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Paula Patton's 'Baggage Claim,' 'Ender's Game' – what will succeed at the box office this fall?

Paula Patton's film 'Baggage Claim,' the next 'Hunger Games' movie, and '47 Ronin' will all be released this fall. Will Paula Patton's movie, the new 'Hobbit' movie, and others win at the box office?

By Lucas ShawReuters / August 27, 2013

Paula Patton will star in the film 'Baggage Claim.'

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

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With the summer movie season winding down and the Toronto Film Festival around the corner, Hollywood is looking ahead to fall.

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After an exceptionally packed summer of tentpole movies, the studios are once again turning their attention to more thoughtful fare.

Sure, there's still Thor and the next "Hunger Games" and "Hobbit" movies, but the season is also packed with movies such as Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street," Spike Jonze's "Her" and Alexander Payne's "Nebraska." Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity" and George Clooney's "The Monuments Men" are also on the way, along with a surprisingly large number of movies by black filmmakers.

Here are the most pressing box office questions for the final four months of the year:

1. Will audiences return Hollywood's belated embrace of black filmmakers? At least 10 films starring black actors and actresses are opening in the second half of the year, several of them written or directed by black filmmakers as well.

Ryan Coogler and Lee Daniels kicked things off this summer with "Fruitvale Station" and "The Butler," both flagged as early awards contenders, while popular comedian Kevin Hart weighed in with his stand-up special "Let Me Explain."

Coming this fall: two films about South African hero Nelson Mandela ("Winnie Mandela" and "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom"), one about slavery ("12 Years a Slave"), another about the Beltway Snipers ("Blue Caprice"), the requisite Tyler Perry film ("A Madea Christmas") and several others, including David E. Talbert's "Baggage Claim" and Kasi Lemmons' "Black Nativity."

Whether this is one-year blip or sustainable depends on how many people go to see these movies.

2. Can Summit launch a major franchise even with Orson Scott Card hellbent on destroying it? Come November, Summit will release one of the year's most anticipated movies, "Ender's Game," an adaptation of one of the most popular science-fiction books of the last half-century.

Yet the distributor has encountered an unexpected hurdle: the book's author. Orson Scott Card seems determined to alienate most of the movie's potential audience. He's taken on gays, Muslims, Democrats, Turks, Russians and pretty much anyone who isn't a conservative white American. 

If audiences boycott the movie because of Card's beliefs, it will ruin Summit's plans to adapt subsequent books in the franchise. So Summit has a simple message: focus on the movie and forget about Card.

That's not easy to do when he's comparing Barack Obama to Hitler.

3. Will anything beat "The Hunger Games"? No movie set to open in the final few months of this year is more of a sure thing than "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," the sequel to the 2012 hit and the second adaptation of the popular book series.

The first film grossed almost $700 million at the box office, transformed Jennifer Lawrence into an international movie star and spawned a slew of regrettable Halloween costumes like the one on the right.

Since it opened, the film's fortunes have only improved. Lawrence won an Oscar for Best Actress and Philip Seymour Hoffman joined the cast.

So will any movie stand up to "The Hunger Games" at the box office? Keep in mind that, for all the fanfare surrounding the first one, it actually made less then the first installment of "The Hobbit"; the second installment of that Peter Jackson franchise arrives a few weeks after "Catching Fire."

4. What movie will pull out of the Christmas sweepstakes? There's always a surfeit of movies scheduled in the two weeks leading up to Christmas – and this year is no different. Nineteen movies are slated between Dec. 13 and Dec. 25

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