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2012 Preview: May

May 1st, 2012

There's good news / bad news going forward into May. First the bad news, April was really weak. It was weak compared to the previous month and weak compared to last year. For the first time all year, we had losses for a month on the year-over-year comparison. As for the good news... it could have been worse? Maybe there wasn't good news with regards to April, but there is certainly good news going forward. Every weekend in May has at least one film with the potential to hit $100 million, while there are a couple that could hit $200 million, and one that, pie in the sky, could reach $400 million. That one film is The Avengers, or as it is officially called, Marvel's The Avengers. I guess they don't want people reminded of the 1998 TV adaptation. While there are four films that should reach $100 million, there are only three other films opening wide, maybe two, maybe four. (More sources have Chernobyl Diaries opening wide than in limited release, but it is not a sure thing either way. Meanwhile, the opposite is true for LOL.) Additionally, there are a couple films opening in limited release this month with a real potential to expand wide: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and God Bless America. By comparison, last year had no film reach $300 million, but it had five films reach $100 million. If we are going to earn the win this year, we need strength from the top.

Weekend of May 4th, 2011

The month begins with Marvel's The Avengers, which is by some measures the most anticipated film of the year. Its buzz is louder than The Hunger Games's buzz was and it's initial trailer generated more noise than any other summer release, including The Dark Knight Rises. It has a shot at reaching $400 million and if it tops $300 million, it will change the way comic movies are made. (Franchise crossovers are going to become very common.) While it is going to dominate the box office this weekend, and this month, and possibly the entire year, it is not the only film opening this week worth talking about. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is opening in limited release, but it has a lot of buzz for a limited release and could be the sleeper hit of the summer. There is also a slim chance LOL will open wide, but the lack of advertising suggests it won't. If it does open wide, it will likely only be a minor release. Even matching The Last Song would be hard to do. On the other hand, if it opens in limited release, it will likely be out of theaters before it hits $1 million. By comparison, last year Thor opened and while it earned blockbuster level numbers, it was not a truly monster hit. It opened with more than $65 million, but The Avengers will likely double that opening. After a poor April, May starts off with a bang.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: FoxSearchlight.com/TheBestExoticMarigoldHotel
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Release Date: May 4th, 2012 (Limited)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content and language.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Autumn Years, Retirement, Romance, December December Romance, Widow / Widower, and more
Directed By: John Madden
Starring: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Dev Patel, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million

This film is definitely opening in limited release; however, given its reviews and its international numbers, I expect it to expand wide enough to earn some measure of mainstream success. I would be shocked if it didn't earn at least $1 million, but I wouldn't be as shocked if it hit $40 million. My only concern is its opening weekend. There is a chance the target audience will hesitate going out to the movies during the opening weekend, because they don't want to deal with the crowds going to see The Avengers. Should it open strong, it should have really long legs. And even if it doesn't expand wide here, it has made enough internationally to break even.

Marvel's The Avengers

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Marvel.com/Avengers_Movie
Distributor: Disney
Release Date: May 4th, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference.
Source: Based on a Comic / Spin-Off / Remake
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Marvel Comics, 3D, Gods / Goddesses, Mutants, Visual Effects, Special Ops, Alien Invasion, Revenge, Franchise Crossover, Non-Chronological, Ensemble, Gratuitous Cameos, Epilogue, Scene After the Credits, and more
Directed By: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, and others
Production Budget: $225 million
Box Office Potential: $405 million

This film could change how Comic Book movies are made. For years, studios have been terrified of continuity when it came to movies. They operated under the assumption that moviegoers didn't know enough about the backstory of the various comic book characters and wouldn't be interested in following an extended plot that involved multiple movies. Marvel's The Avengers could prove all of that wrong.

It has the strongest buzz of any film opening this year, while the early reviews are nearly perfect. Additionally, the film's early international numbers have ranged from outstanding to record-breaking. It has beaten Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 opening numbers in more than a few markets. Expectations couldn't be higher. In fact, great expectations is the film's only thing I'm worried about. If the film doesn't break records here, it will be seen as a disappointment by some people.

Last Minute Update: While Marvel's The Avengers' opening day on the international box office was impressive, its first weekend was even better. At this point, the opening weekend's over / under is $170 million, while the chances it will top $400 million domestically have improved and it might be the first $1 billion movie of the year.

Weekend of May 11th, 2011

As I mention nearly every year, the summer blockbuster season starts the first weekend of May, and from that point till some time in August, nearly every single weekend is prime real estate in the movie schedule. The lone exception to that is the second weekend in May. This is the weekend where studios tend to dump their films that looked like a good idea at the time, but turned out to be mistakes. This weekend has been the home to such misses as Poseidon, Speed Racer and Robin Hood among others. Last year, the "counter-programing" film, Bridesmaids, crushed the "feature presentation", Priest 3D, which cost twice as much to make. On the other hand, this is the same weekend where Star Trek opened with nearly $80 million. This year, the lone wide release is Dark Shadows, the latest of roughly 17 billion films directed by Tim Burton to star Johnny Depp. Will this film be one of the rare wins for the weekend? I think it will be. And I think it will help 2012 earn a solid win, although the sophomore stint by The Avengers will have a lot to do with that. Also opening this weekend is God Bless America. It is opening in limited release; however, its early reviews and the buzz suggest it could expand wide. On the other hand, like most films directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, its subject is out there, which would limit its target audience.

Dark Shadows

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: DarkShadowsMovie.WarnerBros.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: May 11th, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for comic horror violence, sexual content, some drug use, language and smoking.
Source: Based on a TV show
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Vampire, Curse, Time Travel, Culture Clash, Unrequited Love, Dysfunctional Family, Romance, and more
Directed By: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Bella Heathcote, Chloe Moretz, Gulliver McGrath, and others.
Production Budget: $105 million
Box Office Potential: $125 million

I didn't know what to expect from this movie before I saw the trailer, but even without any real expectations, I can honestly say I wasn't expecting that. Tim Burton decided against making a straight adaptation of the original TV series. This makes total sense, as the original show was a soap opera, which is not the type of show that one can easily adapt into a stand along movie. Additionally, the most famous character in the original show, Barnabas Collins, wasn't introduced right away, so either he had to make the movie without the most famous part of the TV show, or seriously mess with the original story anyway. So instead of dealing with that mess, he made a zany fish-out-of-water comedy. Johnny Depp plays Barnabas Collins, who lived in the 1700s and was in love. However, a witch was obsessed with him and when he refused to leave his true love for her, she cursed him and turned him into a Vampire. Afterwards, he is trapped and isn't released until the 1970s and when he is, he has to deal with his dysfunctional descendants, as well as the culture clash of living more than 200 years in the future. And that's before the witch that cursed him originally shows up and further complicates things.

I've liked almost everything Tim Burton has made in the past and his collaborations with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter are among his best films, so I'm willing to embrace the strangeness in the trailer, and there's a lot there. I have faith that as bizarre as the trailer was, the movie will work as a whole. I'm not alone in thinking this way. Of Tim Burton's last six live action films, four of them have reached $100 million, including three of his last four films with Johnny Depp and three of the four with Helena Bonham Carter. (And two of the three films featuring both of them.) So reaching $100 million is a reasonable goal for the film, while it could match last year's big hit of the weekend, Bridesmaids. That might be asking too much, but I remain cautiously optimistic.

God Bless America

Trailer: Coming Soon
Official Site: GodBlessAmericaMovie.com
Distributor: Magnet
Release Date: May 11th, 2012
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and language including some sexual sequences.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Black Comedy
Keywords: Terminal Illness, Serial Killer, Reality TV, Road Trip, Spoiled Child, Revenge, and more
Directed By: Bobcat Goldthwait
Starring: Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr
Production Budget: Estimated at $10 million
Box Office Potential: $1 million

Joel Murray stars as Frank, an unemployed man who just learned he has a brain tumor and he's going to die. His life is so bleak, he decides to kill himself. However, after watching a Reality TV show, he decides he wants to live... so he can kill others. His first kill is a spoiled kid on said TV show who was upset because her parents bought her the wrong car. While preparing to kill this girl, Frank is spotted by another girl, Roxy (played by newcomer Tara Lynne Barr) who wants to join Frank on his killing spree.

Bobcat Goldthwait has directed a number of films, most of which deal with topics that are decidedly noncommercial. Shakes the Clown was about an alcoholic clown who was framed for murder. Stay was a romantic comedy that involved bestiality. World's Greatest Dad was about a father discovering his son's dead body, after his son accidentally killed himself with auto-erotic asphyxiation. Compared to that, God Bless America is as mainstream as a Disney cartoon. That said, it is going to be a tough sell. There are some reasons to be hopeful. Firstly, its early reviews are nearly perfect. Secondly, the buzz is better than expected, and much louder than most limited releases earn.

I'm not saying its going to expand wide and become a major hit. But it has the potential to earn some measure of mainstream success, while it should become a bigger hit on the home market.

Weekend of May 18th, 2011

There are three films opening in wide release this weekend, all of which could get to the $100 million milestone. On the other extreme, there's a chance none of them will get there. Battleship is the most typical summer blockbuster of the week and is a visual fest with a plot that is less important than the size of the explosions seen on screen. What to Expect When You're Expecting is the counter-programing film, but like Bridesmaids, it could have really long legs. Finally, The Dictator is the least predictable of the three and could make anywhere from $50 million to $150 million. Battleship has the best shot at top spot and $100 million, while perhaps one of the other two films will also reach the century mark. Hopefully this will be the case, as this weekend last year, the box office was led by Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, which earned a massive $90 million opening, so it will take a team effort to avoid a loss on the year-over-year comparison. I am actually a little hopeful. Both The Avengers and Dark Shadows should earn between $20 million to $30 million, so the three wide releases need to earn a combined $90 million or so for 2012 to earn the victory. I think that's doable.

Battleship

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: BattleshipMovie.com
Distributor: Disney
Release Date: May 18th, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, action and destruction, and for language.
Source: Very Loosely Based on a Game
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Alien Invasion, Visual Effects, End of the World, Toy Adaptation, On a Boat, 3D, and more
Directed By:
Peter Berg
Starring: Liam Neeson, Rhianna, and a lot of special effects
Production Budget: $200 million
Box Office Potential: $150 million

So apparently all those times I played Battleship as a kid, we were aliens destroying the fleets. Who knew? This movie has many problems, including the addition of random aliens to the plot. Also, battleships don't exist anymore, outside of floating museums. The last battleship built, the HMS Vanguard, was constructed 70 years ago. While the last battleship to see active duty was the USS Missouri, which saw very limited duty during the Gulf War and was last a real factor in the Korean War. So the movie is based on a board game without a plot and is named after a type of weapon that hasn't seen serious action in more than half a century. Will that hurt the movie's box office chances? Perhaps, if people making fun of the film drowns out positive word-of-mouth. Its reviews are better than expected at just shy of 50% positive, while its international numbers are strong. I don't think it will match its production budget domestically, but there is good news as it has opened internationally and it is already close to $200 million after just three weeks of release. There is a chance it could make that much here, but even just $100 would be enough to break even sooner rather than later. If it makes more than $200 million here and $500 million worldwide, there could be a sequel, or even worse, more board game adaptions. (Candyland is already in production.)

The Dictator

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: RepublicOfWadiya.com
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: May 16th, 2012
MPAA Rating: R for strong crude and sexual content, brief male nudity, language and some violent images.
Source: Original Screenplay / Inspired by a Book
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Government Corruption, Culture Clash, Mistaken Identity, Terrorism, Gratuitous Cameos, Bigotry, Prologue, Romance, Voiceover, and more
Directed By: Larry Charles
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, John C. Reilly, Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley, Olivia Dudley, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million to $150 million

I have no idea what to expect for this movie. On the one hand, in 2006, Larry Charles and Sacha Baron Cohen teamed up to make Borat, which was one of the biggest surprise hits of the year earning more than $100 million. On the other hand, they reunited a few years later to make Bruno, and that film failed to live up to expectations making less than half of the previous film's total. The Dictator literally could do better than the former, or worse than the latter. It depends on if people are tired of Sacha Baron Cohen's schtick or if Bruno couldn't live up to unreasonable expectations after Borat. Fortunately, early buzz is positive and it looks like the film's reviews will be strong. Additionally, it is the first R-rated comedy of the summer, so it has that going for it. On the other hand, it is sharing counter-programing duties with another film this weekend, What to Expect When Your Expecting, which will eat into its box office chances. Opening on Wednesday will likely deflate its opening three-day weekend total, but hopefully getting a jump on the competition will help build word-of-mouth for the following weeks. I think becoming a strong midlevel hit with $75 million is likely.

What to Expect When Your Expecting

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: WhatToExpectTheFilm.com
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: May 18th, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual content, thematic elements and language.
Source: Based on a Magazine Article
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Ensemble, Relationship Advice, Relationships Gone Wrong, Romance, Battle of the Sexes, Difficult Pregnancies, Adopted Family, and more
Directed By: Kirk Jones
Starring: A whole lot of people.
Production Budget: Estimated at $40 million to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million

This movie started as a magazine article and later it expanded into a non-fictional book. Now it's a movie starring nearly every actor working today. On the high end of expectations, Valentine's Day. On the low end of expectations, New Year's Eve. On the really, really high end, Bridesmaids. There's really not much more that needs to be said, as it's too early to tell where the film will end up. There's not a lot of buzz, good or bad, but counter-programing films rarely stand out this far in advance of their debuts. Also, given the target demographic, it is less likely to generate internet buzz than every other film opening wide this month. So it is not surprising this one is currently flying below the radar for most people, but that should change in a couple weeks.

Weekend of May 25th, 2011

Memorial Day Long Weekend is one of the best weekends of the year, and this year Men in Black 3 has it nearly to itself. In fact, there are some sources that say Chernobyl Diaries will open in limited release, so this might turn out to be the case. Even if Chernobyl Diaries opens in wide release, it likely won't be a major factor at the box office. It has been a decade since the last Men In Black film and it could be a case of "Out of sight, out of mind" or a case of "Absence makes the heart grow founder". MIB3 might top last year's number one film, The Hangover II; however, the one-two punch of The Hangover II and Kung Fu Panda 2 will be really hard to beat. This means, May could start out with a record-breaking opening by The Avengers, but it could end on a losing note. Hopefully, the overall box office numbers will be strong and by the end of the month, 2012 will stretch out its lead over 2011.

Chernobyl Diaries

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ChernobylDiaries.WarnerBros.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: May 25th, 2012
MPAA Rating: R for violence, some bloody images and pervasive language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Mutants, Tourists In Trouble, and more
Directed By: Bradley Parker
Starring: The only one in the cast I recognize in the trailer was is Olivia Dudley, and that's cause she's on 5 Second Films
Production Budget: Estimated at $10 million to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

A group of tourists in Russia decide to take an "Extreme Tour" of Prypiat, the city abandoned after the Chernobyl Disaster. However, after they get there, they learn it wasn't abandoned by everything.

This film managed to fly completely under my radar, but I think that is understandable. It is the directorial debut of Bradley Parker, who is mostly known for his visual effects work. Most of the cast are relatively unknown. But is was written by Oren Peli, who wrote the first Paranormal Activity and he is arguably the biggest name attached to the film. I don't think the studio is optimistic enough to think this film will do as well as any of the Paranormal Activity films did, but given its likely very low budget, it won't need to make a lot to break even. There is a chance it won't open truly wide, in which case it will likely struggle during Memorial Day long weekend, disappear shortly after that, and never reach $1 million at the box office. Even if it opens wide, it might struggle during Memorial Day long weekend and disappear shortly after that, but at least it will have a shot at matching its production budget. It depends on if the studio can build some buzz before the release date, because right now there's almost none. There are limited releases opening this month earning louder buzz (Hick, Moonrise Kingdom, The Perfect Family, Quill, and others).

Men in Black 3

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: MenInBlack.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: May 25th, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, and brief suggestive content.
Source: Based on a Comic Book / Remake
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Alien Invasion, Friendly Alien on Earth, 3D, Hitmen, Time Travel, Delayed Sequel, Buddy Comedy, Faulty Memory, Secret Agent, Marvel Comics, Visual Effects, Gratuitous Cameos, Same Role / Different Actors, and more
Directed By: Barry Sonnenfeld
Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, and others
Production Budget: $215 million
Box Office Potential: $205 million

I am not sold on this film. It has been a decade since Men in Black 2 came out, and while that movie earned close to $200 million domestically and over $400 million worldwide, it is widely considered vastly inferior to the original film in the franchise. Looking at the Tomatometer Scores and the two films are not even close. So the studio needs to be able to sell the film to an audience that loved the characters the first time they saw them, but were disappointed the last time out. Also, Will Smith hasn't had a film role in four years, while his $100 million streak was snapped with Seven Pounds. The first trailer appears to have done its job and the buzz is so strong that it is one of the most anticipated films of the summer. If the film can just sell as many tickets as MIB2, then it will make more than $250 million. I'm sure the studio is hoping it will make that much given its hefty production budget, but I think just a hair over $200 is more likely, while $500 million worldwide may or may not be likely. This should be enough to break even sooner rather than later, but not enough to risk another sequel.


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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Battleship, The Avengers, Dark Shadows, Men in Black 3, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Dictator, Hick, Moonrise Kingdom, What to Expect When You're Expecting, God Bless America, Chernobyl Diaries, LOL, The Perfect Family, Quill: The Life of a Guide Dog