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2007 Preview: July

July 1st, 2007

After a record-breaking start, the summer has slowed down considerably. Granted, it is still hot with a number of big, big blockbusters coming out. In fact, every week in July there's at least one potential $100 million movie. But that's nothing compared to what we saw in May when we have three films open with $100 million. Even worse, outside the four main releases, none of the counter-programming releases look like they will become hits and that will hurt the overall box office.

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

Name: Arctic Tale
Studio: Paramount Vintage
Official Site: ParamountVantage.com
Release Date: July 25, 2007 (limited)
Release Date: August 17, 2007 (expansion to wide release)
MPAA Rating: G for General Admissions
Source: Bsaed on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Documentary
Keywords: Animal Lead
Production Budget: Unknown - predicted at $10 million or less
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: From the people who brought us March of the Penguins (official company motto: "Brrrr!"). This film won't do nearly as well as the previous one, which was able to surprise analysts and its early strength made it a major story. This time, people will be expecting amazing and if it doesn't deliver, that will be the big story. (Sometimes expectations are more important than reality.) Also, it won't be the big documentary of the summer with Sicko stealing a lot of its thunder.

Name: Captivity
Studio: Lionsgate
Official Site: CaptivityTheMovie.com
Release Date: July 13, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, torture, pervasive terror, grizzly images, language and some sexual material
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Fashion, Kidnapping, Surprise Twist and Serial Killer
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $17 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: This film has been pushed back, again. Normally this would cause me to reduce my expectations considerably. However, in this case expectations were already quite low and it would be hard to lower them too much further. The film is now the only counter-programming to Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix, but these type of horror films have proven to be a tough sell this year, and I don't expect this one to be any different. At this point, $10 million might be generous, but I don't feel comfortable predicting any less for a wide release. On a side note, I'm not a 100% certain the film will earn a wide release this month, or any kind of release. It might be pushed back until September, which would be terrible, or even October, which would be better.

Name: Hairspray
Studio: New Line
Official Site: HairsprayMovie.com
Release Date: July 20, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG for language, some suggestive content and momentary teen smoking
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Comedy and Musical
Keywords: Dancing and TV Industry
Production Budget: $75 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million
Notes: Not too long ago it looked like surprise success of Moulin Rouge followed next year by Chicago's box office, and Oscar performance would reinvigorate the movie musical. That hasn't happened. Since then there have been half-a-dozen live-action musicals to hit the big screen in wide releases, almost all of them coming out during award-season. Their record with award committees is only slightly better than their record at the box office. That is to say, with the odd exception, they have been passed over by moviegoers and critics alike. This one seems to have midlevel hit written all over hit, which is not a good sign as its production budget is reported at between $75 and $100 million. That's an amazing amount of money considering the original only cost $2 million to make. Even worse, none of the main cast members are consistent box office draws and most are riding cold streaks right now. Additionally, I also don't like the film's chances with the critics for a number of reasons. For instance, the director's previous film was Cheaper by the Dozen 2 and his best movie was Bringing Down the House. Compared to John Waters' version, it will make more in raw dollars, but the original will outperform it in terms of profit and critical appeal.

Name: Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix
Studio: Warner Bros.
Official Site: HarryPotterOrderOfThePhoenix.com
Release Date: July 11, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images
Source: Sequel / Based on a Book
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Boarding School, Good vs. Evil
Production Budget: $150 million
Box Office Potential: $300 million
Notes: When Harry Potter was first introduced to millions of kids in 10 years ago, I don't think many people would have predicted it would become this huge. This year, not only does the final book hit stores, but the fifth movie comes out as well. The two releases dates, which are less than two weeks apart, were not chosen by accident, but the publisher and the studio are obviously hoping the publicity of the two would cause some kind of force feedback and lift the awareness of both. Like the awareness could get much higher. This is the first time both a book and a movie from the franchise have been released this close together, and it will be interesting to see how it affects their performance. Many think the film will perform similarly at the box office to Goblet of Fire, but catching Philosopher's Stone is unlikely at this point. It could become the fourth film to open with more than $100 million at the box office, and the school holidays should give it strong enough legs to cross $300 million. On an interesting side note, before this film is done, The Player will be knocked off the top of our highest combined gross chart. I haven't actually done the math, so I'm not sure if Order of Phoenix will finish on top, or whether Chamber of Secrets will get there first.

Name: I Know Who Killed Me
Studio: Sony / TriStar
Official Site: IKnowWhoKilledMe.com
Release Date: July 27, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for grisly violence including torture and disturbing gory images, and for sexuality, nudity and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Kidnapping and Serial Killer. Could also be Split Personality, Mistaken Identity and / or Twins... perhaps none, It depends on what the Twist is at the end, if there is one.
Production Budget: Reported at $35 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: Lindsay Lohan's latest attempt to reinvigorate her career while reviving her image. It has been more than three years since Mean Girls, what many consider to be her breakout role, and the last time one of her films beat expectations at the box office. Since then, she's been in the news so much for her bad behavior (which is a kind way to describe it), and this has seriously hurt her box office drawing power. Also hurting her box office drawing power: her choice in movies. Since Mean Girls earned 86% positive reviews, only one of her films has wowed critics and most haven't even come close to the overall positive level. This won't be the last chance for her to turn things around, but unless rehab sticks this time, it will be close. As for the film's chances, the trailer was more effective than expected, but that's more due to low expectations. Unless the ad campaign improves, this one could struggle to reach the top five during a busy weekend and could disappear in mere weeks.

Name: I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry
Studio: Universal
Official Site: ChuckAndLarry.com
Release Date: July 20, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude sexual content throughout, nudity, language and drug references (Re-rated edited version)
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Gay (sort of) and Buddy Comedy
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $75 million
Box Office Potential: $150 million
Notes: A buddy comedy where the buddies are closer than most. At least they are pretending to be a lot closer than most. The film has quite a few recognizable names in the film, but it will be up to Adam Sandler and Kevin James to carry the film. Fortunately, they look able to do so. Outside of his dramatic work, and his numerous cameos, Adam Sandler has a record that most actors would kill for. His last five starring comedic roles have all crossed $100 million, a milestone he has reached seven times in his career. On the other hand, this is only Kevin James' second starring role in a live action film. However, his first was Hitch, which set records for highest grossing romantic comedy of all time. And not only was that film was a major hit, and I have to say, as much as Will Smith was the star of that movie, Kevin James stole every scene he was in. The only issue here is the chemistry between these two, and if the ads are any indication, that won't be a problem. On a side note, the estimated production budget may seem high, especially for a comedy, but Adam Sandler films tend to be pricey, especially of late. Finally, the film was originally rated R, much to the surprise of the studio, which thought that had a solid PG-13 film. This might have something to do with the gay themes in the movie, which the MPAA ratings board have been known to punish films for.

Name: License to Wed
Studio: Warner Bros.
Official Site: LicenseToWedTheMovie.WarnerBros.com
Release Date: July 3, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG for sexual humor and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Relationship Advice
Production Budget: Reported at $35 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: Every time I see the trailer of the TV spots, it causes physical pain. I'm sure when this movie was given the go-ahead, the producers could see all sorts of comedic possibilities with Robin Williams' character. But the trailers are devoid of humor and Father Frank comes off as annoying. I would say the relationship between the couple could mitigate this, but for two problems. Firstly, the ad campaign puts Robin Williams at the center of the movie. Secondly, the couple is being played by Mandy Moore and John Krasinski, neither of which are known for being box office draws. The film is trying to be the counter programming to The Transformers, but I see it stumbling out of the gates with its box office prospects dead before the weekend officially starts.

Name: No Reservations
Studio: Warner Bros.
Official Site: NoReservationsMovie.WarnerBros.com
Release Date: July 27, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG for some sensuality and language
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Food and Unexpected Families
Production Budget: Reported at $28 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million
Notes: A counter-programming film that looks to become a midlevel hit. The film is a remake and while these films are recovering from their recent slump, they are still not up to the level they were a few years ago. In addition, the film is a remake of a foreign language film, and since most people will not have even heard of Mostly Martha, they won't have any preconceived notions so this one will have to survive on its own merits. This means the two leads will need strong chemistry if this film is going to perform better than some of their recent releases have. Neither actor is box office poison, but Catherine Zeta-Jones hasn't released a film in nearly two years and hasn't has one top expectations since Chicago. Meanwhile, Aaron Eckhart hasn't been in a $100 million dollar hit since Erin Brockovich. Interestingly, Abigail Breslin might have more drawing power at the moment thanks to Little Miss Sunshine. Regardless, the film seems destined to be a midlevel hit. Nothing more, not less.

Name: Rescue Dawn
Studio: MGM
Official Site: RescueDawn.MGM.com
Release Date: July 4, 2007 (limited)
Release Date: July 13th, 2007 (first expansion)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sequences of intense war violence and torture
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Vietnam War, Rescue, Fighter Pilot
Production Budget: $10 million
Box Office Potential: $5 million
Notes: A remake, of sorts. This film is based on the same real life events as the documentary, Little Dieter Needs to Fly, which was also written and directed by Werner Herzog. The plan is to open the film in limited release on the fourth and expanded it over the coming weeks (top ten markets the next weekend, top 50 the weekend after). It wouldn't reach truly wide till August, but that is a risky move. I am even more hesitant about the film's chances as it was moved from a December release to the middle of summer. Given the film's reviews, it could have been a player during award season, which makes its move here even more puzzling. I'd like to be able to predict this film will escape limited release and score some measure of mainstream success (perhaps $20 to $30 million), but that is a such a difficult task. If it stumbles out of the gate, it could fail to hit even $1 million. The box office potential is the weighted average of those two extremes.

Name: Shortcut to Happiness
Studio: Yari Film Group
Official Site: ShortcutToHappiness.com
Release Date: July 13, 2007 (limited)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language and sexual content
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Author, Heaven and Hell, Devil
Production Budget: $25 million originally
Box Office Potential: $5 million
Notes: Talk about a tough road to theaters. Shortcut to Happiness was filmed in 2001, but during post-production the production offices were raided by the FBI. (At the time I figured Jennifer Love Hewitt was cursed as a number of her films were struggling to make it to theaters). However, six years later it is finally coming out. Maybe. It appears to be making its debut in limited release on the 13th, but I wouldn't be terribly surprised if something happened to it in the meantime. If it does get a release, it will have a hard time trying to match Yari Film Group's average of just $7 million at the box office. But at least Jennifer Love Hewitt's popularity has increased thanks to her hit TV series, Ghost Whisperer, and that should help the film's box office chances.

Name: The Simpsons
Studio: Fox
Official Site: SimpsonsMovie.com
Release Date: July 27, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for irreverent humor throughout
Source: Based on a TV Series
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Dysfunctional Family, Disaster, End of the World
Production Budget: Unknown - can't even hazard a guess
Box Office Potential: $200 million
Notes: The second film coming out this month that is based on a TV series, and this one could break records. The Simpsons have been on the air for nearly 20 years now, and while the majority of people who watch the show think it has jumped the shark, there is still a large fanbase that can be lured into theaters with a clever ad campaign. Even those who stopped watching the show for more than a decade will be willing to give it a chance, if sold on the film. Here's where things get a little interesting. So far there have been three teaser trailers and two full trailers, and there's very little in the way of plot that's been revealed. Homer does something stupid, potentially causing the world to end. While we don't get much in the way of plot, we get a lot of great gags, which suggests the writers brought their A-game. Makes sense, after all, having an off night when making more than 20 episodes a year is not unexpected and won't hurt the show too much. However, if the movie turns off fans, then it will drag down the ratings of the show, the sales of the DVDs, etc. On a side note, while the film is 2-D, it is computer-assisted animation. Perhaps we should have a third category for those kinds of films.

Name: Skinwalkers
Studio: Lionsgate
Official Site: SkinwalkersTheMovie.com
Release Date: July 27, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual material and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Werewolf
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at between $20 million and $30 million
Box Office Potential: $5 million
Notes: The film was pushed back, again. I have strong doubts that it will be released wide on the 27th; I have strong doubts it will be released at all. If it does open, regardless of its theater count, it is almost sure to bomb as practically all werewolf movies have recently. It is especially troubling for horror fans that the film was cut for a PG-13 rating and its target audience is almost sure to stay home. If / when it is pushed back, I recommend checking out Ginger Snaps instead. (No, I don't get paid extra each time I say mention that movie, but I could see why regular readers would think that.) Perhaps the Unrated DVD will be worth checking out, but that's about it.

Name: Sunshine
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Official Site: FoxSearchlight.com
Release Date: July 20, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for violent content and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller / Suspense
Keywords: End of the World, Marooned
Production Budget: £20 to £26 million or $40 to $50 million in American
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: It should be easier to gauge this movie's box office potential than most for a simple reason: it has opened in a number of international markets already and this gives us a lot more data to work with. On the other hand, its performances have been mixed and that just muddies the picture. In the U.K. the film made just over $6 million, which would be about $35 to $40 million here, but that was its home market and that would skew the numbers. Using Danny Boyle's previous film as a guide, Sunshine should make about $15 million here. However, Millions was decidedly British and that would affect its chances here. On the other hand, 28 Days Later has a more universal appeal, just like this film, and using that film's performance gives us closer to $30 million. However, there are some indications that the film might not get an aggressive release, and that takes the box office potential down a peg for a final number of $25 million.

Name: Talk To Me
Studio: Focus Features
Official Site: FocusFeatures.com
Release Date: Limited - July 13, 2007 with a planned expansion for later in July
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language and some sexual content
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Biography and Talk Radio
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million
Notes: This film will not be opening wide. That said, I feel it has a very strong shot at expanding wide over the following weeks and should earn some measure of mainstream success. The film has a massive cast with a number of them I consider strong selling points (including but not limited to Don Cheadle, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Martin Sheen). None of these men are top box office draws, but I suspect the film will be of high quality and escape the art house circuit. I don't think it will do as well as Hotel Rwanda as it doesn't have the award season / Oscar buzz to help it along. On that note, had the film opened in September or later, I would be predicting some Oscar buzz.

Name: The Transformers
Studio: Dreamworks
Official Site: TransformersLive.com
Release Date: July 3, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, brief sexual humor, and language.
Source: Based on TV
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Alien Invasion, Robots, Friendly Aliens on Earth, End of the World, Live Action Cartoon, etc.
Production Budget: $150 million
Box Office Potential: $250 million
Notes: Big budget, bigger action. This is the kind of movie that summer was made for. That said, there's still some issues the movie has to overcome, including overly protective Fanboys like myself who will never forgive Michael Bay if he messes this up. Speaking of messing it up, why the hell is Bumblebee not a VW Bug? And don't give me that crap about audiences confusing him with Herbie. It's cause the producers decided that getting an exclusive deal with GM was more important than catering to the core audience. If this movie bombs, you know who to blame. Bumblebee was and always will be a VW Bug. Jazz was Porsche 935 Turbo, not some generic looking Pontiac. And Wheeljack was a Lancia Stratos racing car; I know cause I still have an original Generation 1 version of him sitting on my computer. Hopefully if the rumors are right about the planned sequel, they don't mess with the Dinobots, or there will be hell to pay! This I vow!

Moving on... High end expectations have the film earning $100 million during the it's opening week (first shows are on Monday evening), while it will pull in about $250 - $300 million in total. That seems a tad generous to me, but it should still match its production budget domestically and show a profit shortly after entering the home market.

Last minute update: The early reviews are in and they are very positive. Any worry that the film would be just a whole lot of hype are gone. This doesn't mean it will top $300 million, but the odds just went way up

Name: Who's Your Caddy?
Studio: MGM
Official Site: WhosYourCaddyTheMovie.com
Release Date: July 27, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual content, some nudity, language and drug material.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Golf, Street vs. Elite, etc.
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: Dear god, why? It's like Caddyshack without the comedic talent. The trailer made this film look like a talentless rip-off of Caddyshack 2, which is saying a lot. Critically this film looks to win Razzies, but at the box office is where it really counts. Unfortunately for the studio, things don't look that much brighter. Speaking of studios, MGM continues its terrible run since its rebirth; at this point if I see MGM is the studio, I reduce the film's box office chances by a couple notches. Also, the film is opening during the busiest weekend of the month, and will have to be counter-programming to the counter-programming. Finally, there's some word that the film won't open wide, at least not truly wide. If it fails to crack 2,000 for a starting theater count, I wouldn't be surprised.

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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Transformers, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, The Simpsons Movie, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Hairspray, License to Wed, No Reservations, I Know Who Killed Me, Who's Your Caddy?, Rescue Dawn, Talk to Me, Sunshine, Captivity, Skinwalkers, Shortcut to Happiness, Arctic Tale