Despite the boxoffice year to date being up over 6%, three consecutive weekends of disappointing September ticket sales have put a damper on Hollywood spirits.
Not only was September a washout at the boxoffice, it also failed to generate momentum on the awards front. It's a double whammy that added up to an early fall fizzle. What's especially unfortunate is that given the boxoffice upturn this summer a strong September would have hammered home the idea that moviegoing has come back to life. Instead, September saw the arrival of several high profile films -- including "Hollywoodland" from Focus Features, "The Black Dahlia" from Universal and "All the King's Men" from Sony -- that all underperformed at the boxoffice.
At the same time, insiders who expected to see a high-profile awards front runner emerge from the Toronto International Film Festival were wrong. It was a complete surprise when the low-profile independent film "Bella" won Toronto's People's Choice Award. "Bella's" now in the process of putting a domestic distribution deal together and its win in Toronto should definitely help its prospects on the awards front.
Meanwhile, as September slips away to no one's regret, there's optimism over October with its seasonal mix of mostly awards hopefuls and horror thrillers. Looking at the product on tap suggests October could deliver a much healthier boxoffice than September did although October isn't typically a month that generates big boxoffice fireworks. A strong October would definitely be a welcome prelude to the upcoming holiday season.
On the awards front, there are very high hopes for Miramax's "The Queen
," for which Helen Mirren has already won best actress honors at the Venice Film Festival for her performance as Elizabeth II. Mirren's likely to be a leading candidate for Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. There's also an early buzz for Michael Sheen's performance opposite her as British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Directed by Stephen Frears and written by Peter Morgan, both of whom also are good bets to emerge as nominees, "The Queen
" kicks off the New York Film Festival tonight, opens tomorrow in New York and begins its Los Angeles run Oct. 6.
When I saw "The Queen
" in late August, it immediately struck me as a potential best picture nominee for Oscars and Globes. And that seems even more likely now with its fresh rating of 94% on RottenTomatoes.com's Tomatometer as of this writing. There's no question that the film is resonating in a big way with critics. If that translates into a wave of critics group awards in December, it would be a tremendous boost to "The Queen's
" prospects for Oscar and Globe nods, just as it was in past years for "Sideways" and "Brokeback Mountain."