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2008 Preview: March

March 1st, 2008

2008 stumbled last month and there doesn't seem to be many potential blockbusters this month. By the end of March last year, there were three films releases that would reach $100 million, including one that reached $200 million, and two others that missed that milestone by less than $5 million. This year, we could enter April without a single $100 million movie.

Interested in discussing these predictions? The join us in the forums.

Name: 21
Distributor: Columbia
Official Site: SonyPictures.com/Movies/21
Release Date: March 28, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence, and sexual content including partial nudity
Source: Based on a Novel that was Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Suspense
Keywords: Gambling
Production Budget: Reported at $75 million, but that seems very high
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: I've seen this story twice already, once as a documentary called Breaking Vegas and once as a Canadian TV movie called The Last Casino. (That latter starred Katharine Isabelle and Charles Martin Smith and is worth hunting down.) It is very likely that this movie will earn weak reviews and never come close to profitability at the box office. First of all, gambling is not very cinematic and most films in this sub-genre have not done well recently, or ever. Secondly, it is being released by Columbia, a sub-label of Sony, and not the main company. If the studio had high hopes that the movie would be a major hit, they would have released it under the main name. Thirdly, the movie cost a fortune to make, if reports are accurate. I can't see the film earning that much money worldwide and it will need at least that much money if it has any hope of showing a profit anytime soon. At best I see a midlevel hit. At worse it will be panned by critics and perform the same as 2 For the Money or perhaps even Lucky You.

Name: 10,000 B.C.
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: 10000BCMovie.com
Release Date: March 7, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Visual Effects
Production Budget: $35 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: This pre-historic adventure film was originally given a prime summer release date, but was pushed back till December, which is still a good time to release a movie. However, it was pushed back again till March, which is the definition of a mediocre release date. This leads me to believe that the studio thinks the film has potential, but the just don't know how to market it. I'm not surprised as there have not been that many pre-historic films made, most of which are either cartoons (like Ice Age) or based on cartoons (like Flintstones). Trying to find a film set during this time period that isn't aimed at kids and you have to travel back more than 20 year to Clan of the Cave Bear, which made less than $2 million at the box office. Even taking into account inflation, that's a major bomb. This film should do better as it is clearly advertising itself as more of an action film. From the trailer, you get the impression that you could change out the CG saber-toothed tiger and replace it with an alien and the general plot would still work. On the other hand, the film's director, Roland Emmerich, hasn't had a film fail to reach $100 million in more than a decade. However, He hasn't has a film that has to deal with such a weak release date and no appreciable buzz in an even longer time. Lack of buzz, weak release date, no real strength shown in the ad campaign, etc. Even with a saturation level debut (more than 3000 theaters), I don't think the film will come close to $100 million, in fact, I don't think it will match its production budget. I admit the box office prediction above could be a little too pessimistic and it could open with more than $30 million, but I have a gut feeling it will crash.

Name: The Bank Job
Distributor: Lionsgate
Official Site: Lionsgate.com/TheBankJob
Release Date: March 7, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, nudity, violence and language
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Heist
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million
Notes: The film stars Jason Statham, who previous starred in The Italian Job and is starring in the upcoming sequel, The Brazilian Job. When I first heard Jason Statham was in a movie called The Bank Job my first thought was, "Did they change the name of The Brazilian Job?" And I don't think this was an accident. I think the studio is trying to get a bit of extra ticket sales, which is a smart thing to do. I doubt the film will be a huge hit, but Jason Statham has enough pull with moviegoers that he should easily lift this film into the range of profitability thanks in part to its low production budget. Additionally, it should perform even better on the home market where Jason Statham is a huge draw and in the end the studio will be happy. Last minute update: Early reports have the film opening in just 1350 theaters. Even with better than expected reviews, the film's box office potential has been cut in half.

Name: CJ7
Distributor: Sony Picture Classics
Official Site: SonyClassics.com/CJ7
Release Date: March 7, 2008 (limited)
MPAA Rating: PG for language, thematic material, some rude humor and brief smoking.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Friendly Alien on Earth
Production Budget: $20 million
Box Office Potential: $5 million
Notes: This movie is not opening wide, but it could expand wide, or at least semi-wide. This is the third Stephen Chow picture to earn a release here with the first being Shaolin Soccer and the second being Kung Fu Hustle. Shaolin Soccer was delayed a long time and eventually re-cut for American audiences before struggling in limited release. Kung Fu Hustle did very, very well in limited release, but couldn't maintain its momentum as it expanded. CJ7 is a family friendly Sci-Fi comedy, which is less of a niche market than a soccer film or a martial arts movies. However, early reviews are not particularly good, and it chances of expanding wide are only 50/50.

Name: College Road Trip
Distributor: Disney
Official Site: Disney.Go.com/DisneyPictures/CollegeRoadTrip
Release Date: March 7, 2008
MPAA Rating: G for General Audiences
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: College, Road Trip and Letting Go
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million
Notes: This is a Disney family film starring Martin Lawrence and Raven, not a sequel to Road Trip, which starred Tom Green. I want at least one Tom Green fan to make that mistake and go to the movie expecting to see his usually antics, except after Freddie Got Fingered, I don't think there is one Tom Green fan who would spend money to go to one of his movies. I'm not entirely sure who the target audience here is, as it is a G-rated college movie. The typical target audience for G-rated movies is way too young to be interested in college while those interested in college will be turned off by the G-rating. Even so, it does have Disney backing it up and it features one of their stars, so it should become a midlevel hit theatrically while doing well enough on the home market to pull in a profit.

Name: Doomsday
Distributor: Focus Features
Official Site: DoomsdayIsComing.com
Release Date: March 14, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, language and some sexual content/nudity.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Post Apocalypse, Mutants, and Car Chase
Production Budget: £17 million, which is about $30 to $35 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: From the director of The Descent, Dog Soldiers, and others. Neil Marshall is building a fanbase here; however, early buzz on this movie is not particularly good. It's a post apocalyptic movie that doesn't add enough to the genre to stand out. People watching the trailer will undoubtedly be reminded of a number of other films: Mad Max, 28 Days Later..., etc. Compounding this problem is a trailer that doesn't even sell the movie very well; a film can be derivative and still entertaining. It has a shot at being a midlevel hit, but it is more likely that the movie will have to wait till the home market to see any serious revenue. However, with a very reasonable production budget, it should do well enough to make the studio happy.

Name: Drillbit Taylor
Distributor: Paramount
Official Site: DrillbitTaylor.com
Release Date: March 21, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude sexual references throughout, strong bullying, language, drug references and partial nudity
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Undercover, New Guys in School, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - reported at $40 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million
Notes: Three kids on their first day of school are targeted by the bully. So to protect themselves, they hire Owen Wilson as a bodyguard, who then goes undercover as a teacher at their school. My initial reaction to the movie was rather negative; however, the trailer is more effective than the premise would otherwise indicate. It also has a good pedigree as it is co-written by Seth Rogan and produced by Judd Apatow. As for the talent in front of the camera, the film stars Owen Wilson as the titular character, a homeless former soldier of fortune whom the kids hire. On the one hand, from the trailer he certainly looks like he's done a great job with the character. On the other hand, it's a character he has done before... many times before. (It feels like a mix of Randy Dupree, John Beckwith, and Roy O'Bannon.) It won't be long before moviegoers abandon his schtick and his box office numbers will collapse. That said, there's still a good shot that this film will be a hit at the box office and $100 million isn't out of the question here. The studio should be happy with anything more than $50 million, while the film is likely to finish some where in between those two extremes.

Name: Funny Games
Distributor: Warner Independent Pictures
Official Site: WIP.WarnerBros.com/FunnyGames
Release Date: March 14, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for terror, violence and some language
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Breaking the Fourth Wall, Surprise Twist, and others that I can't get into without spoiling the movie
Production Budget: Unknown - reported at $15 million
Box Office Potential: $5 million
Notes: One of several movies that may or may not open wide this month. This film is a shot-by-shot remake of an Austrian film of the same name and was directed by the same director. That film has earned a cult following, however, it is also very controversial in its nihilistic plot. I'm not sure the film will do well here because the ending is just too disturbing for audience here, and we've become accustomed to Torture Porn, so that's saying a lot. If it does open in limited release, there's almost no chance it will expand wide, as these films have not done well outside of side releases. If it does open wide, it should top its production budget, but that's about it. The above box office potential is a weighted average of those two outcomes.

Name: Horton Hears a Who
Distributor: Fox
Official Site: HortonMovie.com
Release Date: March 14, 2008
MPAA Rating: G for General Audiences
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Talking Animals
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $60 million to $100 million
Box Office Potential: $85 million
Notes: The first major digitally animated movie of the year and only the second to get a wide release (The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything was the other). The earlier wide release did not live up to expectations and the digital animation field as a whole it rather soft at the moment, neither of which is not a good sign. Also, this is the third Dr. Seuss film to come out recently, and while the first one did very well (it was the biggest hit of 2000), the second film struggled and never matched its production budget. Finally, the cast is full of big names, most of which don't have a lot of experience doing voice work, and that is usually a mistake. Given the release date, the studio is obviously hoping for an Ice Age like run. This seems unlikely. In fact, given the lack of buzz, this film could fail to earn half that figure. It's biggest asset is the lack of direct competition, especially since there are been very few digitally animated movies released over the past few months. This could help it become the first $100 million hit of the year, or at least become the biggest hit of the year so far.

Name: Meet the Browns
Distributor: Lionsgate
Official Site: MeetTheBrownsFilm.com
Release Date: March 21, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for drug content, language including sexual references, thematic elements and brief violence
Source: Based on a Play
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Cross-Dressing
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $20 to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million
Notes: It seems that one of the keys to Tyler Perry's success is seeing him on screen, preferably in a dress. The one film he only directed struggled at the box office compared to his previous outings. (It still showed a healthy profit thanks to a small production budget and a ravenous fanbase that boosted its home market sales.) As for this film's chances, it brings the usual items to the table and while it is unlikely to be a real critical success, it could continue his upward climb and reach the overall positive level. At the box office, it is almost guaranteed to be a financial success thanks again to its low budget and the fanbase.

Name: Never Back Down
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Official Site: NeverBackDownTheMovie.com
Release Date: March 14, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material involving intense sequences of fighting/violence, some sexuality, partying and language - all involving teens.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: New Guy in School and Mixed Martial Arts
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million
Notes: I am not convinced this movie will open wide, at least not with a theater count I normally associate with a wide release (2000 or more theaters). If it does open truly wide, it could earn two or three times the box office potential above, however, it could also open in less than 1000 theaters and fail to reach $10 million by a significant margin. Part of the problem here is with the mixed martial arts, which is not a popular enough sport to carry a major movie. Additionally, the trailer is rather generic in its tale of high school revenge combined with the typical fighting tournament. (Think Bloodsport meets The O.C.). I can't see the film becoming a huge hit, even becoming a midlevel hit might be asking too much of the movie.

Name: Run, Fat Boy, Run
Distributor: PictureHouse
Official Site: RunFatBoyRunMovie.com
Release Date: March 28, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some rude and sexual humor, nudity, language and smoking
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Marathon Running and Flashbacks
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: One of a handful of movies on this month's list that may or may not open wide. This is the third Simon Pegg vehicle in the past four years that has made it here and while he hasn't had a breakout success yet, he is building a fanbase stateside. On the one hand, this movie is not earning as strong reviews as his previous two films earned, nor did it earn as much in his home market as Hot Fuzz made. On the other hand, it is a lot less British in its humor and it should translate well here. (In fact, while it was made in the U.K., it was directed by David Schwimmer, co-written by Michael Ian Black, and it an American / British co-production.) The real question is whether it will open wide and with enough studio support. The shifts in release date, including a couple that were rather short notice seem to indicate the distributor doesn't have a whole lot of faith in the movie. For that matter, the distributor is not known for opening films particularly wide to begin with. If it does open wide with strong studio support, it could become a solid midlevel hit. If it opens in select cities, it could fail to reach $5 million at the box office. Here's hoping it's the former.

Name: Shutter
Distributor: Fox
Official Site: Shutter-Movie.com
Release Date: March 21, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for terror, disturbing images, sexual content and language.
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Hauntings
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: A remake of a Thai horror film... When was the last time a remake of an Asian horror film has been a big hit at the box office? For that matter, when was the last time a film starring Joshua Jackson was in was a big hit. He has only has two $100 million hits in his career, and they were both cameos. His biggest hit where he was the star was The Mighty Ducks back in 1992, which barely cracked $50 million. Another problem I have with the film is the trailer, which tries to pass off spirit photography as real and not just another example of pareidolia, which is a well-known and well-researched psychological phenomenon and has nothing to do with the supernatural. I know why they insist on using this in ads, it works, but I hate it and it makes me much less likely to want to see the movie. Overall, there are more negatives than positives and it is unlikely to become even a midlevel hit. But the movie was probably not very expensive to make and it should earn enough during its theatrical run that is should earn a profit sometime during its home market run.

Name: Stop-Loss
Distributor: Paramount
Official Site: StopLossMovie.com
Release Date: March 28, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for graphic violence and pervasive language.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Returning Soldiers, War, and Second Iraq War
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $30 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: Ryan Phillippe stars as Brandon King, a soldier returning from Iraq and trying to re-adjust to civilian life. However, just as he's gotten his life back to normal, he is recalled to Iraq against his will due to the Stop-Loss policy put in place by the strains of fighting two wars. ... A movie about the Iraq war; this is not a good sign. No film that has touched this subject has done well at the box office and even many highly rated documentaries have been hurt by the political atmosphere of today. There are some positives for the film here, including being written and directed by Kimberly Peirce who last made Boys Don't Cry and this bodes very well for the film's quality. (Having Joseph Gordon-Levitt doesn't hurt either.) However, I just can't see the film escaping the massive damage the subject matter will inflict at the box office. In fact, there's at least some buzz that the film won't open wide, in which case it will likely never expand past a few dozen theaters. Eventually the climate will change and films like this will be accepted, and hopefully the best of these films that come out before that time will be rediscovered. But until then, they will continue to struggle at the box office.

Name: Superhero!
Distributor: Miramax/Dimension
Official Site: SuperHero-Movie.net
Release Date: March 28, 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - likely aiming for PG-13
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Spoof
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $35 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: A spoof of Super Hero movies by the same people who brought us the last two Scary Movie releases. While these films have not earned great reviews, they are performed much better than the Date / Epic / Spartan movies. Also, in an interview David Zucker, who is producing, compared the movie to the Naked Gun series saying it had a unified plot to go with the parodies of specific Super Hero films. If this is true, it could actually be a good movie. I'm not willing to bet money it will be, but one can always hope. As for the film's box office chances, the four Scary Movie films have earned an average of $100 million, while the other spoof franchise mentioned above has earned an average of just over $40 million. Superhero! should finish somewhere in the middle, but on the lower end. Even if the film earns good reviews, it is unlikely to earn a lot of money as the glut of terrible spoofs as damaged the genre so much that most moviegoers will likely stay away.


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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Horton Hears a Who, College Road Trip, Meet the Browns, Drillbit Taylor, The Bank Job, Shutter, Superhero Movie, Never Back Down, Doomsday, Stop-Loss, Run, Fatboy, Run, Funny Games, 10,000 B.C., 21