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2007 Preview: November

November 1st, 2007

After a horrible October, we finally get to November and the start of the holiday season. Just like the summer season doesn't officially begin until Memorial Day, the winter holiday season doesn't officially begin until the Thanksgiving long weekend. However, studios are trying to stretch the lucrative box office season as long as possible and the holiday-like releases start during the first weekend of the month. This means practically every weekend this month, there's at least one potential $100 million movie. There are also a few that might be Oscar contenders, although not as many as I had expected. In fact, so far Award Season has been particularly slow, but at least this means there should be more buzz surrounding the upcoming films as the race is wide open.

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Name: American Gangster
Distributor: Universal
Official Site: AmericanGangster.net
Release Date: November 2, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for violence, pervasive drug content and language, nudity and sexuality
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Organized Crime
Production Budget: $100 million
Box Office Potential: $110 million
Notes: After working with Tony Scott three times, Denzel Washington works with his brother, Ridley Scott. This is a combination that should prove lucrative, as Denzel Washington is a bankable star and Ridley Scott recently had three $100 million hits in a row. However, there are some troubling signs. For instance, this is an expensive movie and Denzel Washington hasn't had a $100 million hit since Remember the Titans while Ridley Scott's previous three films didn't earn $100 million combined. This film will need excellent reviews if it is going to have any chance to match its production budget, and so far they are exemplary. On the other hand, the box office is weak at the moment and the competition is high. Overall the positives outnumber the negatives and this film could become Denzel Washington's biggest hit in his career topping Remember the Titans or it could fail to reach $100 million. I don't think either extreme will happened and it should nicely in-between with just over $100 million.

Name: August Rush
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: AugustRushMovie.WarnerBros.com
Release Date: November 21, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG for some thematic elements, mild violence and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Musicians
Production Budget: Unknown - reported at $25 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: This low key, possible Oscar contender tries its luck during the busiest weekend of the month. The film stars Freddie Highmore, who hopes to return to the critical and box office success after his last two films had neither while it also stars Keri Russell whose star power seems to be on the rise after Waitress became the biggest limited release hit of the summer. There are some concerns that the story is simply too predictable for critics, which would hurt its Oscar chances, and may even turn off moviegoers hurting its box office chance. Additionally, there's some talk that it won't open wide, in which case its box office potential above has to be cut in half, at the very least.

Name: Awake
Distributor: Weinstein Co.
Official Site: GreeneStreetFilms.com
Release Date: November 30, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for language, an intense disturbing situation, and brief drug use.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Suspense
Keywords: Medical and Hospitals
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 - $40 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: The winter holiday season starts on the first weekend of the month and lasts till the New Year's Day. During that time, there is only one weekend that isn't prime real estate to open a box office hit, and that is the weekend after Thanksgiving. This movie opens the weekend after Thanksgiving. In addition, its four main stars are not known for their box office drawing power. The best in terms of career box office is Hayden Christensen at over $700 million, but 95% of that came from his role as Anakin Skywalker in the last two Star Wars movies. Likewise, Jessica Alba has earned more than $500 million, but more than half of that has come from the Fantastic Four franchise. Because of this, the film will really need to wow moviegoers with is ad campaign, but so far it has not done that. The trailer only premiered earlier this week, which is not a lot of time to build buzz, and the early word is mixed. Good news, it is the only film opening wide that weekend. However, the previous weekend more than half-a-dozen films open or expand wide including a couple with very similar target demographics. Look for an opening close to what Aeon Flux debuted with in 2005, but with better legs.

Name: Bee Movie
Distributor: Paramount
Official Site: BeeMovie.com
Release Date: November 2, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG for mild suggestive humor
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Animal Lead, Talking Animal, Food
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $75 million
Box Office Potential: $125 million
Notes: The latest in a long line of November releases for digitally animated pictures. In 2004 Shark Tale came out to bad reviews and made $161 million. In 2005 Chicken Little came out to nearly the same reviews and made $135 million. Last year Flushed Away opened with very positive reviews but only earned $65 million. However, direct competition might have had something to do with that and combined they made $150 million. This film has no direct competition and should perform better than Flushed Away reaching the $100 million mark, but it hasn't done enough to convince me it will be remember long after its release. Disposable children's entertainment. This will hurt it in the coming weeks as strong competition arrives.

Name: Beowulf
Distributor: Paramount
Official Site: BeowulfMovie.com
Release Date: November 16, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence including disturbing images, some sexual material and nudity
Source: Based on a Book, however, the story is so old one could also say it is Based on a Legend
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Good vs. Evil, Sword & Sorcerer, and Demons and / or Monsters
Production Budget: $150 million
Box Office Potential: $175 million
Notes: Hmmm. Photo-realistic digital animation aimed at adults. It's been a while since a film like that was release, and for good reason. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was such an expensive bomb that it caused Sony to close their digital animation studio. Then again, the technology really improved since then. In fact, it improved since The Polar Express. With the earliest of the three film, the characters felt like mannequins, exceptionally smoothly animated mannequins, but they had no life to them. In The Polar Express, they had facial features down, but those eyes were still dead. Thanks to new technology, which we don't need to talk about, the eyes should have real life capturing the movement of the real life actors. Also going for the movie its its classic story, and by classic I mean classic. This is a story has survived more than a millenium so you know it should draw in moviegoers. Now all they have to do is not screw it up. There are a couple warning signs; for instance, they are messing with the story of the original epic poem. I think they would call it modernizing, but the attempt to make it more attractive to modern audiences could backfire. Secondly, looking at the cast I see a lot of actors who have impressive resumes, but not many who have a lot of experience doing voice acting. I've said it before, I'll likely have to say it again, but studios need to hire actors who have experience doing voice work. Big names do not draw people into theaters for animated films and this has been proven time and time again. That said, this is shaping up to be one of the event films of the month and $100 million should be an easy milestone to reach; in fact, some are expected $200 million. However, I think $175 million is a safer prediction, which is inline with other recent November releases aimed at a more mature target demographic like National Treasure or Casino Royale. With a high price tag, the film will still need to see some international success to pay for itself, but that shouldn't be an issue.

Name: Christmas in Wonderland
Distributor: Yari Film Group Releasing
Official Site: ChristmasInWonderland.com
Release Date: November 9, 2007 (limited)
Release Date: November 21, 2007 (expands to wide)
MPAA Rating: PG for rude language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Christmas and Christmas in November
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: First a note on the release date: The official site says it is opening on the 12th of November, which is a Monday. They could mean the 21st, which is the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, but that would mean they are dropping the two weeks of limited release. There are five family films coming out this month and four of them have a shot at $100 million. This is the other. It is easily the smallest of the five films, has the least star power, it doesn't have a major studio backing it up, and there's even talk that it might not open wide. I see it performing similar to Unaccompanied Minors, maybe a little better at the box office, but a little worse with critics. That is assuming the film opens on the 21st. If it starts out in limited releases, I can't see it doing well enough to expand leaving the film with $1 million or less.

Name: Enchanted
Distributor: Disney
Official Site: EnchantedMovie.com
Release Date: November 21, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG for some scary images and mild innuendo
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Live Action Cartoon, Prince / Princesss, and others
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $50 - $70 million
Box Office Potential: $150 million
Notes: This film has one of the best set-ups for a family film I've seen in a long, long time. In it Amy Adams stars as Princesss Giselle who is sucked from the cartoon world into to real life New York. And judging from the trailer, she's perfect for the role. Also, the film is opening on Thanksgiving weekend and has the marketing might of Disney backing it up which automatically puts its box office potential over $100 million. The biggest concern is the competition as the Thanksgiving weekend plays host to six to eight films that are opening or expanding wide. This is pure madness. Not only that, but also each of the previous three weeks there's a potential $100 million family film opening as well. However, early buzz is very strong for this movie, and not just as a kids film but it could please parents as well as there's already talk of a sequel.

Name: Fred Claus
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: FredClaus.WarnerBros.com
Release Date: November 9, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG for mild language and some rude humor
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Christmas, Christmas in November, and Dysfunctional Family
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million
Notes: This movie could have a potential very similar to Will Ferrell's breakout hit, Elf, which is not surprising since it stars fellow Frat Packer, Vince Vaughn. Similar, but not as strong. Best case scenario has the film cracking $100 million, perhaps even $125 million. However, there are some sticking points here. First of all, there's the competition. Both Fred Claus and Elf saw three other wide releases aimed at the same target audience during the month it was release. However, Elf was the first family film for the holiday season in 2003 and two of the three competing films missed expectations at the box office. Secondly, are they going to market the film at families, or the Bad Santa crowd? Given the PG rating, aiming the film at families makes more sense; however, the Bad Santa vibe is already out there and that could scare families away no matter what the marketing it like. $100 million isn't out of the question, but unless the advertising overcomes a couple issues, it will have to settle for being a midlevel hit. But that should be enough to make the studio happy with a reported $30 million budget.

Name: Hitman
Distributor: Fox
Official Site: HitmanMovie.com
Release Date: November 21, 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Likely aiming for R
Source: Based on a Video Game
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Hitman and Religious
Production Budget: Reported at $70 to $75 million, which seems high
Box Office Potential: $45 million
Notes: A hitman movie that looks very stylish, at least according to the trailer, but not particularly exciting. You have problems when the style gets in the way of the action, but hopefully the trailers have been misleading so far. Based on a video game, this movie seems to be aiming at the same audience as the Transporter franchise, just with a better release date. However, War and Shoot 'Em Up were also going after the same audience and they both struggled. Add in a star that doesn't have a proven track record for carrying a film and the massive competition and you get a movie that will struggle to be a midlevel hit at best topping Shooter in the process. However if reports are true about its production budget, there's little hope it will show a profit until a long way into its home market run.

Name: I'm Not There
Distributor: Weinstein Co.
Official Site: ImNotThere-Movie.com
Release Date: November 21, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for language, some sexuality and nudity
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Biography and Musicians
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 - $40 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million
Notes: There are a lot of movies where the same actor plays multiple roles. There are not nearly as many movies where multiple actors play the same roles. Usually when this happens, it is a matter of one character aging throughout the course of the movie. This film has half-a-dozen actors and actresses playing different aspect of the legendary folk singer, Bob Dylan. It is also the first biographical drama feature to get the approval of Bob Dylan, and it could be a player during award season. However, it list likely opening in limited release during one of the busiest weekends of the year, it is going to need amazing buzz to reach anyone outside of the diehard Dylan fans and reach mainstream success. Early reviews suggest that will be a difficult, but not an impossible task.

Name: Lions for Lambs
Distributor: United Artists
Official Site: LionsForLambs.UnitedArtists.com
Release Date: November 9, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for some war violence and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: War and Terrorism
Production Budget: $35 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million
Notes: The first film for Tom Cruise's new studio, however, while this is a big test for the reborn United Artists, it will be hard for it to be a victory. Tom Cruise has produced a lot of movies over the past few years and they all fall into two categories, those that he also starred in, and those that bombed. Until the studio releases a movie that doesn't have his star power to draw on, successes won't be greeted with enthusiasm. (It's a matter of expectations.) On the other hand, should this film struggle like other recent films dealing with the War on Terror or the Iraq War, the naysayers and the doubters will start saying, "I told you so." Even worse for the film are the early reviews as they are quite negative. This is a film that will live and die on its critical appeal, and if it has none, it has no box office potential either. That said, the last Tom Cruise movie to not hit $50 million at the box office was Magnolia and that was a limited release, (Young Guns also made less than $50 million, but he only had an uncredited bit piece in that movie). To see a starring role in a wide release that didn't reach $50 million you have to go all the way back to 1986 and Legend. If this film doesn't reach $50 million, it will be a major disappointment and another film that seemed like an Oscar contender on paper that failed to live up to expectations.

Name: Love in the Time of Cholera
Distributor: New Line
Official Site: MySpace.com
Release Date: November 16, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content/nudity and brief language
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Non-Chronological and Costume Drama
Production Budget: Between $45 and $50 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: Another potential Oscar contender, however, given the results of these films so far, that's not a good thing when it comes to its box office chances. Or for that matter, it chances with the critics. So far this year we've seen Oscar bait after Oscar bait released only to have most of them fail to impress the critics and nearly all of them stumble at the box office. Add to that mix the fact that costume dramas have been in a slump and there's little hope the film will match its production budget. Additionally, there is also some talk that the film might not open wide, in which case you need to cut its box office potential in half, at least.

Name: The Martian Child
Distributor: New Line
Official Site: MartianChild.com
Release Date: November 2, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements and mild language
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: (Un)expected Family and Writers
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $27 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: The counter-programming to the two potential $100 million movies opening during the first weekend of the month. This film will have a tough time becoming anything more than a midlevel hit for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is opening in just 2000 theaters compared to the more than 3000 theaters for the other two films. Secondly, the film stars John Cusack, who tends to star in movies that do better with critics than with moviegoers. In fact, his most recent movie, 1408, was his biggest hit in 6 years and the second biggest hit of his career. Finally, the film has had six release dates over the past year or so, which is a strong indicator that the studio doesn't have much faith in the movie. Low expectations tend to be a self-fulfilling prophecy as it affects the strength of the marketing for the film. That said, The Martian Child was not an expensive movie to make and it has a decent shot at earning a profit by its initial push into the home market.

Name: The Mist
Distributor: Miramax / Dimension
Official Site: TheMist-Movie.com
Release Date: November 21, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for violence, terror and gore, and language
Source: Based on a Novella
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Monster
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated anywhere from $20 million to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: This is a horror film being releases during a year that has not been kind to horror films. At the moment 1408 leading the pack and is only one of three such films to cross $50 million at the box office, (I'm assuming Saw IV will get there shortly). Fortunately, this film has a lot more in common with 1408 then it does with Hostel II or Captivity. There's the obvious Stephen King connection, which is not just the name recognition factor, but also the tone of the movie. This will not be torture porn. In the end, it will have a tough time dealing with all of the competition, but might become the fourth horror film to reach $50 million this year. On a side note, this is only the fourth film directed by Frank Darabont but the third Stephen King adaptation. The other two were The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption, which were among the best Stephen King movies ever made. If it can earn similar reviews, it could challenge for the biggest box office haul for a horror this year.

Name: Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium
Distributor: Fox
Official Site: Magorium.com
Release Date: November 16, 2007
MPAA Rating: G for General Admission
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Living Toys
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $70 million
Box Office Potential: $125 million
Notes: A family film opening the weekend before Thanksgiving. I should be a lot more excited about this film's box office chances than I am. The trailer didn't sell me on the film as it felt too frenetic but without an underlying story foundation that will draw me in. Granted, I'm not part of the target demographic, but I've seen enough of these movies that I should know when one is being sold well. Another part of the problem with the film is the studio, Walden Media, which has been really hit and miss when it comes to box office numbers. For every Narnia they have three films like The Dark is Rising. Even Charlotte's Web missed expectations failing to reach $100 million. On the other hand, it is a great time of year to release a family film. For instance, this time last year Happy Feet came out and nearly reached $200 million. I don't expect Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium do to as well as that, it should still become part of what could be a record-breaking group of $100 million hits.

Name: No Country for Old Men
Distributor: Miramax
Official Site: NoCountryForOldMen-TheMovie.com
Release Date: November 9, 2007 (limited)
Release Date: November 23, 2007 (expands wide)
MPAA Rating: R for strong graphic violence and some language
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Organized Crime
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: Another potential Oscar winner being given a limited release before expanding wide. So far this strategy hasn't worked out the year and there's little to suggest this film will be different. The film is written and directed by the Coen Brothers who haven't released a feature film in more than three year and its been almost seven since their biggest hit, O Brother, Where Art Thou. Also, Tommy Lee Jones hasn't had a major hit in nearly as long. In fact, the last movie of his that had a strong showing at the box office and wowed critics was Space Cowboys. Earlier this year he starred in In the Valley of Elah, which produced mixed results. It earned good reviews, but not great reviews, and did well during its one week limited engagement but failed when it tried to expand. This film trying to same release strategy but it should have a better shot at success as its reviews are indeed Oscar caliber. Whether it will actually earn any nominations or even awards is still up in the air, but with the number of Oscar bait movies that turned sour so far this year, its chances are looking up.

Name: P2
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Official Site: P2TheMovie.com
Release Date: November 9, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence/gore, terror and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Christmas, Christmas in November, and Serial Killer, maybe?
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: The combined talents that brought us High Tension and The Hills Have Eyes reunited for this horror film. The trailer made is seem like the film earned its scared through psychological horror and not just sadistic torture, but the film promises a lot of both. Which one it leans towards will go a long way in determining how well the film does at the box office as Torture Porn seems to be fading in popularity, (the strength of Saw IV during its opening weekend not withstanding). With a low production budget, even a moderate opening will be enough to show a profit shortly after the Unrated DVD hits the home market, but with weak buzz among horror fans, that could be all it earns.

Name: This Christmas
Distributor: Sony/Screen Gems
Official Site: SonyPictures.com
Release Date: November 21, 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - probably PG or PG-13
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Christmas and Christmas in November
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: A dysfunctional family holiday drama aimed at African Americans. This film will be aimed at the same audiences of Why Did I Get Married?, but doesn't have the same box office punch. There is also some talk that the film might not get a wide opening, or at least a sub-2000 theater opening. Add in a lot of competition, and this film will likely get lost in the cracks domestically while it will have no international drawing power. However, with a low production budget it should still make a profit sometime on the home market.


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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Enchanted, Bee Movie, Beowulf, No Country for Old Men, Fred Claus, This Christmas, Hitman, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, August Rush, The Mist, Lions for Lambs, Awake, The Martian Child, P2, Love in the Time of Cholera, I'm Not There, Christmas in Wonderland, American Gangster