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2010 Preview: November

November 1st, 2010

November's here and expectations are all over the place. October saw 2010 lose ground to 2009, which is a bad sign going forward, but we also saw records fall. This month will undoubtedly see an increase in ticket sales over last month, what with the start of Awards Season and the Holidays, but the real question is how well it will compare with last year. Last November saw the release of a couple of surprise hits, none more surprising than The Blind Side, while in the end there were five $100 million movies and two that reached $200 million. Will that happen this year? Maybe. I count six films with a statistically significant shot at reaching $100 million, including three that might reach $200 million, and one of those has a shot at $300 million. That is on the high end, but even on the low end there are three $100 million movies coming out this month, including one that is all but guaranteed to reach $200 million in the end.

Weekend of November 5th, 2010

Just like the Summer season begins with Memorial Day, the Winter holiday season begins with Thanksgiving. However, just like the Summer season, the Winter one has been stretched out and now unofficially begins the first weekend of the month. There are three wide releases, one of which has the potential to reach $200 million, another should reach $100 million, while the third should be a solid mid-level hit, but could also be a bit of a wildcard. Last November got off to a bit of a slow start, at least at the top of the chart, and there's a chance Megamind will open with twice as much as Disney's A Christmas Carol did. However, it likely won't have the same legs.

Due Date

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: DueDateMovie.WarnerBros.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: November 5th, 2010
MPAA Rating: R for language drug use and sexual content .
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Buddy Comedy, Road Trip, Directing Yourself, and more
Directed By: Todd Phillips
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis and a dog
Production Budget: Reported at $50 million
Box Office Potential: $125 million

Todd Phillips' follow-up to The Hangover. It stars Robert Downey, Jr., who has had five $100 million movies in the past three years. It also stars Zach Galifianakis, whose star really began to rise after The Hangover and he's been everywhere since. (This is his fourth release of the year.)

This sets up some really high expectations.

Expectations are so high that if the film's reviews are just 60% positive, then it will be looked at as a disappointment, and if it doesn't earn at least $100 million at the box office, a lot of people will be shocked. On the other extreme, it could earn 80% positive reviews and make more than $200 million. I think it will finish on the high end with critics, but on the low end at the box office. That said, $125 million domestically would be more than enough to ensure a profit sometime during its home market run.

Fair*Game

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: FairGame-Movie.com
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Release Date: November 5th, 2010 (limited)
Release Date: November 19th, 2010 (possible wide expansion)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Secret Agent, Political, Treason, Foreign Language, Gulf War, and more
Directed By: Doug Liman
Starring: Naomi Watts and Sean Penn
Production Budget: Estimated at $60 million to $80 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Doug Liman's third secret agent movie, but this one is based on the real life events surrounding the outing of Valerie Plame.

It has a good cast with an Oscar-nominated actress, Naomi Watts, and a two-time Oscar-winning actor, Sean Penn, in the two leads. Although having Sean Penn in the lead is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it instantly makes the film Oscar bait. On the other hand, his politics plus a movie like this instantly cuts your target audience in half. (Then again, I think the people who hate Sean Penn's politics probably would consider this film Leftist Hollywood Propaganda regardless of who was in the lead.) Add in Doug Liman in the director's chair, who has had only one real misstep in his career, and you have a film that could be an Awards Season player. The early reviews do tend to support this.

On the other hand, it is opening in limited release, so if it struggles out of the gate, it could disappear before enough voters even notice the film. In that case, it could fail to reach $5 million. Or it could win Oscars and earn $75 million. The above box office potential is a weighted average of the two extremes.

For Colored Girls

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ForColoredGirlsMovie.com
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: November 5th, 2010
MPAA Rating: R for some disturbing violence including a rape, sexual content and language.
Source: Based on a Play
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: African-American, Sex Crimes, Religious, Segments, Ensemble, and more
Directed By: Tyler Perry
Starring: Loretta DeVine, Kimberly Elise, Whoopi Goldberg, Janet Jackson, Thandie Newton, Phylicia Rashād, Anika Noni Rose, and Kerry Washington
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million

Tyler Perry is directing a movie that is based on a play. So far there's nothing unusual about that. However, it is based on a play that he didn't write. It's his chance to show his range as a filmmaker, which could help widen his appeal. On the other hand, early reviews for the film have not been kind with many critics saying Tyler Perry's ambitions have gone beyond his reach as a filmmaker. He's taken Ntozake Shange's award-winning play, stripped it of any subtly, and turned it into a typical Tyler Perry movie.

Then again, Tyler Perry has proven himself to be a nearly critic-proof filmmaker and I doubt any number of bad reviews will hurt this film's box office chances. In fact, if most negatives reviews continue to refer to For Colored Girls as a, "typical Tyler Perry movie," then they can almost be considered positive reviews for his fans.

The film also has excellent cast, a great release date, and no real direct competition, but no Madea, which could be the biggest obstacle for the film to overcome. I don't expect it to become his biggest hit, but it could finish in second place.

MegaMind

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: MegaMindMovie.com
Distributor: Dreamworks Animation
Release Date: November 5th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG for action and some language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Friendly Alien on Earth, Psychics, Villain as the Main Character, Spoof, and more
Directed By: Tom McGrath
Starring: Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Tina Fey, and David Cross
Production Budget: Reported at $160 million
Box Office Potential: $175 million

Practically every year, there is a massive family film release during the first weekend of November. In the past decade we've seen the release of Monsters, Inc., Madagascar 2, The Santa Clause 2, Elf, The Incredibles, and other $100 million hits. The Incredibles might be the most direct comparison that can be made to this film, but Despicable Me also has its share of similarities. Being compared to a massive hit that came out six years ago is good, because it shows the subject matter has serious box office potential, and a lot of the target audience for this movie probably was too young to have seen The Incredibles when it first came out. On the other hand, being compared to a massive hit that came out less than six months ago is bad news.

There have been many, many pairs of films like this that have come out very close together. Dante's Peak vs. Volcano. Deep Impact vs. Armageddon. Sky High vs. Zoom. Antz vs. A Bug's Life. K-9 vs. Turner and Hooch. Tombstone vs. Wyatt Earp. Capote vs. Infamous. Chasing Liberty vs. First Daughter. The Illusionist vs. The Prestige. Paul Blart vs. Observe and Report. ... Good lord, I could go on for days like this.

The bad news for MegaMind is the second film in the pair generally makes less at the box office than the first one did, unless the second one had a clear advantage of some kind. The Illusionist was an independent film, while The Prestige had major studio support. Adventures of Priscilla was an import, while Wong Fu was a Hollywood product. A Bug's Life had a much better release date than Antz did. Armageddon cost nearly twice as much as Deep Impact did and likely had a similar advantage in its ad campaign.

MegaMind costs twice as much as Despicable Me did, so if it has twice the advertising budget, and similar reviews, then it could top $250 million. Or if critics are less than impressed, it could struggle to make half that. There really is a lot of uncertainty here.

Weekend of November 12th, 2010

There are four weekends in November and four films that are practically guaranteed to reach $100 million. Unfortunately, none of them are coming out this weekend. There's a chance one of this weekend's releases will be a massively unexpected hit, but there's a better chance none of them will finish their box office runs will more than $65 million. That would mean that last year's number one film, 2012, would make more in one weekend than any of this year's contenders will make in total. The only good news is that last year there was no depth, so perhaps the combined efforts will be enough to keep 2010 head of last year's pace.

Morning Glory

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: MorningGloryMovie.com
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: November 10th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexual content including dialogue, language and brief drug references.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: TV Industry, News, Boss from Hell, and more
Directed By: Roger Michell
Starring: Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton, and more
Production Budget: Estimated at $40 to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

Rachel McAdams stars as a Becky Fuller, who is desperate for a job, so she takes one as the producer of a failing TV morning show. In order to boost ratings, she hires Harrison Ford to be Diane Keaton's co-host; however, the two don't exactly get along and personality conflicts make her job a lot harder.

The film is directed by Roger Michell, whose previous films include the criminally under-seen Venus, and the $100 million hit, Notting Hill. It is also written by Aline Brosh McKenna, whose previous credits include The Devil Wears Prada. Combined with the cast, there's certainly a lot of potential here. On the other hand, opening on a Wednesday is kind of tough for most films and outside of monster releases, or holiday releases, it is usually not a wise idea.

Also, while I'm a fan of the cast, I'm not about to argue that they have a lot of box office drawing power at the moment. Rachel McAdams' last film hit $200 million, but it wouldn't be accurate to call her the lead. Diane Keaton's last $100 million film, Something's Gotta Give, was seven years ago, and there's another seven-year gap between that film and First Wives' Club, her previous $100 million hit. And while Harrison Ford has been in some of the biggest films of all time, outside franchise films, his last $100 million hit opened just over a decade ago.

That's not to say the film will have no chance at succeeding, but even just becoming a solid mid-level hit might be asking too much.

Skyline

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: IAmRogue.com/Skyline
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: November 12th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some language, and brief sexual content.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Alien Invasion
Directed By: The Brothers Strause
Starring: Eric Balfour, Scottie Thompson, Donald Faison, and more
Production Budget: Reported at under $20 million, possibility under $10 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

After a party, a group of people wake up to see strange lights in the sky. However, everyone who looks at these lights disappears. It could be a real mystery as to what is happening, but we see giant alien spacecraft in the trailer, so it's more of an action film than a suspense film. (Although action + suspense = Thriller.)

The movie is directed by The Brothers Strause, Greg and Colin, who are mostly known for their special effects work and commercials. The only other theatrical release they directed was Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. That's not a good sign. This film will likely be a lot better, but I'm not sure it will be a bigger hit. First of all, it doesn't have a franchise to draw an audience. Also, the studio, Universal, isn't exactly having a good year, so it might have trouble convincing enough theater owners to book a low-budget sci-fi film populated by mostly TV actors.

On the other hand, District 9 earned more than $100 million domestically, and this film could tap into the same audience. Plus Skyline has a better release date.

Mixed signals, but there are a lot more negatives than positives here.

Unstoppable

Trailer:
Click to Play
Official Site: UnstoppableMovie.com
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: November 12th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of action and peril, and some language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Disaster, Trains, and more
Directed By: Tony Scott
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, and more
Production Budget: $90 million to $107 million, reports vary
Box Office Potential: $75 million

In this thriller, Denzel Washington stars as a veteran railway engineer who has to help a rookie, Chris Pine, stop a runaway train that is carrying toxic chemicals, and explosives. They have 100 minutes before the train reaches a sharp curve and at the speeds it is traveling, it will skip the track and crash into a town causing death and destruction.

A movie about a runaway train carrying dangerous cargo ... As disaster movies go, that's not the best setup I've heard. Also, it is a Tony Scott / Denzel Washington collaboration and while those have generally been solid performers at box office, on average they haven't made enough money to justify spending $90 million to $107 million on making this movie.

On the other hand, it is the biggest film opening this weekend, which could be enough to help it become a surprise $100 million hit.

Weekend of November 19th, 2010

This weekend is all about Harry Potter. It's not the only film coming out this weekend, but it could make more in one day than the other release, The Next Three Days, makes in total. Unfortunately for 2010, this time last year saw the release of two of the biggest hits of the holiday season, one of which had one of the biggest openings of all time, and the other had simply amazing legs. There's little hope 2010 will maintain last year's pace.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I

Trailer:
Click to Play
Official Site: HarryPotter.WarnerBros.com/HarryPotterAndTheDeathlyHallows
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: November 19th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Good vs. Evil, Prologue, Cliffhanger Ending, and more
Directed By: David Yates
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, and about 100 other people
Production Budget: Reported at $250 million, but that might be for both installments
Box Office Potential: $325 million

The penultimate installment of Harry Potter, maybe. (There's already talk of another book.) Since the franchise has lasted almost a decade now, there's little that needs to be said about the individual movies to judge this film's box office chances. It is easily one of the most anticipated films of the year, and will very possibly be the biggest hit of the holiday season. It should also have the biggest opening of the franchise, and quite possibly take top spot away from The Philosopher's Stone for biggest hit in the franchise. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it became the third billion dollar hit released in 2010. This would lift the running tally for the franchise to over $2 billion domestically and almost $6.5 billion worldwide. It's been an amazing run so far.

The Next Three Days

Trailer: Coming Soon
Official Site: TheNextThreeDaysMovie.com
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: November 19th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images.
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Rescue / Ecape, Wrongfully Convicted, Foreign Language Remake, and more
Directed By: Paul Haggis
Starring: Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

Playing counter-programming to Harry Potter. This remake of a French film is directed by Oscar-winner Paul Haggis and stars Oscar-winner Russell Crowe, who stars as a man whose wife is falsely convicted of murder. Unable to deal with a long prison sentence, she attempts suicide, which is when he decides to break her out of prison.

Given the pedigree here, and the quality of the original, this could be a very good movie. On the other hand, it will struggle to generate much buzz, as it is going against the biggest release of the season. Also, Russell Crowe hasn't exactly generated a lot of ticket sales in recent years. After his back-to-back-to-back Oscar nominations, including one win, his box office stock has dropped. He is coming off his first $100 million hit in several years, Robin Hood, but his previous film was Tenderness, which was practically a direct-to-DVD release.

Given Crowe's recent track record, this film could earn anything from just under $40 million to just over $60 million and I wouldn't be surprised. If the reviews are as good, or possible better, than the original, then hopefully it's closer to the high end of that range.

Weekend of November 26th, 2010

Thanksgiving weekend sees the release of four films, which is at least one film too many, as the competition practically guarantees at least one film will struggle. However, looking in on these four films, there's one potential monster hit, Tangled, and three films that feel like filler, so we could have three films struggling. This time last year there were three wide releases; well, two wide releases and a wide expansion. All three films failed to make a significant impact at the box office, and while there were two holdovers that pulled in more than $40 million each, this still gives 2010 a chance for a good win.

Burlesque

Trailer: Coming Soon
Official Site: Burlesque-Movie.com
Distributor: Screen Gems
Release Date: November 24th, 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama / Musical
Keywords: Dancing, Musicians, Music Industry, Performing Arts, and more
Directed By: Steven Antin
Starring: Christina Aguilera, Cher, Kristen Bell, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Christina Aguilera makes her acting debut as Ali Rose, a girl who comes from a small town to the big city to make it big in show business. She gets a job as a waitress in a fading burlesque house, but her big dreams, and her big voice, might be enough to save it.

Christina Aguilera's acting debut, director Steven Antin's theatrical debut, Cher's first major role in more than a decade, there hasn't been a major musical released all year, and there hasn't been a hit in the genre since Mamma Mia! / High School Musical 3 came out in 2008. ... There are a lot of question marks surrounding this movie.

(I'm not sure if this film is a true musical or not. To be a true musical, the songs must progress the plot. On the other hand, it could simply be a drama about the music biz with a lot of music as a result.)

The buzz surrounding the movie is weak, both in terms of quantity and quality. Not a lot of people are talking about this movie, and a lot who are, are comparing it to Showgirls. Ouch. On the other hand, if it earns even 30% positive reviews, it could be seen as better than expected, which could be enough to lift its box office potential.

Or it could earn a single-digit Tomatometer Score, it could open in less than 2,000 theaters, and it could disappear from theaters without making any noise.

Faster

Trailer: Click Here to Play
Official Site: FasterTheMovie.com
Distributor: CBS Films
Release Date: November 24th, 2010
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, some drug use and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Life on the Outside, Revenge, Car Chase, Hitman, and more
Directed By: George Tillman Jr.
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Bill Bob Thornton, Moon Bloodgood, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $40 million to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

Dwayne Johnson returns to the action genre after a few kid-friendly films. On the one hand, fans who have been following him since his wrestling days will probably be happy. On the other hand, Race to Witch Mountain, The Game Plan, and even The Tooth Fairy made more than all but one of his action movies. Finally, this is CBS Films' third attempt to create a hit, and while it will likely to more business than the previous two films, and possibly make more then those two combined, I don't think it will make enough to be considered a real hit.

Hopefully it didn't cost an unreasonable amount of money to make. If not, it could still pull out a profit some time during its home market run.

Love and Other Drugs

Trailer: Coming Soon
Official Site: LoveAndOtherDrugsTheMovie.com
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: November 24th, 2010
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, nudity, pervasive language, and some drug material.
Source: Based on a Factual Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Romance, Medical and Hospitals, and more
Directed By: Edward Zwick
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jake Gyllenhaal, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $40 to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

This movie is earning some early Oscar buzz, especially for Anne Hathaway's performance. Some are calling it this year's Up in the Air. This makes sense, as both films have romance and humor, but a dramatic core. If it does earn the same level of reviews, then it could match that film's performance at the box office. In fact, since it is opening wide, it might even be able to open with more than Up in the Air earned in its four weeks of release. Or it might not make as much during its opening as Up in the Air made at its peak. It depends on how well it is marketed and how much its reviews match its early buzz.

I'm not sure about the reviews, but the early marketing portrays the movie as a romantic comedy, which could be a wise move to broaden its appeal. And the trailer is appealing. That said, romantic comedies rarely top $100 million, so at its best, I think this film will have to settle for being a solid mid-level hit. Fortunately, there's a really good chance it will get there.

Tangled

Trailer: Coming Soon
Official Site: Disney.Go.com/DisneyPictures/Tangled
Distributor: Walt Disney
Release Date: November 24th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG for brief mild violence .
Source: Based on a Fairytale
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Princess, Heist, Rescue, 3D, and more
Directed By: Nathan Greno and Byron Howard
Starring: Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $100 to $125 million
Box Office Potential: $150 million

An adaptation of the Rapunzel story with a more modern take. Instead of Rapunzel, voiced by Mandy Moore, being a damsel in distress, she's a lot more capable of taking care of herself. In fact, she handily takes care of her would-be rescuer, Flynn Rider, who is not so much her rescuer, as a thief looking for a place to hide while the law, and his old partners, are looking for him.

On the one hand, I love the trailer and think the film is able to capture digitally the look of the classic Disney cell animation. On the other hand, we've seen that selling a kids movie with a strong female lead is a little tricky. For instance, The Princess and the Frog barely met the low end of expectations when it opened last year.

I think Tangled will outperform The Princess and the Frog (the 3D ticket prices should take care of that). Also, the only real competition will be the seventh Harry Potter film, which will be in its second weekend of release by that point. But until I start seeing reviews, I won't be willing to really say by how much. If it earns really strong reviews, and by that I mean contending-for-Best-Animated-Feature level, then it could reach $200 million, maybe more.


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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Tangled, Due Date, Burlesque, Morning Glory, Faster, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I, Unstoppable, Love and Other Drugs, For Colored Girls, Fair*Game, The Next Three Days, Skyline, Megamind