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2008 Preview: October

October 1st, 2008

September ends, and for that we are all very grateful. However, while we are entering the final push for 2008 at the box office, things don't look too rosy for the upcoming month. First of all, there are way too many films opening, including eight that are opening or expanding on the first weekend. Of those two, maybe three will thrive. Most will sink without being noticed, which could negatively affect the overall box office going forward. On the other hand, there are a few films opening this month that could be players come Awards Season, which is just around the corner. Perhaps this will help a few mid-level hits rise above the crowd.

Interested in discussing these predictions? Join us in the forums.

Name: An American Carol
Distributor: Vivendi Entertainment
Official Site: AmericanCarol.com
Release Date: October 3, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for rude and irreverent content, and for language and brief drug material.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Political, Spoof, and others
Production Budget: $20 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: Oh dear lord! Political satire. I've all but given up on this genre. Additionally, it is a spoof. This movie will suck in countless ways. At the box office, it likely won't do much better. Previous political films like Swing Vote have struggled almost as much as previous parodies like Disaster Movie. It does have a better release date than either of those two movies, and the are a lot of ads on TV (at least the channels I watch the most) so it should be able to top its meager production budget, but I don't think it will become a mid-level hit.

Name: Appaloosa
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: WelcomeToAppaloosa.WarnerBros.com
Release Date: September 19, 2008 (limited)
Release Date: October 3, 2008 (expansion to wide release)
MPAA Rating: R for some violence and language.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Western
Keywords: Love Triangle
Production Budget: Reported at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $5 million
Notes: This film already opened in limited release, but it has plans to expand wide on the 3rd of October. I'm not convinced it will. Granted, it got off to a faster than expected start with a per theater average of $17,775, but its sophomore stint was down by 41%, which is more in line with a wide release than a limited release. If it does expand over the coming weeks, it could reach $30 million or more. If it gets a one-week boost in its theater count by a few hundred theaters, it will struggle to get much further past $1 million. The above box office potential is a weighted average of the two. Update: The film is reportedly opening in 800 theaters on Friday, which is not enough to call it truly wide. It might have a chance to last long enough to earn $10 million, or more, but that's not the most likely scenario.

Name: Beverly Hills Chihuahua
Distributor: Disney
Official Site: Disney.Go.com/DisneyPictures/BeverlyHillsChihuahua
Release Date: October 3, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild thematic elements
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Animal Lead, Taking Animals, Road Trip, Family Vacation, and others.
Production Budget: Unknown - predicted at $50 to $80 million
Box Office Potential: $100 million
Notes: This is a story of two trailers. The first trailer, the one with the singing and dancing Chihuahuas was atrocious. Simply awful. However, the second trailer, with the Chihuahua recording the message where they plan to fight back against being used as a fashion accessory, that one I actually liked. The actual movie has nothing to do with either trailer, though. Instead, it is about a pet that gets lost in Mexico on family vacation and has to find her way back. The quality of the movie will depend on the tone. If it is filled with dance numbers, it will likely do well with kids, but could be painful for parents to sit through. Hopefully that won't be the case. Strangely, this film moved from a September release date to an October release date. I figure they we going for a run like The Game Plan. The move has improved the film's chances of hitting $100 million. I think it will get there, but it will be very, very close. Update: Early reviews were better than expected, but they have since moved back within the anticipated range. This should not have a major effect on the box office potential.

Name: Blindness
Distributor: Focus Features
Official Site: Blindness-TheMovie.com
Release Date: October 3, 2008
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: $17.5 million
Notes: The film dropped its planned one week run in limited release, which was probably for the best. Its reviews have been weak, and it is unlikely that it would have received a boost from its word-of-mouth. (Although to be fair, its Tomatometer score has climbed to nearly 50% positive, so it is no longer a major weakness.) I still don't see it being a major player at the box office, but at least it won't bomb in limited release and never really expand. This has caused a minor increase in its box office potential, but I'm still not entirely convinced it will reach $10 million in total. Update: Its opening theater count is closer to 2,000 than I expected, which has increased its box office potential somewhat. $10 million is now its lower limit, and $25 million is more possible.

Name: Body of Lies
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: Body-Of-Lies.com
Release Date: October 10, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence including some torture, and for language throughout.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Terrorism, Undercover, Secret Agent, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $80 to $100 million
Box Office Potential: $105 million
Notes: Leonardo DiCaprio stars as CIA agent Roger Ferris, who has to team up with his boss, Ed Hoffman, and the head of the Jordanian secret police, Hani, in order to infiltrate a terrorist organization. However, Roger Ferris doesn't know which man he can trust, if either. This film appears to be trying to go the same route as The Departed. However, it does have some additional hurdles to overcome. First of all, The Departed was widely regarded as the film to beat at the Oscars before it had hit theaters, while this film's buzz is much weaker. Additionally, the terrorism theme is still mostly box office poison. That said, the cast is excellent, the director has a great track record at the box office, and it appears to be the big hit for the month, at least the biggest film aimed at adults. I think the studio is hoping for $100 million domestically, and even more internationally, which is not an unrealistic number to reach. It will need strong reviews, but it is too soon to know if that will happen.

Name: Changeling
Distributor: Universal
Official Site: TheChangelingMovie.net
Release Date: October 24, 2008 (limited)
Release Date: October 31, 2008 (expansion to wide release)
MPAA Rating: R for some violent and disturbing content, and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Suspense
Keywords: Film Noir, Kidnapping, and Corrupt Cops
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $30 to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million
Notes: Potential Awards Season player? At this point, practically any film directed by Clint Eastwood would have to be considered a potential Awards Season player. This movie, which is set in the 1920s, stars Angelina Jolie as a mother whose son is kidnapped. After the cops return him, she suspects the boy is not hers. This is loosely based on real life events, but hopefully they will emphasize the film's obvious strengths and not go for the cheep and easy marketing ploy. And its strengths are many, with some expecting the film to earn nominations for Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich and Clint Eastwood, among others. If it does perform this well, $100 million at the box office is a lot more realistic. On the other hand, perhaps Gran Torino will be Clint Eastwood's big Oscar powerhouse this year, and this film will be overlooked.

Name: City of Ember
Distributor: Fox
Official Site: CityOfEmber.com
Release Date: October 10, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG for mild peril and some thematic elements.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Steampunk
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $80 to $100 million
Box Office Potential: $60 million
Notes: An adventure film starring and aimed at kids. A lot of similar films have really struggled recently, including Seeker and The Last Mimzy, while a few have managed to become at least respectable hits, like Journey to the Center of the Earth. I do like the Steampunk feel to it, but otherwise the trailer looked entirely too generic. Additionally, Steampunk movies have not done particularly well, as a whole, which further limits its box office potential. It could surprise with the critics and reach $100 million, or more, but struggling to get half of that is much more likely. The above potential is a weighted average of the two extremes.

Name: The Express
Distributor: Universal
Official Site: TheExpressMovie.com
Release Date: October 10, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic content, violence and language involving racism, and for brief sensuality (re-rating, originally PG-13)
Source: Based on a Book that was Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Football, African American, Racism, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $30 to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million
Notes: An inspirational sports story that is based on real life events. Yes, there tend to be a lot of clichés in these films, but they also tend to be solid performers at the box office. (Assuming the sport in question is a popular one, which football is.) They rarely top $100 million, but this one could come close, if it beats expectations. However, $75 million should be more than enough to make the studio happy, even if it has no real box office potential overseas. On a side note, the topic of this particular inspirational sports story is tricky; if done well, it could be an Oscar contender, which would help it on its way to $100 million. On the other hand, if done poorly, it could come across as emotionally manipulative, which would kill its chances at the Oscars and at the box office. It is too soon to know which way it will go.

Name: Flash of Genius
Distributor: Universal
Official Site: FlashOfGenius.net
Release Date: October 3, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: David vs. Goliath, Courtroom Drama, of sorts
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: Possible Oscar bait? Granted, it is a tad early to release an Oscar contender, although this movie does have a lot going for it. This includes the underdog story that is based on real life events, both of which Awards Season voters tend to love. It is also earning early reviews that are amazing, but perhaps a little too low to be a major players. (Usually I consider 90% positive to be the cut off for that.) On a side note, Greg Kinnear has been in several excellent movies recently, but he hasn't really been rewarded with a lot of attention during Awards Season. (Personally, I think The Matador should have earned a lot more nominations, at the very least.) This could change this year and he could earn his second Oscar nomination. Or, thanks to the insane amount of competition, the film could be overlooked during its opening weekend, and disappear before enough voters even notice it.

Name: Happy-Go-Lucky
Distributor: Miramax
Official Site: HappyGoLuckyTheMovie.com
Release Date: October 10, 2008 (exclusive)
Release Date: October 24, 2008 (expansion to wide release)
MPAA Rating: R for language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Segments?
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $10 to $20 million, possibly less
Box Office Potential: $5 million
Notes: A British film about an extremely cheerful and optimistic schoolteacher living in North London, whose upbeat personality driver everyone around her nuts. The film did moderate business is semi-limited release in its native U.K., but Miramax hopes they will be able to grow it into a wide release here. I'm not sure that will happen. In fact, I'm reasonably certain it won't. Granted, the film is earning amazing reviews, but it is taking a path that few films have managed to pull off, especially this year. Perhaps if it can earn some serious Oscar buzz, it will be able to expand and earn $20 million, or $30 million, or more. However, it is more likely that it will have difficulty expanding past its limited release.

Name: The Haunting of Molly Hartley
Distributor: Freestyle Releasing
Official Site: TheHauntingOfMollyHartley.com
Release Date: October 31, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for strong thematic material, violence and terror, brief strong language and some teen drinking
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Suspense
Keywords: New Girl in School, Private School, Hauntings, and Devils
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $10 to $20 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million
Notes: Opening on Halloween. Granted, this is the perfect type of film to open on that day, however, Halloween is still one of the worst days to open a movie. Further reducing the film's box office potential is the studio, Freestyle Releasing, which is not known for opening films truly wide. It's widest release so far has been D-Wars, which bombed at the box office, while its biggest hit so far has been An American Haunting, which made less than $20 million. Perhaps this film will be able to break both of those records for the studio, but I'm not willing to bet on it.

Name: High School Musical 3 - Senior Year
Distributor: Disney
Official Site: Disney.Go.com/DisneyPictures/HighSchoolMusical3
Release Date: October 24, 2008
MPAA Rating: G for General Admissions
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Musical
Keywords: Graduation
Production Budget: Reported at $13.3 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million to $150 million
Notes: I have no idea how much money this movie will make. I do know that the franchise has set plenty of records, both in terms of TV audience and DVD sales. There is a chance that this film could be the biggest hit of the month, perhaps of the rest of the year. However, there is also a chance it will make more money opening night than it makes the rest of its opening weekend, and it makes more opening weekend than it makes during the rest of its run. Even so, it should be able to open with more than it cost to make, which would mean it will show a profit early in its home market run. (I'm assuming it won't be a big draw outside the states for two reasons. One, most movies aimed at kids rarely draw as much internationally as they do domestically. Two, this is doubly true for those whose drawing power is based on a TV show, like Hannah Montana.) If I were to narrow my prediction, I would go with an opening night of $15 million, an opening weekend of close to $40 million, and a total box office of $90 million. But literally, it could make double that, or half that, and I would not be surprised.

Name: How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
Distributor: MGM
Official Site: How2LoseFriends.com
Release Date: October 3, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for language, some graphic nudity and brief drug material
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Writers
Production Budget: Reported as $28 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million
Notes: I'm not bullish on this film's chances for a number of reasons. First of all, it stars Simon Pegg, who, while brilliant as a comedian, is not well known stateside. His biggest hit as a lead actor is Hot Fuzz, which made less than $25 million. Meanwhile, his most recent film was Run, Fat Boy, Run, which made barely more than $5 million. Secondly, the film is opening on the busiest weekend of the month with as much as seven films opening or expanding wide. Finally, and most importantly, it is being released by MGM. I don't think I need to repeat my rant about this studio, again, but suffice it to say their track record since returning has been poor. I expect the quality to be strong, the marketing to be weak, and it will be squeezed out by the competition at the box office. However, it should find an audience on the home market. Update: The reviews are merely mixed, the theater count is lower than expected, and the box office potential has fallen from $20 million to $15 million.

Name: Max Payne
Distributor: Fox
Official Site: MaxPayneTheMovie.com
Release Date: October 17, 2008
MPAA Rating: Not yet rated - Under review
Source: Based on a Video Game
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Revenge, Hitmen, Organized Crime, Corrupt Cops, The Doublecross / Betrayal, Undercover, Framed, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $30 to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million
Notes: Based on a video game... When was the last time one of these films was a big hit? Or even a mid-level hit? I think this film is aiming for a box office run similar to Hitman, which shouldn't be too hard to match. First of all, it does have more star power, led by Mark Wahlberg. Secondly, the lead character is a lot more human emotionally and should help draw in moviegoers. Granted, the story boils down to a simple one about revenge -- a violent story of revenge -- and I don't expect the film will earn great reviews, but it shouldn't be savaged either. Add in a relatively light week for movie openings, and it should do well enough to make the studio happy.

Name: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
Distributor: Sony
Official Site: SonyPictures.com/Movies/NickAndNorah
Release Date: October 3, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material including teen drinking, sexuality, language and crude behavior.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Musicians, Relationships Gone Wrong, One Day / Night, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $9 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: Two up and coming young stars, Michael Cera and Kat Dennings, star in this teenage romantic comedy, which debuted at the TIFF just a few weeks ago. This is a prestigious opening for any film, and it earned some great reviews for a romantic comedy, most of which can't come close to the overall positive level. Yes, it has been called predictable and a some of the plot does seem a little contrived at times, but these are common faults of the genre, and fans of such films will be very forgiving thanks to the performances of Michael Cera and Kat Dennings, both of whom should have major careers ahead of them. (In fact, combined they have seven upcoming movies over the next two years.) However, I'm not expecting this film to be a major hit for a couple of reasons. Firstly, romantic comedies are rarely major hits, and even the best of them generally have to settle for mid-level numbers. Secondly, while I predict that both Cera and Dennings will become box office stars, they are not there yet. Thirdly, the movie is opening on the first weekend of the month, which is the busiest weekend of the month with as many as seven films opening or expanding wide that week. Fortunately, the film cost less than $10 million to make, and if it beats expectations by only a small degree, it could earn more than that during its opening weekend. No studio could be upset by that result. Update: The reviews keep improving and at one point nearly hit 80% positive. They have since softened, but positive reviews still outnumber the negative reviews by a 2 to 1 margin. It is also the second widest release of the week, which should help its box office potential grow from $25 to $30 million.

Name: Pride and Glory
Distributor: New Line
Official Site: PrideAndGloryMovie.com
Release Date: October 24, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, pervasive language and brief drug content.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Corrupt Cops
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $40 to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million
Notes: A movie about a multigenerational family of cops, whose familiar bonds are put to the test when one of them, Edward Norton, investigates corruption that involves his brother and brother-in-law. I'm of two minds on this movie. On the one hand, it could be an awesome movie and turn into this year's Departed, earn amazing reviews and maybe even score some Oscar buzz. On the other hand, it could be this year's We Own the Night. Sadly, the early reviews suggest the latter. That said, I still think it will perform well enough at the box office to become a solid mid-level hit; entertaining, but not memorable.

Name: Quarantine
Distributor: Sony/Screen Gems
Official Site: ContainTheTruth.com
Release Date: October 10, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for bloody violent and disturbing content, terror and language
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: News, Infections / Epidemics, Hand Held Camera, Filmed By a Character, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: A remake of a foreign horror film. At least the original wasn't Asian, because that genre is overplayed, and has been for years. For that matter, horror films that are 'filmed' by one of the characters are kind of passé as well, and the jerky motion of the camera is not likely to help matters. That said, it is October, which is the best month of the year to open a horror film, and the production budget was likely relatively low, so it should earn a profit sometime on the home market. On a side note, hopefully the original film, [Rec] will be released on DVD at the same time this film is. It is very unlikely this film will earn as good reviews as its predecessor earned.

Name: Religulous
Distributor: Lionsgate
Official Site: DisbeliefNet.com
Release Date: October 1, 2008 (exclusive)
Release Date: October 3, 2008 (expansion to wide release)
MPAA Rating: R for some language and sexual material
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Documentary
Keywords: Religious
Production Budget: Unknown - Probably less than $10 million
Box Office Potential: Less than $10 million
Notes: A movie that attacks religion in arguably the most Christian nation in the world. This could be Lionsgate's most controversial movie to date, and that's saying a lot. I don't think it will be their more successful, on the other hand. In addition to the problem finding a target audience, the reviews have not been overwhelmingly strong, barely topping the overall positive level. The main complaint seems to be the level of Smugness displayed by Bill Maher, which can be a turn off, especially when he turns on your religion. The film opens tonight in 2 theaters before expanding into 500 on Friday. The worst case scenario has the film earning less than $1 million by the end of the weekend, and I have a hard time imagining it will open with more than $2 or $3 million while finishing with $10 million might be a pipe dream. However, it could do better on the home market.

Name: RocknRolla
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: RockNRolla.WarnerBros.com
Release Date: October 8, 2008 (limited)
Release Date: October 31, 2008 (expansion to wide release)
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, violence, drug use and brief sexuality
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Organized Crime
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $18 million
Box Office Potential: $5 million
Notes: Guy Ritchie hopes that his return to the straight-up action-filled British gangster genre will be the key to the return of box office success. I have mixed opinions on that. First of all, a lot of people still have not forgiven the director for Swept Away, and the few people who saw Revolver are still trying to figure out what that movie meant. However, RocknRolla is on pace to make about $10 million in its native U.K., which is equivalent to about $50 million here, if you take into account the relative size of the two markets. However, it has home-field advantage there and given that box office it could make $15 to $20 million here, if it was opening wide. It is not. The fact that it is opening in limited release could hurt the film, as is the fact that it is opening wide on October 31st. Halloween. Halloween is one of the worst days of the year to open a film. Additionally, there is a real chance that the movie will stumble before then and won't ever reach a wide release, which would give it a final box office of less than $1 million. If it does go as planned, it could reach the $15 to $20 million I mentioned above, while the box office potential of $5 million is a weighted average.

Name: Saw V
Distributor: Lionsgate
Official Site: Saw5.com
Release Date: October 24, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture, language and brief nudity.
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Serial Killer and Torture Porn
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $10 to $20 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: If it's Halloween, it must be Saw. I've written about all four previous films in our October previews, and I don't think there's anything more I can add at this point. I will say that the franchise peaked at the box office with the third film, and peaked in quality with the first film, and I see no reason that the clear trends will reverse themselves now. Good news for the studio, $50 million is likely more than enough for the film to show a profit. And yes, they already have another film in the works.

Name: The Secret Life of Bees
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Official Site: FoxSearchlight.com/TheSecretLifeOfBees
Release Date: October 17, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material and some violence.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Narration
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $5 million
Notes: Dakota Fanning stars as Lily Owens, a 14-year old girl who runs away from her abusive father with her nanny, Jennifer Hudson. They travel to a farm run by three women (Queen Latifah, Sophie Okonedo, and Alicia Keys) where they hope to learn the truth about Lily's deceased mother. On an interesting note, of the five women mentioned above, three of them have been nominated for Oscars, and Jennifer Hudson won for Best Supporting Actress. So it would not be out of the question to think this movie was made to win Oscars. However, early reviews have not been good, and if it is counting on Oscar buzz to thrive at the box office, it is in trouble. Speaking of trouble, I'm not sure if this movie will open wide, as there are mixed reports. Given the studio, opening in limited release seems a lot more likely, as Fox Searchlight has only had two films that opened in more than 2,000 theaters, although there were a number of others than came relatively close. Given this, there is a chance the movie will open in limited release with poor reviews and never expand significantly beyond the art house circuit. If this happens, it will likely never see north of $1 million.

Name: Sex Drive
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Official Site: SexDriveTheMovie.com
Release Date: October 17, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for strong crude and sexual content, nudity, language, some drug and alcohol use - all involving teens
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Road Trip
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million, or less
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: The latest teenage sex comedy to hit theaters. These movies have been around for a long, long time, however, after American Pie, the genre feels overplayed and the box office potential has fallen. Just this past August, College opened, but only managed just 15th place with $2 million during its opening weekend while it ended with less than $5 million in total. I can't image this movie will do worse, in fact, it should make more opening night than College made in total. However, that's still not a whole lot. It does have the advantage of a much better release date, as well as Seth Green, but I still don't think it will do well critically, while it might struggle just to be noticed at the box office.

Name: Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas 3D
Distributor: Disney
Official Site: Nightmare3DMovie.com
Release Date: October 24, 2008 (re-release)
MPAA Rating: PG for some scary images
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Musical
Keywords: Christmas, Halloween, etc.
Production Budget: $18 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: The re-re-re-re-re-- let's just call it the annual release of The Nightmare Before Christmas. The first year it was re-released it earned a surprising $8.7 million, and the second year it managed to grow to $14.5 million. This year I expect it to drop off a little, as it was recently released on Blu-ray, and that might limit its box office potential this time around. That said, it should still earn enough to encourage theater owners to book it again next year, and before long the film will cross $100 million in total.

Name: W.
Distributor: Lionsgate
Official Site: WtheFilm
Release Date: October 17, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language including sexual references, some alcohol abuse, smoking and brief disturbing war images
Source: Based on real life events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Biography and Political
Production Budget: $25.1 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: This movie opens in theaters less than 20 days before the election. On the one hand, there should be a huge amount of political buzz flying around the airwaves at that time, and this film will undoubtedly get some synergy from that. On the other hand, most of the buzz will be on McCain and Obama, not George W. Bush. Furthermore, currently George W. Bush's popularity is at record lows with some polls giving him a mere 19% approval rating. This is so low that even people who hate, hate, hate Bush are not likely to be enthusiastic to see a movie about him, even one that savages him, which most expect this film to do. Finally, there is some question on the film's opening theater count, with very few expecting it to open truly wide. If it does open in 2,000 or more theaters, it should have a decent shot at matching its production budget. If it opens in less than 1,000 theaters, it might not reach $10 million above. There's even a chance it will open in just a few theaters and never expand enough to reach $1 million. Of course, the wildcard is the Oscars. If this film earns excellent reviews and earns some hardcore Oscar buzz, it could double the best case scenario and earn $50 to $75 million. I wouldn't bet on it.

Name: What Just Happened?
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Official Site: WhatJustHappenedFilm.com
Release Date: October 17, 2008 (limited)
Release Date: October 31, 2008 (expansion to wide release)
MPAA Rating: R for language, some violent images, sexual content and some drug materials
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Movie Business and others
Production Budget: Reported at $25 million
Box Office Potential: $5 million
Notes: Potential Oscar Bait? This film stars Robert De Niro as a Hollywood producer who is burned out trying to get his movie made while dealing with his second divorce. The main concern with this film is the inside nature of the joke. Too often when Hollywood makes a movie about itself, it tends to deal too much with the insider dealings, which makes it hard for the average moviegoers to get engaged by the movie. Going by the early reviews, this is not a real problem. However, its Tomatometer score will need to improve if it wants to be an award season player. In fact, 71% positive is not strong enough to suggest it will simply escape limited release. Further evidence for its box office troubles is the film's distributor, as Magnolia Pictures has never ushered a movie into wide release, and their best picture in our database has earned less than $10 million. Perhaps this film can break their record, but there's also a chance the movie will struggle in limited release and never really expand wide.

Name: Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Distributor: Weinstein Co.
Official Site: ZackAndMiri.com
Release Date: October 31, 2008
MPAA Rating: R on Appeal for strong crude sexual content including dialogue, graphic nudity and pervasive language. Originally NC-17
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Porn Business
Production Budget: $25 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: First a note, this movie was originally given an NC-17 rating by MPAA before being lowered to R on appeal. This is the second Kevin Smith flick that has gone through that process and won. It's rare for a film to win an appeal, it is unheard of for a director to win twice. Maybe next time they will give Kevin Smith the R-rating from the beginning. As for the film's box office chances, they look good, especially compared to Kevin Smith's previous films. No film of his has ever cracked $30 million by a significant margin. On the other hand, no Seth Rogen film has failed to reach $70 million since Donnie Darko. This film has the potential for massive box office success, much like the films of Judd Apatow, but despite the good reviews, it will likely have to settle for a mid-level hit. Still, $50 million would represent a new high for Kevin Smith at the box office, and more than enough to ensure a profit by the film's initial push into the home market.

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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, High School Musical 3: Senior Year, Saw V, Max Payne, Body of Lies, The Secret Life of Bees, Changeling, Quarantine, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, W., Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas 3D, Pride and Glory, The Haunting of Molly Hartley, Religulous, The Express, Sex Drive, City of Ember, RocknRolla, Flash of Genius, Happy-Go-Lucky, Blindness, How to Lose Friends & Alienate People, What Just Happened, Appaloosa, An American Carol