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2010 Preview: May

May 1st, 2010

It's summertime! April started off okay, but ended with a thud. In fact, How to Train Your Dragon was arguably the biggest box office draw of the month, and it opened in March. That said, it's May, and that means there's a clean slate for the box office, as even under the best of circumstances holdovers mean very little at the beginning of the month. As long as the overall box office is healthy, we should be fine. And given the number of $100 million hits that have opened in 2010 so far, plus the $300 million hit that is Alice in Wonderland, I think it is fair to say that we will be fine. The real question is how well May 2010 will compare to last year, when we had six $100 million movies including two that reached $200 million. This time around there's one less weekend, so we will need help from some of the counter programming to match that number. Since there are only three films that you could call counter programming, this could be a problem.

Weekend of May 7th, 2010

Last year, the first weekend of May saw the release of Wolverine. However, this week lines up better with May 8th, which is when Star Trek opened. Because there's one less weekend in May, Iron Man 2 will need to make more than either of those films to give the box office a boost. In fact, it might need to open with $125 million to be considered a success. That's a lot of pressure. On a side note, there are some reports that Babies is opening wide. However, early theater count reports have it debuting in just over 500 theaters. That's less than half as wide as Oceans opened, so it is very unlikely that it will make much of an impact at the box office.

Iron Man 2

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: IronmanMovie.Marvel.com
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: May 7th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some language
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Visual Effects, Marvel Comics, Robots, and more
Directed By: Jon Favreau
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $200 million, which sounds about right
Box Office Potential: $350 million

Most people expected Iron Man to be a hit. After all, nearly every major movie based on a comic book that had opened in the past decade had scored with moviegoers. However, few expected it to open as well as it did, while many were shocked it earned $300 million domestically. Even more impressive was its performance with critics: it was one of the best-reviewed wide releases of 2008. (Only WALL-E and The Dark Knight earned better reviews. All three were passed over for the Best Picture Oscar.)

This time around, there are few people willing to underestimate Iron Man 2 at the box office. Even thought its reviews are significantly weaker than its predecessor, 75% positive is still great for a summer blockbusters. Additionally, higher ticket prices for IMAX screens should help, and it is clear people are still willing to pay for more the experience. If Alice in Wonderland can open with more than $100 million in March, then Iron Man 2 could open with $150 million at the beginning of May. That's probably a little too bullish, but $125 million during its opening weekend and $350 million domestically is within reach.

Weekend of May 14th, 2010

The second weekend of May tends to be the weakest of the month and that could again be the case this year. The potential blockbuster stars an actor who hasn't had a real blockbuster in years, while the two counter-programming films are being released by studios that don't have strong track records at the box office. At least this week last year was also on the disappointing side, which should help 2010 maintain pace.

Just Wright

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: JustWright-TheMovie.com
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Release Date: May 14th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG for suggestive material and brief language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: African-American, Basketball, Love Triangle, and more
Directed By: Sanaa Hamri
Starring: Queen Latifah, Paula Patton, and Common
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimate at $20 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

This is a Romantic Comedy that is aimed at African-Americans, which is a target demographic that is still under-served. However, unlike many films aim at that demographic, this is a movie that could have serious crossover appeal. Queen Latifah has a strong following from films like Hairspray and she was recently in Valentine's Day, which was one of the biggest surprises of the year so far. Paula Patton doesn't have as long a resume, but her most recent film was Precious, which won Oscars. On the other hand, neither Common nor Sanaa Hamri have much in the way of box office numbers to draw from, so it looks like it will be up to the ladies to sell this movie. Since it is one of two choices as counter-programming, this will be a tough job. Add in a studio that normally deals with limited releases and the problem grows. That said, it probably won't take a lot for the film to be considered financially successful and in the end it will likely be a midlevel hit.

Letters to Juliet

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: LettersToJuliet-Movie.com
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Release Date: May 14th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG for brief rude behavior and sensual images, some language and incidental smoking
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Relationship Advice
Directed By: Gary Winick
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Christopher Egan, Gael Garcia Bernal, Vanessa Redgrave
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimate at $30 to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $60 million

A Romantic Comedy starring Amanda Seyfried, who has been in three movies already this year. Granted, only one of those has opened wide, but she's keeping herself busy. The one wide release, Dear John, opened with $30 million the weekend before Valentine's Day and finished with just over $80 million. This was impressive, especially considering the reviews. Likewise, the director's previous film, Bride Wars, was also a hit, making $60 million at the box office despite earning terrible reviews. So far it appears this movie will be no better than those two, as the early reviews are weak. Seeing the word "predictable" in a review of a Romantic Comedy is not an issue. Seeing the phrase, "lack of chemistry" is. Combined with the more or less direct competition and this film might have trouble in the counter-programming role. On the other hand, it likely won't need to make a fortune at the box office to be considered a financial hit, while its chances internationally will be stronger given its setting.

Robin Hood

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: RobinHoodTheMovie.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: May 14th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence including intense sequences of warfare, and some sexual content
Source: Based on a Traditional Tale
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Robin Hood is practically a genre to itself. There's also Corrupt Sheriffs, Romance, Royalty, Returning Soldiers, Revenge, Gangs, and probably a lot more
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Starring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Matthew MacFadyen, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $130 million
Box Office Potential: $150 million

Both Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe have had massive hits during their respective careers, including more than a few films where they've worked together. However, they have both had their struggles in recent years. Looking back over their collaborations, Robin Hood is most like Gladiator, i.e., an action film with historical connections. If it could match ticket sales, then this film would pull in about $260 million, which is possible given the release date, the type of film, etc. However, given the recent performance of the two men at the box office, it doesn't seem too likely. The buzz is weak; I don't mean negative, but weak. There are not a lot of people talking about this movie compared to other potential blockbusters coming out in May. If the film can match its production budget domestically, it should be an even larger hit internationally, which means it will reach profitability sometime during its run on the home market. If it beats expectations domestically, it could break even before the first DVD / Blu-ray is sold.

On a side note, one of the issues with the movie is the romance between Robin Hood and Marion. This should be a major selling point for the film, but early word suggests the romance was not handled as effectively as it could be. Also, since both counter-programming choices have romantic angles, it might not be a real selling point the studio can push.

Weekend of May 21st, 2010

One of the biggest, if not the biggest franchises in Digital Animation history comes out this week and its only competition is a movie based on a one-joke Saturday Night Live skit. This should be an easy week to predict a winner, but it might be more complicated than that. Don't get me wrong, Shrek will win, I'm not willing to predict otherwise, but MacGruber might prove to be stronger competition than it looks at first glance. Combined, the two films might top last year's new releases.

MacGruber

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: MacGruber.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: May 21st, 2010
MPAA Rating: R for strong crude and sexual content, violence, language and some nudity
Source: Based on a TV series
Major Genre: Action / Comedy
Keywords: Secret Agent, Terrorism, Spoof, Saturday Night Live, and more
Directed By: Jorma Taccone
Starring: Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillippe, Val Kilmer
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $10 million, but that seems low
Box Office Potential: $50 million

Films based on a Saturday Night Live skits are hardly new. After all, Blues Brothers came out in 1980. However, after the success of Wayne's World, these movies started coming out like crazy. In fact, from 1993 to 2000 eight movies came out, but not one of them earned overall positive reviews. (Although to be fair, Wayne's World 2 came close.) Additionally, since Wayne's World, not a single SNL movie has been an unqualified success. (A few have done well enough that they likely showed a profit, eventually.)

Because of this losing streak, there hasn't been a SNL movie in a decade, but they are breaking that drought with MacGruber, which is essentially one joke skit. Will Forte is an inept Secret Agent / spoof of MacGyver who needs to defuse a bomb with the help of his assistant, only to become distracted and then they all get blown up. That's it. And that joke was used for roughly a dozen skits (if you include a few Pepsi commercials).

When this movie was first announced, the most common question was, "Why?" The second most common was, "No seriously, why?" However, then something strange happened. The first trailer came out and it was... funny. Now the early reviews are all positive, which is even more shocking. Granted, there are only six of them so far, but that's still a fantastic sign. Even if it can just maintain a 60% positive level, it should help. That said, the film still has to overcome the bad reputation SNL has developed over the years.

I'm going with a prediction of $50 million, but if bad buzz overcomes the reviews and the studio thinks, "We only spent $10 million and if it won't matter if it bombs. So let's not bother spending any real money on advertising." then the film could make less than half of that. On the other hand, if the reviews continue to be very impressive and the positive buzz grows, then the film could earn more than double that. Let's hope it's the later.

Shrek Forever After

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ShrekForeverAfter.com
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: May 21st, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG for mild action, some rude humor and brief language
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Mid-Life Crisis, Spoof, Time Travel, 3D, and more
Directed By: Mike Mitchell
Starring: Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Walt Dohrn, and others
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $150 to $200 million
Box Office Potential: $350 million

They are saying that this will be the last Shrek film. And if it continues its decline from Shrek the Third, it very well could be. That film was very expensive to make, but only earned mixed reviews and didn't have the same legs at the box office, which are troubling signs for this movie, as it could mean moviegoers are growing tired of the franchise. Early reviews for Shrek Forever After are much worse, although to be fair, there are not a lot of reviews nor are the individual reviews virulently negative. The critics are saying, 'Perhaps it's time to retire these characters, because they are getting a little stale.' And not they are not saying, 'This movie sucks.' It does have a great release date for a family film, plus no direct competition for several weeks, and the higher ticket price due to the IMAX / 3D screens. With impressive name recognition, there's little doubt that it will be a monster hit and earning anything less than $300 million domestically and $600 million worldwide would be at least a little bit surprising. Earning more than $400 million / $1 billion isn't out of the question, but that's a little too bullish for me.

Weekend of May 28th, 2010

It's the last weekend of the month and there are two potential monster hits opening. Both films could earn more than $200 million each and $500 million combined. Or one film could dominate the weekend, crushing the other in its wake. Or they could both struggle and neither could become a monster hit. Individually, I don't think either will top last year's number one film, Up, but combined they should help 2010 maintain its pace over 2009.

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Disney.Go.com/DisneyPictures/PrinceOfPersia
Distributor: Disney
Release Date: May 28th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action
Source: Based on a Video Game
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Time Travel, Sword & Sorcerer, Sword & Sandal, Prince / Princess, Rags to Riches, and more
Directed By: Mike Newell
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina
Production Budget: $150 million
Box Office Potential: $125 million

The studio is obviously hoping this film will be the next Pirates Of The Caribbean. They are certainly pushing the film as such. There are some troubling signs for the film, including a lot of negative buzz in a number of areas. For instance, many people are talking about the casting of Jake Gyllenhaal and how in the trailer he seemed out of place. Even ignoring his ethnicity and his misplaced British accent, he doesn't seem like a real action star. The only similar film he was in was The Day After Tomorrow, which was admittedly a big hit, but it is his only hit. Likewise, the director, Mike Newell, has only had one major hit, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and I think it is fair to say his direction wasn't a major factor in that film's success.

Additionally, the film is based on a video game and there are not a lot of video game movies that have been huge hits. There's the first Tomb Raider and ... that's about it.

Finally, the film will need a strong advertising campaign to sell the film in a crowded marketplace. I don't doubt Disney will spend a lot of money promoting the film; however, the trailer made the movie seem rather generic. Perhaps the next round of ads will be better, but since the only review I've seen is mixed, this could be as good as it gets.

I'm not discounting the film's chances at the box office, at least not entirely, but I seriously doubt that the film will make enough to become a franchise.

Sex and the City 2

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: SexAndTheCityMovie.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: May 28th, 2010
MPAA Rating: R for some strong sexual content and language
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Relationship Advice, Romance, and more.
Directed By: Michael Patrick King
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, and Cynthia Nixon
Production Budget: Unknown - Predicted at $60 to $70 million
Box Office Potential: $150 million

Sex and the City ran for six seasons on HBO and in that time built up a loyal following. The first film opened strong, but it showed a sophomore collapse that has more in common with the most fanatical of Fanboy flicks. Normally, when it comes to sequels, one expects them to start fastest and fall quicker. But in this case, that might not be possible. Memorial Day will artificially boost its opening weekend, but the film is opening on a Thursday, so the Friday to Sunday figure might be lower than it otherwise would. That said, it might make more during its first five days than it makes during the rest of its run. Of course, it should make more during its first five days than it cost to make, so I think the studio will be happy even if this turns out to be the result.


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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Sex and the City 2, MacGruber, Shrek Forever After, Letters to Juliet, Robin Hood, Iron Man 2, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, Just Wright