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2009 Preview: September

September 1st, 2009

Summer ended on a strong note with three films from August that have the potential to cross $100 million at the box office. But I don't think there's a single film coming out this month that has the potential to do the same. Then again, we're not concerned with keeping up with August, we are concerned with keeping up with September last year, and that will be an easier task most weeks.

Weekend of September 4th, 2009
The Labor Day long weekend gives us two wide releases and a sort-of-wide release and one additional film than may or may not open wide. Arguably the worst long weekend of the year, the best most films opening this weekend can hope for is mixed reviews and enough box office revenue during their theatrical run to avoid being a complete bomb. Low expectations and almost no competition from last year should help September start on the right foot.

Name: All About Steve
Distributor: Fox
Official Site: AllAboutSteveMovie.com
Release Date: September 4, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content including innuendoes
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: News, Relationships Gone Wrong
Production Budget: Unknown - Predicted at $40 to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: Not a good time of the year to release a romantic comedy, as most such films barely make a peep at the box office during September. Then again, most films of any genre fail to make a peep at the box office during September and one of the biggest hits of all time to open in September was a romantic comedy, Sweet Home Alabama. This film stars Sandra Bullock, who is coming off the biggest hit of her career, and her co-star is Bradley Cooper, who is also coming off the biggest hit of his career. That said, there's no chance this film will come close to matching those movies; in fact, it might not make in total what either of those opened with. Then again, expectations are much lower, and if it can match its production budget domestically, it should have little trouble showing a profit on the lucrative home market.

Name: Carriers
Distributor: Paramount Vantage
Official Site: CarriersMovie.com
Release Date: September 4, 2009 (limited)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, disturbing content and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Pandemics, Post-Apocalypse, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - predicted at $10 to $20 million
Box Office Potential: $1 million
Notes: So far the reports are mixed as to whether this film will open wide or not, but given the film's distributor, I would say a limited release is far more likely. In fact, this week's early theater count has the film coming out in 100 theaters, which is the worst kind of release for this type of film. Additionally, it is the wrong genre for a limited release, it lacks a proven box office draw among its cast, and it has been sitting on a studio shelf for two years. None of this suggests it will be a box office hit, but perhaps it will find an audience on the home market.

Name: Extract
Distributor: Miramax
Official Site: Extract-The-Movie.com
Release Date: September 4, 2009
MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual references and some drug use
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Corporate Life, Relationships Gone Wrong, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - Predicted at $10 to $20 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million
Notes: Mike Judge's first film since Idiocracy, which was also an early September release. Judge's movie-making career hasn't spawned many box office hits; in fact, only Beavis and Butt-head Do America can be considered even a mid-level success. However, his two misses, Office Space and Idiocracy, both went on to earn near cult status on the home market. I think the studio is hoping they won't have to wait that long to find an audience this time. Hoping, but not hopeful. I say this because the film is only opening in 1,600 theaters, more or less, which is not enough to be considered truly wide. Also, the film's reviews are only mixed so far, which will also hurt its chances. At best, it could earn close to $10 million over opening weekend and become a solid mid-level hit. It could also struggle to reach the Mendoza line during its opening weekend and disappear before the end of the month. The above is a weighted average of those two extremes. Last Minute Update: The film's early theater count is slightly higher than last week's expectations (1,600 vs. 1,300) and that suggests the high end of expectations is more likely, thus lifting its box office potential from $10 million to $15 million.

Name: Gamer
Distributor: Lionsgate
Official Site: GamerTheMovie.com
Release Date: September 4, 2009
MPAA Rating: R for frenetic sequences of strong brutal violence throughout, sexual content, nudity and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Video Game, TV Industry, Prison, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - predicted at $40 to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: In the near future, mind control technology allows people to control others, which is used to set up a live action video game with death row inmates used as the characters and millions watching the action on TV. This could be a deep look at the sociological effects of MMO games like WoW and FPS like Halo. Or it could just be a cool set up for a mostly mindless action movie. It is likely somewhere in between, but I would bet it's closer to the latter than the former (although that's not necessarily a bad thing). Given the time of year, a bit of escapist entertainment could be a welcome sight. That said, I doubt this film will be anything more than a mid-level hit, as there's not a lot of star power to draw people in, and I doubt the reviews will be good enough to generate strong word-of-mouth. Some September releases look like they had no chance at being a box office hit, no matter when they could have been released. This is not the case here, as a moderately budgeted action film can be a solid hit, given a good release date and some solid marketing. This leads me to believe the studio doesn't have much faith in the final product, because if they did, they would have given the film a good release date. Additionally, given the amount of action, it could have a production budget that's above average for this time of year. It might surprise and become a mid-level hit, but it will likely struggle just to break even on the home market.

Weekend of September 11th, 2009
There are four wide releases this week, which is the same number of wide releases in the same week last year. However, last year all four films finished in the top four spots at the box office. That will be a very hard feat to match this time around, and it will be almost as hard for the overall box office to maintain pace.

Name: 9
Distributor: Focus Features
Official Site: 9Experiment.com
Release Date: September 9, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and scary images
Source: Based on a Short Film
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Post Apocalypse, Robots, Living Toys, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $30 million, more or less.
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: This has potential to be the best movie of the month; however, I still think there's little hope it will be a major hit. Part of this is because it appears to be a more adult oriented animated film, and culturally speaking, most people here think cartoons are for kids. The film is co-produced by Tim Burton, who made The Corpse Bride, Sweeny Todd, etc. It is also co-produced by Timur Bekmambetov, who made Wanted and the Night Watch films. It is directed by Shane Acker and based on his short film of the same name, which was nominated for an Oscar back in 2006. The trailer oozes style and it seems to have a lot going for it. But I fear moviegoers will assume it's for kids only. And given its rating, it's likely too intense for most kids. This puts it in a no-man's land of movie marketing, and that will mean it will likely have to wait until the home market to find an audience. Best case scenario has the film earning $75 million, like Coraline managed earlier in the year. However, earning less than half that is more likely, especially given its release date.

Name: I Can Do Bad All By Myself
Distributor: Lionsgate
Official Site: ICanDoBadMovie.com
Release Date: September 11, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material involving a sexual assault on a minor, violence, drug references and smoking
Source: Based on a Play
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Cross-Dressing, Unexpected Family, Religious, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $13 million
Box Office Potential: $30 to $100 million
Notes: I hate Tyler Perry. It's nothing personal and I'm sure he's a really nice man, but as a box office analyst, he makes my job difficult. The film that earned him his best reviews struggled at the box office compared to his career average, while his most recent film was a set-back in terms of critical response, but became his biggest hit. This film combines two opposing trends. Firstly, it's opening in September, which is the same month that The Family That Preys opened in last year. On the other hand, it is a Madea film, and Tyler Perry + Dress = Box Office Success. This movie could become his first $100 million hit, or his biggest box office miss. Based solely on the release date, I would say the lower end is more likely and I'm going with a prediction of $45 million. On the other hand, even if it does become his lowest-grossing movie, it will still be profitable, as it reportedly only cost $13 million to make.

Name: Soroity Row
Distributor: Summit
Official Site: ThetaPi-OrDie.com
Release Date: September 11, 2009
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and partying
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Teenage Slasher, Revenge, Surprise Twist, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - reported at $16 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: A college prank leaves one girl dead, but her five friends decide to cover up the crime. A year later they receive a mysterious message and soon they are being killed off one-by-one. An unknown killer out for revenge after an accidental death; that's hardly what you would call a unique plot. The original Prom Night had the same plot, as did I Know What You Did Last Summer, and countless others. Then again, this is not a genre known for originality, so this will likely not be a problem. On the other hand, the release date is. Originally scheduled for an October opening, the film was moved up to September. This is about as bad of a development as can happen for a movie like this. There is some good news: it reportedly only cost $16 million to make, and there's at least a small chance it could make that much during its opening weekend. $10 million is more likely, which would still be enough to show a profit sometime during its home market run, especially if it comes out on an Unrated DVD / Blu-ray. (On a side note, it took me a few minutes to figure out what the URL meant. "The Tapi? What does that mean?" I blame the insomnia.)

Name: Whiteout
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: WhiteoutMovie.WarnerBros.com
Release Date: September 11, 2009
MPAA Rating: R for violence, grisly images, brief strong language and some nudity
Source: Based on a Comic
Major Genre: Action / Thriller
Keywords: Marooned, Serial Killer, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $40 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: First a quick note... some sources have this film coming out on the 25th; however, most sources, including the official site, have the film coming out on the 11th. I don't think the official site is wrong. And if the official site is wrong, the movie has a lot bigger problems to deal with. As for the movie itself, Kate Beckinsale stars as a U.S. Marshall investigating a murder on Antarctica, the first that has ever occurred there. However, she only has three days to solve to crime before the six-month winter starts and she will be stuck there, with the killer. It's a good hook, and the graphic novel it's based on earned four Eisner Award nominations in 2000. That said, if the execution was solid, why is the film being dumped into theaters during September? Odds are there will be some tense moments, some good action scenes, but enough flaws that it will be better as a rental than paying full price to see it in a theater. It could do well on the home market, especially if it comes out just before Christmas, or during the Boxing Week sales.

Weekend of September 18th, 2009
Another week with four wide releases, just like the same weekend last year. It's a crowded week, but there's diversity in the genres and target audiences and that could help the overall box office maintain pace with last year.

Name: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Distributor: Sony
Official Site: CloudyWithAChanceOfMeatballs.com
Release Date: September 18, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG for brief mild language
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Food, Disaster, Parody, 3D, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $30 to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million
Notes: A scientist invents a device that turns water into food. Delicious food that rains from the sky. However, after initially working great and making him a hero, the machine starts to take on a life of its own and giant food starts raining down upon the world. This is a kids movie opening in September. On the one hand, with kids going back to school, they might have too much on their minds to get to the movies. On the other hand, they might want to get to the theaters to celebrate surviving the first two weeks of school. Also, the film is opening in IMAX 3D, which will give it an added boot to its box office numbers, not only due to the ease of selling 3D, but the premium pricing for tickets. This film's box office potential depends heavily on the film's marketing, which looks good, and the critical buzz it can generate, which is too soon to tell. Even if its not the biggest opener of the weekend, with its target audience, and the IMAX 3D aspect, it should have the best legs and could become the biggest hit of the month, with a box office take similar to Open Season. Or it could bomb like Igor did last year. I think the high end is more likely, but I do have some concerns.

Name: The Informant!
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: TheInformantMovie.WarnerBros.com
Release Date: September 18, 2009
MPAA Rating: R for language
Source: Based on a Book that is Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Black Comedy / Thriller
Keywords: Food, Whistleblowers, Mental Illness, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - reported at $21 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: A Black Comedy / Thriller about a Bi-polar whistleblower trying to stop price-fixing in the food industry. Clearly going for the same audience as Burn After Reading, which was released this time last year. However, since it's going for the same audience, it is very likely it won't make as much as that film did due to the comparisons. If it earns better reviews, then it could have stronger legs, but odds are it will open weaker, as people will think it's a rip-off and won't give it a chance, and its per theater average won't be high enough to entice theater owners to keep it around long enough for word-of-mouth to kick in. On the other hand, it does have enough star power to encourage people to at least rent it when it arrives on the home market, and as long as the rumored production budget is at least within the ballpark of the actual production budget, then it should show a profit even if it struggles theatrically. Last minute update: some sources now have it coming out in limited release, which would kill its box office potential. Unless the film is strong enough to earn Awards Season buzz, a limited release would leave it struggling to reach $5 million.

Name: Jennifer's Body
Distributor: Fox
Official Site: JennifersBody.com
Release Date: September 18, 2009
MPAA Rating: R for sexuality, bloody violence, language and brief drug use
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Horror / Comedy
Keywords: Demon, Possession, Teenage Slasher, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: The movie stars Megan Fox as the titular high school student and Amanda Seyfried as her best friend. Jennifer is your typical Queen Bee; she's hot and she knows it. But one day she becomes the victim of Demonic Possession and turns into a total horndog, much to the delight of high school boys everywhere. Unfortunately, she also develops a taste for human flesh, much to the horror of high school boys everywhere. (Although let's face it, half the high school boys reading this are saying, "Megan Fox is totally worth it." ... Let's face it, half the men are saying that, regardless of their age.) It's a rather generic plot and while the trailer does mix horror, comedy, and of course sex appeal in equal doses, I wouldn't normally have high hopes for this film. However, it was written by Diablo Cody, who previously wrote Juno, so this movie could surprise. It could open with $20 million and have solid legs for its genre, which would allow it to double its box office potential above. On the other hand, it could fail to reach $10 million during its opening and practically disappear as soon as October starts. The above is a weighted average of the two extremes, but even though the low end is more likely than the high end in my opinion, it is likely that the film didn't cost too much to make, and it will still show a profit. Eventually.

Name: Love Happens
Distributor: Universal
Official Site: LoveHappensMovie.com
Release Date: September 18, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language including sexual references
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Romance, Writers, Relationship Advice, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $30 to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: That's one of the most generic names for a romance I've seen in a long time. Although Brand New Day and Traveling, as the movie was previously known, are not exactly the most unique names either. Aaron Eckhart stars as a widower who writes a book to deal with the loss of his wife, while Jennifer Aniston plays the women he connects with while he's on tour promoting his book. Neither actor has a lot of experience being a major box office draw. Sure, Aaron Eckhart's total ticket sales are over $1 billion, but half of that has come from one film, while the rest have struggle to reach more than $25 million. Jennifer Aniston is closing in on $1 billion for her career, but it is unlikely this film will be the one that puts her over the top. Granted, two of her last three wide releases reached $100 million, and the third came close, but given the release date, I don't think the studio is overly confident in this movie.

Weekend of September 25th, 2009
Another week, another four wide releases, maybe. There appears to be confusion over what films are and are not opening wide this week. The Invention of Lying was pushed back until October. Capitalism - A Love Story opens on the 23rd, but only in limited release and doesn't expand until the October. Pandorum was scheduled for the 18th, but now appears to be opening on the 25th. It's a mess. But there's little doubt that none of the new releases this year will be able to top Eagle Eye, the number one release this weekend last year.

Name: Capitalism - A Love Story
Distributor: Overture Films
Official Site: CapitalismALoveStory.com
Release Date: September 23, 2009 (limited)
Release Date: October 2, 2009 (expands wide)
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Could be PG-13 or R
Source: Baed on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Documentary
Keywords: Corporate Life, Politics, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $10 to $15 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: Just a short note on the film, as it is only opening in limited release on the 23rd and doesn't open wide until October 2nd. I will talk about it more on next month's preview, but I do have two comments. Firstly, I don't think this film will be as big a hit as Michael Moore's previous few films. Just like the ratings for right-wing media and gun sales rise under Democratic presidencies, those on the left will be less agitated and less likely to see a movie when one of their own is in the White House. Secondly, whenever I think of this movie, I am reminded of a quote by Mahatma Gandhi; when asked what he thought of Western civilization he responded, "I think it would be a good idea." Sadly we don't have Capitalism today, we have a form of Kleptocracy with CEOs' salaries being determined by the Board of Directors, most of which are CEOs themselves and are voting on the pay raises of the very people who will determine how much they get paid. It's a system built for corruption. Sadly, these CEOs are able to steal enough money that they can buy enough politicians that the system will never get fixed, regardless of who's in power, unless the profit motive is removed from politics.

Name: Fame
Distributor: MGM
Official Site: GenerationFame.com
Release Date: September 25, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic material including teen drinking, a sexual situation and language
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Musical
Keywords: Performing Arts, Musicians, Dancing, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $25 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: Ugh. MGM. This studio has sucked since the brand was relaunched in 2006. As soon as I see they are distributing a film, I cut its box office potential by at least 20%. Granted, the head of the company was recently fired, which might help things turn around, but that will take too long to help this film. Also, September is a terrible time to release a movie, while this is a remake that has failed to build any buzz. (In fact, I've seen more people compare it to High School Musical than the original.) On the other hand, Hairspray and Mamma Mia! both made gobs of money at the box office, and even taking into account the studio and the release date, this film should be able to match its reported production budget at the box office, and it has a shot at becoming a mid-level hit. But it could suck and it could open in less than 2,000 theaters and it could disappear from theaters before it gets halfway there.

Name: Pandorum
Distributor: Overture Films
Official Site: PandorumMovie.com
Release Date: September 25, 2009
MPAA Rating: R for strong horror violence and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Astronauts / Space Exploration, Memory Loss, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $40 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster star as two astronauts who wake up from deep sleep with no memory of their mission or where they are. In addition, they appear to be all alone, despite there being 60,000 passengers aboard their ship according to their manifest. However, they find a few survivors... and something else. This film could be the biggest hit of the month, as moviegoers will be very interested in seeing a big action film after going a long time without such a movie. On the high end, it could open with more than it cost to make and top Eagle Eye at the box office. On the other hand, it has to deal with direct competition, and that will likely prevent either film from reaching their potential. This is likely the smaller of the two films; at the very least, it won't have the same marketing push Disney can generate, so it will have a harder time at the box office.

Name: Surrogates
Distributor: Disney
Official Site: ChooseYourSurrogate.com
Release Date: September 25, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, disturbing images, language, sexuality and a drug-related scene
Source: Based on a Comic Book
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Internet, Robots, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $50 to $75 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million
Notes: In the future, people interact with robotic surrogates while remaining isolated in their homes. However, when the inventor of these surrogates is murdered, a cop, Agent Greer, must venture outside of his house to try to track down the killer. Another film that seems poised to become this year's Eagle Eye, and it does have a lot going for it, especially for a September release. However, it is still a September release, and that will hurt its chances. Eagle Eye wasn't a good movie but it was sold well as an action film, and I figure the same will be true here. Direct competition might prevent it from reaching $100 million, but it should still make enough to show a respectable profit by the time it reaches the home market.

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Filed under: Monthly Preview, I Can Do Bad All By Myself, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, All About Steve, 9, Gamer, The Informant!, Love Happens, Extract, Sorority Row, Whiteout, Jennifer's Body, Carriers, Capitalism: A Love Story, Surrogates, Fame, Pandorum