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2008 Preview: July

July 1st, 2008

July is going to have a tough time following June. Last month only one movie missed expectations by any meaningful degree which helped 2008 climb above 2007's pace. Perhaps if The Dark Knight can become the biggest hit of the year so far and 2008 tops 2007's pace in terms of ticket sales, July will be seen as a better month than June, but that will be very tough to do. Compared to last year, July doesn't seem to have as much strength at the top, but its strength is in the midrange hits and it should at least keep pace with 2007.

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Name: The Dark Knight
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: TheDarkKnight.WarnerBros.com
Release Date: July 18, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and some menace
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: D.C. Comics, Mental Illness, and others
Production Budget: $150 million
Box Office Potential: $250 million
Notes: First a little bit of trivia. This is the first Batman movie without the name Batman in the title. I doubt this will have any affect on the movie's box office numbers. What should affect the film's box office numbers is the buzz, which is huge among comic book aficionados and growing among the general population. A lot of this has to do with Batman Begins, which re-booted the franchise a few years ago. After the disaster that was Batman & Robin, many were not willing to give Batman Begins the benefit of the doubt and a lot of fans stayed away opening weekend. However, amazing reviews propelled the film over the following weeks and it ended up just north of $200 million. If this film doesn't at least match that figure it will be seen as a disappointment. If it doesn't at least match that film's opening, it will be seen as a disaster. On the other end of the spectrum, there are some who think this movie will become the biggest hit of the summer, opening with more than $100 million and earning $400 million in total. That's a little too bullish for me, but there's little doubt that the movie will be a big enough hit to warrant another installment in the franchise. In fact, I suspect the people at Warner Bros. already have an idea on where the franchise will go from here.

Name: Hancock
Distributor: Sony
Official Site: Hancock-Movie.com
Release Date: July 2, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action with a mix of Comedy and Drama
Keywords: Alcoholism, Super Hero, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $150 million
Box Office Potential: $200 million
Notes: Mr. July Fourth. That's what some people used to call Will Smith, mainly due to his back-to-back hits at the end of the 1990s. Granted, he also had Wild Wild West, so not every one of his Independence Day releases are massive hits and there are some troubling signs associated with Hancock. First of all, this is a script that has been around for a long time and was only made after some 'tweaking' by the studio to improve its commercial prospects. This is not a good sign. Additionally, this is Peter Berg's first potential monster hit; in fact, it could miss my expectations and still make more that all of his previous films combined. Also, the buzz is not strong, nor are the early reviews. That said, it's Will Smith, it's Independence Day, and it is practically opening alone. It's going to make a bundle during opening week (and it is opening week as it makes its debut 7 p.m. on July 1st), and it should reach $100 million over its first seven days, and even with bad word of mouth, it should top $200 million in total. But it could be very, very close.

Name: Hellboy 2: The Golden Army
Distributor: Universal
Official Site: HellboyMovie.com
Release Date: July 11, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and some language.
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Demons and Good vs. Evil
Production Budget: $82.5 million
Box Office Potential: $125 million
Notes: It's not that common for a sequel to top its predecessor at the box office. However, there are a lot of reasons why this film will be one such example. For starters, it's a known property while the original was based on a comic that could hardly be described as a household name. Secondly, Hellboy opened in April, which is a mediocre release date at best, while Hellboy 2: The Golden Army is opening in the middle of summer. Additionally, the first movie earned very strong reviews and its word of mouth was equally strong. Those who caught the first film in theaters will likely do the same here, while it is likely that those who first saw it on the home market probably won't want to wait this time. So most analysts see growth potential here. In fact, some think it might earn more during its opening weekend than the first made in total. That's a little bullish for my taste, but doubling its initial run is not. Meanwhile, if it can match its domestic run internationally, it will should a very healthy profit before the home market, which would leave little doubt that studio will extend the franchise to a trilogy, at least.

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: $25 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 and earn $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. Update: Just a quick update from last month's preview. The film opened better in limited release than I thought it would. However, it fell faster than most films do during its second weekend of release. It is scheduled to open in less than 2,000 theaters this week, but that's enough to increase its box office potential from $20 million to $25 million.

Name: Journey 3-D
Distributor: New Line
Official Site: Journey3DMovie.com
Release Date: July 11, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG for intense adventure action and some scary moments
Source: Based on a Novel
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: 3D, Underground, Dinosaurs, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $45 million, but that seems low
Box Office Potential: $75 million
Notes: Brendan Fraser stars in the latest adaptation of a Jules Verne novel. The author's style is certainly cinematic, but it has been a while since something he wrote was turned into box office gold. It appears that the 3D format is making a comeback, but how long will it last before the fad collapses? The latest resurgence might end as soon as July 12th when the box office numbers for this film come in. I have to say the trailer did not impress me much, but I saw it without the benefit of the third dimension and I think that helped to emphasize just how flat the movie is. I'm not the only one who holds that opinion and the buzz surrounding this movie is weak, to say the least. On the other hand, I am getting a Spy Kids kind of vibe off the movie, and if it can effectively draw in families it could reach $100 million, or more, at the box office. I'm not willing to bet on it, but I'm not discounting the possibility either. On the low end, the movie could bomb on opening weekend and make less than $50 million in total. Somewhere right in the middle it more likely than either extreme, but it could go either way.

Name: Mamma Mia!
Distributor: Universal
Official Site: MammaMiaMovie.com
Release Date: July 18, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sex-related comments.
Source: Based on a Musical
Major Genre: Musical
Keywords: Unexpected Families and Wedding Preparation, among others
Production Budget: $60 - $90 million, reports vary
Box Office Potential: $110 million
Notes: Oh dear lord! A movie based on the collective works of ABBA. If there songs gets stuck in my head, someone will pay. On the other hand, while I would be willing to undergo a partial lobotomy to rid myself of any trace of ABBA music, I do understand the band is undergoing a resurgence in popularity and the musical this movie is based on has sold billions of dollars in tickets worldwide. Additionally, this time last year, Hairspray was released and opened reasonably well, but had legs that most films can only dream of, ending its run with close to $120 million. If Mamma Mia! can tap into the same zeitgeist, and the same nostalgia, it could perform even better at the box office. I'm not willing to bet on it, but it should be a $100 million hit by the time its theatrical run is over. On the other hand, Mamma Mia! should perform even better internationally and it should earn more worldwide than Hairspray did while making a very healthy profit for the studio. This in turn will convince more studios to greenlight more musicals, which is great news for fans of the genre.

Name: Meet Dave
Distributor: Fox
Official Site: MeetDaveMovie.com
Release Date: July 11, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG for bawdy and suggestive humor, action and some language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Friendly Aliens on Earth, Robot, Same Actor, Multiple Roles, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $100 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million
Notes: I am having a tough time trying to figure out this high concept comedy's box office potential. On the one hand, it is a sci-fi comedy starring Eddie Murphy. And what was the last sci-fi comedy starring Eddie Murphy? Pluto Nash, which became one of the biggest box office bombs of all time. Then again, with a PG-rating, this film might be going for a family audience, which could help give it a Daddy Day Care-like run. The higher end is more like than the lower end; then again, it would be nearly impossible for the film to earn less than Pluto Nash. However, unless the reviews are a lot better than the buzz, it will be difficult for this movie to match its production budget. It will have to beat expectations domestically, and then perform even better on the international scene if it wants a shot at earning a profit by its initial run on the home market. I don't think that will happen.

Name: The Rocker
Distributor: Fox
Official Site: RockerMovie.com
Release Date: July 30, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for drug and sexual references, nudity and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Musicians, Rock'n'Roll, and either Delayed Adulthood or Mid-Life Crisis. Probably Delayed Adulthood
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $40 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: Just a short preview for this film. Technically the film opens in July, but only because it was moved up to a Wednesday release and it is more reasonable to call it an August release. This is the first starring role for Rainn Wilson, who has take his character of Dwight on The Office and spun it into at least one Emmy Nomination. He has a lot of talent and with the right material, he could easily be a comedic lead. However, I'm not convinced this is the right material.

Name: Space Chimps
Distributor: Fox
Official Site: SpaceChimpsPower.com
Release Date: July 18, 2008
MPAA Rating: G for General Audiences
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Animal Leads, Talking Animals, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $37 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: Mid-July is generally too late in the summer to release a top-notch digitally animated movie, and the trailer certainly makes this movie look second tier. The animation is poor, the writing is lame, the voicework is mostly uninspired. (It sounded like Patrick Warburton is solid in his role, but I can't say the same for Adam Samberg.) If the studio promotes the movie well and the reviews are much better than expected, it could surprise and earn $100 million at the box office. On the other hand, it could pull an Ant Bully and disappear from theaters nearly as soon as it arrives. Given the poor buzz surrounding this movie, the latter is more likely than the former, but with a reportedly lower than expected production budget, it might still show a reasonable profit sometime during its home market run. On a side note, there is another digitally animated movie featuring animals going into space; however, Fly Me to the Moon is clearly aimed at a even younger demographic and its box office potential is even lower as it lacks major studio support.

Name: Step Brothers
Distributor: Sony
Official Site: SonyPictures.com/Movies/StepBrothers
Release Date: July 25, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for crude and sexual content, and pervasive language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Unexpected Families, Dysfunctional Families, Delayed Adulthood, and likely others
Production Budget: Unknown - reported at $52 million
Box Office Potential: $60 million
Notes: This movie was given the greenlight after the success of Talladega Nights when it seemed that the re-teaming of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly would practically guarantee a major hit. When it was first announced, the studio probably figured they had an easy $100 million hit on their hands. But that was before Walk Hard tripped and Semi-Pro fouled out. Now this film's box office potential has taken a huge hit and it might not earn half of previous expectations. Even so, the two actors are doing their best manchild impersonations and with a red-band trailer that is better at selling the movie than the green-band one, it could be able to draw in enough moviegoers to be a midlevel hit. At least is should be able to come close it its reported production budget. It might still reach original expectations, but it is a long shot at this point.

Name: The X-Files: I Want to Believe
Distributor: Fox
Official Site: XFiles.com
Release Date: July 25, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violent and disturbing content and thematic material
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Thriller / Suspense
Keywords: I hope there's a Surprise Twist, but any other key words would be spoilers
Production Budget: $35 million
Box Office Potential: $100 million
Notes: It has been a decade since the original X-files movie. That's a long time between installments in a franchise, perhaps too long. I want to believe it will still be a hit (groan) but I'm not entirely convinced. The two trailers haven't rid me of my doubt, as they were only mediocre. They needed to a.) excite fans of the series, and b.) bring in people who have never watched an episode of the show before. It don't think they did either. That said, it still has a good release date, enough buzz regardless of the trailer, and a built in audience and that could help the movie reach $100 million during its theatrical run. To reach $100 million, all they would need to do is convince most fans who saw the original movie to see this one and let ticket price inflation do the rest. If they can actually grow the audience, the film could earn $120 million, or more. That's a little pie-in-the-sky for me, but possible. As for the film's chances at profitability, if that production budget is correct, it could earn half the above box office potential and still show a thin profit by its initial push into the home market. Let's hope it doesn't come down to that.

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Filed under: Monthly Preview, The Dark Knight, Hancock, Mamma Mia!, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Step Brothers, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Space Chimps, The X-Files: I Want to Believe, Kit Kittredge: An American Girl, Meet Dave, The Rocker