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2006 Preview: August

August 1st, 2006

July finally brought us the year's first truly monster his with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, but outside that film, most of the month disappointed. With August being a bit of a dumping ground for films that didn't work out, the weakness in the box office should continue. Add in a few surprise hits last year and 2006 may have trouble keeping up with last years pace.

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

Name: Accepted
Studio: Universal
Official Site: AcceptedMovie.com
Release Date: August 11, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language, sexual material and drug content
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Genres: College
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $25 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million
Notes: There have been a veritable cornucopia of cinematic offerings that deal with the life altering experience known as college. This is a natural occurrence as these formative years are simply bursting with creativity and enthusiasm that filmmakers revel in reliving. Okay, enough with the fancy talk. College life is used so often in movies because in real life it is the first that kids are away from their parents and they tend to go a little wild. The premise of this film is interesting and certainly has plenty of potential: Bartleby Gaines is rejected by every college he applies to so he decides to create a fake one to fool his parents only to have hundreds of kids in similar circumstances show up and want to enroll. However, the trailer made the film seem completely unoriginal and stale and the early reviews seem to confirm that. There's still faint hope that the film will be worth watching, but it's fading.

Name: Barnyard: The Original Party Animals
Studio: Paramount
Official Site: BarnyardMovie.com
Release Date: August 4, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild peril and rude humor
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Genres: Talking Animals
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $35 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: From the mind of Steve Oedekerk, the man who brought us Jimmy Neutron and Bruce Almighty, as well as Kung Pow and Thumbation comes Barnyard: The Original Party Animals, a movie about a male cow. I'm guessing Mr. Oedekerk didn't grow up on a farm. His track record with critics and moviegoers is spotty, his sense of humor can be too out there for most people and this is the third digitally animated movie to come out in a span of three weekends. This adds up to the film struggling to be a big hit, but it should still earn enough to make back its costs by the time it hits the home market. One last note, I do suspect this film will earn better reviews than most people are expecting, not great reviews, but around 60% to 70% positive. Last minute update: with the struggles of recent digitally animated movies I've cut this film's box office potential from $65 million to $35 million.

Name: Beerfest
Studio: Warner Bros.
Official Site: BeerfestMovie.WarnerBros.com
Release Date: August 25, 2006
MPAA Rating: N/A - Going for an R-rating
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Genres: Food, if you consider Beer to be food.
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at under $10 million
Box Office Potential: Under $10 million
Notes: This is being advertised as from the makers of Super Troopers, which is strange cause that movie didn't do so well. It could be worse, they could be advertising it as from the makers of Club Dread. However, the marketing technique was the only thing funny in the trailer; it's honestly one of the worst I've seen in a while. The film is opening on the last weekend in August and could be out of theatres before September is halfway over.

Name: The Descent
Studio: Lionsgate
Official Site: TheDescentFilm.com
Release Date: August 4, 2006
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence/gore and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller / Horror
Genres: Underground
Production Budget: 3.5 million pounds, or about $6.3 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: A bit of a hit back in its native U.K., given its production budget and a lot of fans of gory horror films were really excited about its prospects of coming to North America. There are a couple of hurdles for the film. For instance, The Cave was such a dud that many will write-off this superficially similar movie without giving it a chance. Also, the ending was changed from the one shown in the U.K. because it didn't test well here, which has upset a lot of hardcore gorehounds. This could prove to be a real mistake, especially since test audiences are generally a mix of people while films like this go after a more targeted audience. Studios should really trust the filmmakers more than the average moviegoer in cases like this. Add in a sub-2000 theatre count and it might have to settle for a lower spot in the top ten during its opening weekend before a quick exit thanks to the short legs most horror films have. Even so, the film was inexpensive enough that is should still have a financially successful run, while most of its revenue will come from the home market when they release the movie with the original ending intact.

Name: How to Eat Fried Worms
Studio: New Line
Official Site: FriedWormsMovie.com
Release Date: August 25, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG for mild bullying and some crude humor
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Genres: New Guy In School and Food, if you consider worms to be food.
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: How to Eat Fried Worms was one of my favorite books when I was a kid, and while I understand I'm not in the target demographic anymore, I was still disappointed in the trailer for this film. A good kids' movie should be able to entice adults as well. Add in a very late August release date when the target audience is more concerned about getting ready to go back to school than watching movies and this film will have troubles at the box office. Best case scenario has it opening in the top five buy holding on well during Labor Day. On the other hand, it could do rather well on the home market as it will likely come out on DVD just before Christmas.

Name: Idlewild
Studio: Universal
Official Site: IdlewildMovie.net
Release Date: August 25, 2006
MPAA Rating: R for violence, sexuality, nudity and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Musical
Genres: Organized Crime
Production Budget: $15 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: I think this film will be filed under in, "Seemed like a good idea at the time." When the film was given the go ahead, Outkast just became huge with hits like, "Hey Yeah" while Andre Benjamin was branching out into acting with roles in Be Cool and Four Brothers. Add in an impressive cast and the film looked like a sure hit, at least with its target audience. However, the film was originally given a January release date and after a couple of changes it is being dumped in late August. I don't expect it to be a terrible movie, more along the lines of good idea, poor execution.

Name: The Illusionist
Studio: Yari Film Group
Official Site: TheIllusionist.com
Release Date: August 18, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexuality and violence.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Genres: Secret Magic, Costume Drama, and Cross-Class Romance
Production Budget: $17 million
Box Office Potential: $12.5 million
Notes: There are some sources that suggest this film is only opening in limited release on the 18th, and others suggesting that it will open in the dreaded Select Cities. If either of these reports are true, then the film will struggle to earn even a few million. This would be a real shame as the film looks great, has plenty of intrigue and even if the execution is not perfect, it is still certainly worth checking out. Also working against the film is its release date and the lack of big name stars. While both Ed Norton and Paul Giamatti are amazing actors and both should have already won Oscars, they are not proven box office draws. They have plenty of fans, (the people at this site included), but they can't fill theatres, yet.

Name: Invincible
Studio: Disney
Official Site: No Official Site
Release Date: August 25, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG for sports action and some mild language.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Genres: Football
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $30 - $40 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: The latest real life inspirational sports story from the studio that brought you all those other such movies. I doubt the movie will be terrible, despite the late August release date. However, it will be compared to the dozens of other movies just like it and won't live up to most of them. Also, the release date is poorly chosen for another reason, football season hasn't started yet... I think. I don't pay attention to the NFL as I prefer the CFL. It's a faster game, more exciting game, with much more big plays. Anyway, back to the movie, it won't earn as much as its predecessors, but it should have enough DVD sales among Eagles fans to show a profit, eventually.

Name: Material Girls
Studio: MGM
Official Site: MGM.com
Release Date: August 18, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG for language and rude humor
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Genres: Rags to Riches, (in reverse), and Duff Fluff
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million
Notes: This film has been sitting on a shelf for more than a year now, which is a terrible sign. Add in the mid-August release date, rumored sub-2000 theatre count and Hilary Duff, who hasn't had the best luck choosing roles, and you have a film that will likely struggle just to open in the top five. On the other hand, it is directed by Martha Coolidge, who helmed Valley Girl and therefor knows a lot about vapid, shallow people. More importantly, she also directed Real Genius, one of the greatest movies every made and infinitely quotable, ("Am I the only one who has that dream?"). So while the facts are stacked up against this movie, I'm still holding out faint hope.

Name: The Night Listener
Studio: IFC
Official Site: TheNightListener-Movie.com
Release Date: August 4, 2006
MPAA Rating: R for language and some disquieting sexual content
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Genres: Radio
Production Budget: $10 million
Box Office Potential: $12.5 million
Notes: There's not a lot of buzz surrounding this movie, and almost all of it is negative. As I'm writing this, which is just two weeks till the movie opens, I have no indication that it will get a wide release on August 4th. If it doesn't, because it only opens in limited release, then odds are it will never expand wide and struggle to make $1 million. On the other, if it does open wide, it will likely be only semi-wide and will struggle to top its $10 million production budget. Last minute update: The film's early reviews are much stronger than the buzz would indicate, but the film's lack of advertising and estimated 1400 theatre count will not help bring its box office potential any higher.

Name: The Protector a.k.a. Tom Yum Goong
Studio: Weinstein Co.
Official Site: TheProtectorMovie.com
Release Date: August 25, 2006
MPAA Rating: N/A - most likely R for sequences of strong violence, and more
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Genres: Foreign Language and Martial Arts
Production Budget: 300 million Bahts or about $7.5 million American
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: Tony Jaa's first film, Ong-Bak earned excellent reviews but struggled with its select city opening and ended with just over $4 million. This film looks to have even more action, although there have been some complaints over the plot, but it's a martial arts movie, so who cares about a plot? The real question is how many theatres can Weinstein Co. get this movie into? A legitimately wide release and the film could score more than double my prediction above, just a few hundred theatres again and it might not top Ong-Bak.

Name: Pulse
Studio: Weinstein Co.
Official Site: YouAreNowInfected.com
Release Date: August 11, 2006
MPAA Rating: R for some violent images. (Appealing)
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Horror
Genres: Possessed / Hauntings
Production Budget: $7.5 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: When I first saw the trailer for this remake I was excited for a number of reasons. The premise looked cool, the trailer was stylish, and of course, the movie stars Kirsten Bell of Veronica Mars. Then I heard the film was being pushed back from winter to spring, and then spring to summer. Changing box office dates is never a good sign, but this case the reason made it so much worse. The studio was having trouble securing a PG-13 rating from the MPAA and needed time to make cuts. I hate the rating system the way it works now because it encourages self-censorship like this. Instead of ratings, movies should be given a descriptive based on three criteria: Language, Violence, Sex & Nudity. Codes could be given based on the severity and frequency and let the consumer decide what is and is not age appropriate. (This would also take care of the problem where nudity is judged much more harshly than violence.) Currently the film has been given an R rating, but that is under appeal and depending on how much of the movie was chopped, I would suggest waiting a few months to get the Unrated DVD.

Name: Snakes on a Plane
Studio: New Line
Official Site: SnakesOnAPlaneMovie.com
Release Date: August 18, 2006
MPAA Rating: N/A - See notes
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Genres: Animals Gone Bad and Hitmen
Production Budget: $30 million + $5 million more for additional shots
Box Office Potential: I have no idea. It could anywhere from $10 million to $100 million and I wouldn't be surprised at all.
Notes: I'm still not 100% convinced that this is a real movie. I have this feeling that we're all being had by the World's longest April Fools joke. I do think that the studio's expectations have been inflated by a huge amount, so much so that the movie simply can't live up to expectations at the box office. First of all, the film seems to be aiming for a campy, cheesy good time, but that is a very small target and disaster waits on all sides. Secondly, the film has a huge internet following, which is a terrible indicator for box office success. Serenity has a huge internet fanbase and it ended up with only $25 million at the box office, the same can be said of Clerks II and will earn about the same. Then there's Slither, which also had great Internet Buzz and terrific reviews, and it made less than $10 million at the box office. Since the films seem to have a very similar feel, this could be the fate Snakes on a Plane is destined to suffer. Or the hype could be right and $100 million is in its future, we won't know till the box office numbers start coming in. One last note, originally the film was going for a PG-13 rating, but after the internet buzz took off, which included the now infamous line, which can't be repeated here. (It starts with, "Get these mother..." and you can guess the rest.) New Line decided to do some additional filming adding scenes to bump up the scares and the action to be more inline with the hype. The also added in that specific line and since it has two F-Bombs, it alone boosts the film to an R-rating. Add in other shots and the film is now having difficulty avoiding an NC-17 rating. Because of this, I expect the Unrated DVD to be a huge seller even if the movie bombs theatrically.

Name: Step Up
Studio: Disney
Official Site: MySpace.com
Release Date: August 11, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, brief violence and innuendo.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Genres: Dancing and Cross-Class Romance
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at under $20 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: Disney recently fired several hundred people, and movies like this are part of the reason why. The story is tired, formulaic, and uninspired. It feels like a remake of Save the Last Dance, and that movie is barely 5 years old. Add in two stars that have almost no drawing power and you have a film that will struggle to get noticed. A few years ago Disney's marketing machine could have powered this one through to a midlevel hit, but those days seem to be over. Given the notoriously fickle nature of its target audience, it could surprise, but that seems unlikely at this point.

Name: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Studio: Sony
Official Site: SonyPictures.com
Release Date: August 4, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language, drug references and brief comic violence
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Genres: Auto Racing
Production Budget: $84 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million
Notes: Apparently this movie was pitched with just six words, "Will Ferrell as a Nascar driver." Well I have six words as well, "This is what's wrong with Hollywood." You can't figure out if a project is worth making in six words. I don't care who's in the movie or how big of a winning streak they are on, you can't tell if a project is worth the money on six words. It might have seemed like a good idea at the time considering the winning streak Will Ferrell was on, but since then his returns has been dropping while the production budget has been climbing. $84 million is a huge number for a comedy, and I can't see it recouping that domestically, especially with the weak buzz surrounding the film. To compound the problem, neither Will Ferrell nor Nascar has much drawing power internationally. Last minute update: early reviews have been perfect and with a good advertising push, (which I still haven't seen), it could see Will Ferrell return to the $100 million mark. Although I think comparisons to Anchorman will prevent that.

Name: World Trade Center
Studio: Paramount
Official Site: WTCMovie.com
Release Date: August 9, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense and emotional content, some disturbing images and language
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Genres: Terrorism
Production Budget: $15 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million
Notes: Of all of the films coming out in August, this one is certainly one of the two most talked about, (only Snakes on a Plane has more advanced buzz). However, it is not certain that this buzz will translate into box office numbers. Part of the problem is the sensitive nature of the subject matter and the fact that it was previously done with a critically acclaimed film. Also hurting the films chances are the various conspiracy theories, especially in light of Oliver Stone's JFK and the fact that that film gave a little too much credence to certain conspiracy theories. (On a side note, the scene where he's reviewing the film and says, "This is the key shot. The President going back and to his left. Shot from the front and right. Totally inconstant with the shot from the Book Depository." Actually, this is exactly what physics predicts would happen in this situation. The explanation is a little gross, but it is a simple matter of conservation of energy.) Because Oliver Stone is associated with these conspiracy theories, people might read into the film a little more than is actually there, and this could create a backlash. On the other hand, it could be enough to entice people into the theatre to see it for themselves. Last minute update: There has been a push to boycott this movie by two different camps. On the one side, some are saying it is too soon and exploitive. On the other hand, some are complaining that it doesn't validate the conspiracy theories enough.

Name: Zoom
Studio: Sony
Official Site: Zoom-Movie.com
Release Date: August 11, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG for brief rude humor, language and mild action
Source: Based on a Comic Book
Major Genre: Action
Genres: Independent Comics, Inspirational Teacher, Super Hero, Coming of Age
Production Budget: Unknown estimated at $50 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million
Notes: There was actually a lawsuit between Sony and Fox over this movie because the latter studio thought the idea was too similar to X-Men. Sony didn't help its case by scheduling this movie to come out a mere two weeks before The Last Stand. While there are similarities between the two movies, the makers of Sky High should be more upset. The unoriginality of the project plus the mid-August release date suggest a poor box office return. It's unlikely to flop, but it won't do particularly well either. On the other hand, Tim Allen is practically bulletproof when it comes to reviews lately. He hasn't had a film earn overall positive reviews since Toy Story 2 and Galaxy Quest did it back-to-back in 1999. His last three movies have combined for a mere 28% positive, but they were all hits averaging over $90 million at the box office. I'm betting the film earns just half that, but it could become a surprise hit as well.


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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Barnyard: The Original Party Animals, World Trade Center, Step Up, Invincible, The Illusionist, Accepted, Snakes on a Plane, The Descent, Pulse, Beerfest, How to Eat Fried Worms, Idlewild, Tom yum goong, Zoom, Material Girls, The Night Listener