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2008 Preview: June

June 1st, 2008

June is filled with top picks, and practically only top picks. The best schedule for the overall health of the movie industry is only two wide releases, the potential blockbuster and the counter-programming release. This month that's exactly what happens; however, almost every week the counter-programming film has a serious shot at $100 million as well. If everything goes well, then we could have 8 films opening this month that crack 9 digits and that would put 2008 back on track. Even a more conservative estimate has four $100 million movies coming out this month, but there's a lot of uncertainty involved here. On the limited front, none of May's limited releases managed to breakout and expand wide, so there's still an opening for sleeper hit of the summer. That role could be filled by The Promotion, which appears to have the best shot at escaping the art hour circuit and reaching multiplexes.

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

Name: Get Smart
Distributor: Warner Bros
Official Site: GetSmartMovie.WarnerBros.com
Release Date: June 20, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some rude humor, action violence and language
Source: Based on a TV Show
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Spoof, Secret Agent, Undercover, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $80 million
Box Office Potential: $105 million
Notes: Secret Agent films are on a bit of a hot streak with Jason Bourne trilogy ending last year and the resurgence of James Bond, so it comes as no surprise that other studios want to tap into that market. And adapting the spy spoof from the 1960s seems like a natural and the resulting film should be a sure fire hit. Right? Maybe, maybe not. This time last year, Steven Carell starred in a film called Evan Almighty, which was reportedly the most expensive comedy ever made. That film earned terrible reviews and barely crossed $100 million domestically (and even less internationally) making it one of the biggest money losers of the year. I fully expect Get Smart to earn better reviews and make more at the box office, but not by a whole lot. The reviews should be mixed, in the 40% to 50% positive range, while I expect reaction by the old-school loyalists to be a little more harsh. Meanwhile, it could cross the $100 million mark as well, but it will be awfully close. (In fact, it might not get there during its regular run, but the studio could give it a push to get it over later in the summer. It wouldn't be the first time that's happened.) However, it is important to note that my expectations of the movie are higher than many and there is a distinct chance that it could bomb as well, if the loyalists create enough bad buzz and the reviews are not at least decent enough to compensate. Additionally, it is opening on the same day as The Love Guru, another star vehicle comedy that has a wide range of box office potential. They share an amazingly similar target audience, so it will be tough for both of them to survive.

Name: The Happening
Distributor: Fox
Official Site: TheHappeningMovie.com
Release Date: June 13, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for violent and disturbing images.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: End of the World, Killer Plants, and Surprise Twist. (The last one is just an educated guess based on the writer / director's previous work.)
Production Budget: Reported at $57 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million
Notes: This is a movie that will either be M. Night Shyamalan's return to glory, or potentially kill his career. It really hard to predict which way it will go. M. Night Shyamalan peaked creatively with The Sixth Sense and he's been in decline ever since. (Granted, Signs earned more than $200 million, but I always considered it a weaker film than Unbreakable, even if the Tomatometer scores say otherwise.) There are some troubling signs, including the fact that the movie will not be screened for critics. The studio is saying that this is to keep the mystery going, and that could be the truth and it could still be a great movie. However, its hurting the buzz and it will need to be a great movie to be a big hit. With the amount of uncertainty here, the film could make $50 million or $150 million and I would not be shocked in the slightest. I think the lower end is more likely and the above box office potential is a weighted average of the two extremes.

Name: The Incredible Hulk
Distributor: Universal
Official Site: IncredibleHulk.com
Release Date: June 13, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence, some frightening sci-fi images, and brief suggestive content.
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Marvel Comics, Mutants, and more
Production Budget: $125 million
Box Office Potential: $140 million
Notes: The original movie broke the record for sharpest sophomore decline for a film that debuted in first place. So wouldn't making a sequel be a huge, huge risk? Yes. However, it is important to note that when the original comic was first created, it didn't last long either. It wasn't until the second incarnation that it found an appreciative audience so it's not impossible to imagine this movie taking off where the first failed. However, I think that while The Incredible Hulk will improve upon its predecessor's box office, it might have to wait till the home market to truly find its audience. Those who didn't like the first movie, or just remember its box office collapse, might be unlikely to rush out to see this movie. That will likely give it a lower opening weekend. However, better word-of-mouth will give it longer legs and a slightly higher overall box office. I think the film will have better word-of-mouth even if the reviews are a little weaker, as long as the action is more intense and the film is grittier. If it can perform as expected, and then match its domestic box office on the international scene, it should be able to earn a profit sometime during its home market run, but I'm not sure if that will be enough to convince Marvel to turn the franchise into a trilogy. But it might be enough to convince them to include the character in other franchises like The Avengers.

Name: Kit Kittredge: An American Girl
Distributor: PictureHouse
Official Site: KitKittredge.com
Release Date: June 20, 2008 (limited)
Release Date: July 2, 2008 (expansion to wide release)
MPAA Rating: G for General Admission
Source: Based on a Toy
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: News
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at between $20 and $40 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: The fourth film in the American Girl franchise, which started in 2004 with Samantha: An American Girl Holiday. That film was a TV movie starring AnnaSophia Robb and Mia Farrow, which earned solid reviews and decent enough ratings to launch the franchise. Now it is making the jump from the small screen to theaters, which is quite unusual. Sure, there are plenty of movies that are based on TV shows, but rarely do you get a sequel to a TV movie that is released in theaters. As for Kit Kittredge's box office chances, this film has the potential to become a solid counter-programming mid-level hit earning $50 million or maybe even more. However, since it is opening in limited release before expanding wide, it also has the potential to struggle out of the gate and never make it wide. The above box office potential is a weighted average of those extremes.

Name: Kung Fu Panda
Distributor: Paramount
Official Site: KungFuPanda.com
Release Date: June 6, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG for sequences of martial arts action
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Animal Lead, Talking Animals, Martial Arts, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated to be between $100 and $150 million
Box Office Potential: $200 million
Notes: This year the role of Shrek is being played by a Panda named Po. This movie won't earn as much as Shrek the Third, as it is an unknown property. However, it wouldn't be that unusual if it earned as much as the first Shrek earned. I wouldn't bet on it, but I wouldn't be too terribly surprised if it happened. The film does have the advantage of seven years of ticket price inflation behind it, but the digital animation market has taken a hit recently with the over saturation of products coming out. That said, there has been only one big digital animation release this year, which did quite well. Given its early reviews, which are overwhelmingly positive, if not enthusiastically positive, I expect the movie will do quite well with families while adult aficionados will wait till WALL-E comes out.

Name: The Love Guru
Distributor: Paramount
Official Site: TheLoveGuru.com
Release Date: June 20, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, language, some comic violence and drug references.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Hockey
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $75 million
Box Office Potential: $105 million
Notes: Mike Myers is on an amazing run at the box office, scoring one $100 million hit after another. In fact, the last movie he starred in that didn't reach $100 million was 54, which opened nearly 10 years ago. However, in that time, he's only made one movie outside of the Shrek or Austin Powers franchises, so this recent streak is not a strong predictor for other movies based on a new character. Additionally, saying Pitka is a new character is not totally accurate as there are shades of Austin Powers. (His interaction with Coach Cherkov from the trailer seems wholly borrowed from The Mole scene from Goldmember.) On the one hand, this makes the movie an easy sell to his fans. On the other hand, as we've seen with Semi-Pro, even the most diehard fan will grow tired of the same old schtick. In this case, the movie could earn $50 million, $100 million, or even $200 million and I wouldn't be terribly shocked. I think the lower end it more likely, but there are just too many variables here to come up with a solid number. Also, like I mentioned with Get Smart, these two movies have very similar box office potentials and target audiences. If one film does better than expected, the other will likely suffer, and vice versa. It would take a nearly perfect coalescing of factors for both to hit $100 million.

Name: The Promotion
Distributor: Weinstein Co.
Official Site: ThePromotion-Movie.com
Release Date: June 6, 2008 (limited)
MPAA Rating: R for language including sexual references, and some drug use
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Corporate Life of sorts
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $5 million
Notes: Written and directed by Steve Conrad, who also wrote The Pursuit of Happyness and Wrestling Ernest Hemingway. This movie had a lot of buzz after its premiere at South by Southwest film festival and there was even talk that it would be the sleeper hit of the summer, escaping its limited release and expanding to multiplexes. We haven't had such a hit so far this year, and we are already a month into summer. However, reviews are only mixed... and polarized. In fact, some critics are calling it the worst movie of the year while others are praising the film's understated comedy. These kinds of mixed review will likely result in more people deciding to wait until the home market, which will reduce the film's chances at expanding. It could still get there and earn $10 million, $20 million, or more, but $5 million is a weighted average based on its chances of doing so.

Name: WALL-E
Distributor: Disney
Official Site: WALL-E
Release Date: June 27, 2008
MPAA Rating: G for General Admission
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Robots
Production Budget: $120 million
Box Office Potential: $175 million
Notes: I am quite confident this will be Pixar's lowest grossing movie since A Bug's Life. ... Possibly ever. I don't think it will be a bad movie, I just think it will be a very difficult movie to market to families. The main character, WALL-E, and all of the other robots don't speak. So most of the movie is practically silent. (They can communicate though beeps and whistles, much like R2-D2, but there's almost no traditional dialogue.) For adult aficionados of digital animation, it should be a real treat. In fact, I'll go on record now saying that I believe this movie will win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Its daring filmmaking and Pixar's track record could result in it could earning more nominations than Ratatouille did. And it might even win one outside of the Animated Feature category. But little kids could be bored without dialogue that they can quote endlessly with their friends, which would hurt the repeat ticket sales that these films thrive on. Granted, there are others who disagree with this analysis and see this as the biggest hit of the year, and I hope they are right. But even with Disney's marketing might behind the movie, I just see it as a tough sell to multiplex crowds. It should be noted that it is more likely to perform well overseas where movies are seen as a more adult hobby, and it should show a very healthy profit buy the time it reaches the home market.

Name: Wanted
Distributor: Universal
Official Site: WantedMovie.com
Release Date: June 27, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence throughout, pervasive language and some sexuality.
Source: Based on a Comic
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Hitmen and Revenge
Production Budget: Reported at $65 to $70 million
Box Office Potential: $125 million
Notes: This is another film that has a wide, wide range of box office possibilities and it could be a monster hit reaching $200 million or more, or it could be this year's The Island. It is directed by Timur Bekmambetov, who is making his English-language debut, and it stars James McAvoy, who has massive talent but has yet to break out at the box office. So there's not a lot of box office data we can look at to gauge this movie's chances. But we will look at what little there is. The Night Watch movies were described by some as more style than substance, which is not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to a summer blockbuster release. While the movie certainly has the potential to be a stylish action film, there are some who say the film is a little too much like The Matrix. Given how poorly that franchise ended, that has to be looked at as a negative. This has the potential to be a really cool movie, but the number of revisions in the script doesn't bode well. Perhaps it got better each time, after all, that's why you revise something, to make it better. But that is rarely the case in the real world. There is a distinct chance the final product is a mess and it will struggle to hit $50 million, however, I think reaching $100 million domestically is more likely, and has the potential to hit $200 million or more.

Name: You Don't Mess With the Zohan
Distributor: Sony
Official Site: YouDontMessWithTheZohan.com
Release Date: June 6, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, language and nudity.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Secret Agent, Beauty Industry, False Identity, and likely more
Production Budget: Unknown - reported at $75 million
Box Office Potential: $125 million
Notes: There's a lot of uncertainty this month, as almost every film has the real potential to be a massive hit, or bomb at the box office. However, we end the list with a film that has a much less uncertainty attached to it. You Don't Mess With the Zohan stars Adam Sandler, who has a very solid track record at the box office. With the exception of Little Nicky, every comedy he has starred in for roughly the past decade has made between $119 million and $164 million, which is not a lot of variation. That said, it is rumored that this film is the Adam Sandler flick for people who don't like Adam Sandler movies. That is to say, this movie could win over more than a few people, at least that is what the early buzz suggests. So far there are not enough reviews to tell if that's true or not. However, I do have hope as the movie was co-written by Judd Apatow and Robert Smigel, both of whom have produced a lot of very funny material. Additionally, both Apatow and Sandler have strong records at the box office and $100 million seems like the low end for this film's box office potential. There's a lot of competition, so it is unlikely to be one of the bigger hits for Adam Sandler, but it should perform on par with Click and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, which would make it a solid hit here. Internationally, on the other hand, it won't do as well as neither Sandler nor Apatow have built up much of a following outside the domestic market. And more troubling, with a reported $75 million production budget, it will likely have to wait till the home market to show a profit.

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Filed under: Monthly Preview, WALL-E, Kung Fu Panda, The Incredible Hulk, Wanted, Get Smart, You Don't Mess With the Zohan, The Happening, The Love Guru, Kit Kittredge: An American Girl, The Promotion