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2008 Preview: September

September 1st, 2008

A pretty bland month with no wide release that look likely to surprise, either becoming a potential $100 million hit, or bombing so bad that they fail even to reach $10 million. The latter is a lot more likely, however, with a number of films that have serious obstacles to overcome, and it is very unlikely all of them will avoid bombing. On the other end of the scale, there are no films that have a legitimate shot at $100 million, while The top film of the month could make less than $70 million.

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Name: Bangkok Dangerous
Distributor: Lionsgate
Official Site: Lionsgate.com/BangkokDangerous
Release Date: September 5, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language and some sexuality
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Hitmen and Doublecross
Production Budget: $40 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: The weekend after Labor Day long weekend is often the weakest weekend at the box office. It is hard to feel bullish about any film opening on this weekend, and this one has more problems than just its release date. First of all, it is a remake, and few such films have done well recently. Granted, it is being directed by the Pang Brothers, who directed the original, but neither the buzz, nor the early reviews, is strong. Lack of competition could be its biggest selling point, and it should spend its first weekend on top of the charts, but it will likely fall out of the top ten before the end of the month.

Name: Blindness
Distributor: Focus Features
Official Site: Blindness-TheMovie.com
Release Date: September 26, 2008 (exclusive)
Release Date: October 3, 2008 (expansion to wide release)
MPAA Rating: R for violence including sexual assaults, language and sexuality/nudity
Source: Based on a Novel
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Epidemics and Narration
Production Budget: Reported at $25 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: Just a quick note, as while this film opens in September, it is more of an October film and I'll deal with it again at the beginning of that month. This movie is a political allegory about the fragility of civility. This is not going to be an easy sell to mass audiences. Additionally, its reviews have not been strong, so it is unlikely to have strong word-of-mouth. In fact, there is a chance it will open poorly in limited release and will have no studio support when it expands wide the following week. If this happens, $5 million might be out of the question, and this has reduced its overall box office potential considerably. On the other hand, the social commentary of the film could create Oscar buzz, and that could help it earn $50 million, or more. However, the early reviews and lack of star power make the former more likely than the later.

Name: Burn After Reading
Distributor: Focus Features
Official Site: BurnAfterReading.com
Release Date: September 12, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, some sexual content and violence
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Secret Agent
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: After arguably their best movie, which was a dark film, the Coen Brothers return to much lighter fare. That's not to say this film is all roses and bunnies; in fact, it too has a decidedly dark edge to its humor. In the movie John Malkovich plays a former CIA agent who is writing his memoirs, but when the disc containing all his secrets is stolen, it sets off a series of events, events that I won't spoil here. On the one hand, this film is made by the Coen Brothers, and that should mean something. On the other hand, it is being released in September, and that definitely means something. That said, I am cautiously optimistic and I will be watching the reviews hoping they continue to be good. If they manage to top 60% positive by a significant margin, it could make $50 million or more. If it fails to reach 50% positive, $30 million is more likely.

Name: Eagle Eye
Distributor: Paramount
Official Site: EagleEyeMovie.com
Release Date: September 26, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and for language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Terrorism, Falsely Accused, and Surprise Twist
Production Budget: $73 to $105 million, reports vary
Box Office Potential: $60 million
Notes: Wow. There are some reports that this is a $100 million movie, which is a huge production budget for a September release. It wasn't always a September release as it was originally scheduled for October, but then moved to early August, and finally to late September. Each of these moves lowered the film's box office potential, which is a very, very bad sign. A further sign of weakness, the film had no less than seven writers go over it at one time or another (although not all were credited as screenwriters). That said, with upwards of $100 million already spent on the film, I expect the studio to push it hard, and with a cast of up-and-comers (like Shia LaBeouf) it should open well, but unless its reviews are better than expected, it won't last long.

Name: The Family that Preys
Distributor: Lionsgate
Official Site: FamilyThatPreysMovie.com
Release Date: September 12, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material, sexual references and brief violence
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Dysfunctional Family
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $25 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million
Notes: It's a Tyler Perry movie, which is practically all you need to know when it comes to the film's box office potential, as well as its prospects with the critics. However, I am rather confident in prediction that with Alfre Woodard and Kathy Bates in the movie, it will earn among the best reviews in his career. I'm no so sure about its box office chances. Tyler Perry's previous movie, Meet the Browns missed expectations, which was practically the first time that's happened. I do think The Family that Preys will bounce back at the box office, somewhat, but I don't expect it to become the biggest hit in his career.

Name: Ghost Town
Distributor: Paramount
Official Site: GhostTownMovie.com
Release Date: September 19, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some strong language, sexual humor and drug references
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Psychic Phenomenon and Ghosts
Production Budget: Predicted at $20 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: Ricky Gervais has built a solid reputations as a comedic actor, but while he starred in the British TV shows The Officer and Extras, most Americans have only seen him in supporting roles in films like Night at the Museum and Stardust. This will be his first lead role, and that's a huge question mark when it comes to the film's box office potential. Additionally, the two other leads, Greg Kinnear and Téa Leoni, are not exactly known for their box office drawing power either. Add in its mid-September release date, and there's very little reason to believe this movie will be anything more than a midlevel hit. That said, it was probably relatively inexpensive to make and it should show a profit sometime during its home market run, if not sooner.

Name: Igor
Distributor: Weinstein Co.
Official Site: Igor-Movie.com
Release Date: September 19, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG for some thematic elements, scary images, action and mild language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Monster Movies and Mad Scientists
Production Budget: Unknown - predicted at $20 to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: John Cusack provides the voice for the titular character in this digitally animated kids movie. This has potential to be a solid mid-level hit, much like Hoodwinked was back in 2005. It also has a shot to rival Open Season's performance from the following year, but that might be a little too generous. The movie is opening earlier in the month, which is a bad sign, and it won't have the same marketing push around it either. That said, it should become a solid mid-level hit on a well below average production budget meaning it will show a profit during its initial push into the home market, if not sooner.

Name: Lakeview Terrace
Distributor: Sony
Official Site: SonyPictures.com/Movies/LakeviewTerrace
Release Date: September 19, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense thematic material, violence, sexuality, language and some drug references
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Interracial Relationships and Corrupt Cops
Production Budget: Reported at $22 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: There are two key reasons why Samuel L. Jackson has the highest career box office for any actor (no offense to Frank Welker, but a lot of what he does is not acting, but special effects voice work). One, he makes almost everything he is in better, even the mediocre movies. Two, he makes about a dozen movies a year. Okay, I'm exaggerating, somewhat, but he has made more than a dozen movies that have been, or will be release in the past two years. (Although not all of them made it to theaters.) However, while he makes lots of movies, too often it is a matter of quantity over quality and he has a lot of misses, and given this film's September release date, I don't have confidence in this movie. There are some interesting points, including the issue of black on white racism, but the trailer makes it feel too much like a generic thriller. Its box office potential is mixed, but there's little chance it will be anything more than a midlevel hit, if that.

Name: The Lucky Ones
Distributor: LionsGate
Official Site: TheLuckyOnesMovie.com
Release Date: September 26, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual content
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Returning Soldiers, Iraq War, and Road Trip
Production Budget: Reported at under $20 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million
Notes: A film about a trio of soldiers returning from the Iraq War who travel across the country each going to the same destination, but for different reasons. Can you figure out which part of that will cause the most trouble at the box office? Yes, the Iraq War. No film about this subject has been a big hit, in fact, most have struggled so much that distributors are not willing to risk the money on big ad campaigns. (In fact, even finding a distributor is hard to do; you need not look further than War, Inc. to see an example of that.) Lack of support from studios / distributors further reduces the film's chances at the box office. Weak box office performance further reduces the support from studios / distributors for future films. And the circle of life continues. At this point I don't think the film will open truly wide (2000 or more theaters) but if it does, and LionsGate supports it, it could become a midlevel hit, but that is as high as I am willing to go. The above represents a weighted average of the two extremes.

Name: Miracle at St. Anna
Distributor: Disney
Official Site: MiracleAtStAnna.Movies.Go.com
Release Date: September 26, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for strong war violence, language and some sexual content/nudity
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: World War II and African-Americans
Production Budget: Reported at $45 million
Box Office Potential: $60 million
Notes: Most war movies have not done well recently, mostly due to the political climate and the ongoing Iraqi War. This makes is a bit of a risk for Spike Lee to follow up his most successful movie with one set during World War II. However, he is betting that the lack of World War II films that focus on African-American soldiers combined with the candidacy of Barack Obama will be enough for this film to beat the odds. I expect the film to do well with critics and at the box office, but in both cases it won't be as well as Inside Man did. That said, earning $60 million on a $45 million production budget should be more than enough to show a sizeable profit for the studio, which could help him get his James Brown biopic off the ground.

Name: My Best Friend's Girl
Distributor: LionsGate
Official Site: MyBestFriendsGirlMovie.com
Release Date: September 19, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for strong language and sexual content throughout, including graphic dialogue and some nudity
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Relationships Gone Wrong
Production Budget: Estimated between $40 and $70 million, reports vary
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: Dane Cook. Ugh. I thought he was good in Waiting..., but that was part of an ensemble cast, and since then almost all of his starring roles have been in terrible movies. Additionally, neither Kate Hudson nor Jason Biggs have box office track records that are particularly strong either. (In fact, two of Jason Biggs' last three movies went direct-to-DVD.) In this film, Dustin and Alexis are a couple, at least until the latter dumps the former. However, Dustin hires Tank to help him get back with his ex. Tank is a rebound expert; he is hired by men to seduce their ex-girlfriends and take them on the worst date of their life so they run back to them. Only this time the plan backfires and Alexis asks Tank on a second date. It could become a midlevel hit, but struggling to reach the low end of its reported production budget is more likely.

Name: Nights in Rodanthe
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: NightsInRodanthe.com
Release Date: September 26, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sensuality
Source: Based on a Novel
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Relationships Gone Wrong
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: A romantic drama based on a novel by the same author who wrote The Notebook. The film stars Richard Gere and Diane Lane, neither of which are particularly hot at the box office. Richard Gere had his biggest hit in a long time in 2002 with the release of Chicago, but since then his biggest hit was Shall We Dance? Meanwhile, the biggest hit in the same period for Diane Lane was Unfaithful, also with Richard Gere (not counting a cameo in Jumper). Add in a really weak release date, a nearly total lack of buzz, and a rather generic trailer, and I don't see this film being a big hit. Even a midlevel hit might be out of the question. On the other hand, if the reviews are better than expected, it could be a sleeper hit as it is going after an underserved demographic, and one that tends to support films in the long haul. The former is more likely than the latter, sadly.

Name: Righteous Kill
Distributor: Overture Films
Official Site: RighteousKill-TheMovie.com
Release Date: September 12, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and brief drug use
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Police Procedural, Serial Killer, Vigilante, Corrupt Cops, Surprise Twist, possibly more
Production Budget: $60 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: Robert De Niro and Al Pacino reuniting for the first time since Heat, which should be reason enough to think this film has serious box office potential. However, while Heat was an excellent movie, it wasn't a massive box office hit, and the early buzz is this movie is nowhere near as good as Heat's was. In fact, the buzz is terrible and suggests the movie truly deserves its September release date. Additionally, Overture Films and their previous biggest hit was Mad Money, which only made $20 million at the box office. I think this movie will make more, but I don't think it will be able to match its production budget.

Name: The Women
Distributor: PictureHouse
Official Site: TheWomenTheMovie.com
Release Date: September 12, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sex-related material, language, some drug use and brief smoking
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Relationships Gone Wrong, Relationship Advice, Fashion
Production Budget: Reported at $18 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: Going after the same audience that made Sex and the City such a big hit, however, if it had the same box office potential, they would not have moved its release date from October to September. Another bad sign is the distributor, which is not known for wide releases or box office hits. Additionally, the star hasn't had a $100 million hit in nearly a decade, and has only had one theatrical release in the past four years. Granted, there might be enough total star power in the entire cast to carry the movie, and it didn't cost a lot to make so it still should show a profit eventually, but I don't think it will boost anyone's career. Then again, movies released in September rarely do.


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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Eagle Eye, Burn After Reading, Nights in Rodanthe, Righteous Kill, Lakeview Terrace, The Family That Preys, The Women, Igor, My Best Friend's Girl, Bangkok Dangerous, Ghost Town, Miracle at St. Anna, Blindness, The Lucky Ones