'Our Brand Is Crisis': Can Sandra Bullock's drama succeed at the October box office?

With dramas like 'Steve Jobs,' 'Bridge of Spies,' and 'The Martian' already in theaters, industry watchers are doubtful about the chances of 'Crisis' and the Bradley Cooper film 'Burnt' finding much of an audience this weekend. Does releasing too many fall dramas split audiences?

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures/AP
'Our Brand Is Crisis' stars Sandra Bullock.

In the past, industry watchers have divided the movie release calendar into distinct seasons. The summer is for big-budget comic book movies, action films, and big movies like “Jurassic World” that are designed to please various age groups.

But when autumn arrives, that’s when serious movies with possibly Oscar-worthy performances come to movie theaters, the kind of films that some call “grown-up” movies and which are thought of as more high-minded than the summer or late spring fare.

What happens when there are too many of them? 

This month sees Hollywood trying to address that question. This summer saw movies like “Jurassic,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” and “Minions” win over audiences, so now that the air is cooler, it’s time for a new historical drama by Steven Spielberg, a space-set movie with an A-list cast, and an acclaimed biopic about one of the most famous people in the world.

The problem is not all of them can win at the box office. 

This fall is full of awards season contenders and “serious” dramas. The movie “The Martian” and the biopic “Steve Jobs” came out earlier this month. Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies” opened earlier this month as well, as did the drug war film “Sicario.” This week sees the arrival of “Our Brand Is Crisis” starring Sandra Bullock and “Burnt” starring Bradley Cooper, an Oscar winner and Oscar nominee, respectively. Bullock’s turn as a political expert who travels to Bolivia to work on the election there and Cooper’s role as a temperamental chef have intrigued Hollywood. 

But neither “Crisis” nor “Burnt” are expected to do well at the box office this weekend, despite their A-list stars and presumably drama-friendly fall release date. Why? 

One reason is that there are only so many moviegoers who will go see movies like this and these people will only see so many movies. 

“The audience is being fragmented,” Paul Dergarabedian of the entertainment data company Rentrak said in an interview.

Sometimes this is the case and sometimes it’s not. Last year, October’s “Gone Girl” (which eventually earned actress Rosamund Pike an Oscar nomination) became a box office and critical success and may have drawn audiences away from dramas like “The Judge” and “Fury,” both of which had middling box office performances. But in 2013, “Gravity and “Captain Phillips,” both of which earned Best Picture nominations, both found an audience. It of course depends on the individual movies. 

With November approaching, awards season contenders will continue to arrive on the scene. It remains to be seen whether upcoming movies like “Brooklyn,” “Spotlight,” “Trumbo,” and “By the Sea” can find enough of an audience in coming weeks to score at the box office.

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