2011 Preview: November

October was a bit of a write-off. After the last weekend of September, the 2011 box office was about $280 million behind 2010's pace, but after the final weekend in October, that gap increased to $340 million. November will obviously bring in more box office dollars than October did. After all, it has one of the most important long holiday weekends of the year, Thanksgiving. However, the important question is not, "Can this November top last month?" It's, "Can this November top last year?" The biggest hit of last November was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I, which earned just shy of $300 million. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 should match that figure. Tangled reached $200 million and maybe Happy Feet 2 will match that figure, but that's far less certain. There's a chance The Muppets will match Megamind while Tower Heist should top Due Date. If Jack and Jill and / or Hugo can become surprise $100 million hits and one of the limited releases can become a monster hit, like The King's Speech was able to, then suddenly the box office looks whole lot rosier going into the final month of the year. It's possible, but it's kind of like getting a backdoor full house in Texas Hold'em to beat a straight. I wouldn't bet on it. On the other hand, there doesn't appear to be many Skyline, The Next Three Days or Faster films that bombed at the box office. So while we might not be as strong at the top, there is better depth this year and hopefully that will be enough.

Weekend of November 4th, 2011

It's really a one-horse race the first week of November with Tower Heist, well, towering over A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas. There's a chance the former will make more during its opening weekend than the latter will make in total. There's also a chance the target audience for the latter will spend their movie ticket money on discount Halloween candy, because they have the munchies. Tower Heist should top Due Date while Harold and Kumar should come close to matching For Colored Girls, which opened this weekend last year. Unfortunately, this weekend last year was led by Megamind, which pulled in $46 million. There's almost no chance anything opening this year will match that figure. In fact, the two new films might not open with that much combined and a year-over-year loss is almost inevitable. Additionally, it's the only weekend of the month without an obvious Oscar bait movie opening in wide or limited release.

Tower Heist

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TowerHeist.net
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: November 4th, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language and sexual content.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller / Comedy
Keywords: While Collar Crime, Heist, Class Warfare, Upstairs / Downstairs, Revenge, Ensemble, and more
Directed By: Brett Ratner
Starring: Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck, Michael Peña, Gabourey Sidibe, Matthew Broderick, Alan Alda, Eddie Murphy, Téa Leoni, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $85 million
Box Office Potential: $115 million

Ben Stiller stars as a building manager to a fancy apartment building, whose tenants include Alan Alda, an investment banker. Everyone in the building invests with him, because he's famous for his success on the stock market; however, he's not been investing their money, but running a Ponzi scheme. When he loses $2 billion of investors' money, including all their money, he is arrested and put under house arrest. Ben Stiller then teams up with the rest of the building's workers, another investor and Eddie Murphy, a petty crook, to break into Alan Alda's apartment and get back what they lost.

So far the film's buzz has been good and, apart from a release controversy, all signs are pointing to a solid $100 million hit. The director, Brett Ratner, is no stranger to $100 million hits with a career average more than that. Ben Stiller has reached the century mark ten times in his career; granted, a couple of those were for voice work, but that's still impressive. And while Eddie Murphy's box office success has taken a turn for the worse recently, he still has a lot of fans waiting for him to return to form. It will also benefit from a lack of direct competition.

As for that controversy, Universal had plans to release the film in theaters and then three weeks later release it on Video on Demand, but the theater owners revolted and threatened to not show the film at all. I find this controversy amazing, as it basically reveals that theater owners think staying at home and watching a movie is a better deal than going to theaters to see the film. Maybe they should figure out why this is. Overpriced tickets and overpriced food is a good place to start. However, studios need to look at the correlation between ticket sales and home market sales and realize if they keep putting the squeeze on theater owners, they will lose out in the end as well.

A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: HaroldAndKumar.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: November 4th, 2011
MPAA Rating: R for strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Stoner Comedy, Narcotics, In-Laws, Buddy Comedy, Christmas, Christmas in November, 3-D, Playing a Fictionalized Version of Yourself, and more
Directed By: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Starring: John Cho, Kal Penn, Neil Patrick Harris, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $10 million to $20 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million

After several years of drifting apart, Harold and Kumar reunite one Christmas when Kumar shows up unexpectedly. But after he accidentally burns down the family Christmas tree, the pair have to go on a wacky adventure to replace it with the perfect Christmas tree. And Neil Patrick Harris shows up. And it's in 3D.

The first Harold & Kumar film barely made any money at the box office, but it was cheap to make and became a surprise hit on the home market. The second more than doubled the first film's theatrical run and was also a hit on the home market. I'm not sure if the third film will continue this growth, or if it will collapse. The 3-D ticket prices might help it become a surprise midlevel hit with well over $75 million, some are even calling it this year's Jackass 3D. Or the 3D fad might be over and fans will just wait for the DVD / Blu-ray. The above box office potential is a weighted average of the two extremes.

Weekend of November 11th, 2011

The second weekend of November is not strong as the first, even though it is busier. There are three, maybe four wide releases, all of which are going after widely different audiences. J.Edgar is Oscar-bait, in the positive sense of the word. It probably won't be a $100 million hit, not unless Clint Eastwood has another Awards Season favorite on his hands. Jack and Jill has a lot more populous feel and any Adam Sandler comedy at least has a shot at $100 million. Immortals is a visually impressive Sword and Sorcerer flick that cost $75 million to make, so the studio is hoping it will hit the century mark. On the other hand, Conan the Barbarian. Finally, there's 11-11-11. This film was thought to be a wide release for a while, but it appears to be opening in limited release now. Given the type of film, it will likely have to wait till the home market to find an audience. This week last year also had three wide releases, but the number one film was Megamind, which added close to $30 million during its second weekend of release. The best wide release was Unstoppable, which opened in the low $20 million range, while the other two new releases were significantly weaker. I would be surprised if this year's new releases were not stronger than last year's, but I don't know if they will be strong enough to help 2011 pull out a win. One final note, the Awards Season buzz on Melancholia is strong enough that there is a chance it will expand wide. Unless the early buzz is wrong, it should at least expand enough to earn some measure of mainstream success.

The Immortals

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ImmortalsMovie.com
Distributor: Relativity
Release Date: November 11th, 2011
MPAA Rating: R for sequences of strong bloody violence, and a scene of sexuality.
Source: Based on Legend
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Revenge, Psychics, Gods and Goddesses, 3-D, War, Sword and Sandal, Visual Effects, and more
Directed By: Tarsem Singh
Starring: Henry Cavill, Stephen Dorff, Freida Pinto, Mickey Rourke, and others
Production Budget: $75 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

When Mickey Rourke becomes possessed by a Titan, he declares war on humanity and works to free his fellow Titans, so they can kill the gods. Since the gods can't interfere with a war between humans, they have to use Henry Cavill, the son of Poseidon, to fight for them. He is aided by Stephen Dorff and Freida Pinto.

From the producers of 300. The studio would love it if this film made as much as 300; however, it has a better chance of bombing like Conan the Barbarian did. In fact, it is the one film opening wide this month with a serious chance to bomb outright. Fortunately, due in part to is much better release date, it will likely open with more than Conan made in total, but short legs will mean it will finish with less than 300 made during its opening weekend. Also, I'm not sure that the 3D will be a selling point, as there have been many 3D films that have struggled at the box office this year. The buzz is just not there to expect a huge return. On the high end, it could match its production budget domestically, but anything more than that would be a major surprise.

J. Edgar

Trailer: Coming Soon
Official Site: JEdgarMovie.WarnerBros.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: November 9th, 2011 (limited)
Release Date: November 11th, 2011 (expands wide)
MPAA Rating: R for brief strong language.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Politics, Biography, Gay, and more
Directed By: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts, Armie Hammer, and more
Production Budget: Estimated at $40 million to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million

Clint Eastwood directs Leonardo DiCaprio in a biopic about J. Edgar Hoover. This has Oscar bait written all over it. It's too early to say if the film will succeed in picking up Oscars when the end of February arrives, but many think it will earn a number of nominations, including some of the most prestigious ones (Best Picture, Director, Lead Actor, and Script). However, while it should earn the most critical acclaim out of the three wide releases of the week, it is unlikely to be the biggest hit, especially during its opening weekend. In fact, there's a chance it will struggle to reach the top five. It should have the longest legs and if it does start picking up major award nominations, it might stick around long enough to reach the century mark. It wouldn't be the first Clint Eastwood to do that.

Jack and Jill

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: JackAndJill-Movie.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: November 11th, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG for crude and sexual humor, language, comic violence and brief smoking.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Dysfunctional Family, Twins, Same Actor / Multiple Role, Thanksgiving, Cross-Dressing, Gratuitous Cameos, Directing Yourself, and more
Directed By: Dennis Dugan
Starring: Adam Sandler, Adam Sandler, Katie Holmes, and more
Production Budget: Estimated at $70 million to $90 million
Box Office Potential: $100 million

Adam Sandler plays both Jack and Jill, twins that only see each other on Thanksgiving. For him, it's the worst time of the year.

The buzz surrounding this movie is bad and a lot of people think its reviews will be terrible. However, Just Go With It earned terrible reviews and it made $100 million. Grown Ups earned even worse reviews and it made $162 million. You Don't Mess With the Zohan was weak, but earned $100 million. I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry was horrible, but it earned $120 million. Funny People earned overall positive reviews and it only made $51 million. The last Adam Sandler comedy to earn good reviews was The Wedding Singer, which came out in 1998. What I'm saying is, no matter how bad an Adam Sandler film looks, you almost have to predict it will make $100 million.

Weekend of November 18th, 2011

The weekend before the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is one of the best weekends of the year to release a potential blockbuster, and this year we have two of them. Both The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 and Happy Feet 2 should have little trouble reaching $100 million. In fact, the former should top $300 million while the latter has a shot at $200 million. This is great news, as this weekend last year saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I run away with the box office crown with $125 million, while the only other wide release was The Next Three Days at $6.5 million. Twilight should easily beat Harry Potter's opening, although it very likely won't have the same legs. With the help of Happy Feet 2, 2011 should come out ahead on the year-over-year comparison. It might be too little, too late for 2011 to win the race in the end, but small victories are better than none. There is a third potential $100 million film opening this week, but its a long shot. The Descendants is earning Awards Season buzz, plus it has an impressive cast led by George Clooney. This film has the potential for an Up in the Air-like box office run, and the century mark is not completely out of the question.

Happy Feet 2

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: HappyFeetTwo.WarnerBros.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: November 18th, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG for some rude humor and mild peril.
Source: Sequel / Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Dancing, Coming of Age, Environmental, Talking Animals, Animal Lead, 3-D, and more
Directed By: George Miller
Starring: Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Sofia Vergara, Hank Azaria, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $80 million to $100 million
Box Office Potential: $150 million

The first Happy Feet earned almost $200 million at the box office and even won the Oscar for Best Feature-Length Animated Film. It makes perfect sense that they would make a sequel. It is a little strange that it took five years for it to hit theaters. Given the first film's success, the inflation in ticket prices and the 3-D ticket prices, I assumed this film would be a bigger hit. Then I watched the first trailer. I'm not the only one who thought the first trailer was terrible. There have been two more since then, but while they were better, they are still not really selling the film very well.

Maybe I'm being too harsh. After all, I wasn't very bullish about the first film's chances five years ago and it earned close to $200 million. Maybe the sequel will top that milestone. Most analysts don't think that will be the case.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: BreakingDawn-TheMovie.com
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Release Date: November 18th, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for disturbing images, violence, sexuality/partial nudity and some thematic elements.
Source: Sequel / Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Vampire, Werewolf, Romance, Difficult Pregnancy, Unexpected Pregnancy, and more
Directed By: Bill Condon
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, and others
Production Budget: Reported $127.5 million (its share of Breaking Dawn's total budget
Box Office Potential: $305 million

At this point, there's little to be said about the Twilight films that hasn't been said already. The only noteworthy part is that they've split the final book into two parts.

Part 1 should easily push the franchise past $1 billion domestically and could push its worldwide total past $2.5 billion. The previous two installments have been very reliable at the box office finishing within $4 million of each other. This installment should break the record for biggest November opening and finish with a little more domestically than the previous two films. On the other hand, it might make more during its first three days than it makes during the rest of its theatrical run.

Weekend of November 25th, 2011

The final weekend of November is the Thanksgiving holiday long weekend. This is one of the most important long weekends of the year and there are a lot of families who go out to the movies over the five-day period, so it makes sense to open a family film at this time of year. It makes almost no sense to open three family films. Those films are The Muppets, Hugo and Arthur Christmas and all three have reasons to be hopeful. The Muppets have a 30-year history in theaters and while they haven't have a hit in about 20 years, many think this film will be their biggest. Martin Scorsese is making his 3D debut and it was planned as a 3D from the beginning, so has none of this bad post-production work. There's quite a lot of buzz regarding what he will do with the technology. And finally there's the latest from Aardman Animations, the creators of Wallace and Gromit. If any of these films had the family market to themselves, they would likely become a major hit. However, splitting the market will likely result in only one major hit, while there's a chance one will be squeezed out at the box office and won't be a factor. Unless it has a record breaking collapse, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 will be the biggest hit of the weekend. Likewise, this weekend last year the number one film was a holdover, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow, Part 1. Tangled opened with nearly $49 million and none of the new releases this week have a good chance to match that. On the other hand, the other three new releases all struggled. Hopefully there will be no bombs this time around and hopefully the depth will be enough to push 2011 into the win column. While it is not opening wide, A Dangerous Method is earning enough Awards Season Buzz that it could expand wide. Director David Cronenberg hasn't made many commercial hits, but this could become one of his biggest hits.

Arthur Christmas

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ArthurChristmas.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: November 23rd, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild rude humor.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Christmas, Christmas in November, Dysfunctional Family, and more
Directed By: Sarah Smith
Starring: James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton, Ramona Marquez, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $60 million to $150 million (I really have no idea. See notes for more details.)
Box Office Potential: $55 million

James McAvoy stars as Arthur Claus, the younger son of Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Yep, he's the son of Santa. And not just the son of Santa, the bumbling son of Santa who lives in the shadow of his more competent brother, Steve. Arthur hasn't quite grown up yet, but when one gift is left behind for a little girl (Ramona Marquez), Arthur finally has a chance to prove he can live up to to the name Claus.

This if the latest from Aardman Animations, whose previous films include Flushed Away and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Both films earned good reviews, great reviews in the case of the latter, but neither were major hits here. I fear the same thing will happen to this movie. It's one of three family films opening this week and, while it is the Thanksgiving holiday long weekend, the level of competition is just too great. On the other hand, it should perform better internationally and could show a profit before the home market, depending on how much it cost to make.

As for the film's production budget, that's a little tricky to figure out. The film's director, Sarah Smith, is making her feature-length debut, so we can't go by past films to judge. The last Aardman Animations digitally animated film was Flushed Away, which cost $150 million to make. However, the last Sony animated film was Planet 51, which only cost $60 million to make. And since that film struggled at the box office, I don't think the studio would be willing to spend too much more on this film. It really could be anywhere in-between those figures.


Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: HugoMovie.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: November 23rd, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG for mild thematic material, some action/peril and smoking.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: 3-D, Orphan,
Robot, Coming of Age, Stage Magician, Inventor, Child Dealing with the Death of a Parent, Steampunk, Visual Effects, and more
Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Chloe Moretz, Ben Kingley, Sacha Baron Cohen, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $85 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million

Asa Butterfield stars as the titular Hugo, a young boy whose father was an inventor. One of the last things his father did before dying was fixing up an automaton he found, but it needed a key to work. After his father dies, he lives in the Paris railway station by himself avoiding the inspector when he runs into Isabelle, who happens to wear a key that operates the automaton.

I feel more people should be a lot more bullish about this film's chances. The last three narrative films Martin Scorsese has directed have all reached $100 million. (This is not counting his three documentary / concert films he has also made in that time frame.) Additionally, these three narrative films have combined for nine Oscars, four Golden Globes, four guild awards, not to mention many other awards and nominations. It's is hard to ignore a track record like that. On the other hand, it is also his first time making a family film and the first time making a 3-D movie. It's just as hard to ignore that uncertainty. There are some that are talking about a possible Oscar run for this movie, but very few are considering a final box office tally of $100 million. The former is more likely than the latter, but I think this movie could surprise box office analysts.

The Muppets

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Disney.Go.com/Muppets
Distributor: Disney
Release Date: November 23rd, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild rude humor.
Source: Sequel / Based on TV / Original Screenplay (It depends on how you look at things)
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Gratuitous Cameos, Gratuitous Cameos, Gratuitous Cameos, and more
Directed By: James Bobin
Starring: Several dozen Muppets and ever single actor working today
Production Budget: $30 million to $40 million, reports vary
Box Office Potential: $130 million

When three fans of the Muppets learn the old playhouse is going to be torn down to make way for an oil well, these fans try and unite the Muppets to help save the landmark. However, this could be harder than they thought, because the Muppets have drifted apart over the years. Fortunately, they'll have help from countless actors. There are so many cameos in this movie that the end credits are going to last three days. Then again, this is a tradition for the franchise.

I've been a fan of this franchise for as long as I can remember. I loved the original TV show, the early movies, The Muppet Christmas Carol is still one of my favorite Christmas movies, I even loved The Muppet Babies. However, as most long-term fans will admit, the franchise has been neglected for a long time. There hasn't been a theatrical release in more than a decade, while a lot of their TV specials have been less than inspired. On the other hand, their countless parody trailers have shown the people in charge still know how to tell a joke. It is the biggest film opening on the Thanksgiving holiday long weekend, and it should last in theaters til the new year, and over that time become the biggest hit of the franchise. I'm a little worried that my fandom is clouding my judgment, but I think all the evidence suggests the film will earn at least $100 million. $150 million isn't out of the question. If it hits the century mark, there will be sequels.

- C.S.Strowbridge

Filed under: Monthly Preview, Tower Heist, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, Immortals, J. Edgar, Jack and Jill, Happy Feet Two, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1, Arthur Christmas, Hugo, The Muppets