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2009 Preview: August

August 1st, 2009

July was a mixed month with several of the big hits failing to live up to great expectations, while still being big hits. There were no surprise hits, but no outright bombs either. No outright bombs is what the industry is hoping for August, but that seems less likely. We could see a monster hit opening on the first week, but that potential hit, G.I.Joe, could also be a monster bomb. There is at least one movie opening each week that I'm personally interested in, although for the most part it is not the widest release of the week that piques my interest.

Weekend of August 7th, 2009
August usually starts out strong before the summer season ends abruptly. Some years, the strong box office ends the first weekend of the month, and that could happen this year. Hopefully this won't happen and this week 2009 can gain ground on 2008.

Name: G.I.Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Distributor: Paramount
Official Site: GIJoeMovie.com
Release Date: August 7, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for strong sequences of action violence and mayhem throughout
Source: Based on TV
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Live Action Cartoon, Terrorism, and more
Production Budget: $170 million
Box Office Potential: $125 million
Notes: This movie has the potential to become the last monster hit of the summer and to reach $200 million. There's also a chance it will be a massive, massive bomb failing to reach $50 million. I think the studio will be willing to spend a bundle in advertising to make sure it's on the high end of spectrum. They have to, because they spent $170 million making the movie, so they can't afford to let the film sink or swim on its own. That said, I haven't seen a ton of ads out there. Maybe I'm not watching the right TV shows to see them, but a movie this big should be advertised on The Score, for instance. The overlap in target audiences for that channel and this movie should be immense. So I'm a little worried about studio support. Additionally, the early buzz is not great and the Haters seem to outnumber the Fanboys by a significant margin. I doubt the reviews will crack 40% positive and while it might start strong, it will collapse fast and I doubt they will want to turn it into a franchise. Last Minute Update: Early reviews are better than expected, sort of. Very few critics are calling it a good movie, but several are saying it is entertaining, which is what you want at this time of year. This lifts its box office potential and makes its chances of reaching at least $100 million a lot more solid. However, it is still a very, very expensive movie to make and it will take a long, long time to show a profit.

Name: Julie & Julia
Distributor: Sony
Official Site: FeedYourInspiration.com
Release Date: August 7, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language and some sensuality
Source: Based on a Book that was Based on a Blog that was Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Food, TV Industry, Writers, Non-Chronological, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $30 to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: Meryl Streep and Amy Adams reunite after making Doubt last year. This movie won't earn the same level of critical praise, but hopefully it will have more laughs. It follows two stories, the first is about Julia Child and the time in the 1940s and 50s when she was looking for direction in her life and decided to become a chef. The second is about Julie Powell, a secretary who in 2002 decided to try and cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. Early reviews are quite poor with many critics calling it light and inconsequential. That said, the trailer makes it look entertaining, and in late summer fluffy entertainment could be exactly what moviegoers want. I'm not saying it will be a monster hit, but I think it should be a solid performer and please the studio, assuming their expectations are not out of line. On a side note, I have seen more ads for this movie than I have for G.I.Joe. Then again, I watch The Food Network while I walk on the treadmill. (I know, watching "Food Porn" while exercising seems a little strange. Talk about sending mixed messages to my brain.) Seeing more ads for this movie on that channel is not that weird.

Name: A Perfect Getaway
Distributor: Universal
Official Site: IAmRogue.com/AperfectGetaway
Release Date: August 7, 2009
MPAA Rating: R for graphic violence, language including sexual references and some drug use
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Serial Killer
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $10 to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: Not a lot of buzz surrounding this movie, which is terrible news since it opens in less than a week. It's a thriller about a killer stalking a group of vacationers in Hawaii, but when the group of potential victims try to stick together they realize one of them could be the killer. It's not a terribly original story, and the trailer looks rather generic, so I think it will have trouble becoming a midlevel hit. That said, it likely cost very little to make compared to the average movie, therefore, it could make a profit even if it fails to reach the status of a midlevel hit.

Weekend of August 14th, 2009
This is the week summer ends, at least in terms of big box office scores, if it hasn't ended the previous week. There are four wide releases, and another that may or may not open wide, but none of them scream monster hit. Most won't even become midlevel hits. There are a few that could at least earn strong reviews, but this time of year is the time when studios start dumping films that seemed like a good idea at the time, but that didn't quite work out. Compared to last year, there's not as much strength at the top, but the overall numbers should be about the same.

Name: District 9
Distributor: Sony
Official Site: D-9.com
Release Date: August 14, 2009
MPAA Rating: R for bloody violence and pervasive language
Source: Based on a Short Film
Major Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Keywords: Sort of a Friendly Alien Invasion
Production Budget: $30 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: Peter Jackson wanted to produce an adaptation of Halo, the video game, but when that fell through, he decided to make this movie instead. It's based on writer / director Neill Blomkamp's short film, Alive in Joburg. The movie is about a group of aliens who come to Earth as refugees and who are forced to live in a slum set up in South Africa. A government agent goes into the slums with his team and comes into contact with a "bioweapon" and is now being hunted by the corporation put in charge of the alien situation, MNU. With nowhere to go, he hides with among the aliens. The viral marketing campaign has been building some buzz, and combined with some early positive reviews, the film could become a midlevel hit. Or it could crash and burn like a combination of Cloverfield and Snakes on a Plane. As long as it opens truly wide, it should at least match its production budget.

Name: Bandslam
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Official Site: BandSlam-Movie.com
Release Date: August 14, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG for some thematic elements and mild language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Rock'n'Roll and others
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: The film was once scheduled to come out the final weekend of July, which would have put it head-to-head with Aliens in the Attic. That in turn would have set up a Vanessa Hudgens vs. Ashley Tisdale High School Musical battle at the box office, which would have probably been more interesting than either movie. I'm not saying this will be a bad movie, although that is a possibility; I'm saying this movie doesn't look original. It's about a group of social outcasts who form a band and try to win the local music contest despite being the underdogs. There is a veritable cornucopia of clichés to draw from. Perhaps the execution will be strong and the film will beat expectations and become a midlevel hit, but that's likely the best it can hope for. On the other hand, as long as it opens truly wide (2,000 or more theaters) it should at least match its production budget domestically, while it should find a following among its target audience on the home market.

Name: The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard
Distributor: Paramount Vantage
Official Site: LiveHardSellHard.com
Release Date: August 14, 2009
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, nudity, pervasive language and some drug material
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Perhaps Boss from Hell and perhaps Gratuitous Cameos
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: Some sources have this film coming out in limited release, and since it is being released by Paramount Vantage, that might be true. If it does open in limited release, I don't think it will be able to expand, as this just isn't the type of film that thrives on the art house circuit. Even if it does open wide, I think it will struggle just to become a midlevel hit. First of all, for a movie that opens in just two weeks, there's almost no buzz around it, which is a bad sign regardless how wide it opens. Secondly, it stars Jeremy Piven, who has been in a lot of big movies, but he has not been the lead in a movie that has made more than... Has Jeremy Piven been the lead in a movie? I think you have to go back to 1994 and PCU to find a movie he was the lead in, and that one made less than $5 million at the box office. Ouch. He makes a good sidekick, especially to John Cusack. If this movie opens wide, truly wide, it should make more than $5 million during its opening weekend. It could make more than $5 million opening day, which would take it to a final total of $20 to $40 million. But if it opens in limited release, $1 million will likely be out of reach. The above potential is a weighted average of those two extremes.

Name: Ponyo
Distributor: Disney
Official Site: No Official Site for the North American Release
Release Date: August 14, 2009 (limited)
MPAA Rating: G for General Admissions
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Anime, Princess, Underwater, and more
Production Budget: $34 million
Box Office Potential: $5 million
Notes: There are some reports that this film will open wide, but I don't trust them. Disney has opened several Anime films domestically, and even the ones that were monster hits internationally, like Howl's Moving Castle (which was also directed by Hayao Miyazaki) were only given a limited release here. Howl's Moving Castle earned about 50% more internationally than Ponyo has earned so far, and it made less than $5 million here. I think if Ponyo opens wide, it could score $20 to $30 million. If it opens in limited release, $5 million is the upper limit to its potential. The domestic audience for Anime is still too small for these films to be mainstream hits. However, there is an excellent chance it will earn an Oscar nomination, if it qualifies. It was released in Japan in 2008, which means it can't be nominated for best Foreign Language Film, but I'm not sure how that affects Best Animated Picture.

Name: The Time Traveler's Wife
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: TheTimeTravelersWifeMovie.com
Release Date: August 14, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, brief disturbing images, nudity and sexuality
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Time Travel, Romance, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $40 to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: This film is based on an award-winning novel and was originally scheduled to come out last fall but was pushed back until this August. August is a month with a reputation as a dumping ground for films that seems like a good idea at the time, but somewhere along the way stumbled and I fear this is the case here. The official reason is reshoots, which itself isn't a good sign, but the reason for the lengthy delay had to do with the shooting schedule and conflicts with Eric Bana's work in Star Trek, so there are some mitigating circumstances. But that doesn't explain why the studio chose to release the film in mid-August and not the Fall. I'm not sure what kind of critical reception the film will receive, but I'm not optimistic. That said, it could be the widest release of the week and have the largest target audience. With a bit of luck, it could perform similarly to The Notebook and make $80 million or more. It could also struggle to reach $10 million opening weekend before quickly fading. I think it is likely that it will become a solid midlevel hit, but nothing more.

Weekend of August 21st, 2009
Summer ended this week last year, as the biggest new release made just $14.53 million at the box office. (Although given the time of year and the production budget of that movie, that wasn't a bad opening. In fact, I've heard talk of a possible sequel.) This year, it is very likely summer will have already ended, but that doesn't mean there are no movies opening that are of any interest.

Name: Inglourious Basterds
Distributor: Weinstein.php Co.
Official Site: InglouriousBasterds-Movie.com
Release Date: August 21, 2009
MPAA Rating: R for strong graphic violence, language and brief sexuality
Source: Original Screenplay, sort of
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: World War II
Production Budget: Unknown - reported at $70 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: The latest film from Quentin Tarantino, which is based partially on the film of the same name by Enzo G. Castellari, but it's not a full remake. In the movie, Brad Pitt stars as the leader of a commando unit in World War II made up of Jewish soliders given the task to put terror in the hearts of the Nazi leadership by killing as many of them as possible, and in as violent a way as possible. The film has been in development for a long, long time — perhaps as long as a decade. For some, this is the most important film of the summer. Others have dismissed it as pure hype. The truth is probably somewhere in-between, at least that's what the early reviews suggest. As for the film's box office chances, it is unlikely it will match either of the Kill Bill films, nor will it struggle like Grindhouse did. With a little luck, it could make its reported production budget, but it is more likely that it will have to wait until the home market to see a profit.

Name: Post Grad
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Official Site: FoxSearchlight.com/PostGrad
Release Date: August 21, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual situations and brief strong language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Delayed Adulthood
Production Budget: Unknown - reported at $15 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: This is a movie that some sources are saying will come out in limited release, but most say it will come out wide. Then again, it's a Fox Searchlight release, so wide for them could be under 2,000 theaters. Also tempering the film's box office chances is its star. Don't get me wrong, I like Alexis Bledel and I don't think she's bad for business, but she doesn't have a track record at the box office either. If it does open truly wide, it could make $40 to $50 million. If it opens in 1,000 to 2,000 theaters, it could struggle to make half of that. I think the high end is slightly more likely than the low end, and if the reported production budget is correct, even the low end will be more than enough to show a profit, eventually. On a side note, Delayed Adulthood movies almost always feature men that haven't grown up yet. It's kind of nice to see women get to play that role. Of course, in this case Alexis Bledel is playing a recent grad who wants to be an adult but is having trouble finding a job in a tough market. Most of the time men are playing losers who need to grow up, but don't want to. On a further side note, growing up sucks.

Name: Shorts
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: ShortsMovie.com
Release Date: August 21, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG for mild action and some rude humor
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Wish Granters, Non-chronological, Segments, and more... lots more
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $40 to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: This movie is a series of shorts, hence the name of the movie. But the shorts are all about the same events that happen to group of kids who find a magical wishing rock and the havoc caused when they, and the adults around them, use and abuse it. It's non-chronological because the kids retelling the story can't remember what order the events took place. This could be a fun ride. The film is directed by Robert Rodriguez and he does have a reputation for making fun kids movies, and not only fun kids movies, but profitable ones as well. His three biggest hits, the Spy Kids trilogy, were all aimed at the same target demographic as this movie. Unfortunately, the buzz surrounding this movie seems to be a lot weaker with more than a few people calling it just a lame kids movie. Also, the film was pushed back from the 7th to the 21st at the last minute, which is not a good sign. That said, I hope I'm underestimating the film's potential, because it is actually the wide release I'm most looking forward to this month. This has something to do with the convergence of Fandoms happening here. I love Robert Rodriguez movies, while this one features Kat Dennings, who was in The 40-Year Old Virgin, which was directed by Judd Apatow, who is another director I consider myself to be a Fanboy of. Like Robert Rodriguez, Judd Apatow tends to feature the same actors over and over again, including Seth Rogan, who was recently in Zack and Miri Make a Porno, directed by Kevin Smith, yet another fanboy favorite with a group of actors he tends to cast over and over again. Now all I need is Kat Dennings and Seth Rogan to star in a Joss Whedon movie and the circle will be complete.

Weekend of August 28th, 2009
Not a single film opened with $10 million or more this time last year. Hopefully this won't be the case this year, and since there are two sequels to two moderately successful franchises, that seems unlikely. One could bomb and not surprise anyone, but both? There is also another film that may or may not open wide this week and two films that are definitely opening in limited release. It is these last two films, Big Fan and St. Trinian's, that I'm most interested in seeing.

Name: Final Destination: Death Trip 3D
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: TheFinalDestinationMovie.com
Release Date: August 28, 2009
MPAA Rating: R for strong violent/gruesome accidents, language and a scene of sexuality
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Teenage Slasher, 3-D, and more
Production Budget: Reported $43 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: The fourth film in the Final Destination franchise is coming out in 3D. On the one hand, the 3D should attract more people to theaters, which will boost its box office numbers. On the other hand, it's the most expensive installment as well, so it will need to make a lot more at the box office just to break even, and I just don't see the evidence. It's opening the final weekend of August, which is one of the worst weekends of the year to open a film. Also, it has been nearly a decade since the first film opened and the films have never been major hits and eventually every franchise like this overstays its welcome. Finally, it has direct competition from the only other wide release of the week. On the high end, it could have the best opening in the franchise and come close to $60 million in total. On the low end it could struggle to reach $10 million during its opening before quickly disappearing from theaters. The above box office potential represents an average of those two extremes.

Name: Halloween 2
Distributor:
Dimension
Official Site: Halloween2-Movie.com
Release Date: August 28, 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Likely aiming for an R-rating
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Teenage Slasher, Mental Illness, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at under $20 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: The sequel to the re-boot of the franchise. Halloween opened in 2007 at the end of August and opened very well, pulling in $26 million during its opening weekend. However, its reviews were weak and its legs were even worse. That said, it was cheap to make, so a sequel was inevitable. Fortunately for fans of that film, the director is returning, as is Scout Taylor-Compton, Malcolm McDowell, Danielle Harris, and of course Tyler Mane as Michael Myers. The film will not be a remake of the "original" Halloween II and will instead focus on the mental health of Laurie Strode in the aftermath of the events of the first film, which I find to be a more interesting premise. There will of course be a high body count to go along with it, which should please fans of the genre. On the other hand, I don't think it will do as well at the box office, as there are just not enough fans of the first movie and there's direct competition also opening wide that weekend.

Name: St. Trinian's
Distributor:
Official Site:
StTriniansMovie.co.uk
Release Date: August 28, 2009 (limited)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, drug and alcohol content, sexual material and language
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Cross-Dressing, Boarding School, New Girl in School, and more
Production Budget: 7 million Pounds or $13.5 million
Box Office Potential: $1 million
Notes: This is a movie that is very unlikely to open wide and if it doesn't, I doubt it will expand wide. It's not that it doesn’t have mainstream appeal; in fact, it is a film that would do better in multiplexes than in art house theaters. In the film, Talulah Riley stars as Annabelle, the new girl at St. Trinian's boarding school, which has some... issues. This includes a clueless headmistress played by Rupert Everett in a dress, a resident criminal played by Russel Brand, and a government inspector trying to shut down the school, played by Colin Firth. If this film opened wide, it would make about $5 to $10 million during its opening weekend and $20 to $30 million in total, which is a good total compared to its production budget. But as it is, it will basically be a direct-to-DVD release and will be looking for a following on the home market. It's not a classic film, but a fun hit.

Name: Taking Woodstock
Distributor: Focus Features
Official Site: TakingWoodstockTheMovie.com
Release Date: August 28, 2009
MPAA Rating: R for graphic nudity, some sexual content, drug use and language
Source: Based on a Book that is Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Rock'n'Roll, Gay, and more
Production Budget: $29 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million
Notes: This movie may or may not open wide this week and even if it does, there's little chance it will be the biggest film of the weekend, but it will likely be the only wide release of the week to earn good reviews and should have great legs. Part of the reason why the film won't get off to a great start is that its lead, Demetri Martin, has zero films as the lead. He has had minor parts in a few films like Analyze That, The Rocker, as well as the upcoming Paper Heart and Post Grad. But right now he's best known for his TV series, Important Things, and for his work on The Daily Show. So while there's little to suggest there's a massive built in audience, it should hold better. This is especially true if it earns some Awards Season buzz, which is not out of the question since Ang Lee is the director, and he definitely has a track-record when it comes to making Awards Season players. I don't think it will become another Brokeback Mountain or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but I think it could be the best wide released this month in terms of critical reception.

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Filed under: Monthly Preview, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, District 9, Inglourious Basterds, Julie & Julia, The Final Destination, The Time Traveler's Wife, Shorts, A Perfect Getaway, The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, Gake no ue no Ponyo, Taking Woodstock, Post Grad, Bandslam, St. Trinian's