Between Oceans cracked the top ten with $5.9 million landing the film at spot number eight. Light Between Oceans is director Derek Cianfrance’s latest film following his 2013 academy acclaimed Place Beyond the Pines, and his notable debut film, Blue Valentine, which opened in 2010. While films of this genre and style typically don't do well over summer holiday weekends given everyone would rather be out and about enjoying something fun, I personally was so excited for Light Between Oceans that I made it a priority to go out and see it opening night. 

For those familiar with Cianfrance’s work, you know that he is a master at telling raw, human stories that may dawn the title "melodrama" but are so real it leaves you conflicted and thinking about them for days and weeks after you've seen them. Just like in Blue Valentine Cianfrance gives us a collection of characters in Light Between Oceans whom you can't help but feel deeply for. You don't look at the decisions these characters make and judge them for it, nor do you grow disconnected from them. Rather you sit there feeling every emotion these characters experience, you wrestle with every dilemma they encounter; you're aching with them in their moments of disappear, rejoicing with them for their miraculous "gift", and feeling uneasy when these wonderful good people make some not so great decisions born only out of a desire for good, and ultimately love. Yes, that does seem like quite the statement, and had I read something along these lines before watching the film myself I would have been incredibly skeptical of its merit. But the performances delivered by Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, and Rachel Weisz are so excellently portrayed that you forget you're just watching a film at times and you grow to feel for everyone involved in this story.

Aside from the exquisite acting and beautiful directing, the film also offers its audience one of the most cinematic and gorgeous two hours of storytelling yet this year. From an analytical perspective the cinematography shows wonderful growth in Cianfrance's storytelling abilities as it feels quite developed from the cinematography of both Blue Valentine and Place Beyond the Pines. It's without doubt to me that every single frame in this film was thoughtfully considered and executed. The landscapes are majestic and enrapturing, the camera work is organic and transparent of how the characters are feeling; from the calm and simplistic hill top sun set scene as two characters find comfort and refugee in each other’s company, to a climatic sprint across the beach as they are at their most frantic state, the cinematography truly added an entirely new reading into this story. 

I personally love period pieces so I might be biased when I make this claim, but for me this was my favorite Film from Cianfrance, an albeit up and coming director still, and I am so excited to see how this film does this coming year at the Oscars. While not having a strong opening weekend, this film is hands down a much needed breath of fresh air from an otherwise recycled and unimaginative year for storytelling. It's staying power is hard to completely gage as the film only opened in 1,500 this weekend and is set to continue expanding into more in the coming weeks. This might give Light Between a chance to recoup some lost momentum and attract more interested movie goers now that the summer season is officially over and many won't be intrigued by the list of action b-movies and horror films we have coming out over the next month. Additionally, the film has been receiving great feedback from critics and holding steady at a B+ on CinemaScore should prove to be helpful for the film's overall performance.

We are still aways out from seeing all of what Oscar season has to bring us this year, however I would be so surprised and truly saddened if this film doesn't acquire an Oscar nomination or two. From the cinematography to the acting, and from the fact that this was a beautiful book to film adaption, this film is a serious Oscar contender. I wish it could have come out in mid to late November, just as we are entering the peak of Oscar season, but should Light Between Oceans secure a nomination, it could be looking at a second run in various theaters across the country. Place Beyond the Pines experienced a similar resurgence after it received it's Oscar nominations, and should the same happen for Light Between this could mean a much better performance from the box office before the film has finished its exhibition journey. But regardless, this film was a wonderful beacon of light on the horizon of an ocean of bleak mediocre summer blockbuster and superhero films.

Looking ahead to next weekend, and continuing down the road to the Oscar that Light Between Oceans has started for us this weekend, we have Clint Eastwood’s Sully leading the pack of newcomers. Sully is the American biographical story of the fateful US Airways Flight 1549 and its pilot Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger. The film stars Tom Hanks and looks to be a bit of an obvious Oscar grab. That isn’t to say the film won’t have some merit to its story, but I do think this is a safe bet for Eastwood following his 2014 American Sniper motion picture. The film will attract a wide audience base, but I imagine the audience breakdown will skew older and therefore the initial turnout for this film could prove less than desirable for Warner Brothers.

Additionally, we have another PG-13 film releasing next weekend, When the Bough Breaks, an R-rated horror film, The Disappointments Room, and an animated PG family film, The Wild Life, that will also be opening against Sully. The Disappointments Room stars Kate Beckinsale and has been on hold for release by Relativity Media for about a year now. This could prove favorable for the film in the end as it might offer it a competitive advantage against Sully. It has a lot to live up to, however, given the mass acclaim that Don’t Breathe has gathered.

All in all we have very much parted ways with the summer blockbusters of 2016 but still have a large array of films ripe and ready for the viewing. From horror to action movies, to even some early Oscar buzz films, we have a surprising amount of films to enjoy and appreciate this fall season – so take advantage of that this weekend and go out and watch a film so you can join the conversation with us on Making Dollars and Sense!

-Matthew Miller

 

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