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2008 Preview: May

May 1st, 2008

2008 has stumbled pretty badly recently, but, with the past two weekends beating their 2007 counterparts, it looks like it is getting back on track. Hopefully this can continue in May. On the one hand, the start of the Summer should reinvigorate the box office numbers with a few potential $300 million hits opening over the five weekends and two more films that should reach $100 million. Here's the problem: Last year, there were three monster hits that opened in May and they earned a combined box office close to $1 billion. If any of the big three this month (The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and Iron Man) stumble, then there will be almost no way 2008 can keep pace with 2007.

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Name: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Distributor: Disney
Official Site:
Release Date: May 16, 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Likely Aiming for PG
Source: Based on a Book / Sequel
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Talking Animals, Visual Effects, and others
Production Budget: Reports vary from $100 million to $280 million
Box Office Potential: $315 million
Notes: I have mentioned on more than one occasion that Walden Media has a terrible track record at the box office. In the six years they've been making films, they've only had one major hit to go with a few midlevel successes, but most of their films have bombed. Some have even bombed to a record degree. That's a bad track record and would normally greatly reduce a film's box office potential. However, that one massive hit was The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, the first film in the Narnia franchise, which beat almost all expectations and became one of the biggest hits of 2005. It also earned good reviews, which should help this film's opening night; additionally, Prince Caspian does have a slightly better release date. I expect a bigger opening, possible in the $100 million range, and a slightly better overall box office. However, if the high end of the reported budgets is accurate, then it will need to reach these heights if it wants to show a reasonable profit. On the other hand, if it slips at the box office and finishes below the original, then it could spell an early end to the series with little hope of growing beyond a trilogy.

Name: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Distributor: Paramount
Official Site:
Release Date: May 22, 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Likely aiming for PG-13
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Treasure Hunters and others
Production Budget: $125 million
Box Office Potential: $325 million
Notes: Arguably the most anticipated film of the year and possibly the biggest box office hit as well. Rumors of a fourth Indiana Jones film have been swirling for roughly a decade now, probably two. In fact, since the original plan was to do five films, there have been rumors of a fourth film since the original was released in 1981. However, the buzz really started growing when it became known that George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Harrison Ford were actively looking at scripts five or six years ago. While there is a lot of buzz, there have been almost no leaks and the amount of secrecy is adding to the excitement. I anticipate reviews that are 80% to 90% positive, which is not as good as the previous installments, but still good enough to be a major selling point. The number of Fanboys out there, and the Memorial Day long weekend, will give it a huge opening. Look for more than $100 million during its opening weekend and $325 million in total, which could be enough for the biggest hit of the Summer, possibly of the year.

Name: Iron Man
Distributor: Paramount
Official Site:
Release Date: May 2, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and brief suggestive content
Source: Based on a Comic Book
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Marvel Comics
Production Budget: $186 million
Box Office Potential: $300 million
Notes: 2008 summer season starts off with a comic book adaptation, which is a great way to go. There have been a number of blockbuster franchises based on comic books to come out recently including Spider-man, X-men, Batman, Superman, and even lesser known properties like Hulk and Fantastic Four did well enough to earn sequels. I have very high hopes for this movie. Extremely high hopes. Record-breaking hopes. No, I don't think it will topple Titanic, but I do think it has a shot at overtaking Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone for biggest opening weekend for a non-sequel and it could even become only the 10th film to reach $100 million over its opening weekend. (Edit: I made a mistake on this record, which is actually held by Spider-man at $114.73 million. Sorry for the error.) The buzz is high, the early reviews are among the best of the year, and it could become the biggest hit of the year as well. Even if it misses my expectations and only earns $200 million domestically, it should still reach profitability early in its home market run. Best case scenario, it opens with $100 million and the sequels are given the greenlight by Monday morning.

Name: Made of Honor
Distributor: Sony
Official Site:
Release Date: May 2, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Wedding Troubles
Production Budget: Unknown - predicted at $30 to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million
Notes: Playing the counter-programming to Iron Man is Made of Honor, a romantic comedy in which Patrick Dempsey is asked by his best friend to be her maid of honor. It's a simple twist on a genre that is usually overloaded with clichés and only the chemistry of the two leads will help it survive. I've only seen one review, and its in German. Fortunately, I speak German, as anyone who has read the international box office report columns will know. For instance, the German word for 'womanizer' is 'Womanizer.' See the difference? In German, it is capitalized. Basically, the review is nearly exactly what I figured reviews for the film would be. The movie doesn't add much to the genre, but Patrick Dempsey is charming, Michelle Monaghan is refreshing. It's not a glowing review, but good for a romantic comedy and more than enough to draw in fans of this type of film. At the box office, it will make less during its entire run than Iron Man will make during its opening weekend, but its costs and expectations are a lot, lot lower and $30 to $40 million should make the studio happy. Anything above $50 million is more than most romantic comedies earn, while it could reach $70 or $80 million, under the right circumstances. Update: More reviews are in, and they very negative, worse than the reviews 27 Dresses earned. This has resulted in its box office potential being lowered, but it should still become a midlevel hit.

Name: Redbelt
Distributor: Sony Picture Classics
Official Site:
Release Date: May 2, 2008 (limited)
Release Date: May 8, 2008 (wide expansion)
MPAA Rating: R for strong language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Mixed Martial Arts, Conmen, and others
Production Budget: Unknown - reported at $7 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: Scheduled for a limited release on the 2nd and a wide expansion on the 9th, except I'm not totally convinced this it will actually happen. Some sources have it opening wide on the 9th without a limited engagement, while others have it opening in limited release without a scheduled wide expansion. If it does open wide, or has its planned wide expansion, it could double, or even triple the box office potential above. On the other hand, if it opens in limited release, then it could fizzle out before reaching $1 million. Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Mike Terry, a martial arts instructor who has avoided fighting professionally for reasons of honor. However, he is the victim of a con and he is forced to enter the ring to fight his dire financial situation and to repair his pride. (On a side note, of course Mike gets conned. You can't have Ricky Jay in a movie without someone getting conned.) Good news, the film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and was written and directed by David Mamet, both of whom have done some excellent work. On the other hand, while the reviews are good, they are not great and I don't know if it has what it takes to expand. We shall soon see.

Name: Sex and the City
Distributor: New Line
Official Site:
Release Date: May 30, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language
Source: Based on a TV show
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Relationship Advice
Production Budget: Reported at $65 million
Box Office Potential: $125 million
Notes: The term 'Chick Flick' is generally used as an insult and it's rare for a movie with the label to be a powerhouse at the box office. This is one exception. In fact, I would be shocked if the movie didn't pull in at least $100 million at the box office, and it could top The Devil Wears Prada's run both in terms of raw dollars (likely) and in terms of ticket sales (less likely). It is targeting a similar female audience, one that is usually under-served at the movies. However, it is also an audience that is a lot more difficult to please than young males, who make up the largest portion of moviegoers. First of all, they tend to look for quality and are more likely to read and be swayed by reviews. Also, even when they find it, they are unlikely to rush out to theaters right away or watch a movie more than once. There are some others concerns including the possibility of weak reviews, which is all too common for TV adaptations. Quite often the movie feels like a typical episode stretched to fill the 90-minute running time. Or in an attempt to make the movie more cinematic, they destroy what made the show special in the first place. Additionally, it has been four years since the TV show ended its run, which is a long time in the entertainment world and the fans might have moved on. That said, I still expect the film be a big hit. I don't expect it to have a massive opening, only $30 million or so, but it should have the legs to carry the movie to $100 million, and more.

Name: Son of Rambow: A Home Movie
Distributor: Paramount
Official Site:
Release Date: May 2, 2008 (limited)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence and reckless behavior.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Coming of Age and Movie Business
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at between $10 and $20 million
Box Office Potential: $5 million
Notes: I'm not seeing a whole lot of limited releases coming out this month that look like they have what it takes to expand wide. In fact, this film might be the only one to do so. So far reviews have been very strong and it has performed relatively well in its native U.K. That said, it is still a limited release and limited releases have a hard time expanding at the best of times. At the high end, the film could have a box office run similar to Waitress, which opened the same time last year. Worst case scenario, it bombs out of theaters and has to wait until the home market to find an audience. However, I am very confident that it will find an audience. Update: More reviews have come in and its Tomatometer score has dropped. In fact, it has dropped below the point that is generally needed for wide expansion to take place. It is still possible, but its box office potential has been reduced.

Name: Speed Racer
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site:
Release Date: May 9, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG for sequences of action, some violence, language and brief smoking
Source: Based on a TV series
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Live Action Cartoon, Visual Effects, and Auto Racing
Production Budget: $100 million
Box Office Potential: $105 million
Notes: Taking the Live Action Cartoon genre seriously. The film was shot with new technology that was able to capture everything in frame in focus. This means the foreground and the background will be in focus at the same time, just like it is in a cartoon. Sadly, outside of the technological aspect of the movie, the buzz on this movie is bad. Also, the second weekend in May is the weakest weekend in the month. Last year the biggest opening was 28 Weeks Later, the year before that it was Poseidon, the year before that was Monster-in-Law. Seeing a pattern? Even the best such film in the past decade, Troy, was seen as a disappointment. Few people think Speed Racer is going to be a monster hit this year, and a few even think it will bomb outright. I think it will match its production budget, barely, but will need a stronger international run to show a profit anytime soon. Any hope of turning this movie into a franchise will likely end as soon as the box office numbers start trickling in.

Name: The Strangers
Distributor: Focus Features
Official Site:
Release Date: May 30, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for violence/terror and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller / Horror
Keywords: Teenage Slasher
Production Budget: Unknown - reported at $10 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: Purportedly a remake of the French film Ils a.k.a. Them. However, the screenplay was written before that film came out. Some are claiming it is based on real life events, but there's little evidence to support that claim. For that matter, it could be considered a remake of Funny Games, had that movie not been a remake itself. The fact that the origin is being discussed more than anything else is a bad sign for the film's box office chances. So is the number of previous release dates, as it was bounced from an October, 2007 release to a summer 2007, back to October, and then to summer 2008. There's are very little positive signs for the film and while there is a chance it could become a midlevel hit, roughly on par with Hostel, I don't think it will perform significantly better than Hostel II. Good news, if the reports are correct about its production budget, that will be enough to show a profit eventually.

Name: War Inc.
Distributor: First Look
Official Site:
Release Date: May 23, 2008 (Limited)
Release Date: July 1, 2008 (DVD and Blu-ray)
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language and brief sexual material
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Hitmen, Political, Pop Star, War, News, Revenge, Surprise Twist, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $10 to $20 million
Box Office Potential: $1 million
Notes: This film is not opening wide, nor does it have any real chance at a wide expansion. In fact, you can already pre-order the DVD or the Blu-ray. So why am I mentioning the movie on the monthly preview, which is normally limited to wide releases? John Cusack. In the movie, he plays a hitmen sent to a fictitious Middle Eastern country of Turaqistan, where he is supposed to kill the Oil Minister because he's interfering with the business plans of the ex-Vice President, whose company, Tamerlane, is in charge of the war. While on this mission, he goes undercover as a representative of Tamerlane at a trade show, and the main event there is the marriage of Yonica Babyyeah, a slutty pop diva played by Hilary Duff. The film is Political Satire with an absurdist sense of humor, which is nearly impossible to sell, even to critics. (Although there are a few positive reviews out there. Strangely, some negative reviews are calling the movie heavy-handed while others are saying its goes easy on its targets. You can't win with this genre.) War Inc. was never a film that was going to fill multiplexes, but now it won't get the chance to try. That said, it should find a cult following on the home market and with a very reasonable production budget, it could eventually show a nice profit.

Name: What Happens in Vegas...
Distributor: Fox
Official Site:
Release Date: May 9, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexual and crude content, and language, including a drug reference.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Gambing
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $40 to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: Cameron Diaz stars as Joy, a woman who was just dumped by her boyfriend, and Ashton Kutcher stars as Jack, a man who was just fired. Their friends convince them to go to Vegas, which is where they meet. After a night of debauchery, they find out they got married. Then to complicate matters, he wins a $3 million jackpot with her quarter. After a judge shoots down their quickie divorce, they scheme to cheat the other out of the money but eventually fall in love and live happily ever after. No, that's not a spoiler, at least it won't be for anyone who has seen more than a couple of romantic comedies in their life. Since practically everyone knows how the movie will end, it is the chemistry between the two leads that matters more. Unfortunately, early buzz says there is none. Additionally, the script is light on real laughs. So that hurts both the romance and the comedy parts of romantic comedy, leaving very little reason to watch the movie. That said, romantic comedies tend to be reliable at the box office. Rarely are they massive hits, but rarely do they completely bomb. What Happens in Vegas... should become a midlevel hit.


Filed under: Monthly Preview, Iron Man, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Sex and the City, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, What Happens in Vegas..., The Strangers, Made of Honor, Speed Racer, Redbelt, Son of Rambow: A Home Movie, War, Inc.