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2010 Preview: August

August 1st, 2010

July started out rather well, and while there was a little weakness in the end, four films surpassed $100 million, and another could join them soon. That said, there don't appear to be any $100 million movies opening in August; in fact, there is a chance none will come close. Worse still, August of last year saw three $100 million movies open in the first three weeks. There's almost no chance that will happen this year, so 2010 will likely lose ground to 2009 in the yearly box office race.

Join the discussion in the forum to add your thoughts on this month at the box office.

Weekend of August 6th, 2010

Just one major release this week, The Other Guys, plus a counter-programming film, Step Up 3D, plus two films with platform releases, Flipped and Middle Men. Overall, there's more negatives than positives for the releases this week, especially when compared to last year when G.I.Joe: The Rise of Cobra opened with more than $50 million, and Julie & Julia started a long theatrical run that finished with the movie earning nearly $100 million. I don't see those sorts of results happening this year.

Flipped

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site:
Distributor:
Warner Bros.
Release Date: August 6th, 2010 (limited)
Release Date: August 27th, 2010 (expansion to wide release)
MPAA Rating: PG for Language and some thematic material
Source: Based on a TV Series
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Coming of Age
Directed By: Rob Reiner
Starring: Callan McAuliffe and Madeline Carroll
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $30 to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

This is a tough movie to predict. On the one hand, it is written and directed by Rob Reiner, who has had a lot of success making movies. On the other hand, it has been a while since he's had a true blockbuster and the last film that he directed that earned overall positive reviews was The American President. The trailer does look pretty good, but the film could be overly schmaltzy, even for the genre.

Then there's the marketing problems. This is Callan McAuliffe's first feature-length film, while Madeline Carroll's been in a few since she made her debut in When A Stranger Calls, and almost all of them have bombed. (It is important to note that in most cases she's had smaller parts, so one can't judge her box office drawing power yet. She can hardly be blamed for Astro Boy struggling at the box office, for instance.) Since neither of the two leads have a lot of name recognition, it could be difficult to sell the film. Also, it is a movie about young love and nostalgia, and this complicates things. If you are nostalgic for the 1960s, you are probably too old for teenage love. And if you are the right age for teenage love, you have no idea what happened in the 1960s.

Finally, the film appears to be opening in limited release on the 6th before expanding wide three weeks later. I think this will turn out to be a mistake and by the time it scheduled to open wide, it might not have a lot of drawing power left.

Last minute update: With early estimates for theater counts in, this film is opening in limited release, which will greatly reduce its box office chances. If all goes well, it might still reach $25 million, but on the other end, it might struggle this weekend and never really expand.

Middle Men

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: MiddleMenMovie.com
Distributor: Paramount Vantage
Release Date: August 6th, 2010 (limited)
Release Date: August 20th, 2010 (expansion to wide release)
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, nudity, language, drug use and violence
Source: Inspired by a True Story
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Internet, Porn Business, Organized Crime, and more
Directed By: George Gallo
Starring: Luke Wilson, Giovanni Ribisi, Gabriel Macht, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $22 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million

This is another tough movie to predict, for some of the same reasons. For instance, there are reports that it is only opening in limited release on the 6th before expanding wide on the 20th. Since it is a Paramount Vantage film, this is likely. But even if this is not the case, it might not open truly wide. After all, Vantage have never had a truly wide release with The Goods coming closest, while Hustle & Flow had the company's biggest opening in terms of raw dollars. The director, George Gallo, doesn't have a strong box office track record with his last film, Homeland Security going Direct-to-DVD, while his biggest hit was Double Take. (He did write Bad Boys, so he has that on his resume.) The box office drawing power of the three leads are not significantly better as they are either in a slump, are almost never the main box office draw, or are mostly unknown.

If it does open wide, it will likely be opening in the least number of theaters out of the wide releases, which will hurt its box office chances. If it does open in limited release on the 6th and expand on the 20th, then it will be going up against possibly five other wide releases. Either way, it has a lot of obstacles to overcome.

Last minute update: Early estimates for this film's theater count this weekend are in, and they are not good. It's opening it 200 theaters in select cities, which in many ways is the worst way to open a movie. Its box office potential is probably $5 million now, or less.

The Other Guys

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheOtherGuys-Movie.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: August 6th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language, violence and some drug material
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Buddy Cop, Spoof, and more
Directed By: Adam McKay
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell, Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johnson, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - Predicted at $60 to $80 million
Box Office Potential: $95 million

If there's any August release that will reach $100 million at the box office, this is it.

The film is directed by Adam McKay, whose previous three films have earned an average of $100 million at the box office. Also, it stars Will Ferrell, who has been in all three of those previous Adam McKay films, as well as few other $100 million movies. Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, and of course Samuel L. Jackson have all had a few $100 million hits of their own. It will be the biggest hit of the weekend, likely by a large margin. The trailer is effective and the buzz seems to be growing.

On the other hand, it is an August release.

The best case scenario has the film opening with more than $40 million and because it is potentially the last major release of the summer, the lack of competition will help it stick around in theaters for a long time. On the other hand, it could struggle like The Land of the Lost, Will Ferrell's summer entry from last year.

Step Up 3D

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: StepUpMovie.com
Distributor: Disney
Release Date: August 6th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Dancing, Romance, 3D, and more
Directed By: Jon Chu
Starring: Sharni Vinson and Rick Malambri
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $15 to $25 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million

The Step Up franchise becomes a trilogy this month. On the one hand, this is a little surprising, as neither of the previous two films were exactly huge hits. On the other hand, both of the previous two films were very, very inexpensive to make. It appears they are continuing that trend, as the film stars mostly unknown actors, including the two leads. Sharni Vinson is making her theatrical debut, while Rick Malambri was previously an unnamed clerk in Surrogates. The only member of the main cast I recognized by name is Alyson Stoner, but that's mainly because she plays Isabella Garcia-Shapiro on Phineas and Ferb.

Izzy's got the frizzies.
Izzy's, Izzy's got the frizzies.
Cause she's sportin' major kinkification, Izzy's got the Frizzies!
Izzy's, Izzy's got the frizzies.

I love that show.

...What?

As for this movie, odds are it will earn terrible reviews, as the first two movies did. It will have at least two training montages, possibly more dance sequences than lines of dialogue, and should thrill fans of this style of dancing, especially in 3D. It might even have a real romance with good chemistry between the two leads, but odds are that if you are not a fan of dancing, you should stay far, far away from this movie.

There should be enough fans that it will be a mid-level hit and we might even see another installment in the franchise.

Weekend of August 13th, 2010

The second weekend in August has three wide releases, all with quite different target demographics. This is good news, as it increases the chances all three will meet their potential. However, it is still likely that one or two will struggle to become even mid-level hits and none look destined to become $100 million blockbusters. In comparison, this time last year, District 9 opened with nearly $40 million and went on to earn $115 million. I don't see any film this year doing that.

Eat Pray Love

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: LetYourselfGo.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: August 13th, 2010
MPAA Rating: R for brief strong language (pending appeal)
Source: Based on a Factual Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Travel, Romance, and more
Directed By: Ryan Murphy
Starring: Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis, James Franco, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - Predicted at $50 to $70 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million

This will likely be the biggest hit of the weekend, even if it isn't the fastest out of the gate. It is aimed at a more mature female demographic, which is one of the demographics least likely to rush out to theaters opening weekend. It is also one of the most under-served demographics and the lack of direct competition could help. As could Julia Roberts, who is one of the most popular actresses around, even if she hasn't exactly been busy over the past few years.

Best case scenario has the film cracking $100 million. That's not an unreasonable prediction; after all, Julie & Julia nearly made it there last year. That film also earned very good reviews, which is important for these types of films. More mature women may be under-served, but that doesn't mean they will watch just anything aimed at them. In fact, they are more likely than most to read and be influenced by reviews. There's good news here, as Julia Roberts track record with critics is solid. Granted, not every thing she makes is golden, but she's better than most. On the other hand, the film is directed by Ryan Murphy, whose track record is non-existent. His only other theatrical release was Running with Scissors, which earned weak reviews and wasn't able to truly escape its limited release roots.

The film could earn just over $100 million, or less than half of that. I'm being a little cautious in my prediction, but I'm hoping it will be a pleasant surprise.

The Expendables

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ExpendablesTheMovie.com
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: August 13th, 2010
MPAA Rating: R for strong action and bloody violence throughout, and for some language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Ensemble
Directed By: Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Too many to list
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $70 million to $90 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million

The premise for this movie is simple: take every actor who's made an action film in the past 30 years and stick them in a movie. Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Steve Austin, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, etc. And that's not mentioning the handful of people that were approached but turned down roles for various reasons.

With a cast list like that, the plot almost becomes unimportant... which is good, because the plot sounds a little familiar. A group of special ops go into battle, learn that they've been betrayed and seek for revenge. This is the same basic plot of The Losers and The A-Team, both of which came out earlier this year, but neither of which were big hits. You could look at The Expendables as either The Losers with a better release date, or The A-Team with a worse release date. That does give us an easy way to predict high and low end to box office potential. This is bad news for the studio, as the high end of its box office potential is roughly the same as the low end of its reported production budget. There is a chance the studio will spend more than $100 million getting this film to theaters (production budget, advertising, prints, etc.) but it will make less than half that domestically. It might not make that much worldwide.

On the other hand, because of the nature of the movie and its target demographic, it could finish first opening weekend before collapsing the following week.

Scott Pilgrm vs. The World

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ScottPilgrimTheMovie.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: August 13th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for stylized violence, sexual content, language and drug references
Source: Based on a Comic Book
Major Genre: Action / Comedy
Keywords: Rock'n'Roll, Musicians, Martial Arts, and more
Directed By: Edgar Wright
Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and a whole lot more
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $30 to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead star as two people who meet and fall in love. However, there's an obstacle in their way. Seven of them, in fact. He has to fight her seven ex-boyfriends, who apparently have super powers. It's all kind of out there.

It's a high concept Action / Comedy, which is a genre that is hard to get right. Fortunately, it is directed by, and co-written by, Edgar Wright, who hasn't made a misstep in his career so far. Also, the early reviews are very encouraging. On the other hand, it is still a high-concept action / comedy, which can be hard to market. Also, Michael Cera's last two films missed expectations. And any talk of this movie wouldn't be complete with talking about Michael Cera's typecasting. He went from being potentially the next big thing after Juno was a huge hit, to people complaining that he's been playing the same role since George-Michael Bluth. The last movie he's been in that earned really good reviews was Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, and even then some critics complained about the similarities to Juno.

The best case scenario has Scott Pilgram vs. The World becoming a midlevel hit. It could be quite profitable still, as Edgar Wright's films tend to be very inexpensive to make. But even if it earns strong reviews, I think it will have to wait until the home market to find its audience.

Weekend of August 20th, 2010

I think if you did an exhaustive study, you would find that the box office tends to do the best when there are two wide releases. The first is the obvious potential blockbuster, while the second is the counter-programming. Perhaps if there is a wide enough gap in target demographics, a third film can be safely fit into the new releases. This week, the third weekend of August, there are five wide releases, plus a limited release scheduled to expand wide. This is what we call dumping. Even worse, this time last year saw the release of Inglorious Basterds, which opened with nearly $40 million. There's no real chance that any film opening this year will earn half of that during its opening weekend. There's a chance that none will make that much during their entire runs.

Lottery Ticket

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: LotteryTicketMovie.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: August 20th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, language including a drug reference, some violence and brief underage drinking
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: African-American, Gambling, and more
Directed By: Erik White
Starring: Bow Wow, Mike Epps, Ice Cube, Loretta Devine, and a whole lot more
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $20 to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million

In this movie, Bow Wow plays Kevin Carson, who is mostly a nobody in his neighborhood living with his grandmother. But all that changes when he wins $370 million on the national lotto. Now everyone wants a piece of him, or to be more specific, a piece of his winnings.

If the film connects, it could have a run similar to First Sunday, or even the Barbershop films. On the other hand, it could struggle like Roll Bounce or Next Day Air. Sadly, given its release date, the lower end seems more likely.

Nanny McPhee Returns

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: NannyMcPhee.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: August 20th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG for rude humor, some language and mild thematic elements
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Dysfunctional Family, Secret Magic, World War II, and more
Directed By: Susanna White
Starring: Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rhys Ifans, and a whole lot more
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $30 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Emma Thompson returns as Nanny McPhee in, well, Nanny McPhee Returns. It's actually called Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang in its native U.K.. I'm not sure why it was changed, or if it will matter. In this movie she helps out Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is raising her three kids alone while her husband fights in World War II. She is struggling to keep the family farm going, which is made more complicated when her niece and nephew arrive from the city and they don't get along with her kids. (Not that her kids make any real attempt to make their relatives feel welcome.) Further complications arrive with Rhys Ifans, her brother, who lost a lot of money gambling and needs her to sell the farm so her can pay off his debt and avoid being killed by the two hitmen following him.

The British have an unusual idea what is acceptable in a kids movie, apparently.

The first film earned 73% positive reviews and did extremely well, compared to its $25 million production budget that is. Even if it cost twice that to market, it's worldwide box office might have been enough to break even, even before it entered the home market. This film has already been released in many international markets, but despite earning better reviews, its box office was significantly lower in many. Overall it has about 20% less revenue.

If it were to repeat that performance here, it would earn about $35 million at the box office; however, it also has a weaker release date, which I think will hurt it more. That said, unless it cost a whole lot more to make, it will likely show a profit, even if it has to wait until the home market to get there.

Piranha 3D

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Piranha-3D.com
Distributor: Weinstein / Dimension
Release Date: August 20th, 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Safe to assume it will be a hard R
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Animals Gone Bad, 3D, and more
Directed By: Alexandre Aja
Starring: A bunch of killer fish, a bunch of kill CG fish
Production Budget: Reported at $24 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Piranha 3D is a remake of a film from 1978 that was already remade. It's a horror remake done in 3D and released at the end of August, which is three warning signs right there. On the other hand, Alexandre Aja has had some success in the horror remake field, while this film does have a better than expected cast. Back to the original hand, the trailer makes the film look less original than the average remake, and it also looks like they are treating the film a little too seriously, when a little campiness might have made it easier to handle.

I can't see this film being a big hit, or even a mid-level hit, but thanks to a low production budget, sales of the Unrated DVD / Blu-ray could help it turn a profit.

The Switch

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheSwitch-Movie.com
Distributor: Miramax
Release Date: August 20th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic content, sexual material including dialogue, some nudity, drug use and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Unexpected Families
Directed By: Josh Gordon and Will Speck
Starring: Justin Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, Jeff Goldblum, Patrick Wilson, and others
Production Budget: Unknown - Predicted at $30 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million

Justin Bateman stars as Wally, who is in love with Kassie, who has decided to have a kid through artificial insemination. However, while drunk at her, "insemination party," he accidentally loses the donor sperm and decides to replace it with his own, but doesn't remember any of it because of how drunk he was. Seven years later he reconnects with Kassie and realizes he is very likely the father of her son. However, she has another man in her life, Roland, whom she thinks is the real father, which further complicates matters.

I'm of two minds on this movie. On the one hand, there's a lot of comedic talent in this movie and the trailer is more effective than most films opening this month. Also, Jennifer Aniston was in The Bounty Hunter earlier this year and despite earning awful reviews, that movie earned nearly $70 million domestically. On the other hand, that film had a major studio behind it, while Miramax is in the process of being sold. Hunter also had a much better release date.

Perhaps it will surprise by earning good reviews and become a solid hit. However, becoming a mid-level hit is a lot more likely, while it could be an outright bomb. It is the time of year for them.

Vampires Suck

Trailer: Coming Soon
Official Site: VampiresSuckMovie.com
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: August 18th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude sexual content, comic violence, language and teen partying
Source: Unoriginal Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Pseudo-Spoof, Vampires, and more
Directed By: Jason Frieberg and Aaron Seltzer
Starring: Matt Lanter, Chris Riggi, Jenn Proske, Anneliese van der Pol, Ken Jeong, and others
Production Budget: Unknown - Predicted at $20 to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million

The latest from Jason Frieberg and Aaron Seltzer... Ugh.

These two started their careers in the movie industry by writing the screenplay for Spy Hard. Amazingly, they got work after coming up with that steaming pile of cinema. The next film they worked on was Scary Movie, which was a pretty good movie, if a little heavy on the cheap humor. They then decided to direct, starting with Date Movie, which was even worse than Spy Hard. Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, and Disaster Movie were all terrible, but up until the last one, they were all relative box office hits. (They did have the advantage of being incredibly cheap to make.)

However, Disaster Movie did bomb, and I don't think a lot of people will be itching to shell out money to see this movie after being burned so many times. Granted, it is a little more topical, but the trailer certainly doesn't make it look any better. (It could hardly be worse.) Maybe it will turn out to be their biggest hit of their career. Or maybe it will bomb so bad that it will be the last film they make.

Weekend of August 27th, 2010

August ends like is usually does, with a whimper. There are three films opening wide, plus Flipped potentially expanding wide, and Avatar is getting a limited re-release. None of the three new releases look like they will be able to live up to The Final Destination, which led the way this time last year.

Going the Distance

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Going-The-Distance.WarnerBros.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: August 27th, 2010
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content including dialogue, language throughout, some drug use and brief nudity
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Romance, Long Distance Romance, Relationship Advice and more
Directed By: Nanette Burstein
Starring: Drew Barrymore and Justin Long
Production Budget: Unknown - Predicted at $30 to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Drew Barrymore and Justin Long star in this romantic comedy about two people in a long-distance relationship, while getting a ton of bad relationship advice from their friends. It's a pretty standard setup, so the film will have to rely on the chemistry between the two leads to thrive. If the chemistry was good, why are they releasing it at the end of August?

There are a few more question marks here. For instance, this is Nanette Burstein's first fictional film after making a few documentaries. This is a transition that is difficult to make. Also, neither Drew Barrymore nor Justin Long have been the star of a major hit in a while. They were both in He's Just Not That Into You, but while that earned a lot of money, it was an ensemble piece and its hard to credit either actor with the film's success. Justin Long had little to do with the success of Alvin and the Chipmunks, and likewise Drew Barrymore provided the lead voice Beverly Hills Chihuahua, which isn't a usual guide either. Another issue is its R rating, which strikes me as odd for this type of film and could limit its target audience.

Given these issues, plus its release date and the competition, I just don't see the film being a hit, not even a mid-level one.

The Last Exorcism

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheLastExorcism.com
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: August 27th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for disturbing violent content and terror, some sexual references and thematic material
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Hauntings, Possessed, Religion, Found Footage, and more
Directed By: Daniel Stamm
Starring: Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Iris Bahr, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - Potentially less that $1 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Patrick Fabian stars as a priest who has lost his faith. He is known for his ability to perform exorcisms, but it is all just a show that he uses to make money. (He also does them to prevent people from trying to do exorcism on their own, which can lead to tragedy.) He agrees to let a documentary film crew, led by Iris Bahr, film his last exorcism. However, the exorcism of Nell, a possessed teenage girl, doesn't go as planned.

This film is a "Found Footage" film, like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, which are two of the most profitable movies ever made. It probably won't earn the same amount of money, but it was likely very inexpensive to make, so it won't take much to show a profit. Additionally, some of the early buzz is very positive. On the other hand, with Paranormal Activity 2 coming out, as well as the previous release of [REC], Quarantine, etc., there might be too many similar films in too short a period of time.

It will likely be the biggest hit of the weekend, but will only be a minor hit that is profitable mostly due to its low production budget. But if the buzz it right, it could find a larger audience on the home market, especially if it is released on DVD / Blu-ray in time for Halloween.

Takers

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: SonyPictures.com/Movies/Takers
Distributor: Sony / Screengems
Release Date: August 27th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 intense sequences of violence and action, a sexual situation/partial nudity and some language
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Heist, Gang, Life on the Outside, and more
Directed By: John Luessenhop
Starring: Idris Elba, Tip "T.I." Harris, Matt Dillion, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $20 million, but that seems low
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Idris Elba stars as the leader of a gang of bank robbers who are at the top of their field. However, complications arrive when their previous leader, played by Tip "T.I." Harris, gets out of prison and wants to pull the biggest heist they've ever done with only three days prep time. Meanwhile, a top cop, played by Matt Dillon, is closing in on them.

Could be a good movie. On the other hand, Armored had a similar feel to it (and it even also starred Matt Dillon), and earned reviews that were not that bad, but bombed at the box office. This film has an even weaker release date, although it also has less competition from potential blockbusters / Oscar hopefuls.

Takers might become a mid-level hit, or it might fail to reach $15 million like Armored did.


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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, The Expendables, Flipped, Going the Distance, Lottery Ticket, Middle Men, Piranha 3D, Takers, The Other Guys, Step Up 3D, The Last Exorcism, The Switch, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Eat Pray Love, Vampires Suck