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2007 Preview: February

February 1st, 2007

February is the shortest month of the year, but not the slowest at the box office. It doesn't have the stigma of being a dumping ground, and with Valentine's Day fitting nicely in the middle, romantic comedies have a leg up at the box office. However, for the most part, movies released during this month are aiming for midlevel hit and there are few, if any, that will become blockbusters.

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Name: The Abandoned
Studio: Freestyle Releasing
Official Site: TheAbandonedMovie.com
Release Date: February 23, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for violence/gore, some disturbing images, nudity and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Hauntings
Production Budget: €3,000,000 or about $4 million
Box Office Potential: $5 million
Notes: First, a disclaimer. There's only a small chance that this film will open truly wide. Word is it will likely open in limited release, but there is some talk that is could open as wide as the 1200-theatre range. This has been taken into account when determining the film's box office potential. If it does open wide, the film is probably looking to do similar business to fellow Spanish horror film, Darkness, although given its budget, the studio would be happy with half that amount. If it opens in limited release, it will probably have a similar run as Night Watch; the studio will obviously be looking for a better hold on its per theatre average as it expands, but I'm not convinced it will happen that way. The $5 million box office potential given is a weighted average of those two scenarios and is actually less likely than either extreme. The film itself is a Spanish horror film that appears to be going more for atmosphere than cheap scares with heavy gore or sadistic killers, which is great news for moviegoers likes me. An impressive and moody trailer certainly put it on my list of films to watch, but it will still have to rely a lot on critical reception, at least more than most horror do. One last note, While the film opens here at the end of February, it doesn't open in its native market until the following weekend, which is a bit unusual, especially with growing the trend for Hollywood films to open in foreign markets first.

Name: The Astronaut Farmer
Studio: Warner Bros.
Official Site: TheAstronautFarmerMovie.com
Release Date: February 23, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic material, peril and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: ???
Production Budget: $13 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: Billy Bob Thornton is a great actor, however, he's been playing pretty much the same character since Bad Santa. His characters in Bad News Bears, School For Scoundrels, even the upcoming Mr. Woodcock all feel too much the same and this has hurt his box office drawing power as moviegoers are burnt out. Fortunately for fans of his he's changing pace with this movie, which appears to be a more uplifting family film about, "One man and his impossible dream." While this will be a nice change of pace, I think a lot of the damage had already been done and it will take a couple of films like this before moviegoers are willing to give his movies a try. After all, how many people are that interested in seeing a family film starring Willie T. Soke? On the other hand, with a very small budget for a major studio release, the film should still be a financial success earning a profit by its initial push into the home market, if not sooner. (On a side note, I'm a huge fan of some of the supporting actors, especially Bruce Dern and J.K. Simmons and if either one of them is in a movie, I'm 90% sure that it can't be all bad.)

Name: Because I Said So
Studio: Universal
Official Site: BecauseISaidSoMovie.com
Release Date: February 2, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content including dialogue, some mature thematic material and partial nudity
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Divorcee Romance and Relationship Advice
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $35 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: Diane Keaton continues to prove that no matter how youth obsessed Hollywood gets, actress with lots of talent can still get work and still act as romantic leads. This film is obviously a chick flick, and I don't mean that in any negative way. Because of this, and the obvious appeal to a more mature target demographic, it won't open with an impressive box office, but will instead have to rely on strong word-of-mouth and good legs to make the most of its box office stay. In the end it will be a solid midlevel hit pulling in more than enough to satisfy the studio. Last minute update: The early reviews are terrible, January dumping ground bad, and that has reduced the box office potential.

Name: Black Snake Moan
Studio: Paramount Vantage
Official Site: MoanMovie.com
Release Date: February 23, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, language, some violence and drug use
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Musicians, Blues
Production Budget: $15 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: One of several films that may or may not get a wide release this month. The film stars Samuel L. Jackson, who has been hit and miss recently; Christina Ricci, who hasn't had a box offcee hit for a number of years now; and Justin Timberlake, whose transition from singer to actor has not been smooth. Add in a subject matter that makes the movie very hard to advertise, and this movie will likely try the limited release route, or open semi-wide at most. It could, given its early reviews, escape limited release, but even the best case scenario has it waiting till the home market to earn the bulk of its revenue.

Name: Breach
Studio: Universal
Official Site: BreachMovie.net
Release Date: February 16, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, sexual content and language
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Suspense / Thriller
Keywords: Secret Agent
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $60 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million
Notes: A film based on real life events about a U.S. intelligence agency and the people who work there. Hmmm, that sounds familiar. This film seems a little too much like The Good Shepherd, only that film had a bigger cast and a better release date. The film could earn better reviews than The Good Shepherd did, but there's far too little advanced buzz to really judge that. Add in a very busy week and this is one of the films that is more likely to slip between the cracks.

Name: Bridge to Terabithia
Studio: Disney
Official Site: Disney.Go.com
Release Date: February 16, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements including bullying, some peril and mild language.
Source: Based on a Novel
Major Genre: Adventure / Drama
Keywords: New Girl in School and Coming of Age
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $60 - $80 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: Based on a popular book, this film stars two promising child stars, AnnaSophia Robb and Josh Hutcherson and should prove popular with its target audience. And while February is not the best time of year to release a kids movie, with Night at the Museum finally wrapping up its run families might be interested in the next special effects laden adventure flick they can take their kids to. A strong ad campaign could help the film stand above the four other films opening that week, but it will likely have to rely on good word-of-mouth and strong legs to earn back its initial costs. One last note, the film will likely come out on DVD in June, which is just in time for holidays and that should help it become a big earner on the home market.

Name: Daddy's Little Girls
Studio: LionsGate
Official Site: Daddy'sLittleGirlsMovie.com
Release Date: February 14, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material, drug and sexual content, some violence and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Divorcee Romance and Lawyers
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $10 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: This is the third Tyler Perry movie, and the second one he has directed, but the first without his signature character of Madea. This will likely hurt the film at the box office, slightly. But the film's romantic side and the Valentine's Day opening should help it become a midlevel hit. And with a production budget estimated at just $10 million, that should be more than enough to show a profit, even if the film does no business outside the domestic market. Last minute note: They've changed the ad campaign and are playing up the Romantic Comedy angle a lot more than before. This seems like a wise move given its release date. They are emphasizing Gabrielle Union's role in the movie and it now looks like she is the focus of the movie. Interesting change.

Name: Ghost Rider
Studio: Sony
Official Site: SonyPictures.com
Release Date: February 16, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for horror violence and disturbing images.
Source: Based on a Comic Book
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Marvel Comics, Demons, Good vs. Evil, Hell, and Visual Effects
Production Budget: $55 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million
Notes: This film is opening during a busy week, but it is the most eagerly anticipated movie of the week, possibly of the month. At least it is with the Internet crowd. These people tend to lean heavily toward the typical Fanboy flick, which definitely include comic book movies. As for the film's box office chances, comic book movies tend to be divided into two groups, the major players, (Spider-man, Batman, X-Men, Superman), and the second tier releases, (Daredevil, Catwoman, The Punisher, Spawn). Major players spawn franchises, second tier releases struggle to make a profit. Unfortunately, Ghost Rider is second tier. That doesn't mean it's doomed, the ad campaign has been strong and the Fanboys are excited. It has a great shot at winning the first weekend and could do well enough to be the biggest hit of the month. Or it could be a one-weekend wonder. On a side note, the film was originally planned for a 2002 release date and a $75 million budget and there are many reports that the budget is $100 - $130 million. Perhaps these figures include money spent on the previous attempts to bring the Super hero to the big screens, but even then they seem high. Then again, it was previously scheduled for a summer 2006 release and the studio might have been expecting a Fantastic Four like box office run, which would have justified the loftier production budget.

Name: Hannibal Rising
Studio: Weinstein Co.
Official Site: HannibalRising.com
Release Date: February 9, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for strong grisly violent content and some language/sexual references.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Prequel, Serial Killer, Post-World War II, and Cannibalism
Production Budget: Reported at $80 million, but that seems high
Box Office Potential: $45 million
Notes: This is a franchise that has long since run its course. While Manhunter came out five years earlier, most people think of Silence of the Lambs as the true beginning of the franchise, and with good reason. Manhunter was a smaller film that cost $15 million to make and earn barely more than half that at the box office. Silence of the Lambs, on the other hand, was a huge hit pulling in $130 million at the box office and also won 5 Oscar, and the five biggest Oscars, (Best Picture, Director, Lead Actress, Lead Actor, and Screenplay). While Red Dragon was a much better film than Hannibal was, the damage was done and it will take a lot to convince moviegoers to give this franchise another shot. Poor reviews, and thus poor word-of-mouth, could kill the film before it gets a chance, but even if it does wow the critics, it could take a while before word gets out. Because of this, I think the film will have to wait till the home market to earn the majority of its revenue.

Name: The Messengers
Studio: Sony
Official Site: SonyPictures.com
Release Date: February 2, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material, disturbing violence and terror.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Hauntings
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: Twin brothers, Oxide and Danny Pang make their North American debut after having instantly developing a following with The Eye. Like many Asian horror films, The Eye built its scares around an overall sense of foreboding and dread and not on shocks or gore. However, while there is certainly an audience that appreciates not taking the easy route, there has been a glut of such films coming out over the past few years, ever since The Ring became such a huge hit in 2002. Because the genre is in decline, this film won't become one of the bigger hits, but it should still earn enough to show a modest profit by the time it hits the home market and ensure more such movies are made.

Name: Music and Lyrics
Studio: Warner Bros.
Official Site: MusicAndLyrics.com
Release Date: February 14, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexual content.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Music Industry
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $40 million
Box Office Potential: $60 million
Notes: Written and directed by Marc Lawrence, who previous directed Hugh Grant in Two Weeks Notice. The film is aimed at the same audience and the filmmakers would be ecstatic with its box office total. It does have a lot going for it, including the charm of its two stars, and of course its release date. There are very few times of year better to release a romantic comedy than Valentine's Day. On the other hand, there's another film opening that day and three more coming out the that Friday, so it will be a very crowded market and there is a certain risk that the film will be squeezed out. If that does happen, and I give it a 50% chance, it could earn around $40 million, while it also has a shot at being the first film of the year to top $100 million at the box office. The film's box office potential above reflects an average between those two extremes.

Name: Norbit
Studio: Paramount
Official Site: MeetNorbit.com
Release Date: February 9, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, some nudity and language. (On appeal, was originally R for some sex-related humor.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Cross-Dressing, Fat Suit, Relationships From Hell, Same Actor Multiple Roles
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $60 million
Box Office Potential: $85 million
Notes: The first time I heard about this movie, it made absolutely no impact. Another Eddie Murphy movie where he plays multiple roles; those movies have long since lost their appeal for me. However, after seeing the trailer my opinion changed, for the worse. Nothing in the trailer worked and I can't see a huge demand for this movie. Then again, fellow fat suit cross dressing movie, Big Momma's House 2 made $70 million last year. This film has a better release date and a more bankable star and should earn more at the box office. I'm not sure if it will get better reviews or not. I admit that it will be very hard for the film to earn less than the 5% positive this film earned, but I think the film could be up to the task.

Name: The Number 23
Studio: New Line
Official Site: Number23Movie.com
Release Date: February 23, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for violence, disturbing images, sexuality and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Suspense
Keywords: Prognostication
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $60 - $70 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: This film might have the best raw premise of any movie coming out this month, but I'm not 100% sure about the execution. In it Jim Carrey reads a book that appears to be about his life, but it talks about a murder that has yet to happened and that he is somehow involved in. If done well, it will be a film that demands repeat viewing to look for things missed the first time around. However, this is best done on the home market and unless there's a really good marketing campaign most people will wait till the home market to check it out. As it is, I think the studio will have to settle for a theatrical run similar to fellow Jim Carrey flick, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. On the other hand, poorly done or even poorly advertised, this film will struggle to open in the top five before disappearing from theatres in a matter of weeks. On a side note, I'm seeing a lot of discussions online where people are talking about the number 23 and how often it appears. This is just a matter of data mining with open-ended search parameters. There are dozens of dates that work out to 23 that happen every single year, not to mention time of day and other frequent number sets. Mathematically, it would be more unusual if you couldn't find repeated occurrences of the number 23, or any other number, if you looked hard enough. It makes for an interesting movie, but is meaningless in real life.

Name: Reno 911! Miami
Studio: Paramount
Official Site: Reno911Movie.com
Release Date: February 23, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, nudity, crude humor, language and drug use.
Source: Based on TV
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Gratuitous Cameos and Terrorism, Bad Cops, (not bad in the sense of Corrupt, but bad in the sense of incompetent)
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: Taking a TV series and turning it into a movie is risky business, especially when that TV series has a decidedly cult flavor. One needs not look any further back than Strangers With Candy to see that. I see this film having a similar box office potential to fellow Bad Cop movie Supper Troopers, but with a stronger built-in audience. Given the film's likely low production budget and a huge potential on the home market, (especially with an Unrated DVD almost certainly coming out), this will be more than enough to show a profit and make the studio happy. In fact, the increased sales in the series' DVD sets could be enough to make the studio happy.


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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Ghost Rider, Norbit, Bridge to Terabithia, Music and Lyrics, Because I Said So, The Messengers, The Number 23, Breach, Daddy's Little Girls, Hannibal Rising, Reno 911!: Miami, The Astronaut Farmer, Black Snake Moan, The Abandoned