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2009 Preview: May

May 1st, 2009

Last May was strong with two films that cracked $300 million at the box office. This May we might not have any movies reach that milestone. Then again, there are six films that have a shot to reach $200 million. I'm not saying all of them will get there, but I would be surprised if at least two of them don't get there, while all six should reach at least $100 million, which is two more than the same month last year. There are also a few midlevel hits in the waiting, as a few limited releases of note. This latter category includes The Brothers Bloom, Departures, and Pontypool.

Weekend of May 1st, 2009
Summer starts with one of the most anticipated movies of the year, as well as a couple attempts at counter-programming. Best case scenario has all three carving out a separate slice of the box office pie. More likely scenario has one or more missing their potential. In fact, it is more likely that all will fail to reach their potential than all with become hits.

Name: Battle for Terra
Distributor: Lionsgate
Official Site: BattleForTerra.com
Release Date: May 1, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG For sequences of sci-fi action violence and some thematic elements
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Alien Invasion, sort of
Production Budget: Unknown - predicted at $20 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: A lower budgeted digitally animated movie from Canada about the last surviving elements of Earth trying to find a new planet for them to live on. There's a problem; the planet they find is already inhabited. That's not really problem for those in charge. On the one hand, I'm stoked not only because I want to see a Canadian film succeed, but also I want to see an independent digitally animated movie succeed. On the other hand, Delgo. The film earned good reviews and some awards at film festivals. On the other hand, Delgo. The movie is only opening in 1000 theaters, and I don't think it will have the advertising push to thrive. It could hit $10,000 on the per theater chart during its opening weekend and become a surprise midlevel hit. Or thanks to the above reasons, and direct competition, it could miss the Mendoza line and disappear in two weeks. Let's hope for the former, but I think the latter is more likely. Last Minute Update: The reviews have sunk, and with them its box office chances. It might not make $1 million during its opening weekend, and even a spot in the lower top ten it likely out of the question.

Name: Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: GhostsOfGirlfriendsPastMovie.com
Release Date: May 1, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content throughout, some language and a drug reference
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Hauntings, Time Travel, Relationships Gone Wrong, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - predicted at $40 to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million
Notes: The counter-programming to Wolverine, this film should open in saturation level theater count and do well drawing in those not interested in the origins of Hugh Jackman's most famous character, but who still want to start the summer blockbuster season in the theaters. Looking at the film's prospects, the two stars have there share of success in the genre, the former more than the latter. Additionally, the unusual take on the Charles Dickens classic Christmas novel could interest moviegoers, more than it's pleasing critics at any rate. The film should open solidly, and as the only romantic comedy opening wide this month, it should stick around longer than most topping its production budget. It should also do quite well on the home market and show a sizeable profit. Even if it misses expectations, it should at least come close to matching its production budget while reaching profitability during the home market.

Name: X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Distributor: Fox
Official Site: X-MenOrigins.com
Release Date: May 1, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 For intense sequences of action and violence, and some partial nudity
Source: Spin-Off
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Mutants, Revenge, Prequels, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - I would assume it is north of $100 million
Box Office Potential: $200 million
Notes: Hugh Jackman stars as Wolverine in this origin story / prequel to the popular franchise and there are some good signs, and some not so good signs. On the positive side, the franchise has earned over $600 million domestically, and almost twice that worldwide, and Wolverine is clearly the most popular character in that franchise. On the other hand, the movie was leaked onto the net and there has been some bad buzz going into the opening weekend. The reviews are not great, but that are not as bad as the buzz suggested they would be. (On a side note, some of the critics are going so far as to say it is worse than The Dark Knight. Well, duh! I don't think anyone was seriously expecting this film to rival The Dark Knight, at least not the average moviegoer.) On the high end, the film could open with more than $100 million during its opening weekend and end its run with close to $300 million. On the low end, it could open with $60 million and flame out at around $100 million. That would end the franchise right there. I think $80 million over the opening weekend and $200 million in total will please the studio enough to make another movie, perhaps even a few more spin-offs. (Like Deadpool, perhaps?) Last Minute Update: The review continue to drop with roughly one in three critics giving the film the thumb's up. That likely won't be enough to kill the film's opening weekend, but it will likely hurt its legs. $200 million is still likely, however.

Weekend of May 8th, 2009
The second weekend of May has one massive release, and one that I'm not sure will earn a truly wide release. The lack of competition should help Star Trek, while crushing the competition from last year.

Name: Next Day Air
Distributor: Summit
Official Site: NextDayAir-TheMovie.com
Release Date: May 8, 2009
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, drug content, some violence and brief sexuality
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Organized Crime, African American, Drug Trade, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $10 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: So far, more than half of Summit's total box office gross has come from one movie, Twilight, with nearly half of the rest being earned by Knowing. The rest of its releases have struggled to be considered midlevel hits. This film is playing the counter-programming role to Star Trek, and I don't think there's a lot of crossover appeal here. Then again, I'm not sure how wide this movie will open, and a sub-2000 theater count is possible. If it opens in 2500 theaters, and has the marketing push to back it up, then it could open with $10 million. On the other hand, it could open in 1500 theaters and not reach $10 million in total. However, with reports of a low production budget, and more than a few name actors (Donald Faison, Mos Def, Mike Epps, etc.) I think it is more than likely that this movie will be a financial success. Last Minute Update: Opening in 2000 theaters became a lot less likely, as early reports are it will open in just 1000 theaters. This cuts its box office potential form $20 million to $10 million.

Name: Star Trek
Distributor: Paramount
Official Site: StarTrekMovie.com
Release Date: May 8, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, and brief sexual content
Source: Based on TV / Sequel
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Prequel, Series Reboot, Time Travel, Revenge, 3-D, and more
Production Budget: $150 million
Box Office Potential: $175 million
Notes: One of the longest running franchises of all time. As a long-time fan of the TV series, I've tried hard to keep my expectations of this movie low, to avoid disappointment. That said, the early reviews are very impressive, and that goes give me hope. On the other hand, only one film in the Star Trek franchise has ever made $100 million domestically, while half have failed to reach $100 million worldwide. This film could open with $100 million. I'm not saying it will; I'm just saying it has a chance. Strong reviews and a skeptical public might help this film to long legs. Or it could stumble out of the gate and get crushed by the Fanboy Effect. I think it will be a mix of the two: Massive opening and then a fast decline, but still a profitable run.

Weekend of May 15th, 2009
Just the one wide release this week, although there is a limited release that has a planned expansion later in the month. However, I'm not entirely convinced we will have a monster hit this weekend.

Name: Angels and Demons
Distributor: Sony
Official Site: AngelsAndDemons.com
Release Date: May 15, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 For sequences of violence, disturbing images and thematic material
Source: Based on a Boo / Sequel
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Religious, Conspiracy Theory, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - predicted at $150 million
Box Office Potential: $150 million
Notes: Playing the role of Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspin... Back in 2005, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe smashed expectations become one of the biggest hits of the year. However, last year Prince Caspin was a disappointment earning less than half as much at the domestic box office. Granted, it made enough worldwide to show a profit, but it didn't wow analysts and the severe drop-off was enough to convince Disney to pass on distributing the next installment. Likewise, The Da Vinci Code was a massive, massive hit, but I have a strong feeling that this one will not be. First of all, the original earned terrible reviews, and a lot of people who did watch the first one will not be as interested in seeing this one. Also, there's less hype, and less controversy, surrounding this movie and that could add up to a much smaller opening weekend. I don't think it will collapse as much, but it could give the studio pause before adapting The Lost Symbol.

Name: The Brothers Bloom
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Official Site: TheBrothersBloom.com
Release Date: May 15, 2009 (exclusive)
Release Date: May 29, 2009 (expansion to wide release)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, some sensuality and brief strong language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Black Comedy
Keywords: Con Men, Narration, Heist, and more
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: Not much to add since last time this movie was featured on a monthly preview, This Con Man movie was written and directed by Rian Johnson, who previous made Brick. Already I'm interested. In the film Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo play Bloom and Stephen, two Con Men who are living the highlife and are now looking to for one last con job so Bloom can retire. There mark is Penelope, a rich heiress who is looking for a little more excitement in her life. So far the reviews are good, but not great. Its Tomatometer score is barely above the 60% positive level needed for an overall positive score. That won't be a serious problem with mainstream audiences, if it can expand wide enough to reach mainstream audiences. The weakening reviews does make this slightly less likely, and even with a much better release date, I've lowered its box office potential. If it can expand truly wide, it could be the first breakout limited release hit of the year.

Weekend of May 22nd, 2009
Two potential monster hits coming out this Memorial Day long weekend, and even with limited crossover appeal, they will still be competing or screens and box office dollars. If either film were the only saturation level release of the week, they would be nearly sure things for $200 million. As it is, it is possible neither will reach that level, as their will kill each other off. More likely, the bigger will simply swallow the smaller.

Name: Dance Flick
Distributor: Paramount
Official Site: TheDanceFlick.com
Release Date: May 22, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Spoof, Dancing, Urban, etc.
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $25 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: There are two films opening this week that could reach $200 million at the box office. This is not one of them. This is a spoof of dancing movies made by the same people who made Scary Movie one and two, but not Date, Epic, or Disaster Movie. I don't think it will be one of the worst movies of the year, but I still think it will suck. Also, this sub-genre of pseudo-spoofs appears to be on the way out, thankfully. That said, a small production budget could help it earn a profit, eventually, but I don't think the studio will be eager to make more such films.

Name: Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
Distributor: Fox
Official Site: NightAtTheMuseumMovie.com
Release Date: May 22, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG For mild action and brief language
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Living Toys, Security Guard, Curse, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $150 million
Box Office Potential: $150 million
Notes: Another sequel in a franchise where the first film was a massive hit but the current installment might not live up to its predecessor. The reasons are similar to those of Angels and Demons, include weak reviews for the original, lack of hype, and in this case, a strong case of 'Been there, done that' given off by the trailer. I expect the reviews to be a bit weaker than before, in the 30% to 40% positive range, but it should open stronger, in the $50 million range. However, it won't have Christmas holidays to boost its legs, and it will have to settle for less money. It should still show a profit, eventually, and maybe even do enough to convince the studio to stretch the franchise into a trilogy.

Name: Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: TerminatorSalvation.com
Release Date: May 21, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and language.
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Post Apocalypse, Robots, Franchise Reboot, Artificial Intelligence, etc.
Production Budget: More than $185 million
Box Office Potential: $250 million
Notes: Back in 1999, there were plans to make two more installments of The Terminator franchise simultaneously, but there were more than a few issues to creep up and then Rise of the Machines failed to reach the same level its predecessor did. There were even more behind the scene issues both during production of this movie and before, so much so that a lot of people were starting to think it was just time to retire the franchise. That was before the trailer was released, and it was better that expected. Now the buzz is growing and this could be the biggest hit of the month. Additionally, it is opening on the Thursday, which will give it a day alone before the weekend. Including Thursday and Memorial Day Monday, it should make more than $100 million during its opening weekend. If its reviews are good, and I'm expecting 60% positive, then it could reach $300 million in total. I'm betting it won't quite reach that level, but it should have a better chance at becoming the biggest hit in the franchise (at least in terms of raw dollars, but not in terms of tickets sold). If you were to have asked me what film would have been the biggest hit of May at the beginning of the year, this would not have been it. But it appears to be the case now.

Weekend of May 29th, 2009
The weekend after Memorial Day long weekend isn't the best weekend of summer to release a movie, as it is obviously better to release a movie the week of Memorial Day, or at the week before, but not the week after. That said, there is a potential $200 million hit coming out this week, while the counter-programming could be a solid midlevel hit.

Name: Drag Me to Hell
Distributor: Universal
Official Site: DragMeToHell.net
Release Date: May 29, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 For sequences of horror violence, terror, disturbing images and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Curses, Demons, Hell, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - predicted at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: Sam Raimi returns to the genre that started his career for the first time in 15 years. That alone will build up the buzz. The early reviews won't hurt either. The PG-13 rating might turn off 'Horror Purists', but I'm a firm believer that real scares come from mood, not gore or violence, as long as it is done right. Given the pedigree of this movie, and the early reviews, there's little reason to doubt that this film was done right. As for the film's box office chances, horror is a tough sell at this time of year, and become at $100 million hit is practically impossible. $75 million is likely the upper limit here, but $50 million should be easily obtainable, which is probably twice what it cost to make. In fact, it might be more than it will cost to make and advertise, which would leave its path to profitability free and clear.

Name: Up
Distributor: Disney
Official Site: Disney.com/Up
Release Date: May 29, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG for some peril and action
Source: Origial Screenplay
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Almost In a Plane, Odd Couple, Buddy Comedy, Coming of Age, Talking Animal, Animal Lead, 3-D, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $175 million
Box Office Potential: $215 million
Notes: And the Oscar goes to... I know; it's a little pre-mature to start predicting the Oscars, but Pixar is on a winning streak winning the Best Animated Picture for four of its last five films. (And frankly, I still think that Cars is much better than Happy Feet and deserved the Oscar more. I think it lost only because of the higher expectations placed on Pixar movies.) I imagine this film will at least continue their streak of nine straight Oscar nominated films, include six for Best Animated Feature. (The three that weren't nominated for that award were made before that category was in existence.) There are some concerns that the early trailers were not effective. I disagree; I loved it when Carl discovers Russell on his front porch, after already taking off in his house. "Please let me in." ... "No." But the most recent trailer that shows more of the adventures in the movie has won over a lot of doubters and most think it will match or perhaps even surpass WALL-E. I think it will finish in-between WALL-E and Ratatouille. Perhaps the 3-D aspect, and the higher ticket prices that go with it, could help it reach $250 million. Here's hoping.


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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Up, Star Trek, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, Angels & Demons, Terminator Salvation, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Drag Me To Hell, Dance Flick, The Brothers Bloom, Battle for Terra