September 2022 box office preview: One horror movie each week, including Olivia Wilde’s ‘Don’t Worry Darling’

After Labor Day, we get into September and the fall movie season proper. This also means that “festival season” begins in earnest with some early Oscar favorites. Read on for Gold Derby’s September 2022 box office preview.

Theatrically, we seem to have at least one horror movie every single weekend after Labor Day. Unfortunately, we also only have a few movies that have the potential to open over $20 million, so it’s going to be another tough month at the box office.

Note: We won’t be doing the normal weekend preview this week, since there’s only one new movie opening over Labor Day weekend. That movie is Adamma and Adanne Ebo’s comedy satire “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” It stars Sterling K. Brown (“This is Us”) and Regina Hall as the disgraced pastor of a large community church and his First Lady dealing with the backlash of his sexual indiscretions and their attempt to rebuild their congregation. Focus Features will be releasing the movie fairly wide into 1,800 theaters, as well as putting it on streamer Peacock, and it should be able to make around $3 million over the four-day holiday weekend.

Also this weekend, Sony will be releasing a new version of its blockbuster smash “Spider-Man: No Way Home” with 11 minutes of added footage into 3,000 theaters, which means that movie could end up being #1 again for the first time since late January. If that isn’t enough, Universal will be re-releasing Steven Spielberg’s classic 1975 shark movie “Jaws” into 3D and IMAX theaters for the first time ever, hoping to keep avid movie goers entertained over the very last weekend of the summer of 2022.

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Anyway, let’s get to the rest of September’s offerings.

“Don’t Worry Darling” (Warner Bros.) – Sept. 23

Olivia Wilde’s second movie as a director is this period sci-fi thriller starring Florence Pugh, Harry Styles and Chris Pine. At this point, very little is known about the movie, which will have its World Premiere at Venice on Sept. 5, but the trailer makes it look like a serious mindBLEEP of a movie in the vein of “The Stepford Wives.” The film’s star power, including Wilde’s rep as a filmmaker following “Book Smart,” should give this movie the push needed to potentially be the first and maybe only $20 million plus opener in a generally slower month.

“Bros” (Universal) – Sept. 30

After many years as a television personality, Billy Eichner makes the big jump to the movie screen with a romantic comedy co-written and directed by Nicholas Stoller (“Neighbors”). In it, Eichner plays gay New Yorker Bobby Leiber, trying to find a love connection and potential relationship with the noncommittal Aaron (Luke Macfarlane). Produced by Judd Apatow, this LGBTQ+ rom-com is getting a high-profile world premiere at TIFF early in the fest, which should help build awareness for a theatrical release later in the month. This one is shooting for between $15 million and $20 million, although if the movie is as funny as it looks, we could see it breaking out to become the month’s second $20 million opener.

“The Woman King” (Sony/Tristar) – Sept. 16

Viola Davis stars in and produces this historical epic also premiering at TIFF (against “Bros,” no less), teaming her with filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood (“The Old Guard”) and telling the story of “Nanisca” and events that took place in her African Kingdom of Dahomey during the 18th and 19th centuries. This might actually benefit from trailers being shown back-to-back with the new “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” trailer from Marvel, making this look like a similar African war epic. Also starring John Boyega, Hero Fiennes Tiffin (from the “After” films) and Lashana Lynch, this should be good to win its opening weekend with $13 million to $17 million.

“Barbarian” (20th Century) – Sept 9

The first horror flick of September, written and directed by Zach Cregger (“The Whitest Kids U Know”), stars Georgina Campbell (“Krypton”) as a woman who arrives at her Detroit Air BnB only to learn another person, played by Bill Sarsgard (“It”), is already staying there. Things just go crazy from there in this horror film also starring Justin Long that should build good word-of-mouth from early previews, including a special advance preview at TIFF. At one point, this was the only wide release of the weekend, but that’s changed. It should still be good for somewhere between $12 million and $15 million to win this weekend.

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“Smile” (Paramount) – Sept. 30

Another studio horror movie looking to bring in audiences with its relatively high-concept is premiering at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas one week earlier. It’s a first-time feature from writer/director Parker Finn, and it stars Sosie Bacon (“13 Reasons Why,” “Mare of Easttown”) as Dr. Rose Cotter, who is experiencing the horrifying effects of a curse that forces harrowing smiles on its victim’s faces before they kill themselves. Offering shades of “The Ring” and taking on “Bros,” this could open with roughly $10 million or more.

“Pearl” (A24) – Sept. 16

Ti West’s “X” may have made less than $12 million in its theatrical release in March post-SXSW premiere, but many more people are likely to have seen it on VOD, which is why A24 pre-greenlit this prequel starring Mia Goth as the “X” killer during her earlier days. Like “Don’t Worry Darling,” West’s film premieres out of competition at Venice on Saturday before going to TIFF the following weekend. It’s opening on a very busy weekend, but festival buzz might help it bring in $8 million or more in its opening weekend against “The Woman King.”

“Brahmastra Part One: Shiva” (20th Century Star Studios) – Sept. 9

Another wide release from 20th Century that first weekend post-Labor Day, this big-budget Bollywood superhero movie is directed by Ayan Mukherjee and stars Bollywood icons Ranbir Kapoor (as Shiva) and Alia Bhatt. It’s an ambitious FX-driven epic movie meant to launch an action trilogy with an amazing trailer that could entice more than just Indo-Americans, partially thanks to the success of “RRR.”

“Medieval” (The Avenue) – Sept. 9

I don’t know a ton about this movie or its (presumably new) distributor, but it’s also a historic war epic about Jan Zizka (as played by Ben Foster), the Czech military leader, who was commissioned to kidnap a Lord’s fiancée (Sophie Lowe) in order to prevent his rise to power. Also starring Michael Caine, Matthew Goode and Til Schweiger, this is getting a moderately wide release into 1,200 theaters but probably will end up on the lower side of things.

“Avatar” Re-release (20th Century) – Sept. 23

Maybe the best sign we’re getting a real honest-to-gosh sequel to James Cameron’s Oscar-winning 2009 sci-fi epic this year is the fact that Disney has pulled the original “Avatar” from its streaming service in preparation for a nationwide re-release of a remastered 3D version of the movie, out the same weekend as “Don’t Worry Darling.”

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As always, we have a few higher-profile limited releases, as well:

“House of Darkness” (Saban Films) – Sept. 9

Award-winning playwright and controversial filmmaker Neil LaBute (“In the Company of Men”) returns with this thriller, starring Justin Long (also in “Barbarian” this weekend) and Kate Bosworth as strangers who go back to her remote house for romance, although things don’t go so well.

“Speak No Evil” (IFC Midnight) – Sept. 9

As if there weren’t already enough horror flicks this month, Danish filmmaker Christian Tafdrup’s popular Sundance shocker will be released in New York and L.A. ahead of streaming on Shudder Sept. 16. It starts innocently enough as a Danish family visits a Dutch family they met on vacation, but the weekend quickly unravels, as the Danes learn things aren’t what they seem.

“About Fate” (UA Releasing) – Sept. 9

Emma Roberts and Thomas Mann star in this romantic comedy about a couple who find themselves together on New Year’s Eve after their respective proposals don’t work out. This also stars Britt Robertson, Wendie Malick, Cheryl Hines and Lewis Tan, and will get a concurrent release on demand.

“Clerks 3” (Lionsgate) – Sept. 13

Filmmaker Kevin Smith returns with the second sequel to his directorial debut from all the way back in 1994, reuniting Jeff Anderson and Brian O’Halloran, as well as Smith with his “Jay and Silent Bob” compadre, Jason Mewes. Rosario Dawson is also back from the 2006 sequel “Clerks II.” Smith is taking a different approach to distribution, taking his movie on a road trip speaking tour, before a nationwide release by Fathom Events, and then a typical limited release.

“Moonage Daydream” (Neon) – Sept. 16

Brett Morgen’s experimental doc about the late great David Bowie will get an IMAX exclusive release for one week in September, followed by a moderately wide release the following week. It’s a fairly comprehensive and especially trippy foray into Bowie’s music, his live performances and the life of the Thin White Duke, as well as his many other personas.

“Confess, Fletch” (Paramount) – Sept. 16

Jon Hamm plays the popular literary character, previously played by Chevy Chase in two ‘80s movies. Director Greg Mottola (“Superbad”) helms this adaptation of Gregory McDonald’s sixth novel from 1976, in which the private investigator is suspected of murder himself. It’s getting a concurrent limited theatrical release and be available via premium on demand before eventually ending up on Showtime on Oct. 28.

“God’s Country” (IFC Films) – Sept. 16

Another Sundance premiere, Julian Higgins’ thriller stars Thandiwe Newton as a professor who finds two hunters trespassing on her property, leading to a battle of wills.

“See How They Run” (Searchlight) – Sept. 16

BBC television director Tom George makes his feature film directing debut with this period murder-mystery comedy. It stars Oscar winners Sam Rockwell and Adrien Brody, Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan, plus Harris Dickinson, David Oyelowo and more. The plot: an attempt to adapt a hit play into a movie in ‘50s West End London grinds to a halt when a crew member is murdered.

“The Silent Twins” (Focus Features) – Sept. 16

This odd drama from Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Smoczynska (“The Lure”) premiered at Cannes in May, as it tells the story of Welsh sisters June and Jennifer Gibbons, played by Letitia Wright and Tamara Lawrance, who refused to speak to anyone but each other yet went on to become renowned authors.

“The Good House” (Roadside Attractions) – Sept. 30

Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline star in this adaptation of Ann Leary’s novel by Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky (“Infinitely Polar Bear”). In it, Weaver plays a New England realtor who rekindles a romance with a high school flame (Kline), unraveling secrets from each of their pasts.

“God’s Creatures” (A24) – Sept. 30

Not to be confused with “God’s Country” released a few weeks earlier, Saela Davis and Anna Rose Holmer’s psychological thriller, which debuted at Cannes, stars Emily Watson as a mother who covers for her son with a lie that threatens to destroy her family and her fishing village community.

“Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon” (Saban Films) – Sept. 30

More than a year after premiering at the Venice Film Festival in 2021, Ana Lily Amirpour’s new fantasy-drama, starring Ed Skrein (“Deadpool”) and Kate Hudson, gets a theatrical and VOD release. It’s about a girl who escapes from a mental asylum with unusual powers and tries to make it on her own in New Orleans.

“Dead for a Dollar” (Quiver) – Sept. 30

Filmmaking legend Walter Hill (“48 hrs.”) returns with this ensemble Western, starring Willem Dafoe as a bounty hunter who runs into the gambler and outlaw he sent to prison, as played by Christoph Waltz. The project also stars Rachel Brosnahan from “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

That’s it for a very busy month without a ton of blockbusters or tentpoles, but lots of festival fare to appease more discerning moviegoers.

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