Follow us on

2009 Preview: October

October 1st, 2009

September ended with a thud, but at least there's good news. September has finally ended. Last month more movies missed expectations that topped them, which has put a cooling effect on the overall box office and that could hurt the business going into this month. October should still be stronger than last month, and since October of last year wasn't particularly great, 2009 should at least maintain its lead over 2008 going into the holiday season, even if it isn't as strong every single week.

Weekend of October 2nd, 2009
This week there are five or six films opening wide (it depends on how you classify the Toy Story double-shot. This is far too many to expect all of them to succeed; however, this week last year there were actually seven wide releases, so it is not unprecedented. On a side note, I can see all five of these movies finding their way into my DVD / Blu-ray collection once the hit the home market so there's no shortage of quality here.

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: R for some language
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: $25 million
Notes: The film's limited run has been more profitable than I expected and it is running a little better than Sicko and Bowling for Columbine. This pushes its box office potential to $25 million from $20 million, while $30 million or more is not out of the question. This would make the movie the second biggest hit in Michael Moore's career and one of the biggest documentaries of all time.

Name: The Invention of Lying
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: The-Invention-Of-Lying.WarnerBros.com
Release Date: October 2, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language including some sexual material and a drug reference
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Writer, Movie Business, Gratuitous Cameos, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $4 million, which seems too low. I've also seen 'under $20 million' which suggests about $17.5 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: Ricky Gervais stars as Mark, writer of dull screenplays for historical dramas. His life isn't going well, both romantically and with his job and he needs a major boost. So far it doesn't sound like an interesting film, but here's the twist. He lives in a world where no one can tell a lie, that is till he invents lying. With Ricky Gervais co-writing and co-directing, I expect this to be an awesome movie, and early reviews seem to agree with me. However, Ricky Gervais hasn't proven he can be a leading man here. In fact, of the over half a billion dollars in total ticket sales for his movie, more than 80% has come from the two Night at the Museum films. The Average for his other movies has been just $20 million, and the only other film where he was the lead earned just $13.25 million. I think this movie will perform better, but I'm unwilling to predict it will be a major hit based on past performances. One final note, this movie was originally called The Other Side of Truth, which is a title I like a lot more. It has more creativity. Last Minute Update: The theater count is lower than expected and I've dropped its box office potential to $15 million from $20 million.

Name: A Serious Man
Distributor: Focus Features
Official Site: No Official Website
Release Date: October 2, 2009 (limited)
MPAA Rating: R for language, some sexuality/nudity and brief violence
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Black Comedy
Keywords: College, Dysfunctional Family, Relationships Gone Wrong, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $7 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: The latest Coen Brothers movie is a dark comedy. Some critics are saying it is a really, really dark comedy. So dark that some might not be able to find the comedy within the movie. Movies that open in limited release have a tough road to expand wide, but the Coen Brothers have a lot of Indie cred and any film that make has at least some Awards Season buzz associated with it by default. Granted, the reviews are not up to the level I normally associate with Awards Season contenders. In fact, at 73% positive, they are not up to the level I normally associate with limited releases that thrive in limited release. That said, I'm unwilling to bet against the Coen Brothers given their track record.

Name: Toy Story 3D Double Feature
Distributor: Disney
Official Site: Disney.Go.com/ToyStory
Release Date: October 2, 2009
MPAA Rating: G for General Admissions
Source: Original Screenplay / Sequel / Remake
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Living Toys, 3D, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - Possibly $30 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: This is a tough movie to predict. On the one hand, both movies are utterly fantastic. On the other hand, it is a re-release. Back to the original hand, this time it is being released in 3D. Returning to the other hand, it is opening in only 1600 theaters and for only two weeks. I have a hard time imaging the film could make $100 million in just two weeks, but it should be a solid performer at the box office and $50 million isn't out of the question. On the other hand, it could also struggled to reach $20 million, as fans will be waiting for the soon-to-be released Blu-ray versions of the two movies. A final note on the production budget. I've seen reports that this double-feature cost $30 million to make, which is not outside the realm of possibility. To re-render both films in 3D, which might include slight changes to some of the animation, could cost $30 million. However, the first film cost $30 million, so these reports could be mistaken. It's a bit of a coincidence and without confirmation one way or the other, I'm not sure if we should trust these reports. Last Minute Update - It appears that ticket prices for this movie are two-for-one. They are still more expensive than the average movie, because of the 3D, but not twice as expensive as the average 3D movie. This will help sell more tickets, but lowers the box office potential from $30 million to $25 million.

Name: Whip It
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Official Site: Whip-It.net
Release Date: October 2, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content including crude dialogue, language and drug material
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Roller Derby
Production Budget: Reported at $10 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: This film may or may not open truly wide. Right not the estimated theater count is just 2100, which is barely above the level needed to be considered truly wide. Given the studio's record, this is not surprising, as they tend to open their film in limited release and hope word-of-mouth does the rest. This film does have a lot going for it, including the fact that it is the directorial debut for Drew Barrymore, which should help raise awareness of the movie. Additionally, it stars Ellen Page, who has Indie cred with Juno, even if her previous two films struggled at the box office. With early reviews that are very impressive, it could capture the attention of moviegoers are score $50 million, more or less. However, given the competition opening this week, that seems very unlikely.

Name: Zombieland
Distributor: Sony
Official Site: Zombieland.com
Release Date: October 2, 2009
MPAA Rating: R for zombie horror violence/gore and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Horror / Comedy
Keywords: Post Apocalypse, Road Trip, Zombie, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at under $20 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: The widest release of the week, but given its genre, it might be a tough sell at the box office. Shaun of the Dead earned amazing reviews, but only made $13.54 million at the box office while Slither took in just $7.80 million during its run after wowing critics. So far the film's reviews are almost as good as those two films, and there is a chance the film will surprise and become a solid midlevel hit. Even if it doesn't, it is very likely that it will find a receptive audience on the home market. Additionally, with a production budget that is likely very low compared to the average Hollywood release, it won't have to make a lot of cash theatrically to guarantee a profit by the time it hits the home market.

Weekend of October 9th, 2009
This week last year there were four wide releases, none of which did particularly well at the box office. This year there is one film opening wide, which will undoubtedly help it reach its maximum potential at the box office. There are also a couple limited releases that are interesting to me, but none that have a real chance of expanding wide.

Name: Couples Retreat
Distributor: Universal
Official Site: CouplesRetreatMovie.com
Release Date: October 9, 2009
MPAA Rating: R for some sexual material
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Relationship Advice
Production Budget: Unknown - predicted at $50 to $75 million
Box Office Potential: $125 million
Notes: Four couples travel to a tropical paradise. What three of these couples don't understand is that this is not your typical island vacation, but a couples' therapy retreat, and the therapy isn't optional. This film has an amazing cast lead by Vince Vaughn who was also one of the leads in The Wedding Crashers, which was the highest grossing R-rated Comedy of all time until The Hangover topped it this past summer. The cast also includes Jason Bateman, Kristen Bell, Kristin Davis, Jon Favreau, among others. The trailer looks good, there are already ads appearing on TV and that suggests strong studio support, plus it will be the only major release of the week. All this suggests it could become the first $100 million hit of the month, and potentially the biggest hit of the month. Even the low end of expectations has it pulling in $75 million while double that is very possible.

Name: Good Hair
Distributor: Roadside Attractions
Official Site: GoodHairMovie.net
Release Date: October 9, 2009 (Limited)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language including sex and drug references, and brief partial nudity
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Documentary
Keywords: African-American, Fashion, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - predicted at $5 million or less
Box Office Potential: $2 million
Notes: The second documentary on this month's list. This one does not have a planned wide expansion, and despite the early positive reviews it probably won't get one. In the film, Chris Rock talks about the black hair industry, which is a $9 billion industry. To put that into perspective, that's about as large as the domestic box office. I was blown away when I saw this in the trailer... although it makes sense if a wig costs $5000. Ouch. This film has a chance to expand at least nationwide (look for a theater count of 100 or more at its peak). If it does earn some Oscar buzz, which is possible, it could reach $10 million, which would be amazing. Even if it doesn't reach that level, there's enough buzz surrounding this movie that is should be a big seller on the home market, at least compared to most documentaries.

Name: St. Trinian's
Distributor: Neo Classics Films
Official Site: StTriniansMovie.co.uk (U.K.)
Official Site: StTriniansTheMovie.com
Release Date: October 9, 2009 (Limited)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, drug and alcohol content, sexual material and language
Source: Remake or Re-Adaptation
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Boarding School, New Girl In School
Production Budget: 7 million pounds or $13 million American
Box Office Potential: $1 million
Notes: An independent film from the U.K. that became the biggest independent hit of the year back in its native market. There was some talk this film would open wide here, but there was also some talk it would go direct-to-DVD like it did in Canada. If it opens in limited release, given its genre and its reviews, I don't think it will be able to expand significantly and it will struggle to reach $1 million. On the other hand, I think it will find a more receptive audience on the home market.

Weekend of October 16th, 2009
Three wide releases this week, including one potential $100 million hit. ... Or it is possible that all three films that open this week won't earn $100 million combined. Good news is that the four wide releases from last year also struggled at the box office, at best, and so 2009 won't need massive blockbusters to remain ahead of 2008.

Name: Law Abiding Citizen
Distributor: Overture Films
Official Site: LawAbidingCitizenFilm.com
Release Date: October 16, 2009
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody brutal violence and torture, a scene of rape, and pervasive language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Revenge, Terrorism, Secret Agent, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $40 to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: I don't see this film having a lot of box office potential. It's a revenge flick, which used to be a dine a dozen, but seemed to have faded in past years. Also, its directed by F. Gary Gray, who was responsible for Be Cool and A Man Apart, both of which were savaged by critics and mostly ignored by moviegoers. It is written by Kurt Wimmer, whose previous film was the disappointing Street Kings, and that was one of his better movies. (He also wrote Ultraviolet, Sphere, and this hideous film from 1992 called Double Trouble.) Additionally, it is being released by Overture Films and this studio has only had one movie make more than $25 million at the box office and their average is barely more than $10 million. Two leads, Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler have both starred in major blockbusters, but both have had their share of films stumble at the box office recently. It comes down to the reviews, and it is too early to judge that.

Name: The Stepfather
Distributor: Sony/Screen Gems
Official Site: WelcomeToTheFamily.com
Release Date: October 16, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, disturbing images, mature thematic material and brief sensuality
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Serial Killer
Production Budget: Unknown - predicted $20 to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: A remake of a little seen horror film from 1987. That movie earned excellent reviews, especially for the genre, but I'm not especially hopeful here. Then again, if it can earn better than 40% positive reviews, then I will be happy with the results. It is opening just a couple weeks before Halloween, so that will help it at the box office, and there's not a whole lot of straight up horror films coming out this month. That said, I don't think this film will be anything more than a midlevel hit.

Name: Where the Wild Things Are
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: WhereTheWildThingsAre.WarnerBros.com
Release Date: October 16, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG for mild thematic elements, some adventure action and brief language
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Monsters... Maybe we need a Monsters as Good Guys keyword.
Production Budget: $79 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million to $150 million
Notes: Based on a classic children's book that was first published in 1963 and was written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. In the book, Max is making mischief so his mother punishes him by sending him to his room without supper. While there he travels to a distant land and meets the wild things, but when he is able to look into their eyes and not blink, he is named the king of the wild things. One look at the trailer and you know director, Spike Jonze, was able to capture the visual style of the movie. However, there are some complications with the adaptation process. First of all, while the book was for kids, it appears that Spike Jonze has made a movie closer in tone to Being John Malkovich than Charlotte's Web, for instance. This has caused a lot of concern with the studio and was one of the reasons the film was pushed back more than a year. However, when you think about it, the dark tone makes sense. After all, the book was about a world a boy escapes to in his imagination when he's really, really angry. Also, Coraline had a darker tone than most kids movies, and it did very well with critics and moviegoers, so I'm not too concerned about the dark tone. I'm a little more concern about the story. The original book was ten sentences long. Ten sentences. So obviously there's going to be a lot of the story that will have to be invented for the movie. This has the potential to be an amazing movie earning well over $100 million at the box office. Or it could turn into a "What were they thinking?" disaster earning less than half that. Sadly, I think the lower end is more likely, but I hope I am wrong about that.

Weekend of October 23rd, 2009
There are five films opening wide or semi-wide this week, and three of them have a Halloween theme. They are not all going after the exact same audience, but that level of competition will still hurt. Compared to last year, there's almost no chance 2009 will keep up with 2008's pace.

Name: Amelia
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Official Site: FoxSearchlight.com/Amelia
Release Date: October 23, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG for some sensuality, language, thematic elements and smoking
Source: Based on a Book that is Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Biography
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $60 to $75 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million
Notes: Why is the box office potential so low? After all, it does have two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank staring in a historical biography, which practically screams Oscar. By the time the film opens, the Awards Season buzz should be more than enough to push it above $45 million, right? True, but there are some problems. Firstly, there are some reports that this film will open in limited release on the 23rd, which hurts its box office potential. Secondly, expectations are high, perhaps too high, and even if the film earns moderately strong reviews, it might not be enough to match expectations. I think the limited release is a bigger factor, but if it does open wide and it can earn serious Awards Season buzz, then it could earn just north of $100 million at the box office. Limited release with light Awards Season buzz would likely result in $10 to $20 million, while limited release and truly disappointing reviews could leave it with $1 to $2 million. The above figure is a weighted average of the three extremes.

Name: Astro Boy
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Official Site: AstroBoy-TheMovie.com
Release Date: October 23, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG for some action and peril, and brief mild language
Source: Based on an Anime Series that was Based on Manga
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Robots, Anime, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $40 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: This film has a tough time ahead of it. First of all, it looks like a kids movie. This is not surprising since the Anime it was based on was aimed at kids. However, I think most fans of the show are adults who discovered the show as kids and I think it might have been wiser to make an adult movie that kids can watch instead of a kids movie that might bore adults. It has bright visuals and a lot of action in the trailers, but not much else, and this is what I'm concerned about. In this regard, the film reminds me of Speed Racer, which is not a comparison the studio would like to hear. Speaking of the studio, Summit has a grand total of one movie to reach $100 million, while a second film did well enough to be considered a solid midlevel hit. If it gets good reviews and it has the kids market mostly to itself, then it could be a surprise hit reaching $100 million, but I think earning less than half of that is more likely. On the other hand, this is more than it cost to make, and it should perform very well internationally, so it could still show a profit.

Name: Cirque du Freak - The Vampire's Assistant
Distributor: Universal
Official Site: TheVampiresAssistant.net
Release Date: October 23, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense supernatural violence and action, disturbing images, thematic elements and some language
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Action and Horror and Comedy
Keywords: Vampire
Production Budget: Reported at $70 to $80 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: Based on a series of books by Darren Shan, this film is obviously meant to be the first release in a new fantasy franchise aimed at teens. There have been a lot of attempts to do so since Harry Potter started to dominate the box office; however, most has flopped. The Seeker and City of Ember both bombed dramatically, while The Golden Compass and The Spiderwick Chronicles were at best midlevel hits. I don't think this film will be as bad as the first two, but it could struggle to match the level of second two. Early reviews are not encouraging and the critics seem to think the filmmakers were thinking a sequel was assured and instead of making a film that is a self-contained story, they were more interested in setting up said sequel that may never come. There is certainly a sense of style in the trailer, and perhaps the early reviews are unfairly harsh, but the film is far from a sure thing.

Name: Saw VI
Distributor: Lionsgate
Official Site: Saw6Film.com
Release Date: October 23, 2009
MPAA Rating: R for sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture, and language
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Serial Killer, Torture Porn, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $10 to $20 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: If it's October, it must be Saw. After five years, I've run out of things to say about this franchise. I think it will earn terrible reviews while continuing the downward trend at the box office. However, it will be cheap enough that it is practically guaranteed to show a profit and produce yet another sequel for next year.

Name: Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas 3D
Distributor: Disney
Official Site: Nightmare3DMovie.com
Release Date: October 23, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG for some scary images
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Musical
Keywords: Christmas, Halloween, Rescue, Kidnapping, Monster, and more
Production Budget: $18 million
Box Office Potential: $5 million
Notes: Like the previous release, I've almost run out of things to talk about with this movie. I will say that while last year the annual release of the movie struggled, I think it will bounce back this year. Last year it came out just after the film debuted on Blu-ray, so that really hurt the film at the box office, but that won't be as big of an issue this year. It will not make as much as it did the first two years, but it should make enough to convince studios to book the film next year.

Weekend of October 30th, 2009
Just the one wide release this week, but it could be a major, major hit. It could make more during its opening week than last year's two releases made in their entire run. Or it could be a screaming bomb.

Name: Michael Jackson - This Is It
Distributor: Sony
Official Site: ThisIsIt-Movie.com
Release Date: October 28, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG for some suggestive choreography and scary images
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Documentary / Concert
Keywords: Rock 'n' Roll, Music Industry, and more
Production Budget: $60 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million to $150 million
Notes: The month ends on what could be the hardest movie of the month to predict. It is arguable that at the time of his death, Michael Jackson was the most famous man alive. If this translates into ticket sales, this movie could break records. In fact, there are some reports that advanced ticket sales have broken records in some international markets. On the other hand, people could either think it is too soon to release a movie like this, or the amount of publicity could cause Michael Jackson fatigue. Both of these could really hurt the film's box office chance. That said, the film does have the weekend to itself, and that will help it at the box office. Look for a massive opening, but the Fanboy Effect will likely kill it the next weekend.


-

Filed under: Monthly Preview, Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas 3D, Capitalism: A Love Story, Zombieland, Where the Wild Things Are, The Stepfather, Couples Retreat, Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant, Saw VI, Michael Jackson's This Is It, Good Hair, The Invention of Lying, Law Abiding Citizen, Whip It, St. Trinian's, A Serious Man, Astro Boy, Amelia