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2011 Preview: July

June 28th, 2011

July starts with one of the most important holidays of the year, which is good news for the industry, as June was a little weaker than expected, at least on average. None of the films were shockingly bad at the box office, even if a few missed early predictions by significant degrees. But conversely, none really shocked analysts with their box office prowess. As such, 2011 continued to slide a little further behind 2010's pace, a trend the movie industry hopes will end this month. Fortunately, that is a reasonable goal. Last July was home to two $100 million movies, two $200 million movies, and a one $300 million movie, assuming you count The Twilight Saga: Eclipse as a July film. This time around, we could see two films top $300 million, assuming you count Transformers: Dark of the Moon as a July release. Meanwhile, there are several potential $100 million films. I count up to six films with a statistically significant shot at reaching the century mark, but I would be amazed if more than half of them got there.

Weekend of July 1st, 2011

This year the Independence Day long weekend is all about Transformers: Dark of the Moon and the film should dominate the box office. It's not the only wide release as there are two counter-programing films, Larry Crowne and Monte Carlo, both of which looking to become solid hits with their target audience. Larry Crowne might even top Tom Hanks' box office career average and earn just over $100 million. In comparison to last year, 2011 looks strong, as Dark of the Moon should top Eclipse, while Larry Crowne and Monte Carlo combined should top The Last Airbender.

Larry Crowne

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: LarryCrowne.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: July 1st, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language and some sexual content.
Source: Origial Screenplay
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Mid-Life Crisis, Fired!, Romance, New Guy / Girl in School, Directing Yourself, and more
Directed By: Tom Hanks
Starring: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Bryan Cranston, Taraji P. Henson, Cedric the Entertainer, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Wilmer Valderrama, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $40 million to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million

Tom Hanks returns to the director's chair for the first time since That Thing You Do!. That film was far from a major box office hit, but it did very well with critics. Larry Crowne has a shot of earning more during its opening long weekend that the previous film made in total.

Tom Hanks stars as the titular character, whom, after working many years in a big box retailer store, is suddenly fired. Determined to get back on his feet, he goes back to school to complete his college degree. It's there he meets Julia Roberts, who is a professor teaching a class in speech. And while he becomes romantically involved with his teacher, he also becomes friends with many of his classmates. Romantic comedies rarely reach $100 million; however, these two actors combined have been in 30 films that have reached $100 million, so you can't discount the possibility. With an impressive ensemble cast, which includes some fun cameos, the movie could be one of the sleeper hits of the summer. Anything above $20 million during its opening weekend will be enough to call it a success, while if it can get close to $30 million, then it has a real shot at $100 million in total.

Last Minute Update: Early reviews are only mixed, so its chances of reaching $100 million have taken a hit. As such, I've reduced its box office potential from $85 million to $75 million.

Monte Carlo

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: No Official Site
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: July 1st, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG for brief mild language.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Coming of Age, Romance, Cross-Class Romance, Mistaken Identity, Doppleganger, Same Actor, Multiple Roles, and more
Directed By: Tom Bezucha
Starring: Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester, Katie Cassidy, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Selena Gomez' second starring role, this time in the dual role of Grace and Cordelia. Grace is a recent high school graduate on vacation in Paris with, Leighton Meester, her stepsister, and Katie Cassidy, her best friend. Cordelia is a rich heiress from Britain, who is also vacationing in Paris at the time and wants to escape the paparazzi, so Grace and Cordelia switch places.

Selena Gomez' previous film, Ramona and Beezus, only made $25 million at the box office, but Monte Carlo should beat that, as it is aimed at an older audience, one that will have more money to spend on movie tickets. I'm seen comparisons to Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants or The Lizzie McGuire Movie, and if it can match those films' ticket sales, then Monte Carlo could surpass $50 million at the box office. However, the advertising has been quite weak. In fact, the film doesn't even have a proper website. The lack of direct competition should help, but it will still likely have to wait till the home market to find an audience.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TransformersMovie.com
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: June 29th, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for ntense prolonged sequences of sci-fi action violence, mayhem and destruction, and for language, some sexuality and innuendo.
Source: Base don a TV Series and a Sequel
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Robots, Friendly Alien on Earth, Alternate History, and more
Directed By: Michael Bay
Starring: A bunch of humans that don't matter
Production Budget: Estimated at $200 million, more or less
Box Office Potential: $350 million

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is one of the most anticipated films of the year, and that shouldn't surprise too many people, as Revenge of the Fallen is one of the highest grossing films of all time. However, it is also the worst movie to crack $400 million at the box office, by a large margin, so while a lot of people saw the previous film, it might be a lot harder to convince them to buy tickets this time around. It is opening on Independence Day long weekend, or to be more accurate, a couple days before, and the six-day opening could be huge. It could pull in $200 million from Wednesday through Monday. On the other hand, there's a good chance that, however much it earns over those six days, that will be more than it earns during the rest of its run.

If it doesn't earn at least $300 million domestically, it will be seen as a disappointment. On the other hand, $400 million is possible, but not likely. It is can earn $350 million during its theatrical run, then it will likely become the biggest hit of the summer, and probably the biggest hit of the year.

Last Minute Update: The reviews are in and they are weak. The are not as bad as the previous installment's reviews, but they are certainly not good. The film should still be a hit, but $325 million is more likely.

Weekend of July 8th, 2011

The post-holiday weekend is usually a bit of a let down in terms of quality releases, and there's no exception here. The biggest release of the week will likely be Zookeeper, thus continuing Kevin James' unlikely box office track-record. (It will likely finish in second place to Transformers: Dark of the Moon, but I don't think the studio will mind in the end.) Meanwhile, Horrible Bosses is a bit of a wildcard. Similar R-rated comedies have been doing well as of late; in fact, Bad Teacher might join Bridesmaids and The Hangover 2 in the Century Club. The new releases this year don't seem as strong as last year and there's almost no chance either of them will make $250 million like Despicable Me did. I doubt they will make that much combined. But perhaps holdovers will be able to help 2011 maintain pace over 2010.

Horrible Bosses

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: HorribleBossesMovie.WarnerBros.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: July 8th, 2011
MPAA Rating:
R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug material.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Bosses from Hell, Hitmen, Revenge, and more
Directed By: Seth Gordon
Starring: Jason Bateman, Kevin Spacey, Charlie Day, Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, Colin Ferrell, Jamie Foxx, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $40 million to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million

Seth Gordon first came to fame with The King of Kong, the documentary about the rivalry to become the greatest Donkey Kong player in the world, which earned near perfect reviews. However, he also directed Four Christmases, which was a surprise $100 million hit in 2008, despite its critical reception. Horrible Bosses is his latest film, should land somewhere in between the two in terms of box office numbers and Tomatometer Score.

That doesn't narrow down its prospects much, but that's because there's a lot of uncertainty here. R-rated comedies have been doing well this year and this film could continue that trend by opening with more than $30 million and earning more than $100 million in total. On the other hand, if the film earned just over $50 million, that would be enough to raise the career averages for most of the main cast. Despite high name recognition of most of the cast members, none of the them have really strong box office records. Jason Bateman has the highest career average, but only one of his last seven film has hit $100 million, and only two have earned more than $40 million. Jamie Foxx has three $100 million hits in a row, but that's includes a bit part, an ensemble film, and voice work. Maybe the combined strength will be enough to help the film reach that milestone, but earning half that is just as likely. The above prediction is the average of those two extremes.

Zookeeper

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Zookeeper-Movie.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: July 8th, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG for some rude and suggestive humor, and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Relationships Gone Wrong, Mid-life Crisis, Talking Animals, Animal Leads, Relationship Advice, Romance, Gratuitous Cameos, and more
Directed By: Frank Coraci
Starring: Kevin James, Leslie Bibb, Rosario Dawson, and a bunch of talking animals
Production Budget: Reported at $80 million
Box Office Potential: $125 million

Kevin James stars as Griffin Keyes, who in the beginning of the movie asks Leslie Bibb to marry him. She rejects him saying she doesn't like the fact that he's a zookeeper. Because of this, he contemplates quitting his job and getting one that's more "manly" in an attempt to win her back. However, the animals he takes care of don't want him to quit, so they reveal they can talk and start giving him relationship advice to win the girl of his dreams. So it's sort of like Hitch, but with Will Smith replaced by a bunch of zoo animals.

That premise probably isn't as crazy as it sounds, and the film will likely become a solid hit at the box office for a number of reasons. Kevin James has only had one live action film not reach $100 million. Frank Coraci's career average is $100 million (barely). While it has a great release date without a lot of direct competition. On the other hand, it is a PG-rated romantic comedy featuring talking animals, and quite frankly I'm not 100% sure who the target audience is. Adam Sandler is a producer (and provides the voice for one of the animals) so there's a chance the film is aimed at his fans. However, it's rated PG, which suggests its aim is younger. But it is also a romantic comedy, and there are not many of those aimed at family. Then again, as soon as you have talking animals in a movie, the target demographic is lowered.

It's confusing. In the end, I would be surprised if the film didn't make at least $100 million, but I would be equally surprised if it reached $150 million.

Weekend of July 15th, 2011

The biggest franchise of all time comes to an end in July, and while this is upsetting to fans, and to the studio, box office watchers are very excited. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II should become the biggest hit of the year worldwide, maybe the biggest hit internationally, and there's a chance it will top Transformers: Dark of the Moon domestically. It should have the biggest opening weekend in the franchise, which would mean it will earn as much as the top four films earned last year and help 2011 to a big win. Also opening this week is Winnie the Pooh, and sadly it appears there's little reason to be excited about that film's box office prospects.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: HarryPotter.WarnerBros.com/HarryPotterAndTheDeathlyHallows
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: July 15th, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images.
Source: Based on a Book / Sequel
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Good vs. Evil, Non-Chronological, Gratuitous Cameos, Dragon, Creature Feature, Epilogue, Werewolf, Gay / Lesbian, Ensemble, and a lot more
Directed By: David Yates
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, and many, many others
Production Budget: $125 million
Box Office Potential: $325 million

After eight films and nearly a decade, I've simply run out of things to say about this franchise. I expect Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II to be an amazing success at the box office. It might even top The Philosopher's Stone as the biggest hit. It has a real chance to become the film first in the series to reach $1 billion worldwide. Some are even suggesting the film will break The Dark Knight's record for biggest opening weekend. That's a little too bullish for me, but I don't want to completely ignore the possibility.

I think $130 million opening and $325 million in total is the most likely result, which is enough to get someone at Warner Bros. frantically working on a way to extend the series. (Prequels?)

Winnie the Pooh

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Disney.com/Pooh
Distributor: Disney
Release Date: July 15th, 2011
MPAA Rating: G for General Admissions.
Source: Based on a Book / Sequel
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Breaking The Fourth Wall, Coming of Age, Intertitle, Voiceover, Food, Talking Animals, Animal Leads, Living Toys, Rescue, and more
Directed By: Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall
Starring: Jim Cummings, Tom Kenny, Craig Ferguson, Travis Oates, Bud Luckey, Jack Boulter, John Cleese, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

When I first heard Winnie the Pooh was being made, I was super excited. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is still one of my favorite cartoons. However, my personal bias aside, the film's box office chances are not that rosy. The franchise has never been a major player at the box office and G-rated films rarely find appeal outside of younger kids. Also, the film has already opened in a number of international markets and it hasn't exactly been a hit. In fact, it's opened outside the top ten in nearly every major market it has opened in so far.

If it repeats that performance here, it will be an huge disappointment. Hopefully this won't be the case and it will at least crack $10 million during its opening, but even that rather low expectation might be too much to ask of the film. Its early reviews suggests it deserves to do at least that well. However, its international performance suggests it won't make $10 million in total.

Weekend of June 22nd, 2011

The fourth weekend of July plays host to the third Marvel release of the summer. Captain America is also the final release in the build-up for The Avengers, which comes out next year. It is obviously the big release of the weekend, but it will likely play second fiddle to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II. Meanwhile, Friends with Benefits just hopes to become a solid mid-level hit in a counter-programing role. Should the new releases live up to expectations, then 2011 should have an excellent chance at winning compared to last year. Last year, neither of the new releases were major hits, while Inception repeated as box office champ. This year, both Harry Potter and Captain America should make more than Inception did over the weekend, and so as long as Friends with Benefits doesn't bomb, victory is within reach.

Captain America: The First Avenger

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: CaptainAmerica.Marvel.com
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: July 22nd, 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Likely aiming for PG-13
Source: Based on a Comic
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: World War II, Epilogue, Good vs. Evil, Nazis, Marvel Comics, and more
Directed By: Joe Johnston
Starring: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $140 million
Box Office Potential: $150 million

Is four major comic book movies in three months too much? We are about to find out.

Captain America: The First Avenger is the final solo film that is being used to introduce the main characters for The Avengers, which will kick off the summer blockbuster season next year. As such, its box office performance is extremely important, because it is not just this film that will be affected, but the all important upcoming ensemble film.So how are its chances? That depends on your expectations. The film's buzz is good, but there are two other films opening in July with much better buzz. (Or at the very least, much stronger buzz.) There's also a serious concern about Fanboy Burnout by the time it opens, especially after Green Lantern disappointed so many people. If you are hoping the film will match Iron Man's box office numbers, then I think you will be disappointed. I don't even think it will match Thor, but topping X-Men: First Class is much more likely.

Friends with Benefits

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: FWB-Movie.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: July 22nd, 2011
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Relationships Gone Wrong, Romance, and more
Directed By: Will Gluck
Starring: Mila Kunis, Justin Timberlake, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

After mentioning how well R-rated comedies have been doing several times in the past few months, I think this trend will end this weekend. By the time Friends with Benefits opens, it will be the third such film to open in a span of just five weeks, and the fifth such film to open this summer. And even worse, this is the second film to use the same basic plot. (Two people deciding to have a purely sexual relationship, only to fall in love.) The similarities between this film and No Strings Attached is pretty amazing. Not only do they have the same basic plot, they both star actresses from Black Swan, and at one time, the two films had the same name.

Will this hurt the film? Probably. You're already seeing people mock the film for being a remake of No Strings Attached. Maybe if it has significantly better reviews than No Strings Attached earned, that will help change people's minds, but that's a big if.

Weekend of June 29th, 2011

Like last year, this year July has five weekends. And like last year, this year the final weekend of July feels like an August weekend. There are three wide releases coming out, but none of them look like sure-fire hits. On the other hand, two of them are potential $100 million hits. It's very unlikely that both Cowboys and Aliens and The Smurfs will reach the century mark. In fact, it's more likely neither of them will get there than both of them. If both can at least come respectably close, while Crazy, Stupid, Love doesn't completely bomb, then 2011 should end the month with a solid win.

Cowboys and Aliens

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: CowboysAndAliensMovie.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: July 20th, 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Likely aiming for PG-13
Source: Based on a Comic
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Alien Invasion, Faulty Memory, Independent Comic, and more
Directed By: Jon Favreau
Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $100 million
Box Office Potential: $80 million

The fifth comic book movie to come out this summer, the sixth if you count Priest 3D. (So few people saw that movie that one could argue it doesn't count.) In fact, one could argue this film doesn't count as a real comic book movie, as the movie script was written before the graphic novel came out. It's had a strange journey from initial conception to the screen.

Cowboys and Aliens is also a rather strange movie. It's a sci-fi Western, which are two styles that are rarely mixed. The last film I can think of that fits that bill is Wild Wild West, and since that movie was monstrously expensive to make and was a box office disappointment, it's not surprising that it took so long for a studio to risk a lot of money on another such film. The film does have some things going for it, including a proven director and cast with strong name recognition. However, the buzz has been mixed, to put it politely. While there is a fanbase for this film that is willing to defend it online, a lot of people reacted to the trailer with, "What the hell was that?", or similar.

This film could be a solid $100 million hit, perhaps even topping fellow sci-fi films like Green Lantern or Super 8. Or its opening weekend could be lower than the latter while its legs could be shorter than the former. I'm going with a $30 million opening and an $80 million final, but there's a lot of uncertainty here.

Crazy, Stupid, Love

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: CrazyStupidLove.WarnerBros.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: July 29th, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for coarse humor, sexual content and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Relationships Gone Wrong, Romance, Relationship Advice, Coming of Age, Divorcee Romance, and more
Directed By: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
Starring: Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomie, Kevin Bacon, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

There are few films coming out this summer that are aimed at a mature audience, where that phrase isn't just a euphemism for R-rated. Up to this point, it's pretty much been just Larry Crowne and Crazy, Stupid, Love.

In Crazy, Stupid, Love, Steve Carell plays a man whose seemingly perfect life is thrown for a loop when his wife, Julianne Moore, asks for a divorce. Unaccustomed to dating, he gets advice from Ryan Gosling, who is a real ladies' man. However, the latter then needs advice when he falls in love with Emma Stone, who his immune to his usual, shallow pick-up techniques.

There's not a lot of buzz for this film, but given its older target demographic, that shouldn't be seen as a terrible sign, as the target demographic is hardly likely to be effected by hype for a film coming out a month from now. As long as the reviews are solid, the film should succeed in its counter-programing role.

The Smurfs

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: SmurfHappens.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: July 29th, 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Likely aiming for PG
Source: Based on a TV series that was originally based on a comic
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Gratuitous Cameos, Live Action Cartoon, 3-D, Voiceover, and more
Directed By: Raja Gosnell
Starring: Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, Hank Azaria, and a bunch of CG Smurfs
Production Budget: Estimated at $60 million to $80 million
Box Office Potential: $90 million

I'm of two minds with regards to this film. On the one hand, the film looks no better than Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, which failed to match even the low end of expectations when it opened in theaters this time last year. On the other hand, The Smurfs was directed by Raja Gosnell, whose previous film was Beverly Hills Chihuahua. That film came very close to reaching $100 million during its domestic run, so he knows how to attract the target demographic for these films. If this film can sell as many tickets as Beverly Hills Chihuahua did, then it will top $100 million, thanks to ticket price inflation and 3-D ticket prices.

Which end of the spectrum the film ends up on depends heavily on how well the movie is marketed. If it can foster enough nostalgia, then parents who grew up watching the cartoons on TV will be more likely to take their kids to the movie when it opens.

I do have some concerns over the quality of the film, including a problem with stunt casting. For instance, Katy Perry plays Smurfette. Regardless what you think about her musical talent, she has no experience acting. Perhaps it would have been better to hire an actress that was experienced with providing voices. I'm also concerned with the sheer number of Smurfs in the movie, many of which are likely to make little more than cameo appearances, and are played by actors that might provide name recognition, but little else. I have this nagging suspicion the film is little more than an add for merchandise.


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Filed under: Monthly Preview, The Smurfs, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Zookeeper, Cowboys and Aliens, Captain America: The First Avenger, Bad Teacher, Crazy, Stupid, Love, X-Men: First Class, Friends with Benefits, Horrible Bosses, Monte Carlo, Larry Crowne, Super 8, Winnie the Pooh