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2008 Preview: August

August 1st, 2008

Summer usually comes screeching to a halt early in August, usually by the second weekend in August. However, this year we could have a $100 million hit opening each of the first three weeks. Or we could have no $100 million hits opening during the whole month. On the other end, there are a number of releases that probably looked good on paper, but failed to live up to their potential, not to mention a few that could not have looked good, even on paper. (I'm looking at you, Disaster Movie.)

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Name: Babylon A.D.
Distributor: Fox
Official Site: BabylonADMovie.com
Release Date: August 29, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, language and some sexuality
Source: Based on a Novel
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: End of the World
Production Budget: Budgeted at $60 million, but it went over
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: Vin Diesel had back-to-back $100 million hits with The Fast and the Furious and xXx, but since then he hasn't come close to that mark in the action genre. (He did hit nine digits with The Pacifier, but I don't think that film has particularly strong predictive value when it comes to this movie.) Originally, the film was planned for a Thanksgiving release last year, but production delays pushed it back to February of this year. Then it was pushed back again to the last weekend of August. There's no way to believe this is a positive move. Worse yet, there are reports that the American version is a chopped down version of the European cut. The distributor denies this, but the running time here is 10 minutes less than the running time in France. A star whose drawing power is fading, pushed back to one of the worst times of the year, and a butchered version. It adds up to a real mess. It might surprise and become a midlevel hit. However, there's also a shot it will open with less than $10 million and disappear very quickly.

Name: College
Distributor: MGM
Official Site: College-TheMovie.com
Release Date: August 29, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive crude and sexual content, nudity, language, drug and alcohol use
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Coming of Age, College, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $7 to $8 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: August is not a prime release date for a film. The later in August, the worse it is, and this film is opening on the last weekend of the month. It wasn't always that way. At one time the film was set for a March release, then it was moved to January, then April, and finally late August. This is a really bad sign. Additionally, there's not a lot of starpower in this movie with the biggest name being Drake Bell, who has only starred in one movie previously (although he was part of an ensemble cast in Yours, Mine, and Ours and did have two TV shows). There's not a lot that appears fresh and original in this movie and it feels similar to Accepted, or a pale version of Animal House or Revenge of the Nerds. This all adds up to a midlevel hit, at best, but thanks to a reported production budget that's lower than $10 million, that would be more than enough to show a sizable profit, especially after its home market run where it should excel thanks to an Unrated DVD.

Name: Crossing Over
Distributor: Weinstein Co.
Official Site: No Official Site
Release Date: None
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Ensemble, Immigration, and more
Production Budget: Unknown
Box Office Potential: Unknown
Notes: Originally set for an August 22nd release, the film was pulled from the schedule at the 11th hour and no new release date was given. Perhaps the film will be released during Awards Season, because otherwise this is a really bad sign.

Name: Death Race 3000
Distributor: Paramount
Official Site: DeathRaceMovie.net
Release Date: August 22, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and language.
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Auto Racing, Reality TV, Prison, Wrongful Conviction, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: My biggest complaint about the release of this movie is that it didn't help re-launch the Carmageddon franchise. There should at least be a video game tie-in here; this kind of movie screams video game. As for the movie itself, it is a remake of a cult classic, Death Race 2000. That movie was set in the dystopian near future where the economy had collapsed and the biggest sport in American was the Death Race, a race where contestant score points for running over pedestrians. David Carradine starred as Frankenstein, one of the drivers and a hero to millions. In this version, the Death Race is not the national pastime, but a Reality TV where convicts race for their freedom. Jason Statham stars as Jensen Aimes, a man falsely imprisoned and who must race to survive while trying to figure out who sent him to prison in the first place. But really, the plot doesn't matter, this is a straight up action movie and as long as most of its running time is spent on the race track, Statham's fans should be happy. Hell, if it managed 50% positive reviews, it will be seen as a critical success for the type of film.

Name: Disaster Movie
Distributor: Lionsgate
Official Site: DisasterMovie.net
Release Date: August 29, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, language, drug references and comic violence
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Spoof, Disaster, and a lot more
Production Budget: Estimated at $25 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: A pseudo-spoof in the same vein as Date Movie or Epic Movie, etc. In other words, it is not a spoof at all, but merely a collection of random pop culture references. Movies "parodied" here include The Dark Knight, You Don't Mess With the Zohan, The Incredible Hulk, Enchanted, Hancock, High School Musical, Iron Man, Sex and the City, Hellboy, Juno, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Hannah Montana, Kung Fu Panda, Alvin and the Chipmunks... Are any of these disaster movies? Nope. I would be amazed if the movie earned 10% positive reviews. On the other hand, given these films' track record at the box office, it would be equally amazing if it didn't at least match its production budget by the end of its theatrical run while it will earn a sizable enough profit to ensure another such movie is made next year. Maybe even three of four such movies. It's not like these take time and talent to make.

Name: Fly Me to the Moon
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Official Site: FlyMeToTheMoonTheMovie.com
Release Date: August 15, 2008
MPAA Rating: G for General Admission
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Animal Lead, Talking Animals, Space Program, Cold War, 3-D, and more
Production Budget: 17.3 million Euros or $25 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: A kids movie about the Cold War? I'm not sure if that will sell. It is also the second space-based talking animals movie to come out in under a month. Unfortunately for this film, Space Chimps came out first, and it didn't do so well. Additionally, it was the bigger movie. Usually when there's a pair of similar films like this, the second one only does better when it is the obviously bigger film and despite Space Chimps being second tier digital animation, this film looks worse. Granted, it is aimed at a younger audience, and the 3-D aspect could help, but it will likely struggle at the box office. Additionally, the film is being released by Summit Entertainment whose biggest hit to date is Never Back Down, which made less than $25 million. Even the $20 million I'm predicting would be better than average for this company. However, $20 million is on par with Valiant, Everyone's Hero, and other similar releases that have come out at this time of year.

Name: Hamlet 2
Distributor: Focus Features
Official Site: Hamlet2.com
Release Date: August 22, 2008 (limited)
Release Date: August 29, 2008 (expansion to wide release)
MPAA Rating: R for language including sexual references, brief nudity and some drug content
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Performing Arts, Religious, and others
Production Budget: Reported at just over $9 million
Box Office Potential: ???
Notes: One of the more difficult movies to predict that are coming out this month. Since it is opening in limited release, it could struggle opening weekend and disappear before reaching $1 million in total. It could also be the first limited release hit of the year that truly earns some mainstream success. Let's hope for the latter. There are some positive signs, including the perfect early reviews (although there have only been six reviews so far) and the buzz has been strong since it was first screened at the Sundance Film Festival. In fact, there was a bidding war for its distribution rights and they finally sold for $10 million, which is more than it cost to make and just shy of the $10.5 million record that Little Miss Sunshine brought in. That said, this will not be a movie for everyone, but that's obvious once you hear the song, "Rock me Sexy Jesus." Additionally, even though all of the reviews are positive collectively, individually they are not all positive and most have mentioned that there is a certain hit and miss nature to the jokes. That said, so far they all agree that more than enough hit that it is worth checking out. When it comes to the box office potential of this film, I have no clue. It could make $5 million or $50 million, or more, and I wouldn't be surprised. Obviously given the price-tag Focus Features paid, they are hoping for the higher end, but I think $20 million will be a solid run for the movie.

Name: The House Bunny
Distributor: Sony
Official Site: TheHouseBunny.com
Release Date: August 22, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sex-related humor, partial nudity and brief strong language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: College, Porn, The Geeks vs. Cool Kids, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $30 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: The total box office for Anna Faris's career is currently sitting at just over $660 million. Of that, just under $430 million has come from the Scary Movie franchise. Don't get me wrong, I like Anna Faris and I think she has talent, but her choices in projects have not led to much box office success, and I don't think this movie will change much. First of all, it has a weak release date. Secondly, it has a lot of competition with four other films opening that week. Granted, none of the films opening that week have a legitimate shot at monster success, but most would be midlevel hits if they were opening with just one or two other films. Finally, it has gone through a couple of name changes going from The House Bunny to I Know What Boys Like and then back to The House Bunny. Thank goodness they went back, because I Know What Boys Like is a terrible name. It's worse than the working title, Untitled Anna Faris Project. I doubt the film will be a big hit with critics, nor will it make a lot at the box office, but it should be a solid performer on the home market and eventually show a profit.

Name: The Longshots
Distributor: MGM
Official Site: TheLongshots-Movie.com
Release Date: August 22, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG for some thematic elements, mild language and brief rude humor.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Football
Production Budget: Reported at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: MGM. Oy. This movie is "inspired" by real life events and tells the story of Jasmine Plummer, who joined the boys football team at her high school and helped her team reach the tournament. It's very similar to last year's Gracie, which bombed at the box office. Granted, football is more popular that soccer, but I don't think that will be enough to help this movie become a hit. There are other warning signs, besides being distributed by MGM, including name changes. The Longshots is the film's third name after Comeback and The Perfect Match, none of which really sell the movie. Also, its release date was pushed back from late July to late August. Add in a trailer that feels like little more than a collection of clichés, and there's little hope for this film becoming a major hit. Or even a midlevel hit. On the other hand, it was likely cheap enough to make that it should show a profit eventually.

Name: Midnight Meat Train
Distributor: Lionsgate
Official Site: MidnightMeatTrainTheMovie.com
Release Date: August 1, 2008 (limited)
MPAA Rating: R for sequences of strong bloody gruesome violence, grisly images involving nudity, sexual content and language
Source: Based on a Short Story
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Serial Killer
Production Budget: Reported at $15 million
Box Office Potential: $5 million
Notes: A horror film that is opening in limited release. There's little more that needs to be said about the film's box office potential. Almost no horror film that has opened in limited release has done well in the past several years, and worse yet, this movie is opening in the dreaded select cities. It still has a shot at expanding and capturing some widespread success, but it is more likely that it will struggle during its opening weekend before leaving theaters with a sub-$1 million total. The above figure represents a weighted average between the two extremes.

Name: Mirrors
Distributor: Fox
Official Site: MirrorsMovie.com
Release Date: August 15, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, disturbing images, language and brief nudity
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Hauntings
Production Budget: Reported at $35 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: A remake of an Asian horror film. ... Ugh. The film is written and directed by Alexandre Aja, who made High Tension and The Hills have Eyes, so he does have a lot of cred with fans of the genre. And the film is earning a hard R and it is very unlikely that fans of gory horror will walk away unsatisfied. That said, the popularity of these films seems to be waning. Add in the Asian Horror Remake label, and it might be hard to get people into theaters opening weekend and even if the reviews are better than expected, it might not find an audience until the home market.

Name: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
Distributor: Universal
Official Site: TheMummy.com
Release Date: August 1, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for adventure action and violence.
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Treasure Hunters, Monster Movie, and more
Production Budget: $175 million
Box Office Potential: $110 million
Notes: August is not a prime month to release a potential blockbuster, but generally speaking, the first weekend of the month is still solid as during three of the last four years there was one film that opened on the first weekend of the month and went on to reach $100 million at the box office. I think Tomb of the Dragon Emperor will improve the track record, but it could be close. It has been a long time since Brendan Fraser battled the undead in The Mummy Returns, and an equally long time since he has had a $100 million hit. (Although Journey to the Center of the Earth is proving to be a solid midlevel hit.) Personally, I think this film will play out like Rush Hour 3 did last year, only not as strong at the box office. Reviews turned out to be even worse than Rush Hour 3's were, which is quite a feat, and that will likely hurt its legs, if not its opening weekend. It should open with under $20 million opening day, $45 million opening weekend, and $110 million overall. It should do better internationally and end its worldwide run in the black. But this will be the last Mummy film, at least the last to hit theaters, for a long time.

Name: The Pineapple Express
Distributor: Sony
Official Site: RideTheExpress.com
Release Date: August 6, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, drug use, sexual references and violence
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Stoners, On The Run, Organized Crime, Corrupt Cops, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $25 million
Box Office Potential: $115 million
Notes: This could be the biggest hit of the month, if its target audience remembers to go to the theaters to watch it. The film was co-written by Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg, who previously wrote Superbad, both films star Seth Rogan, and both films have August release dates, just one year apart. I think it is safe to say their box office potentials are similar, at least the studio hopes so. The comedy is a lot darker here, after all, the two leads are on the run from a organized crime boss and a corrupt cop who want them dead. The combination of stoner humor and violence might turn off a few more members of the potential audiences, but more adult fair could see the film propelled into the same realm as The Wedding Crashers. I'm not saying the film will earn $200 million; in fact, missing $100 million is more likely, but it has a shot.

Name: The Rocker
Distributor: Fox
Official Site: RockerMovie.com
Release Date: August 20, 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: $15 million [Ed: Updated figure, based on new information]
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: This is the first starring role for Rainn Wilson, who has taken 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. This is definitely an August release as it was pushed back from Wednesday, July 30th to Wednesday, August 20th. This changes little when it comes to the film's box office potential, but it does reduce it slightly to $40 million from $50 million previously. There are just too few days left in Summer by the time the film opens to expect it to do well at the box office. On a side note, the film stars Emma Stone, who also stars in The House Bunny, which opens two days later. Not really sure which movie has the better box office potential.

Name: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: SisterhoodOfTheTravelingPants2.WarnerBros.com
Release Date: August 6, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature material and sensuality
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: College
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $25 to $35 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: A bit of a surprise sequel as the original was not a massive hit. It was barely a midlevel hit, and that was thanks to its low production budget. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 should more or less match the original at the box office and should be aided by the popularity of Ugly Betty, which stars America Ferrera, and Gossip Girl, which stars Blake Lively. Additionally, the film's target audience is under-served, and that should help with demand, but it still seems destined to be a midlevel hit this time around.

Name: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: StarWars.com/TheCloneWars
Release Date: August 15, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG for sci-fi action violence throughout, brief language and momentary smoking.
Source: Sequel or perhaps Spin Off
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Cloning
Production Budget: Unknown - Expected to be in line with TV movies more than theatrical releases ($10 million or less)
Box Office Potential: $50 million to $150 million
Notes: For a Star Wars movie, there's not a whole lot of buzz surrounding it. At least not at the levels we are used to for such a movie. Then again, no one expects this film to make as much at the box office; in fact, most people don't think it will earn as much during its entire run as Revenge of the Sith made during its opening weekend. Some expect it to earn more, a lot more, but this is proving to be a difficult movie to predict. There are a lot of people attacking the film for a number of reasons (including going after George Lucas for destroying their childhood memories). However, there was a lot of that before Revenge of the Sith as well and it didn't seem to hurt the film's box office. Clone Wars does have a shot at $100 million in total, but I think $70 to $80 million is more likely. Also, it will be heavily front-loaded with an opening weekend of $30 to $40 million. It could have the best opening weekend of the month, and still finish third in total. However, even if it struggles and brings in $50 million, that will be a fantastic start considering its expected production budget and the fact that it is practically a TV movie.

Name: Swing Vote
Distributor: Disney
Official Site: SwingVote-TheMovie.com
Release Date: August 1, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Political, News, Gratuitous Cameos, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: Political satire... oh boy. Political satire is a tough sell at the best of times, and it is made worse when filmmakers tried to be balanced. The best way to go is to lean hard in one direction and go for it. Sure, you'll lose half your potential audience right away, but by trying to maintain balance, your satire is dulled and that's much worse. Early reviews suggest that not only is the satire dulled, but also the ending is way too sweet, and undeservedly so. Add in an expected opening theater count of just 2,200, and there's little reason to expect this movie to be a big hit. Even becoming a midlevel hit is likely out of the question. On a side note, the movie has a big cast, but a big cast where most of them are on losing streaks at the box office. For instance, Kevin Costner hasn't headlined a $100 million hit in more than 15 years. It has been almost as long since Dennis Hopper did the same, and many of the rest of never headlined a $100 million hit.

Name: Traitor
Distributor: Overture
Official Site: Traitor-TheMovie.com
Release Date: August 27, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense violent sequences, thematic material and brief language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Suspense
Keywords: Terrorism
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: Opening a film on a Wednesday is smart if it is a massive monster hit and you want to get the jump on the weekend. On the other hand, if you are aiming for midlevel hit, opening on the Wednesday just to avoid opening on the same say as four other potential midlevel hits is not good, as it rarely works. That said, there are a few positives for this film, including its two leads and its intriguing premise. That said, this is the time of year to release movies that have intriguing premises but didn't quite work out in the end. In fact, the intriguing premise is partially deflated by the trailer. Add in the terrorism plot, which is still mostly box office poison, and there's little here that sets the film apart from other FBI chase movies like The Sentinel. It's not doomed at the box office, but I don't think it will last in theaters for a long time.

Name: Tropic Thunder
Distributor: Paramount
Official Site: TropicThunder.com
Release Date: August 13, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language including sexual references, violent content and drug material
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Movie Business, War, Gratuitous Cameos, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $100 million
Box Office Potential: $60 million
Notes: Mid-August is the time of year for releasing big budget films that just didn't work out. That bodes poorly for the $100 million Tropic Thunder. The film is a high-concept comedy about an exacerbated director who is sick and tired of dealing with his spoiled actors while making a war movie, so he decides to send his actors to a real war zone to get them some first hand experience. ... Or just to get them killed off. The high concept, the number on inside jokes, and the racial issues might hurt the film. In the movie Robert Downey, Jr plays an award-winning actor who is renowned for doing whatever it takes to get into character. So his character undergoes plastic surgery in order to play a black soldier. So in real life, he's in blackface while making the movie. Wow. That's quite a risk for a joke. If it doesn't work out, it's going to be a long night at the movies. Unfortunately, early reviews don't help the situation. Don't get me wrong, the reviews are not bad, but they are not great either. Solidly mediocre. The big names of the cast could help the movie at the box office, but the fact that the studio moved the film from mid-July to mid-August suggest they don't have a lot of faith in the project. Some analysts expect the movie to pull in well over $100 million, which seems high to me. I could be wrong. I hope I'm wrong, but we won't know for two weeks.

Name: Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Distributor: Weinstein Co.
Official Site: VickyCristina-Movie.com
Release Date: August 15, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material involving sexuality, and smoking.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Relationships Gone Wrong
Production Budget: Reported at 15 million Euros or $23 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: I'm not expecting this movie to open truly wide, as Woody Allen movies never do. However, it does have a shot at expanding wide, or at least capturing some mainstream success. It should bounce back from Cassandra's Dream, which disappointed at the box office just missing $1 million after Scoop earned just over $10 million. And Scoop disappointed at the box office with just over $10 million after Match Point earned the best box office for a Woody Allen movie since Hannah and her Sisters. Early reviews are promising and the buzz is growing. I don't think it will do as well as Match Point did, but it should at least come close to Scoop. On a side note, anyone call the movie Vicky Christina Ballerina? Just me? Okay.

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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Tropic Thunder, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, The Pineapple Express, The House Bunny, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, Death Race, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Mirrors, Traitor, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Babylon A.D., Swing Vote, Fly Me To the Moon, Disaster Movie, The Longshots, The Rocker, Hamlet 2, College, Crossing Over, Deadly Blessing