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2008 Preview: November

November 1st, 2008

October was weaker than expected with only a few films living up to expectations, and none earning $100 million at the box office. (And only one even came relatively close.) This month, there are three films that should hit $100 million for sure this month, and all three have at least a shot at $200 million. That's good news because 2008 will to close strong to keep its lead over 2007. Top of the list for anticipated films is Quantum of Solace, but there are two kids movies, Bolt and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, that are also worth paying attention to. Additionally, Awards season is starting to heat up, so look for limited releases that could earn Oscar Buzz and become breakout hits.

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

Name: Australia
Distributor: Fox
Official Site: AustraliaMovie.com
Release Date: November 26, 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: World War II
Production Budget: $100 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: I'm a bit amazed someone gave Baz Luhrmann $100 million. His previous three films have barely earned $100 million combined. Also, the two stars of this film, Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, don't have a strong track record at the box office. Sure, they both have their hits, but they have more misses, especially recently. On the other hand, there is some Oscar buzz associated with this movie, even if it is more for the technical awards like Cinematography, Art Direction, etc. Also, given the scope of the film, the World War II setting, and other factors, it could be the first major player released during this year's Awards Season. If it can build on this buzz, it could reach $100 million at the box office, however, I'm unsure if its reviews will justify this buzz. There are no early reviews that I have found, so it is too soon to tell which way it will go.

Name: Bolt
Distributor: Disney
Official Site: Disney.Go.com/DisneyPictures/Bolt
Release Date: November 21, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild action and peril
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: TV Industry, Rescue, Animal Lead, Talking Animal, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - Predicted at $80 to $100 million
Box Office Potential: $150 million
Notes: Bolt stars John Travolta as the voice of the titular character, a dog who is the star of a TV show. In the show, Bolt has super powers and is tasked with protecting his owner, Penny. However, Bolt thinks it is all real, so when the filming ends on a cliffhanger, he escapes the studio looking to rescue Penny for real, and recruits some more animals along the way. It's a cute premise and the trailer sells the movie well. Also, it is opening the weekend before Thanksgiving, which is a nearly perfect time to open a family friendly movie. I'm not expecting this to be a monster hit, but it should have no trouble reaching $100 million, while $200 million is not out of the question. Assuming its production budget is not too much over and above the prediction above, then this should be more than enough to show a profit sometime during its international run, and make the studio very happy.

Name: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Distributor: Miramax
Official Site: BoyInTheStripedPajamas.com
Release Date: November 7, 2008 (limited)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some mature thematic material involving the Holocaust
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: World War II
Production Budget: Unknown - Predicted at $20 to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million
Notes: First a note, this film is opening in limited release and there is no planned wide expansion date. However, given the Oscar Buzz surrounding this movie, there is almost no chance that it won't earn at least some mainstream success. Early reviews are not up to the level one would expect for an Oscar contender, and the film was only a midlevel hit in its native Britain. However, it has been a lot more lucrative in Spain earning more than $10 million there, which would be equivalent to about $100 million here. If this film becomes the dominant player during Awards Season here, then it might reach that level. However, while that's likely out of reach, $25 to $50 million isn't, but one must take into account the possibility that the film will struggle in limited release, never expand, and end will less than $1 million. Sadly, given the track record of limited releases this year, one must figure that possibility is the most likely single scenario, while the above box office potential is a weighted average of the various scenarios.

Name: Four Christmases
Distributor: New Line
Official Site: FourChristmasesMovie.com
Release Date: November 26, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexual language and humor
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Christmas, Christmas in November, Dysfunctional Family, and likely more.
Production Budget: Unknown - Predicted at $30 to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $70 million
Notes: Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn star as newlyweds who try their best to avoid spending Christmas with their families, but get roped into having to go to four separate Christmas gatherings in one day. (Both of their parents are divorced and are having separate celebrations.) Expect a lot of jokes dealing with obnoxious brothers, doting mothers, and the usual family squabbles. I don't expect it to break new ground here, nor do I think it will be Oscar-worthy, but it should be a solid performer.

Name: Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Official Site: Madagascar-TheMovie.com
Release Date: November 7, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild crude humor
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Animal Leads and others
Production Budget: Unknown - predicted at $70 to $90 million
Box Office Potential: $200 million
Notes: No digitally animated sequel has made less than the original. (That is assuming you don't count The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything as a true sequel to Jonah.) With that in mind, the studio must have high hopes for this film, as the original made close to $200 million. It does have a fair amount of buzz going for it, as well as an excellent release date. In fact, I think it will be the big kids movie of the month (I don't think Bolt will beat it at the box office). Like most sequels, it should start faster earning $50 to $60 million during its opening weekend, but fade faster pulling in $200 million in total. This should be more than enough to make the studio happy, which is good news, because there is already a third film in the works.

Name: Milk
Distributor: Focus Features
Official Site: MilkTheMovie.com
Release Date: November 26, 2008 (limited)
MPAA Rating: R for language, some sexual content and brief violence
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Biography, Gy/Lesbian, and Politics
Production Budget: Reported at $15 million
Box Office Potential: $5 million
Notes: Another film that is opening in limited release, but while this one doesn't have a set date for wide expansion, there is enough Oscar buzz that is should earn at least some measure of mainstream success. It stars an Oscar winning actor, Sean Penn, and is director by an Oscar nominated director, Gus Van Sant. It is also biography film, which tend to do well with Awards Season voters. I'm not saying it is a lock for mainstream success, or that it is guaranteed to expand wide, but it has a better chance at both of those than most limited releases opening this month. We will deal more with the movie at the beginning of the next month, where it should be expanding somewhat, if not expanding wide.

Name: Quantum of Solace
Distributor: Sony
Official Site: 007.com
Release Date: November 14, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sexual content.
Source: Sequels
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Secret Agents and more
Production Budget: $230 million
Box Office Potential: $200 million
Notes: This is the big film I'm looking forward to in November (although I am happy Fanboys is finally getting a release date). (Update: Nope, Fanboys has been pushed back, again.) On the one hand, I don't believe this movie will not be as good as Casino Royale was. On the other hand, it is earning 76% positive reviews, which is better than any wide release earned last month, and more than enough to be a selling point. It should open much bigger at the box office; $60 million is likely, and $70 million is not out of the question. However, with a production budget that is enormous, and a P&A budget to match, it might have cost $300 million to make and get into theaters. There is literally no chance it will make back its expenses domestically. However, it could make $200 million here and $500 million internationally, which would be more than enough to show a profit. On a side note, there is a problem with the next James Bond being made, because with the credit crunch it is very hard to get financing for such a costly project. However, if it can top Casino Royale worldwide, it should have no trouble getting the next film off the ground.

Name: Repo! The Genetic Opera
Distributor: Lionsgate
Official Site: Repo-Opera.com
Release Date: November 7, 2008 (limited)
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence and gore, language, some drug and sexual content
Source: Based on a Short Film that was Based on an Opera
Major Genre: Musical
Keywords: Dystopian Future, Epidemic, Hitman, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $8.5 million
Box Office Potential: $1 million
Notes: A Sci-Fi Rock Opera set in the near future where an epidemic of organ failures has occurred. A corporation grew out of this, GeneCo, developed a business model based on organ transplants and financing for those who could not pay. However, if you fall behind your payments, they send in a specialist to reclaim their property. This movie is opening in limited release, and there's almost no chance that it will expand wide, however, it has such a interesting premise I wanted to mention it here. Also, the film stars Anthony Head, a.k.a. Rupert Giles of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and any chance to give a shout out to that show is a good thing. This has got Cult Classic written all over it.

Name: Role Models
Distributor: Universal
Official Site: RoleModelsMovie.com
Release Date: November 7, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for crude and sexual content, strong language and nudity.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Buddy Comedy and others.
Production Budget: Unknown - predicted at $20 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: This film has gone through three writers, at least two name changes, and a director. Normally this much volatility would be fatal to a movie. However, early reviews have been surprisingly strong. That said, I'm not expecting much at the box office, as the cast and crew don't have strong records at the box office. The new director, David Wain, has never has a box office hit with The Ten being his best at just under $1 million. Outside of the American Pie franchise and lending his voice to Ice Age: The Meltdown, Seann William Scott has had mostly midlevel hits, with a few misses sprinkled in. Likewise, most of Paul Rudd's movies never expand wide, and most of his recent films that have opened wide went nowhere at the box office. The film does have a good cast of comedic talent, and there's a chance it will be a surprise hit, but struggling to be a midlevel hit is more likely.

Name: Soul Men
Distributor: MGM
Official Site: SoulMen-Movie.com
Release Date: November 7, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, and sexual content including nudity
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Musicians
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: This is a film that many might be rooting for, after all it stars Bernie Mac, who recently passed away. However, the odds are against the film. First of all, this would only be the third film where Bernie Mac was the lead, although he shares it with Samuel L. Jackson. His first such film, Mr. 3000, was a box office disappointment while his most recent such film, Guess Who, was a bigger hit, but still a midlevel one. Additionally, while November is a good month to open a movie, the first weekend is busy with three wide releases making their debut, and this will not be the number one draw; it is not likely that it will be number two either. Finally, it's being released by MGM, which hasn't had a real hit since 1408 and Halloween of last year. There is a chance the movie will open so poorly that it will barely make the top ten, and finish with less than $10 million in total. However, it could also be a midlevel hit earning $30 or $40 million. Given MGM's track record this year, the former is more likely than the latter.

Name: Transporter 3
Distributor: Lionsgate
Official Site: Transporter3Film.com
Release Date: November 26, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, some sexual content and drug material.
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Car Chase
Production Budget: Unknown - Predicted at $30 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: The third film in the Transporter franchise. This one has the best release date so far, and it could build on the success of the previous two films earning $60 million, or more. Or it could be a case of one installment too many leaving it with less than $30 million, perhaps even less than the original. It all depends on the buzz, which depends heavily on the advertising. And I think the effectiveness of the trailer depends on your personal level of Suspension of Disbelief. The fights shown in the trailer are highly stylized, as are the car stunts (which appear to be mostly CG). Fans of the franchise should be pleased, while others may scoff and walk away. I think it has a better chance of at least remaining stable from The Transporter 2 than it does have failing to The Transporter's box office, and given the release date, a small improvement is likely. However, there is a significant level of uncertainty here.

Name: Twilight
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Official Site: TwilightTheMovie.com
Release Date: November 21, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence and a scene of sensuality
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Vampire
Production Budget: $37 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: This should become Summit Entertainment's biggest hit ever. Granted, it could earn half of the above prediction and still manage that feat. The film does have some great advantages, including its release date, which is arguably the best release date for the entire holiday season. Additional, the series of novels the movie is based on is amazingly popular among its target audience, who are likely to flock to theaters opening weekend. This fanatical fanbase could show up and make the movie a hit, perhaps reaching $100 million at the box office. On the other hand, if the filmmakers made any real changes to the book, and they will have to if they want squeeze it into a two-hour movie, it could cause a revolt amongst the fans. Regardless, I think no matter what, the Fanboy Effect will be in full force here, so expect a strong start, a second weekend aided by the Thanksgiving holiday, then a sharp, sharp decline.


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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Twilight, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, Quantum of Solace, Four Christmases, Bolt, Role Models, Australia, Milk, Transporter 3, Soul Men, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Repo! The Genetic Opera