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2013 Preview: November

November 1st, 2013

October ended on a winning note, but it was the only time the entire month that 2013 topped 2012 in the year-over-year comparison. This is quite shocking, as Gravity crushed expectations with more than $200 million and counting. Even with that surprise monster hit, the month still couldn't keep pace with last year. Compared to October, November looks a lot better with three films that could be monster hits: Frozen, Thor: The Dark World, and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. On the other hand, those are the only three movies with a 50/50 chance or better to top $100 million compared, while there were seven films that reached that milestone last November. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire should make more than last year's number one film, Skyfall, but the depth last year could prove too much to deal with. 2013 might dip below last year's pace sometime during the month, but hopefully it won't stay there too long.

Weekend of November 1st, 2013

The first weekend of the month has three wide releases, or four if you count Dallas Buyers Club, which was supposed to open wide, but appears to be opening in limited release and expanding wider throughout the month. Ender's Game is the biggest of the three wide releases, but its buzz is too weak given its production budget. Free Birds is a secondary digitally animated film and has no chance of becoming a monster hit, but it could benefit from the lack of direct competition and become a sizable midlevel hit. Finally there's Last Vegas, which is the latest CBS Films release. Their best release so far is The Woman in Black, which was a solid midlevel hit. On the other hand, most of their films have really struggled so far. The best new release last year was Wreck It Ralph, which opened with just under $50 million. There's a slim chance no film opening this year will make $50 million in total. There's almost no chance any film will open with $50 million. In fact, there's a chance all three films combined won't make $50 million during their opening weekend. 2013 is probably going to get hammered again.

Ender's Game

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: EndersGameMovie.Tumblr.com
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: November 1st, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence, sci - fi action and thematic material.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Alien Invasion, Coming of Age, Military Life, New Guy in School, and more
Directed By: Gavin Hood
Written By: Orson Scott Card and Gavin Hood
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Abigail Breslin, Hailee Steinfeld, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $110 million
Box Office Potential: $85 million

The film should have no trouble being the biggest hit of the weekend, and it might have a shot at earning $100 million domestically. However, since the studio spent $110 million making it, they are obviously hoping for more than a $100 million hit. In fact, I would be surprised if they would be happy with anything less than a franchise. (There are four more novels in the franchise.) I really don't think that's going to happen. There's not a lot of buzz surrounding the film and a lot of it is centered on the homophobic comments made by the writer of the novel, Orson Scott Card. The early reviews are very good, but when weak buzz goes against good reviews, weak buzz tends to win out. Maybe the buzz will grow as the week grows.

Last Minute Update: While the early reviews were good, they couldn't last and the film's Tomatometer Score has fallen to barely more than 60% positive. This is still good, but not great, while the buzz has not grown like I thought it would. I'm moving the box office potential from $85 million to just over $70 million.

Free Birds

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: FreeBirdsMovie.com
Distributor: Relativity
Release Date: November 1st, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG for some action/peril and rude humor.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Animal Lead, Talking Animals, Food, Time Travel, Thanksgiving, and more
Directed By: Jimmy Hayward
Written By: Jimmy Hayward and Scott Mosier
Starring: Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $35 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million

Owen Wilson provides the voice for a turkey who was pardoned by the president instead of being cooked for Thanksgiving. He loves the life of luxury pardoned turkey's get to live, but that life is interrupted by Woody Harrelson, the leader of the Turkeys Liberation Front, who wants to travel back in time to the first Thanksgiving and change it so turkeys are no longer the main dish every Thanksgiving. This is certainly a high concept for a kids movie, which could make it a hard sell. Also, Relativity doesn't have a strong record at the box office and they certainly don't have a lot of family films in their catalog. On the other hand, the most recent digitally animated film is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, which has been out in theaters for more than a month. I think it will become a solid midlevel hit here, but the subject matter will really limit its box office numbers internationally.

Last Minute Update: The reviews are in and they are a disaster. I didn't think it would be a good film, but I didn't think it would be this bad. Additionally, the buzz is just not there, so I'm dropping the box office potential from $65 million to $45 million.

Last Vegas

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: LastVegasMovie.com
Distributor: CBS Films
Release Date: November 1st, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Las Vegas, Bachelor Party, Gambling, Delayed Adulthood, Buddy Comedy, May December Romance, Autumn Years, and more
Directed By: Jon Turteltaub
Written By: Dan Fogelman, Jerry Ferrara, Romany Malco, and Roger Bart
Starring: Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, and others
Production Budget: Rumored at $28 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Four friends in their 60s travel to Las Vegas to throw a Bachelor Party for one of them, Michael Douglas, who is finally getting married. However, when they get to Las Vegas, they realize times have changed from back in their heyday. This film has a great cast, but its early reviews are only mixed. Additionally, it has the weakest buzz out of the three wide releases and CBS Films has a bad track record at the box office.

Weekend of November 8th, 2013

The second weekend of the month has only one wide release, Thor: The Dark World, which could be a monster hit. The original Thor made $180 million domestically and it appears The Avengers helped boost Iron Man 3's box office numbers, so the same could happen here. There is some counter-programming in the form of About Time, which is expanding wide this weekend and its international numbers suggest it could be a solid midlevel hit. That's the good news. The bad news is this weekend last year was the weekend Skyfall opened. That film was a monster hit earning $90 million during its opening weekend and surpassing $300 million overall. Thor: The Dark World might open faster, but it won't have the legs. Additionally, this weekend last year, Wreck-It Ralph added $33 million and Flight made close to $15 million. There's a slim chance Thor 2 will be the only film this weekend to make more than $10 million. I certainly doubt About Time will manage to make significantly more than $15 million during the weekend. It looks like 2013 will lose again in the year-over-year comparison.

About Time

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: AboutTimeMovie.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: November 1st, 2013 (Limited)
Release Date: November 8th, 2013 (Expands Wide)
MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual content.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Romantic, Time Travel, and more
Directed By: Richard Curtis
Written By: Richard Curtis
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, and others
Production Budget: Rumored at $35 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Written and directed by Richard Curtis, whose previous films include Love Actually, which made nearly $60 million here. On the other hand, he also wrote and directed Pirate Radio, which opened in select theaters and fizzled out before getting much past $8 million. I think these two extremes are the high and low end for About Time. The reviews are very good for a romantic comedy, but the film only managed $11 million in the U.K., which isn't very good. (It's barely more than Pirate Radio made there.) If the film is seen as "too British" for American audiences, it might not be able to expand. If it avoids this fate, it could pull in $50 million. The above prediction is a weighted average of those two extremes.

Thor: The Dark World

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Marvel.com/Thor
Distributor: Walt Disney
Release Date: November 8th, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some suggestive content.
Source: Based on a Comic Book / Sequel
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Gods and Goddesses, Sibling Rivalry, End of the World, and more
Directed By: Alan Taylor
Written By: Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston, Kat Dennings, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $160 million to $180 million
Box Office Potential: $225 million

Iron Man 2 earned just over $310 million in 2010. Then The Avengers happened. Earlier this year, Iron Man 3 pulled in nearly $410 million. That's a 30% increase. If Thor: The Dark World sees a similar increase over Thor, it will make close to $240 million at the box office. There are some who think this is underestimating the film's box office potential. I'm not that bullish, but I do see some really positive signs. This includes early reviews, which are 80% positive at the moment, with many critics saying the film is an improvement over its predecessor. On the other hand, there is competition opening just two weeks after this film that will likely crush everything in its path. If this film doesn't make at least $200 million, I would be shocked. There is a small, but not insignificant chance the film will open with more than $100 million and $250 million, or more, isn't out of reach.

Last Minute Update: The film reportedly scored $8.2 million during its opening day on the international chart, which suggests strong growth from the first film. I was expecting this, so I'm leaving the box office potential at $225 million.

Weekend of November 15th, 2013

This weekend is between the openings of Thor: The Dark World and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. It should come as no surprise that there is only one new release this weekend, and it is only expected to be a middling hit. The Best Man Holiday is a sequel to The Best Man, a movie that came out more than a decade ago and earn just over $30 million. It is not a sure thing that this film will top its predecessor, even with 14 years of inflation behind it. On the other hand, this weekend last year was the weekend The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2 opened. That film made $141 million during its opening weekend, which is likely more than the entire box office will make this weekend.

The Best Man Holiday

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Facebook.com/TheBestManMovie
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: November 15th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual content and brief nudity.
Source: Original Screenplay / Sequel
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Romance, African-American, Ensemble, Delayed Sequel, and more
Directed By: Malcolm D. Lee
Written By: Malcolm D. Lee
Starring: Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs, Regina Hall, Terrence Howard, Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long, Harold Perrineau, Monica Calhoun, Melissa De Sousa, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million

The Best Man came out in 1999 and despite only costing $9 million to make, it earned more than $30 million at the box office. However, it has been 14 years since that film came out, and that's a lifetime and a half when it comes to the movies. It does have the weekend to itself, but that's because Thor: The Dark World opened the weekend before and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opens the following weekend. That level of competition simply scared away all other films. (There were two other films that were supposed to open wide this week: The Wold of Wall Street and The Book Thief. The former is now a Christmas release, while the latter is opening in limited release a week earlier.) Finally, the level of buzz is really quiet, among the quietest of the month. That said, it is aiming at an under-served market, so perhaps it will become a midlevel hit.

Weekend of November 22nd, 2013

This is the most important weekend of the month. It is the weekend before Thanksgiving, which is traditionally one of the best dates to open a monster hit, and boy is that true this year. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire should easily be the biggest hit of the weekend and of the month, and it has at least a 50/50 chance of topping Iron Man 3 for biggest hit of the year. It will also stop the slump 2013 will be in when this weekend roles around. This weekend last year was dominated by holdovers and the three new releases made a combined $60 million. This film will very likely make more than that on its opening day. Catching Fire isn't the only film opening wide this week, but it might as well be. Delivery Man is a remake of a Canadian movie, Starbuck, starring Vince Vaughn. I have a feeling the original is going to be the much better movie and this film could be little more than a footnote at the box office.

Delivery Man

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Facebook.com/DeliveryManMovie
Distributor: Walt Disney
Release Date: November 22nd, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual content, some drug material, brief violence and language.
Source: Original Screenplay / Remake
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Secret Identity, Foreign Language Remake, Unexpected Families, Delayed Adulthood, Director Remaking Own Movie, and more
Directed By: Ken Scott
Written By: Ken Scott
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Vince Vaughn stars as a man who hasn't found it way in life yet and it is costing him in many small ways. He is then informed that as a sperm donor many years ago, his sperm was used in artificial inception a few times more than it should have been. 533 times, to be exact. Now more than 100 of his biological kids are suing to have his identity unmasked and he has to figure out what to do. The original Canadian version of this movie, Starbuck, not only earned good reviews, but did very well in limited release. It earned more than $1 million in the United States, plus roughly $2 million in Canada. Unfortunately, the buzz is not particularly strong for this film and Vince Vaughn is in a box office slump. Ken Scott, the director of the original film, is directing this one as well, so hopefully it will be a strong adaptation, but I have serious doubts about its box office potential.

The Hunger Games: Catching-Fire

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheHungerGamesExplorer.com
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: November 22nd, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some frightening images, thematic elements, a suggestive situation and language.
Source: Based on a Book / Sequel
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Romance, Dystopian Future, Love Triangle, Ensemble, Political, Rebellion, and more
Directed By: Francis Lawrence
Written By: Simon Beaufoy, Michael Arndt, and Suzanne Collins
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, and others
Production Budget: Much more than the first film's $80 million production budget
Box Office Potential: $425 million

The Hunger Games came out in the spring of 2012 and there were really high expectations for the film. Many people, myself included, thought it would have a better run than the original Twilight film. To put this into perspective, this would be the record for Lionsgate. Then something very, very strange happened. It didn't merely match expectations, it doubled expectations. This almost never happens. Not only was the film a $400 million hit in theaters, but it also won over the vast majority of critics.

Because The Hunger Games did so well with moviegoers and critics, Catching Fire has such huge expectations that it is hard to judge its box office potential. Perhaps the film will see significant growth from the first installment to the second. This is what happened with the Twilight franchise, so it could happen here. On the other hand, the first film earned $400 million, so there's not a lot of room to grow. I think it will grow, by a little bit, and make enough to become the biggest hit of the year.

Weekend of November 29th, 2013

The final weekend of the month is Thanksgiving, which is one of the most important long weekends of the year. On the other hand, it has become traditional for the biggest release of the month to come out the weekend before Thanksgiving and that is the case this time around, as The Hunger Games: Catching Fire will likely dominate the box office. There are four wide releases looking to earn whatever box office dollars they can grab. Or to be more specific, there are three wide releases and a wide expansion. The biggest "new" release of the week will likely be Frozen and being a digitally animated family film opening during a prime weekend, if it doesn't make at least $150 million domestically, I will be shocked. Unfortunately, the other three releases will likely all struggle to become midlevel hits, if that. Black Nativity is a Christmas musical aimed at African-Americans. There are not a lot of films we can use as a direct comparison to that film. Homefront is the latest Jason Statham, but while he had several low-budget hits at the start of his career, he is now in a losing streak. Oldboy is a remake of a South Korean film of the same name. It has been in the works since 2005 and I don't think that's a good sign. This weekend last year was actually the weekend after Thanksgiving, so 2013 will win in the year-over-year comparison. There's a chance The Hunger Games: Catching Fire will make more than last year's top four made combined over the same weekend.

Black Nativity

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: FoxSearchlight.com/BlackNativity
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: November 27th, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic material, language and a menacing situation.
Source: Based on a Play
Major Genre: Musical
Keywords: African-American, Dysfunctional Family, Christmas, Religious, Foreclosure, Single Parent, and more
Directed By: Kasi Lemmons
Written By: Kasi Lemmons and Langston Hughes
Starring: Jennifer Hudson, Jacob Latimore, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Tyrese Gibson, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

When a single mother, Jennifer Hudson, learns she is about to be evicted, she sends her son, Jacob Latimore, to live with her parents, Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett, but the young man has problems living with his religiously conservative grandparents.

Musicals are far from the biggest box office draws. For every Mama Mia!, there are big misses like Nine or Rock of Ages. I think this is going to be the biggest of the three counter-programming releases, but I don't think it will do well enough to be considered a midlevel hit. Perhaps its production budget is low enough that it will break even sometime on the home market, but that's as bullish as I'm willing to get.

Frozen

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Movies.Disney.com/Frozen
Distributor: Walt Disney
Release Date: November 22nd, 2013 (limited)
Release Date: November 27th, 2013 (expands wide)
MPAA Rating: PG for some action and mild rude humor.
Source: Based on a Fairytale
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Sibling Rivalry, Royalty, Prince / Princess, and more
Directed By: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Written By: Jennifer Lee, Shane Morris, and Hans Christian Andersen
Starring: Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Alan Tudyk, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $100 million to $125 million
Box Office Potential: $195 million

Frozen looks like it has a similar box office potential as Tangled had, except without the troubled production. (For those that don't know, Tangled was well into production when the studio decided to scrap it and start again with a new script. This is why the end film cost $260 million to make.) Nearly every sign points to a strong box office run. It is the biggest family film of the month and the last major family film of the year. If Free Birds doesn't find an audience, it will be the only film with this target audience for the entire holiday season. On the other hand, if Free Birds fails to find an audience, it means three of the last four digitally animated films failed to reach $100 million at the box office. That's a troubling trend. Assuming the reviews are good, it should get off to a reasonable start during Thanksgiving long weekend, and the lack of direct competition and the Christmas holiday should boost its legs. It might be enough to cross $200 million domestically.

Homefront

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Facebook.com/HomeFrontMovie
Distributor: Open Road
Release Date: November 27th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, pervasive language, drug content and brief sexuality.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: DEA, Death of a Parent, Death of a Spouse, Life in a Small Town, Gangs, Narcotics, Revenge, Kidnapping, and more
Directed By: Gary Fleder
Written By: Sylvester Stallone and Chuck Logan
Starring: Jason Statham, James Franco, Kate Bosworth, Izabela Vidovic, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $70 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Jason Statham plays a lower level DEA agent who moves to a small town with his daughter, Izabela Vidovic, to get over the death of his wife / mother. However, he runs afoul of a local drugdealer, James Franco and Kate Bosworth. This film reportedly cost $70 million, but Jason Statham's recent films have had trouble topping $25 million at the box office and I don't see this film breaking that trend. The buzz is really quiet and not that positive. Perhaps it will surprise, but I really doubt it.

Oldboy

Trailer: Coming Soon
Official Site: OldboyFilm.Tumblr.com
Distributor: FilmDistrict
Release Date: November 27th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for strong brutal violence, disturbing images, some graphic sexuality and nudity, and language.
Source: Based on Comics / Remake
Major Genre: Thriller / Suspense
Keywords: Kidnapping, Revenge, Surprise Twist, and more
Directed By: Spike Lee
Written By: Mark Protosevich, Garon Tsuchiya, and Nobuaki Minegishi
Starring: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Josh Brolin stars as a man who is kidnapped, held for 20 years, then released. He looks for revenge, but learns he is part of a larger conspiracy. The film is based on the South Korean hit of the same name. Its predecessor earned excellent reviews and it has a dedicated fanbase here. It did well enough that a remake was in the works right away; however, there were problems getting the remake off the ground. This could be a bad sign. Additionally, the buzz is among the quietest of any wide release coming out this month. Granted, there's lots of time for that to change, but it will need to change if this film has any chance of becoming even a midlevel hit.


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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Ender's Game, Dallas Buyers Club, Free Birds, Thor: The Dark World, Frozen, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, About Time, Last Vegas, Oldboy, Delivery Man, The Best Man Holiday, The Book Thief, Black Nativity, Homefront, Twilight, Robert De Niro, Harrison Ford, Morgan Freeman, Forest Whitaker, Roger Bart, Angela Bassett, Kristen Bell, Kate Bosworth, Abigail Breslin, Josh Brolin, Asa Butterfield, Monica Calhoun, Morris Chestnut, Sharlto Copley, Viola Davis, Melissa De Sousa, Kat Dennings, Taye Diggs, Michael Douglas, Christopher Eccleston, Jerry Ferrara, James Franco, Josh Gad, Tyrese Gibson, Jonathan Groff, Regina Hall, Woody Harrelson, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Gavin Hood, Terrence Howard, Jennifer Hudson, Josh Hutcherson, Ben Kingsley, Kevin Kline, Sanaa Lathan, Francis Lawrence, Jennifer Lawrence, Malcolm D. Lee, Spike Lee, Kasi Lemmons, Nia Long, Romany Malco, Rachel McAdams, Idina Menzel, Scott Mosier, Bill Nighy, Harold Perrineau, Amy Poehler, Natalie Portman, Chris Pratt, Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Alan Tudyk, Jon Turteltaub, Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Jimmy Hayward, Liam Hemsworth, Domhnall Gleeson, Stephen McFeely, Simon Beaufoy, Dan Fogelman, Hailee Steinfeld, Michael Arndt, Mark Protosevich, Jacob Latimore, Elizabeth Olsen, Suzanne Collins, Cobie Smulders, Richard Curtis, Jennifer Lee, Gary Fleder, Langston Hughes, Ken Scott, Christopher Markus, Chris Buck