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2011 Preview: August

August 1st, 2011

It's that time of year again, the time where we try to guess when Summer ends. According to the real world, Summer ends on the 22nd of September, but in the movie business, summer ends suddenly one weekend in August, and it's never really predictable which weekend that will be. There is some reason to be optimistic, as July ended on a relatively strong note. Both films that were predicted to be monster hits, Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, were monster hits. And for every potential $100 million hit that missed expectations, there was another film that topped them. If this momentum can carry forward, then perhaps summer can be extended for for one or two more weeks. August of 2010 was a good end to the Summer with two $100 million movies and a few mid-level hits. I'm not sure if 2011 will be able to replicate that performance, but Summer could end on a high note.

Weekend of August 5th, 2011

There could be a bit of a race at the box office this week, as there are some differences of opinion which film will come out on top in the end. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is opening wider and should start faster, but The Change-Up might come out on top in the end. Compared to last year, I don't think either of the new releases will do as well as The Other Guys did in the end. On the other hand, this time last year it was The Other Guys at $35 million, and then a big gap to the second place film. This year we have two films that could each hit $100 million overall, plus several holdovers that should be be in the $10 million to $20 million range over the weekend, so the combined strength should help 2011 earn a much-needed win.

The Change-Up

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheChangeUpMovie.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: August 5th, 2011
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive strong crude sexual content and language, some graphic nudity and drug use.
Source: Origial Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Body Swap, Mid-Life Crisis, and more
Directed By: David Dobkin
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman, Olivia Wilde, Leslie Mann, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $40 million to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $85 million

Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman star as two friends, one single and one married, who both envy the other's life. After a night of drinking, which ends with public urination into a fountain, they wake up in the other's body.

How many other movies can you think of where public urination is a major plot point? ... Moving on.

There seem to be equal number of reasons to be optimistic and to be cautious. Firstly, it's yet another R-rated comedy. Granted, those films have been on a roll lately with at least half-a-dozen such films connecting with audiences this year, including a $200 million hit, a $100 million hit, and two more that could reach the century mark as well. However, I'm still worried about market saturation. The film was directed by David Dobkin, who previously directed Wedding Crashers, which is a film one could argue created the genre. (For a while it was the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time.) On the other hand, the movie business is fickle, there's a fine line between trend and fad, and every film like this could be the one that hits saturation point. Also, while Body Swap movies were quite the fad in the 1980s, they haven't exactly been popular at the box office over the past few years and some of the buzz has been quite negative regarding this point.

It all comes down to reviews, and at this point the few I've seen have been quite polarized. If the reviews are good and the audiences are receptive, it could make as much as The 40-Year Old Virgin. On the other hand, bad reviews could result in the film burning out before getting halfway there.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ApesWillRise.com
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: July 1st, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense and frightening sequences of action and violence.
Source: Remake / Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Animal Lead, Talking Animals, Animals Gone Bad, Medical and Hospitals, Prequel, and more
Directed By: Rupert Wyatt
Starring: James Franco, Freida Pinto, Andy Serkis, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $80 million to $100 million
Box Office Potential: $95 million

The original Planet of the Apes franchise started as a huge hit, both with critics and with moviegoers, but was eventually beaten into the ground by too many sequels. The 2001 remake opened with nearly $70 million, but then had what was at the time a near historic collapse. The reboot of the franchise could go either way. There is certainly a lot of talent behind the film, at least in front of the camera. Behind the camera, there's a relatively inexperienced director, two screenwriters without many credits, and several of the producers have rather thin resumes in that capacity. This makes judging a film's quality and box office chances a little more difficult.

It does have the loudest buzz of any August releases and there's a chance it will be the last $100 million hit until November. (Hopefully there will be at least one or two $100 million films opening in September and October, but that's not a sure thing.) On the other hand, it could be a pump and dump. It could open with more than $40 million and then collapse even faster than the 2001 version did. I don't think there are any analysts bullish enough that they expect the movie to match its immediate predecessor, while many expect it to struggle just to match its estimated production budget.

Last Minute Update: There are only a couple of reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, but they are both positive, so that's a good sign. It's still too early to bump the box office potential above $100 million.

Weekend of August 12th, 2011

While there are two potential $100 million hits opening the first weekend of August, it is unlikely any of the four films opening wide during the the second weekend will even come close to that mark. This is troubling, as this time last year The Expendables became a surprise $100 million hit and it is likely that none of the four wide releases this year will be able to match its opening. On the other hand, all four are going after relatively different target audiences, and there's a chance they will make at least $50 million (I might be overly bullish on Glee: The 3D Concert Movie), so perhaps their combined strength can help 2011 pull out a win. It might be rather close. On the other end of the spectrum, there's also a chance none of the films will cross $50 million. If that's the case, summer will be officially over and it will have ended a little early.

30 Minutes or Less

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: 30MinutesOrLess.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: August 12th, 2011
MPAA Rating: R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity and some violence.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Hitmen, Dysfunctional Family, Heist, and more
Directed By: Ruben Fleischer
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, Nick Swardson, Fred Ward, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

30 Minutes or Less is yet another R-rated comedy. Each one that comes out could be solidifying a trend, or pushing this particular type of film into overexposure.

Danny McBride plays a son who hires a hitman to kill his father, Fred Ward. To get the money to pay for said hitman, he and his partner in crime, Nick Swardson, kidnap Jesse Eisenberg, strap a bomb to his chest, and force him to rob a bank. Jesse then goes to his best friend, Aziz Ansari, to help him get out of this mess. That's quite a lot of comedic talent in front of the camera, while the film was directed by Ruben Fleischer, who previously made Zombieland. That film made $75 million at the box office and there is a chance this one will do the same. On the other hand, the previous film opened during a more lucrative time of year and with much less competition. This film likely won't be the biggest hit of its opening weekend, but it could have better legs than two of the three other releases. If it opens as well as Zombieland then it might come out on top in the end.

Final Destination 5

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: FinalDestinationMovie.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: August 12th, 2011
MPAA Rating: R for strong violent/gruesome accidents, and some language.
Source: Original Screenplay / Sequel
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Teenage Slasher, 3-D, Fate / Destiny, and more
Directed By: Steven Quale
Starring: Tony Todd, and a bunch of victims
Production Budget: Estimated at $40 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million

I was going to make a "Final" joke here, but they are already planning parts six and seven, so I'll likely have many more chances to do so in the future. As the fifth film in the franchise, there's little that needs to be said (even the 3-D aspect is no longer new). It has the same plot as before (kids escape a fated death, fate comes for them anyway). The actors, director, etc. have little to do with the film's drawing power, and it's more about the Rube Goldberg-like deaths. The previous installment topped expectations, which is a good sign. Given the competition, I think it will start the fastest out of the four wide releases this week, but it won't have the best legs. It could still end up with the biggest box office haul, but it could be close.

Glee: The 3D Concert Movie

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: No Official Site
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: August 10th, 2011 (Special Engagement)
Release Date: August 12th, 2011 (Wide Release)
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Likely Aiming for G
Source: Based on a TV Show
Major Genre: Concert
Keywords: Performing Arts, Musicians, Rock 'n' Roll, and more
Directed By: Kevin Tancharoen
Starring: Glee
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

How will Glee's theatrical debut compare with The Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, or Justin Bieber? A lot of people are suggesting Glee: The 3D Concert Movie will finish on the low end of that scale, but I'm not too sure about that. The show is one of Fox's most popular scripted shows, the post-Super Bowl episode was seen by nearly 30 million people, and it was nominated for a dozen Emmys, ten Teen Choice Awards, and countless other awards over the past year.

It comes down to whether or not fans of the show will be willing to pay money to see the film in theaters when they can watch the TV show on TV for free. The sales of CDs and other musical merchandise suggest they are willing to spend the money, at least for a weekend or two. The film's planned two-week run and the excitable Fanbase will result in a front-loaded box office and short legs. But strong sales on the home market should ensure profitability, even if it cost a little more to make and it misses expectations at the box office.

The film could earn more than $50 million during its short run and it wouldn't be that shocking. It could also earn less than half that figure and that also not be a surprise. There's a lot of uncertainty here.

The Help

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheHelpMovie.com
Distributor: Disney
Release Date: August 10th, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Bigotry, Upstairs / Downstairs, Writers, Boss from Hell, You Can't Go Home Again, and more
Directed By: Tate Taylor
Starring: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, and more
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million

Emma Stone stars as Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, a white woman living in 1960s Mississippi, who returns home after recently graduating from university. She decides to write a book about the lives of the poor black women who work as the help for rich white women. At first she has trouble getting the maids to open up to her, but eventually, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer start to talk and in turn, help get all of the maids to talk. Of course, revealing the secrets of rich white people is bound to cause a lot of problems.

This film doesn't have a lot of advance buzz going for it, but that's not too surprising, as it is a drama aimed at a more mature target audience. Adult women are a lot more likely to be swayed by reviews rather than hype. Unfortunately for box office prognosticators, there are not a lot of advance reviews online, but the few I have seen do give me reason to be optimistic. I don't think it will be the biggest release of the week; in fact, it could be the smallest, but it should have the best legs out of the bunch.

Weekend of August 19th, 2011

The third weekend of August has a collection of new releases that include two remakes, an attempted reboot of a dormant franchise, and a film that may or may not open wide, at least not truly wide. While none of them look like they will be monster hits, there are a couple that could be solid mid-level hits, which is better than this time last year. The third weekend of August 2010 saw the release of five films, which combined earned less than $50 million during their opening weekend and roughly $130 million in total. The biggest box office hit from last year was Vampires Suck, which made just $35 million. There's a slim chance all four wide releases this year will make at least that much, and a better than 50/50 chance at least two of them will. The holdovers might not be quite as strong, but 2011 should still pull off the win.

Conan the Barbarian 3D

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ConanTheBarbarianIn3D.com
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: August 19th, 2011
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, some sexuality and nudity.
Source: Based on a Book / Remake
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Good vs. Evil, Sword & Sorcerer, and more
Directed By: Marcus Nispel
Starring: Jason Momoa, Stephen Lang, Rachel Nichols, Rose McGowan, Ron Perlman, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $80 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

The original Conan movie is one of the films that helped put Arnold Schwarzenegger on the map. Now nearly 30 years later, Lionsgate is hoping to reboot the franchise. They could be in trouble. First of all, a lot of people are upset that this film might not live up to the previous films, or indeed the original novels. It's coming out at the tail end of summer, which is a time of year to release films that might have had potential, but something went wrong. Finally, it cost $80 million to make. Lionsgate normally releases relatively cheap films that it can shepherd into solid mid-level hits. Its success with high priced films is a lot more limited. In fact, of the previous four films it has released that cost more than $50 million to make, only one has matched its production budget at the domestic box office.

On the other hand, that movie was The Expendables, which earned more than $100 million domestically and $250 million worldwide. There are a few indicators that suggest this film could do the same. They both came out roughly this time of year. The both have the same target demographic, plus they both have a similar 1980s connection. The original Conan movies came out during the 1980s, while Sword & Sorcerer films were arguably at their peak. If this Conan makes as much as The Expendables did, the studio should consider itself very lucky. Earning roughly half of that is much more likely.

Fright Night

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: WelcomeToFrightnight.com
Distributor: Disney
Release Date: August 19th, 2011
MPAA Rating: R for bloody horror violence, and language including some sexual references.
Source: Original Screenplay / Remake
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Vampire, Coming of Age, Rescue, and more
Directed By: Craig Gillespie
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $17 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

My first impression of the trailer for this film was, "Wasn't the original a lot funnier?" The original was a modest hit, for a low-budget horror / comedy film back in 1985. If this film could sell the same number of tickets, it would earn about $55 million in theaters. That's not a bad figure, especially for a movie that cost just $17 million to make. I don't think it will get there, but it could come close. There are some strikes against it. Firstly, it's not opening during a great time of year. Also, its target demographic is very similar to that of Conan. Finally, the buzz is a little mixed. For everyone excited to see the movie, there seems to be another person complaining about yet another horror remake. On the other hand, the film does have a good mix of young actors and more established stars and there hasn't been a horror film released wide all Summer, so there could be pent up demand.

I'm not expecting a major hit, but it should be profitable.

One Day

Trailer: Coming Soon
Official Site: ExperienceOneDay.com
Distributor: Focus Features
Release Date: August 19th, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, partial nudity, language, some violence and substance abuse.
Source: Base on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Romance, Cross-Class Romance, Non-Chronological, TV Industry, Writers, Relationships Gone Wrong, Author Adapting Their Own Novel, and more
Directed By: Lone Scherfig
Starring: Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess star as two people who meet on July 15th, 1988 and the film looks at their lives every July 15th since then. This year July 15th landed on a Friday, so why is the movie coming out five weeks later? Granted, the competition on that weekend would have been strong, but this film could have thrived in a counter-programing role. Another troubling sign is the studio, Focus Features, which usually releases films in either limited release, or only barely wide. It has only released five films that have reached $50 million, and two of those started in limited release. If it does open truly wide, it still might not get halfway there.

Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World

Trailer: Coming Soon
Official Site: SpyKidsMovie.net
Distributor: Weinstein/Dimension
Release Date: August 19th, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG for mild action and rude humor.
Source: Original Screenplay / Sequel
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Coming of Age, Rescue, Secret Agent, Kid Spies, Gratuitous Cameos, 3-D, Delayed Sequel, and more
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez
Starring: Rowan Blanchard, Mason Cook, Jessica Alba, Joel McHale, Jeremy Piven, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $40 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million

It has been eight years since the Spy Kids trilogy last hit theaters, so the question here is, has the demand grown during the absence, or have audiences moved on? The studio is clearly hoping its the former. It's been a rough year for Weinstein and the studio's only hit, The King's Speech, actually opened in 2010. The specific Weinstein/Dimension label hasn't had a hit since Scary Movie 4. The buzz is rather weak, but it's a kids movie, so you can't expect a lot of Twitter traffic, for instance. It's the last kids movie of the summer, which could help draw in families. But by the same token, it's late in the summer to open a kids movie.

There's not a lot to suggest this film will live up to its predecessors at the box office, but it is also not likely to bomb outright.

Weekend of August 26th, 2011

The final weekend of August offers a selection of three wide releases. Maybe. Both Colombiana and Our Idiot Brother might not open truly wide, which leaves Don't Be Afraid of the Dark as the only prime release of the week. It's not a good week for new releases to slack off, as this time last year saw the release of two films, both of which pulled in $20 million at the box office during the weekend. There's a good chance none of the films this year will open with $20 million and the two smaller films might struggle to make that in total, if the studio support is as weak as some are expecting. If early August releases started out faster than expected and / or held on better than expected, perhaps the month can end on a high note, but I'm not willing to bet money that it will.

Colombiana

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Colombiana-Movie.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: August 26th, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, intense sequences of action, sexuality and brief strong language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Hitmen, Revenge, Organized Crime, Orphan, Foreign Language, and more
Directed By: Olivier Megaton
Starring: Zoe Saldana, Cliff Curtis, Michael Vartan, Callum Blue, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $40 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Written by Luc Besson and directed by Olivier Megaton, who previously teamed up to make Transporter 3. That film barely made more than $30 million, despite having two previous installments in the franchise to help draw in moviegoers. Plus, it had a better release date. Granted, it also had stiffer competition, but overall the signs don't point to box office success. It's not even the big film on a slow weekend.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: DontBeAfraidOfTheDark.com
Distributor: FilmDistrict
Release Date: August 26th, 2011
MPAA Rating: R for violence and terror.
Source: Original Screenplay / Remake
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Demons, Surprise Twist, and more
Directed By: Troy Nixey
Starring: Katie Holmes, Bailee Madison, Guy Pearce, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $12.5 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

The original movie was made for TV, so everyone expected this movie would be more intense. But some are surprised that it earned an R-rating for violence and terror. I'm hoping it succeeds, as the fear of an R-rating cost Guillermo del Toro a chance to direct At the Mountains of Madness. (While Guillermo del Toro is not directing this film, he did write the screenplay and is producing it, so its success should reflect well on him.) There are some signs of hope. For instance, it is clearly the biggest release of the week. It is only the second film released by FilmDistrict, but the other was Insidious, which was a solid mid-level hit. On the other hand, the early reviews are mixed and its release date was pushed back to one of the worst of the year. That said, it won't need to make much to show a profit.

Our Idiot Brother

Trailer: Coming Soon
Official Site: OurIdiotBrother.com
Distributor: Weinstein Co.
Release Date: August 26th, 2011
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content including nudity, and for language throughout
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Dysfunctional Family, Delayed Adulthood, Life on the Outside, and more
Directed By: Jesse Peretz
Starring: Emily Mortimer, Zooey Deschanel, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Rudd, and others
Production Budget: Reported at under $10 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million

This film may or may not open wide. If it does open wide, the early reviews suggest it could become a sleeper hit. In fact, if its reviews remain this strong, it might even do well enough in limited release to expand wide, or at least semi-wide. The cast should also help with a number of stars that have a good track record at the box office. On the other hand, Weinstein has a weak record, with only three $50 million hits in the seven years its been in business, excluding Dimension, its genre arm. Granted, in each of the last two years it has released one $100 million movie, so maybe they are on a bit of a winning streak. On the other hand, their biggest hit of the year so far as been Hoodwinked 2: Hood vs. Evil, which barely cracked $10 million at the box office.

I think the low production budget might be the film's saving grace here. But hopefully word-of-mouth will help it on the home market.


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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, Conan the Barbarian, The Change-Up, One Day, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, 30 Minutes or Less, Colombiana, Fright Night, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World, The Help, Final Destination 5, Our Idiot Brother, Glee: The 3D Concert Movie