2007 Preview: January - The Numbers
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2007 Preview: January

January 2nd, 2007

Smokin' Aces
Smokin' Aces
Click to buy this poster from AllPosters.com

It is the beginning of a new year. A time to start fresh. So why do most of the new releases smell so stale? It's the January dumping ground, home to films that looked promising on paper but just didn't pan out. That doesn't mean there are no films that could be worth checking out. Out of the twelve new films opening wide this month (that's opening, not expanding), Smokin' Aces looks great and so does ... no, that's about it. Almost all of the new releases are likely to struggle at the box office and with critics alike. And to make matters worse, six of these new releases are going wide on the same weekend. This is complete madness and guarantees that at least two films that would otherwise succeed are going to fail. On the other hand, there are nearly a dozen films that have previously opened and are expanding wide (Children of Men and Pan's Labyrinth, for example), or are being re-released to grab some last minute Oscar buzz, (The Queen and The Last King of Scotland, among others). This makes for an incredibly busy month, but not one that will likely produce many hits.

Two additional notes... Firstly, Letters from Iwo Jima is expanding throughout the month but likely won't go wide until February. Secondly, The Dead Girl has a planned expansion on the 19th, but after struggling in limited release since opening last weekend, this seems unlikely.

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

Name: Alpha Dog
Studio: Universal
Official Site: AlphaDogMovie.com
Release Date: January 12, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive drug use and language, strong violence, sexuality and nudity.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Kidnap and Organized Crime
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at between $30 and $40 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: The film was made in 2004 for a 2005 release, but was pushed back twice and is now being dumped in January. There are reports that this caused by philosophical differences over the marketing of the movie, but there are just as many reports that it is a bad movie. Considering the average quality of a January release, the latter seems more likely. Originally the film was going to be a limited release, but it now looks like it might open in nearly 2,000 theaters, although that's still not a truly wide release. It is much better than Justin Timberlake's previous film, which was dumped direct-to-DVD. Speaking of the former Backstreet Boy (or was he in that other boy band? Doesn't matter, they are all the same), this is the first theatrical release for Timberlake, but he has two or three more scheduled for this year (depending whether the re-tooled Southland Tales gets a theatrical release or is also dumped on the home market). But outside of providing a voice for Shrek the Third, none of the films he's made has any real shot at becoming a hit. This could be a case of choosing bad projects, but in reality he just can't act. This should surprise no one since he can't sing or dance either.

Name: Arthur & the Invisibles
Studio: Weinstein Co.
Official Site: ArthurEtLesMinimoys.com
Release Date: January 12, 2007 (expansion to wide release)
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Underground
Production Budget: 65 millions Euros or about $85 million American
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: According to most critics, this is second rate digital animation at a premium price. At least when Hoodwinked came out this time last year, it only cost $17.5 million to make and so even a weak run at the box office would give it a profit. Here the film not only has to deal with direct competition from the week before, it has to deal with terrible reviews and a massive budget. On the other hand, it is performing very well in its native France and if it can do well in other European markets, then it won't need to earn $50 million here to show a profit. This is very good news, because it is very unlikely that it will make $50 million here. It might not even make half that.

Name: Blood and Chocolate
Studio: MGM
Official Site: MGM.com
Release Date: January 26, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence/terror, some sexuality and substance abuse.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Werewolf
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: Werewolves are considered one of the three prototypical movie monsters, the others being Vampires and Frankenstein's creation. However, while they have been featured in a number of movies recently, most have performed poorly with critics and / or at the box office. (On a side note, the Canadian film, Ginger Snaps, and its two sequels are arguably the best Werewolf movies to come out in the past decade, maybe more. Too bad most people have never heard of them.) So this is an under-performing genre at the moment, and many are starting to give up on it. And to make matters worse, it is being released by MGM, which has not faired well during its short re-launch and at this point any time I see their name as the studio, I reduce a film's box office potential by $10 - $20 million. A good story and a strong ad campaign and the film could earn double my expectations, but while I think the former is likely, the latter is not.

Name: Breaking and Entering
Studio: Weinstein Co.
Official Site: BreakingAndEntering-Movie.com
Release Date: January 5, 2007 (limited)
Release Date: January 26, 2007 (expansion to wide release)
MPAA Rating: R for sexuality and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Relationships Gone Wrong
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $30 - $40 million
Box Office Potential: $2 million
Notes: This film is scheduled for a limited release at the beginning of the month, and a wide expansion at the end. However, it already opened in its native U.K. and the film's box office was not great. The film placed seventh during its opening with just $700,000 before falling more than 60% the next weekend. In total it made about $2 million, which would be equivalent to about $10 million here (given the size difference between the two markets). Domestically, the distributor is trying to build word-of-mouth before opening wide, but its reviews suggest that won't happen. In fact, it seems unlikely that it will make it to a wide release at all. I figure the 26th will come and the film will be playing in a few hundred theaters at most and quickly shed them the following weeks.

Name: Catch and Release
Studio: Sony
Official Site: SonyPictures.com
Release Date: January 26, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, language and some drug use
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Seems too generic for a keyword
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $25 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: Kevin Smith, the actor. Usually actors turn to directing later in their careers, not the other way around. Yes I know, he did act in every movie he's ever made, but let's face it, he became famous because of his writing and directing skills. The only other cast member with any drawing power is Jennifer Garner, who first rose to prominence in Alias. Since she started that series she has been in a number of hits, but her star hasn't risen as fast as some people had predicted. This film is not likely to fix that as the script seems a little too generic to really get people excited, but at least it's a good showcase for her natural charm. Further hurting the film's chances is the competition. There are five other films opening wide that weekend, although I expect one or two to be moved and one or two to open in less than 2000 theaters. It could surprise at the box office, but the chances are it will have to wait until the home market to find an audience.

Name: Children of Men
Studio: Universal
Official Site: ChildrenOfMen.net
Release Date: January 5, 2007 (expansion to wide release)
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, language, some drug use and brief nudity
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: End of the World and / or Post Apocalypse, Terrorism
Production Budget: $70 - $80 million, reports vary
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: So far this dystopian film has done amazing business in limited release, but despite unbelievable reviews, it might not have what it takes to expand wide. The filmmakers were obviously hoping for Oscar buzz to help promote the film, but despite earning some of the best reviews this year, it was shut out at the Golden Globe nominations. The film will need some help as it expands into more than 1,000 theaters this Friday, but it still has a better chance than most to make that transition. If it can grab some Oscar nods, then look for the film to top expectations, perhaps even challenge for biggest hit of the month.

Name: Code Name: The Cleaner
Studio: New Line
Official Site: TheCleanerMovie.com
Release Date: January 5, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, crude humor and some violence
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Secret Agent, Faulty Memory and Mistaken Identity
Production Budget: Reported at $27 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: Directed by Les Mayfield, who previously gave us The Man. To which moviegoers and critics gave him, The Finger. In fact, so far he hasn't been able to direct a single big hit. Sure, Flubber made over $90 million at the box office, but it cost $80 million to make and its critical reception was terrible. Add in the fact that none of the main cast members have any proven box office drawing power and the future is not bright for this film.

Name: Epic Movie
Studio: Fox
Official Site: EpicMovieTheMovie.com
Release Date: January 26, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language and some comic violence.
Source: Original Screenplay, sort of. It's practically a sequel to Date Movie and both of them could arguably be placed in the Scary Movie franchise.
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Spoof
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at under $20 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: Hollywood has figured out you can make an easy buck making pseudo-spoofs of popular films. And since each year there are more films to parody, you never have to hire good writers again. Which is good, because it's clear they are not hiring good writers to make these movies now. I call it pseudo-spoofs because they are not true parodies. Parody requires an understanding of the subject; a knowledge of what makes the genre work and the ability to subtly twist it for comedic affect. Take Top Secret! for example. That film used the common element of a quickly drawn map in the sand. It starts as a crude map, but as the camera scans over it, it becomes more and more complex ending with a working model train. That's parody. It isn't parody when you just take a bunch of pop culture references and hope people laugh at them. With that in mind, look for the film to earn the same terrible reviews Date Movie earned, but still become a mid-level hit at the box office. And next year look for the same people to tackle, I don't know, inspirational coach movies. Sports Movie.

Name: Freedom Writers
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Official Site: FreedomWriters.com
Release Date: January 5, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violent content, some thematic material and language
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Inspirational Teacher, Black Urban, and Gangs
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: An inspirational teacher movie in the same vein as Dangerous Minds. In fact, it is so close to that story that many people won't bother seeing it because it seems so unoriginal. (It's ironic that a movie that is based on real life events can be seen as unoriginal, but that appears to be the film's fate.) It has the potential to be one of the better films released this month, but I wouldn't be surprised if the critical reception is more apathetic than praising.

Name: Happily N'Ever After
Studio: Lionsgate
Official Site: HappilyNeverAfterTheFilm.com
Release Date: January 5, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild action and rude humor
Source: Based on a Fairtale
Major Genre: Comedy with hints of Adventure
Keywords: Spoof, Sword & Sorcery and Good vs. Evil
Production Budget: Reported at $47 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: A little SAT practice here. Hoodwinked is to Little Red Riding Hood as Happily N'Ever After is to Cinderella. There have been many occasions when two films of shockingly similar variety have come out, and usually the second one suffers at the box office as a result. Granted, in terms of raw box office dollars there are exceptions, Deep Impact vs. Armageddon and United 93 vs. World Trade Center, for example. But in these cases the second film was the much bigger production. Armageddon cost $60 million more to make than Deep Impact, while World Trade Center was more than three times as expensive as United 93. This is also the case with Hoodwinked and Happily N'Ever After; the first film cost under $20 million to make while the latter cost nearly $50 million. With all this in mind, Happily N'Ever After should earn about $60 to $70 million, but my gut says $40 million. I'm going to go with my gut.

Name: The Hitcher
Studio: Focus Features
Official Site: TheHitcherMovie.net
Release Date: January 19, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, terror and language.
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Road Trip and Teenage Slasher
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at under $20 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: Wow. It takes 2007 nearly three weeks before its first remake is released. And it's a horror remake as well. These movies have been in a rather long slump and are generally only saved by their low, low production budget. This film is a remake of The Hitcher, which earned better than average reviews for the genre, but barely made a noise at the box office. It has earned a bit of a cult following, but nothing strong enough to warrant a remake. For that matter, its target audience is too young to remember the original and might mistake it of a rip-off of the more recent Joy Ride or the little seen Highwayman. On the plus side, it is the only movie opening wide on that weekend and that should help it at the box office. However, even then it will have to wait for the home market before it sees a profit.

Name: Home of the Brave
Studio: MGM
Official Site: MGM.com
Release Date: January 5, 2007 (expansion to wide release)
MPAA Rating: R for war violence and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Returning Soldiers and Mental Illness, (specifically Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Production Budget: $12 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: After a short Oscar qualifying run, this film opens wide on the 5th of January. Considering the film's reviews, an Oscar qualifying run may seem a tad pretentious, but it was nominated for a Golden Globe for best song and every bit of publicity helps. On the other hand, it will take until the home market before the film can really capitalize on that publicity and with a low per theater average during its opening weekend, it will likely not have a very wide release this month. In fact, fewer than 2,000 theaters is nearly guaranteed, and this will really hurt its box office potential.

Name: The Invisible
Studio: Disney
Official Site: TheInvisible-Movie.com
Release Date: January 26, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, criminality, sensuality and language - all involving teens.
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Suspense / Thriller
Keywords: Ghosts
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 - $30 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: This is one of the few new releases for this month that has an interesting premise. I won't go into it in detail, but I will say it's like The Sixth Sense, only in reverse. Done well this could be a great thriller. But if it was done right, why it is being released in January? Also of concern, the film is a remake, a remake of a non-Hollywood film. Usually when this happens, the film is dumbed down and revamped for a happy ending, thus destroying what made it cool in the first place. The trailer did give me some hope, but I'm taking a wait and see approach with this movie for now.

Name: Miss Potter
Studio: Weinstein Co.
Official Site: MissPotter-TheMovie.com
Release Date: January 12, 2007 (expansion to wide release)
MPAA Rating: PG brief mild language.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Biography, Authors, and Cross-Class Romance
Production Budget: Unknown - estimate at or near $30 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: The Finding Neverland for 2006... or would that be 2007? It's technically a 2006 movie since it opened on the 29th of December, but it doesn't go wide until the 12th of this month. The film started its run with under $10,000 during its opening weekend, which isn't a bad start considering it was playing in just two theaters and the publicity machine hasn't been cranked into high gear. However, it is still lower than expectations. Should it earn the same per theater average when it opens wide, it could go on to make $30 million or more. But it will likely have to settle for $20 million theatrically and a reasonably strong run on the home more. That is, unless Renee Zellweger wins her second Oscar, in which case the film could double expectations.

Name: The Painted Veil
Studio: Warner Independent Pictures
Official Site: The Painted Veil
Release Date: January 19, 2007 (expansion to wide release)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some mature sexual situations, partial nudity, disturbing images and brief drug content
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Period Piece
Production Budget: Reported at $19.4 million
Box Office Potential: $5 million
Notes: One of nearly a dozen films set for a wide expansion this month. This one only has a moderate shot at earning some mainstream success as its per theater average dropped below $10,000 during its second weekend of release. Granted, it did expand its theater count from 5 to 37, but this does suggest a limited appeal mostly among that art house cinema crowd. However, this film is clearly Oscar Bait and got off to a good start by grabbing two Independent Spirit Nominations and a Golden Globe Nomination as well. Should it earn an Oscar nomination or two, and perhaps a win, then it could score $10 million at the box office, or more. However, it is more likely that it will have to wait until the home market to see the majority of its revenue.

Name: Pan's Labyrinth
Studio: PictureHouse
Official Site: PansLabyrinth.com
Release Date: January 19, 2007 (expansion to wide release)
MPAA Rating: R for graphic violence and some language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Foreign Language, Monsters, Dysfunctional Family, World War II
Production Budget: $5 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: Simply put, this is one of the greatest movies from last year, or any year. I had high hopes for the movie, but 99% positive over on Rotten Tomatoes blows away anything I was expecting. Even so, it will still struggle at the box office as it is a foreign language film. For these films to cross $10 million is very rare, but even if this film can't manage that figure, it should still perform extremely well on the home market. As for the film's Oscar chances, those are much better. The film has already earned nominations for two Independent Spirit Awards and a Golden Globe. An Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film is practically guaranteed at this point, while it could earn several other nominations including some technical ones (best make-up, set design, etc.). One last note, the film started its run in limited release over the weekend and earned nearly $200,000 in just 16 theaters, which bodes well for its chances.

Name: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
Studio: Dreamworks
Official Site: PerfumeMovie.com
Release Date: January 5, 2007 (expanding)
MPAA Rating: R for aberrant behavior involving nudity, violence, sexuality, and disturbing images
Source: Based on a Novel
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Serial Killer and Fashion, (assuming you consider Perfumes part of the fashion industry)
Production Budget: $65 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million
Notes: The most expensive German movie ever made and already a massive hit on the worldwide stage. Before the film opened in North America, it had grossed nearly $100 million internationally, nearly half of that from its native Germany. While the film has done very well in a number of markets, its box office potential is much lower here as the film deals with subject matter that is just too difficult for mainstream Americans to accept. On the other hand, its reviews are strong enough to please most people who enjoy independent cinema and there will be more than a few drawn in out of curiosity. However, the film's best chance at finding an audience here won't come until the home market.

Name: Smokin' Aces
Studio: Universal
Official Site: SmokinAces.net
Release Date: January 26, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some nudity and drug use
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action / Comedy
Keywords: Mafia, Hitmen, and Stage Magician
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: Out of the dozen or so films opening wide this month, this is the one I'm looking forward to the most and out of the nearly twenty films on this month's list, this is second only to Pan's Labyrinth in terms of raw anticipation. And if the buzz is correct, I'm not alone in that opinion. Part of the reason for the high anticipation is the number of actors in this movie that are personal favorites of mine. These include Jeremy Piven, Jason Bateman, Ray Liotta, Ryan Reynolds, Andy Garcia, Ben Affleck, and it's even the acting debut of Alicia Keys. Also, it's written and directed by Joe Carnahan, who made the underrated and under-seen, Narc. To top it all off, the film looks like it has style to burn. This all points to the film being the biggest hit of the month, but there are a few concerns. First of all, the film could turn into a case of style over substance, which is my biggest concern. Secondly, the biggest hit of January could earn only $50 million. Finally, it is opening the busiest weekend of the month, and unless there are some scheduling changes, the film will have more competition than most films can handle.

Name: Stomp the Yard
Studio: Sony
Official Site: SonyPictures.com
Release Date: January 12, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for a scene of violence, some sexual material and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Dancing, Coming of Age, Black Urban
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at under $20 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: There's already talk that Stomp the Yard will be the worst movie of 2007 with some predicting it will be out of theaters as soon as exhibitors are contractually allowed to pull it. Then again, there were a lot of people who said the same thing about You Got Served. And while that movie is seen as one of the worst movies of 2004, it was still able to make $40 million at the box office. This film doesn't have what it takes to make that much, but $30 million should still be enough to show a profit shortly after it comes out on DVD.

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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Stomp the Yard, Epic Movie, El Laberinto del Fauno, Freedom Writers, Smokin' Aces, Children of Men, The Invisible, The Hitcher, Happily N'Ever After, Catch and Release, Arthur et les Minimoys, Code Name: The Cleaner, The Painted Veil, Blood and Chocolate, Miss Potter, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Breaking and Entering, Home of the Brave, Alpha Dog