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2010 Preview: September

September 1st, 2010

Summer has ended and while there were some bigger than expected hits in August, this trend is unlikely to continue in September. There are four weekends this September and nearly a dozen films opening wide, plus a few more that may or may not open wide. Of all of those films, maybe three of four will be midlevel hits, while only one film, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole 3D, has a real shot at reaching the $100 million milestone. This is compared to last year when we had two $100 million hits, although one of those was Paranormal Activity, which didn't expand truly wide till Halloween. Hopefully 2010 can gain ground on 2009 overall, even if it doesn't have as many $100 million hits.

Weekend of September 3rd, 2010

There are three wide releases this week, including one that was pushed back from August at the last minute. Of the three, The American will probably earn the best reviews. However, Machete is the film that I'm most interested in and it could have serious cult potential. Meanwhile, Going the Distance will likely be described most often as, "Also opening this week." It's a very nondescript romantic comedy that looked good on paper, at least to someone, but obviously the studio thinks its didn't reach this potential, otherwise they wouldn't dump in into theaters in September. Compared to last year, all three films have a shot at opening with more than All About Steve did, which will get the month started the right way.

The American

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheAmericanTheMovie.com
Distributor: Focus Features
Release Date: September 1st, 2010
MPAA Rating: R for violence, sexual content and nudity.
Source: Based on a Novel
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Assassin, One Last Job, and more
Directed By: Anton Corbijn
Starring: George Clooney, Violante Placido, Thekla Reuten, and Paolo Bonacelli
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $30 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

George Clooney stars as Jack, an assassin whose previous job did not go as well as he had hoped. He decides to do one last job, building a weapon for a mysterious client. The criminal doing "one last job" is not exactly an original story; for that matter, a cop on his last day of the job is also a cliché. On one hand, the book it is based on did earn good reviews, George Clooney is a very reliable actor, and Anton Corbijn's only previous feature-length film, Control, earned stellar reviews. All this points to strong reviews.

On the other hand, it is opening on the first and as of the 29th, there are still no reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Also, it is being released by Focus Features, which is not a major player at the box office. In fact, this is their first wide release of the year.

Perhaps it will be a surprise hit, but struggling to match its production budget is more likely.

Last Minute Update: The reviews are in and they are mixed. They are better than the average September release, so that should help.

Going the Distance

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Going-The-Distance.WarnerBros.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: September 3rd, 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: Estimated at $30 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Note: There's not much of a change in its box office potential from when it was opening at the end of August. Granted, the first weekend of September is the Labor Day long weekend, but that doesn't have a huge effect on the box office in most years.

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 beginning of September?

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, likewise Drew Barrymore doing voicework in Beverly Hills Chihuahua is not that useful in judging this film's potential. 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 midlevel hit.

Machete

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: VivaMachete.com
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: September 3rd, 2010
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence throughout, language, some sexual content and nudity.
Source: Original Screenplay / Spin-Off
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Revenge, Political, Assassin, Double-Cross, Ensemble, and more
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis
Starring: Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, and practically everyone who has been in a Robert Rodriguez movie
Production Budget: Reported at $25 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million

This movie started out as a joke trailer in the Grindhouse double-feature, but it created such a buzz they decided to make a feature-length movie. The plot is simple. Danny Trejo plays Machete, an ex-Federale who is hired to commit a political assassination, only to be betrayed and now he is out for revenge.

I see this film doing business similar to Grindhouse or Snakes on a Plane. At the very top end, it could become a midlevel hit earning $50 million to $75 million. However, it is more likely to struggle theatrically just topping its production budget, but it should perform relatively better on the home market and break even in the process.

Weekend of September 10th, 2010

There will be only one wide release opening this week, Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D, which is great news for that film, as it won't have to deal with any real competition at the box office. On the other hand, this is the weekend after Labor Day and in many years, this has been the single worst weekend at the box office for the entire year. Not just for films opening this weekend, but for the box office as a whole. This time last year, the box office benefited from a Tyler Perry film, which earned more than $20 million during its opening weekend. However, the other three wide releases combined earned barely more than $20 million. Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D should dominate the box office during its opening weekend, but it probably won't be enough to save the box office as a whole. (On a side note, there were some reports that Legendary and The Virginity Hit could open wide, or at least wide enough to compete for a spot in the top ten. However, the official sites for both films say they are opening in "Select Cities". "Select Cities" sometimes feels like the worst possible release strategy.)

Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ResidentEvil-Movie.com
Distributor: Sony / Screen Gems
Release Date: September 10th, 2010
MPAA Rating: R for sequences of strong violence and language.
Source: Based on a Video Game / Sequel
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Zombies, Post-Apocalypse, 3D, and more
Directed By: Paul Anderson
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Ali Later, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $60 million
Box Office Potential: $60 million

This is the fourth film in the Resident Evil franchise, at least the fourth one that was released theatrically. (Degeneration was a direct-to-DVD CG movie that was a prequel to the latest installment of the video game franchise.) So far the films have been solid performers at the box office, solid but not spectacular. This one should end up being the most lucrative, thanks in part to the 3D format. The same thing happened with The Final Destination and it became the biggest hit in its franchise.

That said, there's little hope for this film being anything more than a midlevel hit domestically, while it should be a bigger hit on the international scene, possibly crossing the $100 million milestone overseas.

Weekend of September 17th, 2010

Seven major films are opening this week. Seven. Alpha and Omega, Devil, Easy A, and The Town are opening wide. Catfish, Jack Goes Boating, and Never Let Me Go are all debuting in limited release but have big ambitions. Of the four wide releases, Alpha and Omega 3D is the most interesting, as it represents Lionsgate's first digitally-animated movie. If it does well, we could have a new player in that very lucrative field. Of course, "well" is a relative term. It doesn't have to match last year's biggest hit, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, but if it can manage to make half as much, the studio will be very happy.

Alpha and Omega

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: AlphaAndOmega3D.com
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: September 17th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG for rude humor and some mild action.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Animal Lead, Talking Animals, Cross-Class Romance, 3D, and more
Directed By: Anthony Bell and Ben Gluck
Starring: Hayden Panettiere, Justin Long, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

Hayden Panettiere and Justin Long provide the voices of two Albertan timber wolves, Kate and Humphrey. They are at the opposite ends of the social order and normally would have nothing to do with each other. However, they are captured by park rangers and sent to Yellowstone National Park to help repopulate the wolf population there. Awkward.

This is Lionsgate's first attempt at making a digitally animated movie, but they are not the first of the smaller studio to make that leap. Weinstein did it with Hoodwinked and that went pretty well. On the other hand, Lionsgate distributed, but didn't produce, Happily N'Ever After, and that bombed hard. Additionally, September isn't the best month to release a film aimed at kids and there's a chance this film will die a painful death like Everybody's Hero or Igor. Or it could be a $100 million hit like Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Unfortunately, the lower end is a lot more likely.

I've only seen one review online, and it is in French, but as long as the seven years of high school French I took were not a complete waste and I completely botched the translation, it is a relatively positive review. They mention that the animation budget is obviously lower than blockbusters released during the summer, but it is still a charming movie that should entertain kids and their parents.

Let's hope it earns a lot of reviews like that, or better, and the film becomes at least a solid midlevel hit.

Devil

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheNightChronicles.com/Devil
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: September 17th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and disturbing images, thematic material and some language including sexual references.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Demons, probably a Surprise Twist, likely more
Directed By: John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle
Starring: Bojana Novakovic, Bokeem Woodbine, Logan Marshall-Green, Geoffrey Arend, and Jenny O'Hare
Production Budget: Reported at $10 million, but that seems low
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Five people, Bojana Novakovic, Bokeem Woodbine, Logan Marshall-Green, Geoffrey Arend, and Jenny O'Hare, find themselves trapped in an elevator and after some weird, almost supernatural events occur, they begin to suspect one of them is the Devil.

The movie is written by M. Night Shyamalan, but it is not being directed by him. It is being directed by John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle, who previously worked together on Quarantine, which came out in 2008, and The Poughkeepsie Tapes, which will come out as soon as the people at MGM get their act together, or after the sun burns out, whichever comes first. Not too long ago, having M. Night Shyamalan's name attached to a movie would mean it was practically a guaranteed hit. Now, not so much. In fact, much of the buzz surrounding the movie is negative and a lot of this is due to M. Night Shyamalan's string of critical failures.

That said, the trailer isn't bad, while it could open with more than it reportedly cost to make. If it only cost $10 million to make, there's almost no chance it won't show a profit, eventually.

Easy A

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: LetsNotAndSayWeDid.com
Distributor: Sony / Screen Gems
Release Date: September 17th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving teen sexuality, language and some drug material.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Gay, High School Hell, Modern Adaptations, and more
Directed By: Will Gluck
Starring: Emma Stone, Dan Byrd, Amanda Bynes, and more
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million

Emma Stone and Dan Byrd play Olive and Brandon, who are best friends in high school. He's picked on by bullies, because they think he is Gay, which he is. He comes up with an idea, if everyone thinks he had sex with Olive, the bullies will leave him alone. It takes a bit of convincing, but the plan works so well that other bullied kids want to get in on it, and are willing to pay. Soon rumors are flying around the school that Olive is sleeping with half the male population, and this causes her rival, Marianne to use these rumors to try to drive Olive from the school.

The movie is a High School adaptation of The Scarlet Letter with Emma Stone playing the part of Hester Prynne. This is not the first time a classic piece of literature has been updated and set in High School, but while many times these films earn praise, they are rarely more than midlevel hits. Clueless, Ten Things I Hate About You, She's The Man, etc. Additionally, the film's release date suggests the studio isn't exactly confident in the film's box office chances. Add in a star that hasn't been asked to carry a movie in this way before, and even being a midlevel hit could be asking too much.

On the other hand, I doubt the film was too expensive to make, so if could be profitable sooner rather than later.

The Town

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheTownMovie.WarnerBros.com/
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: September 17th, 2010
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug use.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Gang, Heist, and more
Directed By: Ben Affleck
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, John Hamm, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $40 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million

There was a time when it looked like Ben Affleck would be an A-list movie star. From Good Will Hunting to Daredevil he had a run of six $100 million movies in less than six years. Yes, he had some missteps along the way, but he still had very solid box office drawing power. It was around this time that "Bennifer" madness set in and media overexposure happened. Then came Gigli.

He's been in career recovery mode ever since, with only limited success.

That said, his directorial debut, Gone, Baby, Gone, earned incredible reviews and even some major Awards Season buzz with Amy Ryan picking up an Oscar nomination. If this film can earn overwhelmingly positive reviews (80% or more) then it could be a surprise hit. However, if it is that good, why is it being released in September?

Finally, there are four films opening wide this week, which means one of them will likely be squeezed out by the competition, and all four films have roughly an even chance of being that film.

One last note, The Town? Really? I don't think it is medically possible to come up with a more generic name.

Weekend of September 24th, 2010

It's a strange week for the month of September, as there are three wide releases, and all three could be hits. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole 3D has the best chance of any film opening this month to reach $100 million at the box office, while both Wall Street 2 and You Again could be solid midlevel hits. Best case scenario has all three films opening faster than Surrogates opened with this time last year, while Legend of the Guardians could open with more than the combined openings of the three wide releases from last year. If that happens, it will almost be like September ended a week early. On a side note, Buried opens in limited release this week, but it doesn't expand wide till the 8th. We will talk about it more next week.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole 3D

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: LegendOfTheGuardians.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: September 24th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG for some sequences of scary action.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Animal Lead, Talking Animals, Good vs. Evil, and more
Directed By: Zack Snyder
Starring: Jim Sturgess, Ryan Kwanten, Hugo Weaving, Sam Neil, Helen Mirren, and many, many more
Production Budget: Reported at $100 million
Box Office Potential: $95 million

An Australian co-production and the first animated film directed by Zack Snyder, who previously made 300 and Watchmen. Not exactly the first director you think of when you think of kid friendly cartoons. On the other hand, the style of animation looks a lot more realistic and in the same vein as Beowulf. This makes it an interesting film to keep an eye on, but one that's a little more difficult to predict. It is a movie with a reported $100 million production budget and it is being released by a major studio, so it should have the full force of a major advertising campaign behind it. I'm not sure it will be enough, as it could be a tough sell.

The story centers around a group of young owls that need to make a dangerous journey to a faraway land. They need to find the legendary guardians in order to stop another group of warrior owls from destroying their kingdom. The trailer actually reminds me of The Golden Compass, as it sets up this huge mythology that feels too big for just one film. You get the general feel of the Good vs. Evil fight, but the motivations are less clear. The film is based on a series of novels and I get the feeling that the story is better told in book form. I am impressed by the visual flair shown in the trailer, but I'm not sure if the story was presented in a way that will entice kids enough to drag their parents to theaters.

Also, owls? I just don't see owls being a huge selling point. Are owls really popular with kids at the moment?

Best case scenario has the film topping Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, but it could also fail to top Final Fantasy. The high end is more likely, especially with the 3D ticket prices, while its chances of hitting $100 million are close to 50 / 50.

Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: WallStreetMoneyNeverSleeps.com
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: September 24th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language and thematic elements
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Ex-Con, Revenge, Dysfunctional Family, and more
Directed By: Oliver Stone
Starring: Michael Douglas, Carey Mulligan, Shia LaBeouf, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $70 million
Box Office Potential: $60 million

This film takes place in June of 2008, a couple decades after the events of the first film, and a couple months after Gordon Gecko gets out of prison. At first he tries to warn the bankers on Wall Street about the impending collapse, but they ignore him because of his criminal background. Then he tries to reconnect with his daughter, who is not happy with him, as she had to grow up with an incarcerated father. He then gets help from his daughter's fiancee to get close to his daughter, but the fiancee wants help getting revenge on the banker he thinks is partially responsible for the death of his mentor.

Wall Street helped define the "Me" decade and made the phrase, "Greed is good" into a rallying cry for the next generation of stockbrokers. Of course, that generation help create the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, maybe. (I say maybe, because since there are still no meaningful regulations in place on Wall Street, it is likely that a second collapse is coming, which could actually top the Great Depression in scope. Seriously.) Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps seems to be Oliver Stone's way of saying, "Gordon Gecko was the bad guy not a role model." Of course, this time around he's looking for redemption and to make up for past sins. I'm hoping that this film will be as good as the first film was, and early reviews suggests in could be. If Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps sells as many tickets as its predecessor, it will make about $90 million at the box office. However, I think the time between sequels makes that unlikely, but not impossible. $60 million is a more reasonable prediction.

You Again

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: YouAgain-TheMovie.com
Distributor: Disney
Release Date: September 24th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG for brief mild language and rude behavior.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: High School Rivalries, Dysfunctional Family if they get married, Relationships Gone Wrong if they don't, and likely more
Directed By: Andy Fickman
Starring: Kristen Bell, Odette Yustman, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver, and Betty White
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million

Kristen Bell stars as Marni, a young lady who finds out her brother is marrying Joanna, Odette Yustman, who was her rival in high school. The situation is further complicated when Marni's mother, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Joanna's aunt, Sigourney Weaver, reunite, as they too were high school rivals. I'm not sure how Betty White fits into this plot, but I'm sure she gets a lot of the best lines.

As I've said in the past, I'm a big fan of Kristen Bell, but I haven't been exactly happy with all of her movie choices since Veronica Mars ended. This movie does have a whole lot of comedic talent involved, including the suddenly hot Betty White. (Betty White has always been a comedic powerhouse, but recently she has had a really big boost to her popularity that culminated in her hosting Saturday Night Live.)

On the other hand, the trailer makes the movie seem a little schmaltzy and probably only a marginal quality film. If it does earn good reviews, maybe it will be a solid midlevel hit opening with close to $30 million and earning $75 million or more in total. Or it could earn significantly less than 40% positive reviews and make less than $30 million in total.


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Filed under: Monthly Preview, You Again, Going the Distance, Resident Evil: Afterlife, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps, The Town, The American, Alpha and Omega 3D, Devil, Easy A, Machete, The Virginity Hit, Catfish