The weekend after Labor Day is notoriously one of the slowest of the year, which led the major studios to completely avoid the date this year. As a result, the only new nationwide release is The Identical, a faith-based movie from indie distributor Freestyle Releasing.
Eli Roth's The Green Inferno was also supposed to open nationwide this weekend, but was pulled from the calendar last month due to a dispute between the financier and the distributor (Open Road Films). A new release date hasn't been set yet.
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy should wind up take first place on what will almost certainly be the lowest-grossing weekend of the year at the box office. The lowest-grossing weekend of the past decade occurred at this same time in 2008, when the Top 12 earned a combined $50.3 million; it's possible that this weekend's crop of movies fails to match that number.
Opening at 1,956 theaters, The Identical tells the story of twin brothers, separated at birth, who are both gifted with musical talents. The movie draws some inspiration from Elvis Presley's life story—Elvis had a twin brother who died during child birth—and stars Elvis impersonator Blake Rayne. The movie's cast also includes Ashley Judd, Ray Liotta, Joe Pantaliano and Seth Green.
With a light marketing effort and abysmal reviews (less than 10 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), The Identical's commercial prospects hinge on its ability to connect with Christian moviegoers. The movie's tagline spells out the faith-based angle: "If He is in your dreams, nothing can stand against them."
In general, 2014 has been a great year for faith-based movies. Heaven is for Real was a huge hit in April, and Son of God also performed well. The biggest surprise, though, was God's Not Dead, which was also distributed by Freestyle Releasing. The movie opened to $9.2 million from just 780 theaters, and went on to earn over $60 million total.
All three of those examples had an overt religious connection, though (it's right there in the title). For movies where it's a secondary component—Moms' Night Out or When the Game Stands Tall—the effect hasn't been all that significant. The Identical seems to fall in to the secondary category as well, as its first-and-foremost a rock 'n' roll movie.
Even if The Identical does connect with Christian moviegoers, it's still unlikely to take first place away from Guardians of the Galaxy. The Marvel movie is dropping down to 3,221 theaters, and is losing its IMAX screens, but it should still have a solid hold; a 40 percent drop would keep it above $10 million.
This will mark four weekends in first place for Guardians; the last movie to accomplish such a feat was The Hunger Games back in early 2012.
Fantasy drama Innocence is getting a moderate release in to 490 theaters this weekend. The movie lacks a substantial marketing push, and the material that is out there feels especially derivative of similar young-adult-targeted movies like Twilight and Beautiful Creatures. It will likely wind up below $1 million this weekend.
Paramount is re-releasing Forrest Gump in to 337 IMAX theaters this weekend. The movie earned a stunning $329.7 million during its original run in theaters, which made it the highest-grossing movie of 1994 ahead of The Lion King ($312.9 million). It went on to win six Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director (Robert Zemeckis) and Best Actor (Tom Hanks).
This isn't the first time Paramount is giving one of its classics a re-release. On this same weekend in 2012, Raiders of the Lost Ark earned $1.67 million from 267 IMAX theaters; in early 2013, a 3D re-release of Top Gun opened to $1.97 million at 300 locations. Forrest Gump lacks the action and spectacle of those movies, though it does have the kind of big canvas storytelling that suggests it could benefit from a big-screen viewing. While it may not match Raiders, it will likely earn at least $1 million this weekend.
Forecast (September 5-7) 1. Guardians of the Galaxy - $10.1 million (-41%) 2. Ninja Turtles - $6.7 million (-44%) 3. If I Stay - $5.1 million (-45%) 4. The Identical - $5 million 5. Let's Be Cops - $4.6 million (-45%) 6. The November Man - $4.2 million (-47%) 7. As Above/So Below - $4.1 million (-52%)
Bar for Success Playing at nearly 2,000 theaters, The Identical ought to be opening to at least $5 million this weekend. Meanwhile, the Forrest Gump IMAX re-release is in fine shape if it opens over $1.5 million. Discuss this story with fellow Box Office Mojo fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @boxofficemojo, and follow author Ray Subers at @raysubers.