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2007 Preview: October

October 1st, 2007

October means one thing: Free candy. ... Oh yeah, and the unofficial start of Award Season. And Halloween brings us a few horror films as well. Unfortunately, this year October is rather weak, with no film looking like a strong contender for $100 million and most of the films with early Oscar buzz having performed poorly with the critics. The only good news is last October was also weak at the box office, meaning there's at least a reasonable shot at 2007 maintaining its box office lead over 2006.

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

Name: 30 Days of Night
Distributor: Sony
Official Site: 30DaysOfNight.com
Release Date: October 19, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for strong horror violence and language
Source: Based on a Comic
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Vampire
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: The first horror film of the month doesn't arrive till the third weekend. Early buzz is mixed, with some people questioning some of the choices in front and behind the camera. The film is directed by David Slade, whose only previous film was the amazing Hard Candy. While there's no doubt David Slade is a talented director, his choice for this film left a few people puzzled. Also, the two leads, Josh Harnett and Melissa George didn't exactly wow too many genre fans. However, early word from critics is positive and with only one other horror film opening this month, the competition is low and it should be a midlevel hit.

Name: The Comebacks
Distributor: Fox Atomic
Official Site: FoxAtomic.com
Release Date: October 19, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout and some drug material
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Football and Spoof
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: David Koechner gets his first chance to carry a movie, which may or may not be brilliant casting. Most people have never heard his name, but will recognize him from his performances in Anchorman, The 40-Year Old Virgin, Talladega Nights, and others. There are two other question marks here. Firstly, the inspirational sports movie has not been as strong recently as in years past, and secondly, movie spoofs have been over-played a while ago and the market might have dried up. (Then again, most recent spoofs are not spoofs at all but merely throw a lot of pop-culture references at the screen hoping the audiences laugh.) Add in a tough release date (the busiest weekend of the month), and I have a hard time imagining this film will become even a midlevel hit. In fact, I wouldn't be terribly surprised if it failed to crack the top ten when it opened and ended with less than $10 million in total.

Name: Dan in Real Life
Distributor: Disney
Official Site: DanInRealLife-TheMovie.com
Release Date: October 26, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some innuendo
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Love Triangle
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million
Notes: Steve Carell's first movie since this summer's Evan Almighty, which is the actor's only misstep since he rocketed to prominence in The 40-Year Old Virgin. This movie has much more in common with The 40-Year Old Virgin or Little Miss Sunshine than it does with Evan Almighty, but it will still be a challenge for it to become a box office hit. First of all, outside of Steve Carell, none of the main cast members are proven box office draws. Secondly, its target audience tends to be a little more demanding. Also, with award season starting to heat up, there will be a lot of competition. That said, it should still become a midlevel hit and if it does happen to score some Oscar buzz, it could do even better.

Name: Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Distributor: Universal
Official Site: ElizabethTheGoldenAge.net
Release Date: October 12, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, some sexuality and nudity
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Royalty and Costume Drama
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: Ever year lots and lots of sequels are made, but when you think of sequels, you don't often think of period pieces. The original film came out nearly a decade ago and earned strong reviews and seven Oscar nominations (including a win for Best Makeup). However, early reviews for this film are not as strong. Not nearly as strong. Even so, there's still a lot of Oscar buzz surrounding the film (especially Cate Blanchett's performance), just based on the film's pedigree. This could help it at least help it at the box office but once the reviews are well know, it will has very little chance for award-season glory.

Name: Feel the Noise
Distributor: Sony
Official Site: No Official Site
Release Date: October 5, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sensuality and innuendoes, violence, some drug use and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Music Industry
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $20 million or less
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: This is a movie that had completely slipped in under my radar. It is produced by Jennifer Lopez, whose previous producing credit, El Cantante, went nowhere. And with this film, she's not even adding her star power to the movie. The movie is obviously going after Latino moviegoers, but that's an audience that hasn't been nurtured yet and so its box office chances are not strong. It will take a few smaller hits before more studios risk making movies aimed at this target demographic, but I don't think this will be one of those smaller hits.

Name: The Final Season
Distributor: Yari Film Group
Official Site: FinalSeason.com
Release Date: October 12, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG for language, thematic elements and some teen smoking
Source: Based on Real Life
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Inspirational Coach and Baseball
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: Stop me if you've heard this before, this is an inspirational sports movie based on real life events. Since these movies are so common, it takes something special to stand out. However, even the ones that don't stand out usually perform solidly at the box office. That said, Yari Film Group is a young distributor and most of their films start in limited or semi-limited release and only The Illusionist has been able to expand enough to earn real mainstream success (although The Matador also did very well for a limited release). If it opens wide with a strong enough ad campaign to back it up, it could earn $30 or $40 million. On the other hand, it could open in just 100 theaters or so and never crack $1 million. The above prediction is a weighted average of the two.

Name: Gone, Baby, Gone
Distributor: Paramount
Official Site: GoneBabyGone-TheMovie.com
Release Date: Limited - October 19, 2007
Release Date: Expansion Wide - October 26, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for violence, drug content and pervasive language
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Private Investigator
Production Budget: Reported at $19 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: Ben Affleck has not had a good run at the box office recently. His last $100 million movie was Daredevil and the films he's made since then have averaged under $25 million. So it makes sense that it would return to his roots and write a screenplay. But not only did he write the screenplay, he's also making his directorial debut. There's a low level of Oscar buzz surrounding the film not only because Ben Affleck is an Oscar winning screenwriter, but also because the movie is based on a book by the same author that wrote Mystic River. So far early reviews are impressive and if the film does garner more award season buzz, it could make the transition from limited release to wide release a lot easier.

Name: The Heartbreak Kid
Distributor: Paramount
Official Site: HeartbreakKidMovie.com
Release Date: October 5, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, crude humor, language, and a scene of drug use involving a minor
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Relationships Gone Wrong and Love Triangle
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $50 - $60 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million
Notes: First of all, I preferred the original title, The Seven Day Itch. I know, the original movie was called The Heartbreak Kid, but The Seven Day Itch just sounds more interesting. Ben Stiller is on a serious winning streak; not counting his cameos, he's made four $100 million movies in a row. On the other hand, the Farrelly brothers haven't had a $100 million movie since There's Something About Mary nearly a decade ago. To make matters worse, the trailers for this film have not impressed me so far and I'm not alone in that assessment. I still think the film will be a midlevel hit, but well below Ben Stiller's recent averages. On the other hand, it could surprise and become this month's only $100 million movie.

Name: Lars and the Real Girl
Distributor: MGM
Official Site: LarsAndTheRealGirl-TheMovie.com
Release Date: October 12, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sex-related content
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: I have no idea
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at under $20 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: There are mixed reports as to whether this film will open wide or not, but since it is being released by MGM it hardly matters. It is important to note that I do not have a vendetta against MGM, although I can see why someone might think that. There are been numerous releases by that company that I have been rooting for, but their (not so) recent history has been filled with failures. 2007 has brought them only two successes, which is one more than 2006. To compound matters, Lars and the Real Girl is a difficult film to market. It stars Ryan Gosling who is an amazing talent, but not a household name. And in the movie, he falls in love with a ... well, with a realistic looking sex doll. (This is part of the reason why I assume the film will open in limited release.) Early reviews are great, and there's even some Oscar buzz. However, if it opens in limited release, it might struggle to expand limiting its box office to a few million. Even if it opens wide, it will struggle at the box office unless that Oscar buzz grows loud enough to overcome what I expect will be weak advertising.

Name: Michael Clayton
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: MichaelClayton.WarnerBros.com
Release Date: Limited: October 5, 2007
Release Date: Wide Expansion: October 12, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for language including some sexual dialogue
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Lawyers
Production Budget: Unknown - reported at $25 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: This film is opening in limited release one week, and expanding wide the next week. Recently that strategy was tried by Eastern Promises to mixed results, to be polite. Then again, two years ago George Clooney used a similar release schedule for Good Night, And Good Luck and Syriana and those two films made $30 million and $50 million respectively. Early reviews for Michael Clayton are closer to those earned by Syriana than Good Night, And Good Luck, but it is also has the former film's edge in marketability. Good marketing could help this film beat both of those at the box office, but fitting someone in-between is more likely.

Name: Rendition
Distributor: New Line
Official Site: RenditionMovie.com
Release Date: October 19, 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Terrorism
Production Budget: $27.5 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: Based on real life events, sort of. There are clear parallels between this movie and what happened to Maher Arar, a Syrian born Canadian who was tortured after he was mistaken for a terrorist. In this movie, Omar Metwally plays Anwar El-Ibrahim, who is held by the American government and sent overseas to be tortured while Reese Witherspoon plays his wife who is left wondering what happened to her husband. With a stellar cast, there is Oscar buzz floating around this movie. However, early reviews are not good and this early buzz will be for nothing. As for the film's box office chances, the trailer was very effective and that could draw in a few people, but this is the type of film that will live and die on its reviews. Add in a politically charged theme that might not be an asset, and this film might struggle to become a midlevel hit.

Name: Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour
Distributor: Freestyle Releasing
Official Site: SarahLandon.com
Release Date: October 19, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements, mild peril and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Suspense
Keywords: Hauntings
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at under $20 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: While not strictly a horror film, this supernatural suspense film should benefit from Halloween. On the other hand, it has a first time director, a first time star, and a trailer that did not impress me. Amateurish is the word that jumped to mind when I saw it the first time, and even with a target audience of 'tweens, I have a hard time believing this film will be a big hit, or even a midlevel hit. Freestyle Releasing has only been able to push two of its releases past the $10 million mark and this film doesn't look as strong as either those two. It most resembles An American Haunting, but while Halloween could help boost its box office, the market is just way too crowded for it to survive.

Name: Saw IV
Distributor: Lionsgate
Official Site: Saw4.com
Release Date: October 26, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture throughout, and for language
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Serial Killer
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at approximately $10 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: If it's Halloween, it must be Saw. The fourth installment in the franchise hits theaters the weekend before Halloween, but for the first time there's trepidation with regards to its box office chances. The first film was a huge surprise back in 2004 and the second managed to improve upon its predecessor's box office numbers in 2005. However, last year Saw III slipped at the box office despite opening bigger while the reviews continued to decline. Now a lot of fans are saying the franchise should have died with Jigsaw and expectations at the box office suggest it won't even top the original. That said, these are still very cheap movies to make and there's almost no chance that the film won't show a profit sometime during its international run (especially with the weakened American dollar), and next year Saw V should be released in theaters. ... or possibly direct-to-DVD.

Name: Seeker: The Dark is Rising
Distributor: Fox
Official Site: SeekTheSigns.com
Release Date: October 5, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG for fantasy action and some scary images.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Good vs. Evil and Secret Magic
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $80 - $100 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million
Notes: Fantasy adventure films with kids as the protagonists are starting to become a sub-genre of their own. Recent examples include Bridge to Terabithia, Pan's Labyrinth, Arthur and the Invisibles, Narnia, and of course the Harry Potter films. Later this year, His Dark Materials comes out, and next year The Spiderwick Chronicles and another Narnia hit theaters. At some point moviegoers will grow tired of these films, and that might happen as early as this month. On the other hand, with no other major releases aimed at kids for the rest of the month, this film should have better than average legs and that should help it battle for the biggest box office of the month, but it will need a lot of luck to hit $100 million. The studio is obviously hoping to turn the five book series into a movie franchise, but I think it will struggle to make a profit and even if it does earn $100 million at the box office, that might not be enough to convince the studio to make more.

Name: Sleuth
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Official Site: SonyClassics.com
Release Date: October 12, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for strong language
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Love Triangle and Surprise Twist
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: Another film that may or may not open wide. If it does open wide, it could do quite well, as the original was one of the best surprise twist films of all time. In fact, you could watch the original a dozen times and still not know what really happened, the ending was that well done. However, since the original isn't on DVD (both versions of out of print), that isn't an option. Also going for the film is the cast and crew with the director, screenwriter, and both stars having some experience on Oscar night (although so far only Michael Caine has won the big prize). That said, the reviews are only mixed and it seems very unlikely it will live up to the amazing and multi-Oscar-nominated original. If it does open wide, it should do reasonably well as counter-programming. If it has a limited opening, it should expand enough to have some measure of mainstream success, but it will take till the home market to find its audience.

Name: Things We Lost in the Fire
Distributor: Paramount
Official Site: ThingsWeLostInTheFire.com
Release Date: October 19, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for drug content and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Drug Addiction
Production Budget: Unknown - reported at $16 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: Halle Berry returns to dramatic work for the first time since she won an Oscar for Monster's Ball. This time she is joined by fellow Oscar winner, Benicio Del Toro, in only his second role in the past four years. However, while this should increase the Oscar buzz, the trailer was not impressive and there's little talk of award season strength. To make matters worse, the film is opening on the busiest weekend of the month with two other films that are aiming for the same audience. Because of this, it likely won't get as big of an opening as it might otherwise and the first sign of weakness will kill its chances at the box office.

Name: Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas 3D
Distributor: Disney
Official Site: ADisney.Go.com
Release Date: October 19, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG for some scary images
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Musical
Keywords: Halloween, Christmas, Christmas in October, Monster movie, Kidnapping, Rescue, etc.
Production Budget: Originally $18 million - Unknown for conversion to 3-D
Box Office Potential: $5 million
Notes: My favorite musical of all time. I know what you are thinking, you're thinking, "Wasn't this released already?" Yes it was, back in 1993. Not only that, but it was re-released last year in a 3-D format. Last year it opened with $3.2 million, which may not seem like much until you realize it was only playing in 168 theaters. By the time Halloween was over it had pulled in $6.4 million and ended its run with $8.7 million. This time around, the plan is to open it a little wider but have it run just 3 weeks. However, I don't think it will earn as much at the box office, but with a P&A budget of just a million or so, it might earn enough that it could be an annual event

Name: We Own the Night
Distributor: Columbia
Official Site: SonyPictures.com
Release Date: October 12, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, drug material, language, some sexual content and brief nudity
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Mafia
Production Budget: $28 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: This film reminds be a lot of The Departed, and not just for the Mark Wahlberg connection. It's also about the mafia and the cops battling it out but it adds a family connection. On the other hand, it doesn't have half the hype. Everyone wanted to know if The Departed would finally give Martin Scorsese is first directing Oscar. This film, on the other hand, has sadly little to no buzz and early reviews don't suggest it will have the word-of-mouth needed to build an audience. Worse yet, direct competition from the wide expansion of Michael Clayton could kill it. I'm expecting an opening in the mid-teens while it will likely not reach $50 million at the box office. On the other hand, a relatively low production budget could help it show a profit sometime during the film's home market run.

Name: Why Did I Get Married?
Distributor: Lionsgate
Official Site: WhyDidIGetMarriedTheMovie.com
Release Date: October 12, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual references and language.
Source: Based on a Play
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Relationship Advice and Relationships Gone Wrong
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at under $20 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: The latest from Tyler Perry. This film will look to bounce back from Daddy's Little Girls and if it doesn't, it might be seen as a sign that whatever helped his first few films score big has passed. I think it will bounce back, somewhat, but still fail to reach the level Diary of a Mad Black Woman earned in 2005. However, even with absolutely no international appeal, this will be enough to earn a profit sometime during the film's home market run thanks to its low production budget.

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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Saw IV, Why Did I Get Married?, Michael Clayton, Dan in Real Life, The Heartbreak Kid, We Own the Night, Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas 3D, Gone, Baby, Gone, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, The Comebacks, Rendition, The Seeker: The Dark is Rising, Lars and the Real Girl, Feel the Noise, Things We Lost in the Fire, The Final Season, Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour, Sleuth, 30 Days of Night