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2007 Preview: August

August 1st, 2007

August marks the unofficial end of the lucrative summer box office season. The only question is when will it end. Studios usually hope for two summer-like weekends, and sometimes they can squeeze in three. Other times they can only get one, or none. Sadly, this year the August offerings are not particularly strong with only two that have a real shot at $100 million or more, and three or four others that should earn good reviews (and one of those has since been pulled from the schedule). Most of the rest are films that probably seemed like a good idea at the time but didn't work out and those that were a mistake from day one.

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Name: Balls of Fury
Studio: Focus Features
Official Site: BallsOfFury.com
Release Date: August 31, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sex-related humor, and for language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Ping Pong and Gratuitous Cameos
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $25 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: This movie will either be really stupid or ... well ... there's really no "or" here. The movie will be really stupid. However, there's also a chance it will be really funny in a cheap laughs kind of way. I laughed at just about every joke in the trailer, and there are lots of them, but most made me groan a little as well. There's a lot of talent involved here; for instance, the movie was written and directed by the team that brought us Reno 911!: Miami, and there's a few actors in both movies. Other actors include Tony winner Dan Fogler, Oscar winner Christopher Walken, as well as cameos by a lot of comedians. If all things were working for the movie, it could have a Nacho Libre-like run, or even a Dodgeball-like run. However, the release date suggests the studio doesn't have a lot of hope for the film and will have to settle for $35 million or so. Enough to make a small profit after its initial run on the home market, but nothing special.

Name: The Bourne Ultimatum
Studio: Universal
Official Site: TheBourneUltimatum.com
Release Date: August 3, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of action.
Source: Sequel
Major Genre:Action
Keywords: Secret Agent, Hitmen, Faulty Memory, etc.
Production Budget: $130 million or more with reshoots
Box Office Potential: $200 million
Notes: The film with the highest box office potential for the entire month, and it is opening during the first weekend, which is no surprise. I see this franchise having a very similar run to X-Men. In both cases the first films were surprise hits, both at the box office and on the home market. The second films were able to take advantage of the people who discovered the franchise on DVD to boost box office revenue. However, X-Men: The Last Stand wasn't able to see much in the way of growth, at least not in ticket sales and The Bourne Ultimatum should see a similar result. Using X-Men: The Last Stand as a guide, The Bourne Ultimatum should pull in $190 million, but early reviews and a weaker Fanboy effect will give it slightly better legs, helping it cross $200 million, or at least come close enough that the studio will push it over the edge. However, hopefully the studio doesn't push their luck and try and come up with a fourth film, after all, the series of books these films were based on only had three installments, and so should the movies.

Name: Bratz
Studio: Lionsgate
Official Site: Lionsgate.com
Release Date: August 3, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements
Source: Based on a Toy
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: New Girls in School
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: I fail to see why this film was made. What little buzz there is about this film is almost entirely negative and I honestly think there are more people making fun of it on the Internet right now there are people planning on seeing it on its opening weekend. The movie appears to be going after the same audience as Mean Girls, but the toys are aimed at a much younger demographic with almost no crossover between the two. Add in a sub-2,000 opening theater count and I could see it opening outside the top ten and disappearing within two weeks. Even the best case scenario has it missing the top five during its opening.

Name: El Cantante
Studio: PictureHouse
Official Site: ElCantanteMovie.com
Release Date: August 1, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for drug use, pervasive language and some sexuality
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Biography and Musicians
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at under $20 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: This film has bounced back and forth between an August 1st and an August 3rd release date as well as a wide and limited release. In the end it settled on a Wednesday opening and a select city release, neither of which seem like smart decisions. Perhaps the film's targeted marketing aimed at Hispanics could result in a better than expected per theater average while word-of-mouth could help it grow. However, the trailer is not effective and the early reviews suggest poor word-of-mouth. Best case scenario could have the film becoming a sleeper hit, but it could also stumble out of the gate and disappear before August is barely halfway over. The above potential is a weighted average of those two extremes.

Name: Charlie Bartlett
Studio: MGM
Official Site: CharlieBartlett-TheMovie.com
Release Date: Unknown
MPAA Rating: R for language, drug content and brief nudity
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: New Kid in School, Mental Illness, Boarding School
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: Depends on the new release date
Notes: This film was supposed to open on August 3rd, but at the last minute it was yanked from the schedule. It may reappear later in the month, later in the year, or even next year. Just in case it is later this month, I'm mentioning it here. The removal on short notice is puzzling, but partially explained when you look at the distributor. MGM has had a really tough time since its rebirth and quite frankly I wouldn't be surprised if some of the brass are living on borrowed time. I was never expecting the film to be a major hit, but it was one of only a handful that I was expecting to be high quality counter-programming. None of the four main cast members, Anton Yelchin, Hope Davis, Kat Dennings, and Robert Downey, Jr, are big box office draws. Hope Davis and Robert Downey, Jr tend to stick with more challenging roles in smaller movies while Kat Dennings and Anton Yelchin are still too new to the business to have enough name recognition to draw people into theaters. My only hope for the film now is the studio thinks the early reviews and the couple of film festival awards were no fluke and might want to try releasing it closer to award season. But that's purely speculation on my part. It is more likely that it will be dumped in January and become a midlevel hit, at best. Last minute update: The studio has confirmed a 2008 release date, which is terrible news. Being pushed back twice is a sign the studio has no confidence in the film despite the early reviews and film festival awards. Odds are it will be dumped in January without an aggressive enough ad campaign.

Name: Daddy Day Camp
Studio: Sony
Official Site: SonyPictures.com
Release Date: August 8, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG for mild bodily humor and language
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Camping
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $35 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: August is a dumping ground for films that seemed like a good idea at the time but didn't work out. I have a hard time believing anyone thought this was a good idea. Making a sequel without the star of the original is never a good idea. And replacing Eddie Murphy with Cuba Gooding, Jr seems like a horrifically bad idea. Then again, Cuba does have one more Oscar than Eddie does. (That might have been a low blow.) I expect this film to become one of those rare sequels that earns less during its entire run than the original made during its opening weekend. And hopefully that will convince studios that this type of film are just too big of a risk.

Name: Death at a Funeral
Studio: MGM
Official Site: DeathAtAFuneral-TheMovie.com
Release Date: August 17, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for language and drug content
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Black Comedy
Keywords: Funeral Reunions
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: This film was pushed back from June to August and there's little to add from the previous preview. There are some changes though. For instance, it now only has a small shot at a wide release. Not good news. Even with amazing early reviews, there's little hope that this film will be able to escape limited release. If it does get a wide release, it should earn double, or even triple the box office potential above, which is a weighted average of the two extremes. Regardless, it should find a wider audience on the home market.

Name: Death Sentence
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Official Site: DeathSentenceMovie.com
Release Date: August 31, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody brutal violence and pervasive language
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Revenge and Gangs
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $40 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: A revenge flick with Kevin Bacon starring as a father who takes on the gang that killed his son. Good news: the trailer was effective. Bad news: that's practically all the good news. It has a terrible release date, a star with an uncertain track record at the box office, and a premise that was edgy when the novel was first released, but is now commonplace. For those that don't know, the novel was a follow-up to Death Wish, which was turned into one good movie, followed by a lot that were crap. If the ad campaign is aggressive enough, it could become a midlevel hit. However, if the studio was confident enough to pay for an aggressive ad campaign, I don't think they would have released the film in August.

Name: Halloween
Studio: Miramax/Dimension
Official Site: Halloween-TheMovie.com
Release Date: August 31, 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - excepted to be R
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Teenage Slasher
Production Budget: Unknown - reported at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million
Notes: A movie about Halloween being released in August. That's really all you need to know about this film to judge its box office potential. It's directed by Rob Zombie, whose record so far has been mixed. Sure, both 1000 Corpse films topped their budgets, but neither one reached beyond genre fans. This should be his most mainstream film. However, the studio has picked a terrible time to release it, and I'm not just referring to August 31st. Horror remakes are in a major slump with Black Christmas and Pulse both being released in the past year and both bombing. The Omen also opened last year and did marginally better while the last time a horror remake cracked $100 million was in 2004 with The Grudge. Perhaps if it was released in October the film could have become a midlevel hit. As it is, it will struggle to match its low production budget.

Name: Hot Rod
Studio: Paramount
Official Site: HotRodMovie.com
Release Date: August 3, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude humor, language, some comic drug-related and violent content.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Stupid People Injuring Themselves???
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: I've been seeing a lot of ads for this movie, and each time I see one I want to see the movie less and less. Perhaps I'm just not in the target audience, as there seems to be a very vocal group of supporters for this movie. I'm not sure how large of a group they are, but they are vocal. I would compare the movie to two franchises: Saturday Night Live and Jackass. The former because it stars Andy Samberg, who is most famous for his work on the long running show, and the latter for the stunts gone wrong. But both of these comparisons will hurt the film. Most films associated with Saturday Night Live are terrible and this includes their critical reception and box office performance and some of the early buzz from critics has the film being compared to a SNL skit that has overstayed its welcome. Also, part of the entertainment of Jackass movies is watching morons hurt themselves while doing stupid things. With Hot Rod you know it's fake and that hurts the entertainment value. Last minute update: the theater count is lower than expected while the reviews are marginally better. This shouldn't have too much of an impact at the box office.

Name: Illegal Tender
Studio: Universal
Official Site: IllegalTenderMovie.net
Release Date: August 24, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language and some sexuality
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Organized Crime
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $10 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million
Notes: I have my doubts that this film will open wide, and if it does, there's little chance it will crack 2,000 theaters. I think it will have a run very similar to last year's Waist Deep or Idlewild, except it is aimed mostly at an Hispanic audience, although there will certainly be some crossover appeal. Waist Deep is the more similar film, but Idlewild was a late summer release. Like many releases this time of year, Illegal Tender will likely open in less than 2,000 theaters, earn one reasonable weekend, and then fade without leaving a lasting impression.

Name: The Invasion
Studio: Warner Bros.
Official Site: TheInvasionMovie.WarnerBros.com
Release Date: August 17, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and terror
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Alien Invasions
Production Budget: $50 million or more with reshoots
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: This film probably looked very good on paper, but the mid-August release date suggests something went wrong during production. The reported massive reshoots and the removal of the director seems to back this up. Because of this, the trailer needed to be amazing to help calm my fears, but it wasn't. It wasn't terrible either; it just felt very... familiar. Given the production budget, nearly a third of which went to Nicole Kidman, I think the studio was expecting it to make $100 million, or at least close to it but I don't think it will make a fraction of that. Perhaps will get a director's cut DVD and we will be able to judge for ourselves if the studio killed a good movie or did what they could to save a flop. Of course, that's why they probably won't release the director's cut, because if they did there would be a chance at accountability.

Name: The Last Legion
Studio: Weinstein Co.
Official Site: LastLegion-Movie.com
Release Date: August 17, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence
Source: Basde on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Sword & Sorcery
Production Budget: $67 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: This film had so much potential but early buzz is terrible. This explains the mid-August release date. The trailer evokes a similar vibe as King Arthur, only not as strong. Add in a worse release date, even weaker buzz, less box office drawing power among the cast, etc., and you have a film that will struggle just to be a sleeper hit with bombing out of the gate being more likely at this point. On a side note, I really want Aishwarya Rai to cross over to mainstream films from her usual Bollywood roots. She probably thought this film would go a long way to helping her, but it won't create enough buzz to raise her name recognition significantly.

Name: Mr. Bean's Holiday
Studio: Universal
Official Site: DotComedy.com
Release Date: August 24, 2007
MPAA Rating: G for General Admission (edited version, originally rated PG)
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Road Trip / Vacation
Production Budget: Unknown - reported at $60 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: This is one of the biggest hits of the month... at least internationally, where the film has already pulled in just over $185 million. On the other hand, it might not make 10% of that here. While Rowan Atkinson is quite popular here, Mr. Bean is not one of his most popular characters. (Worldwide it is, but not here.) Outside of its native market, Bean earned about $177 million internationally. Mr. Bean's Holiday, on the other hand, earned $143 million, which is a considerable drop-off given ticket price inflation over 10 years and the growth in a lot of emerging markets like China and Russia. I could see Mr. Bean's Holiday opening in less than 2,000 theaters, missing the top five during its opening, and disappearing very quickly after that. It might surprise and match Bean's run of over $40 million, but I wouldn't put money on that. On a side note, the film cut down to a G-rating, which implies they are going after younger kids and that would suggest a Valiant-like run, but without the bright animation to pull in families.

Name: The Nanny Diaries
Studio: Weinstein Co.
Official Site: TheNannyDiariesMovie.com
Release Date: August 24, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language
Source:
Based on a Book
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Culture Clash, Cross-Class Romance, Boss from Hell, Upstairs / Downstairs
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $40 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million
Notes: This film is based on a popular novel that is clearly aimed at a female demographic. I think the producers were buoyed by the success of The Devil Wears Prada as this film is aimed at the same target audience, more or less. However, the late August release date suggests that while the film has potential, it won't live up to it. None of the cast members have headlined many big hits recently. Scarlett Johansson's biggest hit to date has been SpongeBob SquarePants; Laura Linney hasn't has a film cross $100 million since The Truman Show, and outside of the Fantastic Four franchise, most people probably have never heard of Chris Evans. Paul Giamatti is arguably the best known of the main cast, but he is still more of a character actor than a box office draw (although seeing his name in the credits is usually enough to lift the film to a must-see in my books). Of the five films opening wide on the 24th, I think this one will do the best, but midlevel hit is the highest it will go. Enough to ensure a profit, eventually, and enough to ensure everyone continues to get more work.

Name: Resurrecting the Champ
Studio: Yari Film Group Releasing
Official Site: ResurrectingTheChamp.com
Release Date: August 24, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence and brief language
Source: Based on a Magazine Article
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Boxing and News
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $13 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: One of a handful of films on this month's list that may or may not open wide. Given the distributor, assuming a limited release might be safer. Fortunately the distributor has managed to pull a limited release to wider audiences, and given the reviews they could be able to do it again. However, I think stage magicians are a lot more cinematic than reporters and the film could fail to reach $1 million during its entire run, like most limited releases. It could literally go either way and the above prediction is a weighted average.

Name: Rush Hour 3
Studio: New Line
Official Site: RushHourMovie.com
Release Date: August 10, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of action violence, sexual content, nudity and language
Source: sequel
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Buddy Cop, Buddy Comedy, Martial Arts, Organized Crime
Production Budget: $180 million
Box Office Potential: $150 million
Notes: The second trilogy release of the month, but here it looks like the studio is pushing their luck. The production budgets for these films have ballooned from $35 million for the first to $180 million for this one. Part of the problem here was Chris Tucker, who asked for and got a reported $25 million to reprise his role as Detective James Carter. I can understand why he would do this. After all, he doesn't have a film career outside of this franchise and he needs to make as much money as he can before audience tires of his antics. However, I can't understand why the studio paid him that much. Despite a production budget that is twice as much as the previous installment, it seems likely that the franchise peaked at Rush Hour 2. In fact, I wouldn't be shocked if this film failed to match the original in terms of raw box office dollars. Even if it does finish somewhere between the first two films, making a profit is not guaranteed thanks to that over-inflated production budget.

Name: September Dawn
Studio: Black Diamond Pictures
Official Site: SeptemberDawn.net
Release Date: August 24, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for violence
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Religious and Terrorism
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at under $10 million
Box Office Potential: $1 million
Notes: The film was pushed back from July to August and there's almost no shot that it will open wide. Personally I think they should push the film back and release it on the first Friday of September, but regardless, I don't think this film has what it takes to escape limited release and even earning $1 million might be out of reach.

Name: Skinwalkers
Studio: Lionsgate
Official Site: SkinwalkersTheMovie.com
Release Date: August 10, 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: $7.5 million
Notes: As expected, the film was pushed back from the 27th of July and is now set to open on the 10th of August, but I only think there's a 50% chance it will open then. Even if it does open, I don't think it will open in much more than 1,000 theaters, if that many, and reaching 8-digits could be out of the question.

Name: Stardust
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Official Site: StardustMovie.com
Release Date: August 10, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some fantasy violence and risque humor
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Royalty, Pirates, Visual Effects, and a lot more
Production Budget: $70 million
Box Office Potential: $70 million
Notes: I have mixed feelings about this movie. It could be one of the best movies to come out this month and I'm always in the mood for a good fantasy flick. Stardust is based on a book by Neil Gaiman, who has done some excellent work but he doesn't have a solid record when it comes to adaptations. So far, only one of his works, MirrorMask has been turned into a movie (although Good Omens has been in development hell for almost as long as it has been in print). The trailer certainly sold me on the film's possibilities. Then again, if these possibilities panned out, why is it being released in August? I think it could be good counter-programming, but I don't think it will be able to stay ahead of the crowds. I think its run will be similar to The Brothers Grimm, but without the negative buzz surrounding problems while filming, it should earn more at the box office. Last minute update: Early reviews are in and they are amazing and because of this I've upped the film's box office potential from $50 million to $70 million. I would go higher, but the release date is not very strong and it will be playing counter-programming to Rush Hour 3.

Name: Superbad
Studio: Sony
Official Site: AreYouSuperbad.com
Release Date: August 17, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive crude and sexual content, strong language, drinking, some drug use and a fantasy/comic violent image - all involving teens
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Graduation Day
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million
Notes: The movie better be damn good or the critics are going to have a field day with that name. After watching the trailer, I'm undecided to which way it's going to go. On the one hand, there's a lot of comedic talent involved in this movie; for instance, it was co-written by Seth Rogen, who starred in Knocked Up earlier in the summer. Also from that film is Jonah Hill while his co-star is Michael Cera from Arrested Development. On the other hand, while watching the trailer I couldn't help but get a sense of déjà vu. The film is, after all, high school comedy, and that's a hard genre to pull off as clichés lurk around every corner. The trailer looks funny, better than last year's Accepted and I expect it to earn significantly better reviews. However, it's R rating may prevent it from doing as well at the box office. I think it should do good business for counter-programming and while it won't be one of the bigger hits this summer, it should make the studio happy. Oh, and the Unrated DVD should be a big seller.

Name: Underdog
Studio: Disney
Official Site: Disney.com
Release Date: August 3, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG for rude humor, mild language and action
Source: Based on TV
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Live Action Cartoon, Talking Animals, Animal Lead
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $50 - 75 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: A live action cartoon adaptation of a cartoon that almost no one in its target demographic is going to remember. In this way this film has a lot in common with Dudley Do-Right or Mr. Magoo than the bigger hits like Scooby Doo or even the midlevel hits like Garfield. The film is being pushed hard by the studio, which is probably a smart movie as it is not likely that it will be able to coast on word-of-mouth. Also, the film has a lot of competition from massive films still in theaters including The Simpsons Movie and Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix. Even kids who have seen both of those films will likely want to see either of them again then go out and see Underdog. It might earn as much as Barnyard, which opened during the same weekend last year, but the much stronger competition makes an Ant Bully like run almost as likely. Splitting the difference gives us the above prediction. Last minute update: Still no reviews, which is a bad sign. However, Disney's marketing might should give it at least one strong weekend before is fades with the summer sun.

Name: War
Studio: Lionsgate
Official Site: LionsGate.com
Release Date: August 24, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for R for sequences of strong bloody violence, sexuality/nudity and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Corrupt Cops, Hitmen, Organized Crime, Martial Arts
Production Budget: $25 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: It makes perfect sense to cast Jason Statham opposite to Jet Li. Jason Statham has had a September release each of the last three years while Jet Li has had movie release this time of year two of the last three years. None of these films have managed to become massive hits, but they do play well to their base and pull in enough money to show a profit during their time on the home market. War should be no different. Look for a good start, a sharp drop-off, and $30 to $40 million in total.

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Filed under: Monthly Preview, The Bourne Ultimatum, Rush Hour 3, Superbad, Halloween, Underdog, Stardust, Mr. Bean's Holiday, Balls of Fury, The Nanny Diaries, War, The Invasion, Hot Rod, Daddy Day Camp, Bratz, Death Sentence, Death at a Funeral, El Cantante, The Last Legion, Charlie Bartlett, Resurrecting the Champ, Illegal Tender, Skinwalkers, September Dawn