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Thursday, July 31, 2014



2012 Preview: October

2012 continues its downward path. After a record-breaking spring, thanks to The Hunger Games, and a record-breaking start to the summer, thanks to The Avengers, the box office hasn't been able to maintain any real momentum. For most of the month, September was no better than August and now the year-over-year gains are just a little more than inflation. October will need to improve or 2012 will be in real trouble. Unfortunately, that might be tough. There's not a single film coming out in October that looks like it will be a guaranteed $100 million hit and there are only two films with a realistic chance, Taken 2 and Paranormal Activity 4. (There's also Cloud Atlas, which is a wild card. That movie could bomb or be the biggest hit of the month and I wouldn't be surprised either way.) There is a chance all three will get to the century mark, but there's a better chance none of them will. Last October, two films cracked $100 million: Paranormal Activity 3 and Puss in Boots, with the latter nearly reaching $150 million. I don't see any film coming close to matching that figure. On the other hand, last year there were six films that one could accurately describe as bombs. So while 2012 is weaker at the top, it could have better depth than 2011 did. Let's hope so, because we can't afford more bad news.

Weekend of October 5th, 2012

The first weekend of October features two wide releases and potential wide expansion. Both wide releases are earning some level of buzz, but I'm still not sold on their chances. Taken was a surprisingly big hit at the box office, so making a sequel makes a lot of sense. However, while Taken 2 has a lot of buzz, I'm not convinced it will be able to match its predecessor at the box office, as the buzz isn't really good, just loud. A lot of people are complaining that it looks too similar to the first film, and the early reviews seem to agree. Frankenweenie is earning good buzz and excellent early reviews, but as we've seen time and time again, stop-motion animation is a niche market. Finally, there's Pitch Perfect, which opened last Friday in limited release with a planned expansion this Friday. I'm not convinced that will happen, even with strong reviews. I think this year's new releases will be better than last year's new release, but the overall box office is so weak, that I can't be sure of that.

Frankenweenie

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Disney.Go.com/Frankenweenie
Distributor: Disney
Release Date: October 5th, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements, scary images and action.
Source: Based on a Short Film
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Director Remaking Own Film, Animal Lead, Inventor, Mad Scientist, First Love, Romance, Unrequited Love, and more
Directed By: Tim Burton
Starring: Charlie Tahan, Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $50 million to $70 million
Box Office Potential: $60 million

Out of all of the films opening in October, Frankenweenie is the movie I'm most interested in seeing, by a pretty large margin. However, I will admit I am in the minority here and there are three other October releases that will likely outpace it at the box office. It is very rare for a stop-motion animated film to be a big hit. ParaNorman made more than $50 million during its run, which isn't bad given its release date, but it was just a midlevel hit, no more. Frankenweenie has a better release date while its reviews are almost as good. Also, Tim Burton has had some success with films like this in the past. Perhaps the proximity to Halloween will help it earn $75 million or more, but failing to reach $50 million is just as likely. I would like to think this film will be a surprise hit, but I think it's best to be cautious.

Pitch Perfect

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: PitchPerfectMovie.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: September 28th, 2012 (Limited)
Release Date: October 5th, 2012 (Wide Expansion)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 sexual material, language and drug references.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: College, Musicians, Singers, Tournament, Underdog, Romance, A Cappella, and more
Directed By: Jason Moore
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Anna Camp, Brittany Snow, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

A college film about two competing groups of A Cappella singers trying to win a national tournament. This is far from the first college film with a similar setup. Granted, A Cappella is a new twist, but there have been movies like this about drumming, dancing, etc. I think there's a correlation between the popularity of the music style and the success at the box office, which is probably bad news for this film. Also, the film doesn't have a lot of name recognition on either side of the camera. Sure, Anna Kendrick is in Twilight, but she's just starting to show people she can be a lead outside of that franchise. The film is also Jason Moore's first film as a director (he has directed several episodes of a few TV shows) so it is unlikely he will be able to draw in moviegoers. Finally, it is also opening in select cities one weekend before expanding wide the next. This is rarely an easy thing to do and many films that have tried, have crashed and burned. If it does crash and burn, it won't make $5 million in total. On the other hand, it could make $5 million opening weekend and might even hit $50 million in total. The above box office potential represents a weighted average of the two extremes.

Last Minute Update: According to Sunday's estimates, film earned just over $5 million during opening weekend giving it a per theater average of more than $15,000. Expanding wide shouldn't be too much of a problem and it should become a solid midlevel hit. As a result, I've increased the box office potential from $15 million to $35 million. There is also a potential it will last long enough in theaters to grow beyond that.

Taken 2

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TakenMovie.com
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: October 5th, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sensuality.
Source: Original Screenplay / Sequel
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Kidnap, Rescue, Revenge, Organized Crime, and more
Directed By: Olivier Megaton
Starring: Liam Neeson, Rade Šerbedžija, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $80 million
Box Office Potential: $90 million

The original Taken was a relatively low-budget action film that earned mostly positive reviews but was given a weak release date. However, the film became one of the biggest January releases of all time earning close to $150 million domestically. It was no surprise that Taken 2 was given a greenlight. However, I am a little surprised they increased the production budget to $80 million and gave the film to a director whose previous two films, Colombiana and Transporter 3, both struggled at the box office. Even worse, there is some negative buzz around the film, as fans of the first movie are complaining that the film's plot is just too similar to the first one. It is practically a remake rather than a sequel. Finally, the early reviews are a disaster. There have been a number of examples of films surprising analysts enough to get a sequel, only to have that sequel bomb. Speed II is one such film, and it is far from the most extreme example of that. There is a chance that this film will suffer a similar collapse, which would give it about $60 million theatrically. I really hope that doesn't happen, but there's no way to dismiss the possibility. On the other hand, this could be a film that plays better to moviegoers than it does to critics and it could become the biggest hit of the month earning more than $100 million.

Weekend of October 12th, 2012

There are three or four wide releases opening this week, which is too many for a single weekend. It is likely one or two of these films will bomb, but it is not entirely clear which films will thrive. Argo in an ensemble thriller based on real life events, but while early reviews are excellent, the cast is either on a bit of a losing streak at the box office, like Ben Affleck, or have no real record at the box office, like Bryan Cranston. Here Comes the Boom features Kevin James, who looked to be one of the most reliable box office draws as he started his movie career, but his $100 million streak is over and I don't think this film will start a new one. Sinister is a horror film opening in October, which is good news. Plus its reviews are currently 100% positive. On the other hand, it has competition from a major franchise opening the following week. Finally there's Seven Psychopaths, which is earning strong buzz and even stronger reviews. However, it might not open wide. None of these films are likely to earn $100 million, or even come close, but there are a couple of potential midlevel hits, plus a couple that could benefit from a low budget and break even as a result. Last year was not strong with three new releases, all of which missed expectations from one degree to another. Perhaps 2012 will earn a win in the year-over-year comparison.

Argo

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ArgoTheMovie.WarnerBros.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: October 12th, 2012
MPAA Rating: R for language and some violent images.
Source: Based on a Factual Magazine Article / Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Rescue, Rebellion, Movie Business, Undercover, Hostage, Political, False Identity, Secret Agent, and more
Directed By: Ben Affleck
Starring: Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, and others.
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million

Ben Affleck directs and stars in this film, which is based on real life events. It takes place during the Iran Hostage Crisis and involves a C.I.A. plan to rescue six embassy workers who escaped when the revolutionaries attacked and are currently hiding in a Canadian diplomat's house. Ben Affleck's recent box office numbers have been rather weak, at least has an actor. His performance as a director has been solid. His first two movies earned award-worthy reviews and this film is currently doing the same. With a Tomatometer Score of 94% positive, it could earn some Awards Season buzz and that could help it at the box office. On the other hand, I don't think it will live up to The Town, as a film about a rescue in the 1970s won't be as easy to sell to moviegoers as a movie about bank robbers. That said, it appears to be the biggest film of the weekend and as long as it didn't cost too much to make, it should break even sooner rather than later.

Here Comes the Boom

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Facebook.com/Boom
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: October 12th, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG for bouts of MMA sports violence, some rude humor and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Mixed Martial Arts, Underdog, Tournament, Inspirational Teacher, Bad Teachers, Screenplay Written By Star, Directing Yourself, and more
Directed By: Frank Coraci
Starring: Kevin James, Salma Hayek, Greg Germann, and others.
Production Budget: Estimated at $50 million to $70 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million

If this film was made just after Grown Ups, I would say this is a sure $100 million movie. After all, at that point, Kevin James had only been in five live action movies, but all of them had made $100 million. His last two films missed expectations, The Dilemma missed them by a lot. Also, it is directed by Frank Coraci, whose directing career can be divided into two groups: Films starring Adam Sandler and films that struggled at the box office. Finally, it's a movie about Mixed Martial Arts and most sports movies depend heavily on the popularity of the sport, and MMA is still a niche sport. Before anyone complains about that description and sends me statements about PPV viewership, even people who don't watch football regularly will know enough about the sport to follow a movie based on it, because football has such a long history. The same is not true of MMA. Perhaps I'm underestimating the popularity of the sport and of Kevin James and perhaps the film will be a surprise hit, but the evidence points to a midlevel hit at the most.

Seven Psychopaths

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: SevenPsychopaths.com
Distributor: CBS Films
Release Date: October 12th, 2012
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, bloody images, pervasive language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Black Comedy
Keywords: Ensemble, Writer, Kidnapping, Animal Lead, Organized Crime, Relationships Gone Wrong, and more
Directed By: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko, and others.
Production Budget: Estimated at $10 million to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

This film is written and directed by Martin McDonagh, who has only made two other films in his career, and one of them was a short film. However, that short film, Six Shooter, earned him an Oscar Best Live Action Short Film, while In Bruges earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Early reviews suggest this film could be his best work. However, it's box office chances are not great. In Bruges earned less than $10 million at the box office, despite its critical success. Also, Seven Psychopaths is a Black Comedy, which is a hard genre to market. Additionally, there's a chance this film won't open truly wide. Finally, it is being released by CBS Films, which hasn't had a breakout hit. In fact, their best film, The Woman in Black, was barely a midlevel hit.

There is a chance it will be a surprise hit and will make $50 million; it has been earning a lot of buzz. There is also a chance Seven Psychopaths won't open truly wide and will flop earning less than $10 million. I hope it's closer to the high end, but I'm not sold.

Sinister

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: HaveYouSeenHim.com
Distributor: Summit
Release Date: October 12th, 2012
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violent images and some terror.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Writers, Demon, Possession, Found Footage, and more
Directed By: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Clare Foley, Michael Hall D'Addario, James Ransone, Vincent D'Onofrio, and others.
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Scott Derrickson previously wrote and directed The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which was a low-budget horror film that made a huge amount of money, despite earning merely mixed reviews. Sinister, on the other hand, is earning perfect reviews. It could be a surprise hit. Back to the original hand, as much as I like Ethan Hawke, it has been a while since he's been in a movie that was more than a middling hit. Also, there's direct competition coming out the next week, and this competition is much bigger. Hopefully it will live up to its reviews at the box office, but I wouldn't bet money on it. I see this one struggling like Let Me In did, despite that film earning amazing reviews.

Weekend of October 19th, 2012

The weekend before Halloween has just two wide releases: the latest installment in one of the most popular horror franchises of all time and Tyler Perry's attempt at an action film. I think it is pretty obvious which film will be the bigger hit at the box office. The real question is whether or not Paranormal Activity 4 can live up to Paranormal Activity 3, which opened this weekend last year. My gut says no, because the buzz isn't as strong as last time; it's become routine. However, its very early reviews are strong. Alex Cross is a lot harder to predict. While the writer / director / actor has a loyal following, his drawing power outside of that audience is untested, to be generous. There is some good news. Besides Paranormal Activity 3, there was nothing of consequence that opened this weekend last year, as both The Three Musketeers and Johnny English Reborn bombed hard. So while 2012 likely won't lead the way at the top, it could actually win this weekend thanks to better depth.

Alex Cross

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: AlexCrossMovie.com
Distributor: Summity Entertainment
Release Date: October 19th, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence including disturbing images, sexual content, language, drug references, and nudity.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: African American, Hitman, Serial Killer, Police Procedural, Death of a Spouse, Surprise Twist, Revenge, Mafia, Sex Crimes, Reboot, and more
Directed By:
Rob Cohen
Starring: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, and others
Production Budget: Reported $40 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

This is the third film based on the Alex Cross novels with Morgan Freeman playing the character in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider. Now more than a decade later, Tyler Perry is taking over the role. Is this the start of a new franchise? If it is, it will have to perform better than Tyler Perry's career average. I'm not counting Star Trek, because it is so far above the rest of his films and his role was little more than a cameo. In fact, it might not be wise to include the Madea movies, but they too are significantly above his films where he's not wearing a dress. I think the previous film of his that is most like this one is Good Deeds, which is bad news for this movie.

I think it would take a minor miracle for Alex Cross to live up to Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider and I really doubt there will be sequels.

Paranormal Activity 4

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ParanormalMovie.com
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: October 19th, 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated, very likely aiming for an R-rating.
Source: Original Screenplay / Sequel
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Demons, Possession, Found Footage, Scary Kids, and more
Directed By: Henry Joost
Starring: Kathryn Newton, Matt Shively, Katie Featherston, Brady Allen, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $5 million to $10 million
Box Office Potential: $85 million

If it's Halloween, it must be Paranormal Activity. The annual release of these movies makes it hard to come up with something new to talk about. In fact, I was thinking about cutting and pasting the preview for Paranormal Activity 3 just to see if anyone would notice. I liked the first movie, but I was worn out by the sameness of the sequels. Paranormal Activity 4 might play well with the moviegoers that loved those two movies, but I think the more causal fans will be looking for something fresher this year.

Weekend of October 26th, 2011

There are four films opening wide during the final weekend of October, which is too many and it is almost guaranteed two of them will bomb simply because of the competition and there's a chance all four will flop. Cloud Atlas is the film with the best shot at being a big hit, but it is such an unusual film that even though the early reviews are good, it might be too hard to market to wider audiences. Silent Hill: Revolution 3D is a horror film opening on Halloween weekend, which has its pros and cons. The timing is right for a big opening weekend, but there's a lot of competition and it will likely collapse during its sophomore stint. Fun Size has the same issues, as it is a Halloween film opening Halloween weekend, except its target audience will likely be more interested in actually Trick or Treating than watching a movie about Trick or Treating. Finally there's Chasing Mavericks, which is a movie that has managed to fly under my radar, which is a really bad sign. Last year Puss in Boots earned $34 million during its opening and there's almost no chance any film opening this year will match that. On the other hand, the other two wide releases only made about half of that combined, so 2012 has a small shot at winning on the year-over-year comparison thanks to better depth.

Chasing Mavericks

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: LiveLikeJay.com
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: October 26th, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements and some perilous action.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Surfing, Inspirational Sports, Coming of Age, Biography, and more
Directed By: Michael Apted and Curtis Hanson
Starring: Jonny Weston, Gerard Butler, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million

An inspirational sports film about the life of the late surfing legend Jay Moriarity. I didn't know who that was either. That's the main problem with this film's box office chances. It's a surfing film and surfing is far from a mainstream sport. There are so few true surfer movies (as opposed to movies where one or more characters surf briefly) that it is hard to judge this film's box box office potential. Last year, Soul Surfer did well enough to be considered a midlevel hit; however, it had the churchgoing crowd to tap into. Also, its star, AnnaSophia Robb, had much higher name recognition than Jonny Weston does. Finally, Chasing Mavericks is arguably the smallest film coming out during the busiest weekend of the month. Chasing Mavericks might open below the Mendoza Line and disappear before reaching eight figures. I'm going to be a little more optimistic than that, but not by much.

Cloud Atlas

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: CloudAtlas.WarnerBros.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: October 26th, 2012
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Cloning, Dystopia, Same Actor, Multiple Roles, Ensemble, Post Apocalyptic, Segments, Cross-Dressing, Genderbending Casting, and more
Directed By: Wachowski Siblings and Tom Tykwer
Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $100 million to $150 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million

This is a really wild card and there's a lot of uncertainty here. The film cost between $100 million to $150 million, so clearly the studio was hoping for a massive box office numbers. It will probably need to make $300 million worldwide to have a shot at breaking even during its home market run. There are very few people who think that will happen. It might not reach $50 million domestically. There are some reasons to be optimistic, including strong early reviews, plus the Wachowski Siblings have made some amazing movies, and there are a lot of big names in this movie. However, the usual reaction to the first trailer was, "Huh?" The extended trailer was better, but I fear the film is too high concept for mass appeal.

Maybe Cloud Atlas will be a surprise $100 million hit. Or maybe it will be a bomb like The Three Musketeers was. I really have no idea.

Fun Size

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Paramount.com/FunSize
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: October 26th, 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Likely PG.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Halloween, Romance, Missing Person, Babysitting, and more
Directed By: Josh Schwartz
Starring: Victoria Justice, Jane Levy, Chelsea Handler, Jackson T. Nicoll, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $15 million to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Both Josh Schwartz and Victoria Justice have long careers; however, both of them have been in television and not movies. Fun Size is Josh Schwartz first movie and Victoria Justice's first starring role in a movie. That's a interesting footnote, but a troubling sign for the film's box office chances. Also, live action kids movies are not known for being huge hits. Aliens in the Attic, Monte Carlo, and Ramona and Beezus all failed to reach big audiences. Fun Size is a Halloween film opening Halloween weekend, which could help it on the first two days, but once Halloween hits on Sunday, the target audience will be more interested in getting candy themselves than watching this movie. On the other hand, it probably didn't cost a whole lot to make and Nickelodeon will be able to play it on their network every Halloween from now until eternity, so breaking even is quite possible.

Silent Hill: Revolution 3D

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: SilentHill3D.com
Distributor: Open Road
Release Date: October 26th, 2012
MPAA Rating: R for violence and disturbing images, some language and brief nudity.
Source: Based on a Game / Sequel
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Demons, False Identity, Sequels Without Their Original Stars, Sequels With Star Recast, Another Dimension, 3D, Missing Person, Occult, and more
Directed By: Michael J. Bassett
Starring: Adelaide Clemens, Sean Bean, Kit Harington, Carrie Anne Moss, Malcolm McDowell, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Silent Hill was not hit with critics, while it barely made enough to break even sometime during its home market run. I'm a little surprised the studio was willing to risk money making a sequel. I don't think Silent Hill: Revolution 3D will do as well as its predecessor, despite the six years of inflation and 3D ticket prices. The buzz is just not there, while there is a horror film opening each of the two previous weeks, so the competition is way too strong. It is opening Halloween weekend, so horror fans will be out in force, but that just means the sophomore stint drop-off will be even greater.


- C.S.Strowbridge


Date posted: 2012-10-01

Movies 
 Frankenweenie
 Pitch Perfect
 Taken 2
 Argo
 Here Comes the Boom
 Seven Psychopaths
 Sinister
 Alex Cross
 Paranormal Activity 4
 Chasing Mavericks
 Cloud Atlas
 Fun Size
 Silent Hill: Revelation 3D