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2006 Preview: September

September 1st, 2006

I've said it before and I'll say it again, September is the worst month of the year for movies. Not only are there usually very few hits released at this time of year, but the average is dragged way down by the large number of movies simply dumped on the market. This year the September dumping ground doesn't look quite as bad as years past. In fact, several low-level hits and maybe even an Oscar contender are opening wide. However, those few bright spots will be buried due to the sheer number of releases -- an average of 3 and a half films are opening wide each week.

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Name: All the King's Men
Studio: Sony
Official Site: SonyPictures.com
Release Date: September 22, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for an intense sequence of violence, sexual content and partial nudity.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Political
Production Budget: $55 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million
Notes: After being pushed back from a prime December release date, this film is being dumped in September. There is some good news, it appears as if it will initially only receive a limited release. While this would be bad news for the film's box office potential, if the film could expand slowly and reach its peak number of theaters in October, or later, that would give the film a much better shot at Oscar glory. That is, if it's Oscar-worthy. The switch from December 2005 to September 2006 puts that very much in doubt. This is a shame since there is a lot of talent here and combined with an excellent story, the movie had much potential.

Name: The Black Dahlia
Studio: Universal
Official Site: TheBlackDahliaMovie.net
Release Date: September 15th, 2006
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, some grisly images, sexual content and language
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Suspense
Keywords: Neo Noir and Movie Business
Production Budget: $40 million to $70 million, reports vary
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: Arguably the most widely anticipated release for the month, the film has a lot in common with another September release, Hollywoodland. Both films are period pieces based on real life events focusing on sensationalized deaths of actors and follow the lives of the people trying to unravel the mysteries. The main difference is The Black Dahlia is not so much based on real life events as it uses the real life murder as a jumping off point for a fictional story. Since Hollywoodland comes out first, it should have the edge, except early reports suggest that film will only get a semi-wide release. The Black Dahlia won't be the biggest hit of the month, but it should perform significantly better than average, both at the box office and with the critics.

Name: The Covenant
Studio: Sony
Official Site: JoinTheCovenant.com
Release Date: September 8th, 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images, sexual content, partial nudity and language.
Source: Based on a Comic
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Secret Magic
Production Budget: Unknown - estimate at $20 to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: This looks very similar to Underworld: a style over substance flick with definite franchise possibilities. Although there are a number of effect-heavy shots in the film, the cast is mostly unknowns and the Canadian filming location should help keep the production budget low enough to ensure a profit, even if it doesn't quite live up to its potential. On the other hand, should it take in $10 million or more on opening day, which is possible, the sequel will be given the go ahead before Sunday's studio estimates are in. On the other hand, it is possible the film will earn less than $10 million opening weekend and will be a distant memory before September ends.

Name: Crank
Studio: Lakeshore Entertainment / Lionsgate
Official Site: CrankFilm.com
Release Date: September 1st, 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, sexuality, nudity and drug use.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Hitmen, Revenge, and Organized Crime
Production Budget: $15 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: Jason Statham could become the King of September after having four September releases in the past five years. Of course, this is not really something to brag about given the poor result of most films released during the month. The average box office for the previous such films has been just over $30 million. Crank should continue that trend, perhaps even raising the average somewhat. He has better name recognition since the Transporter franchise, but with the film being a new commodity, it will likely have to wait until the home market to earn the majority of its business. But with a $15 million production budget, it won't have to wait that long to earn a profit.

Name: Crossover
Studio: Sony
Official Site: SonyPictures.com
Release Date: September 1st, 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sexual content and some language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Basketball
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at under $20 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: September release, no advanced publicity, almost no star power, and a theatre count that might not top 1000. This is a dump if I every saw one. There is a small chance that the film will be a breakout hit, but a much greater shot at missing the top five when it opens and disappearing from theatres two weeks later.

Name: Everyone's Hero
Studio: Fox
Official Site: EveryonesHero.com
Release Date: September 15th, 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated G - for General Admission
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Baseball, Living Toys
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at between $30 million and $50 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: One of the more low-key releases coming out this month, the film has to deal with the lack of buzz, the hectic back-to-school schedule of its target audience, and competition from a bigger digitally animated film. By the time the film reaches theatres, marketing for Open Season should be in full swing, and that will certainly hurt this film as early ads just haven't done enough to sell it. The tribute to Christopher Reeves (this was the film he was working on at the time of his death), could be enough to make it a big seller on the home market, but that seems like the earliest this film will find an audience.

Name: Flyboys
Studio: MGM
Official Site: FlyboysTheMovie.com
Release Date: September 29, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for war action violence and some sexual content.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: World War I and Visual Effects
Production Budget: $60 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: This film reminds me of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, a relatively big budget, special effects spectacular that should have huge popular appeal... that's being dumped during the box office graveyard known as September. Early buzz, what little there is, suggests this film has the best dogfighting scenes of any movie, ever, and will give audiences the closest experience to actually flying without employing moving seats. Should the studio find a way to market the film effectively, then this should be one of the only big hits of the month. However, there's were many reasons why MGM was bought out not to long ago and terrible marketing was one of them. The studio's first release since its re-branding was Material Girls, which had one of the most generic ad campaigns I've seen in a long time. I'm hopeful that this film will live up to its potential, but all signs suggest this is not the case.

Last minute note: The film was moved from the 22nd to the 29th, but this should not have a significant impact on its box office potential.

Name: Gridiron Gang
Studio: Sony
Official Site: SonyPictures.com
Release Date: September 15th, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some startling scenes of violence, mature thematic material and language
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Prison, Inspirational Coach, Football, and Gangs
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $50 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: If I was to use just one word to describe this movie it would have to be, "cliche." It has a lot of previous inspirational coach movies to... ah... borrow from, and just like the recently released Invincible, it will suffer from comparisons to moviegoers' personal favorites. Unlike that movie, it doesn't seem like the ads will be able to convince most people otherwise. It looks like Dwayne Johnson and others do their best with what they are given, but the lines are simply too hackneyed to work. What should be emotional comes off as giggle-inducingly corny. Even so, the genre is very sturdy at the box office and this one should be no exception. On the other hand, Dwayne Johnson's films tend to be on the pricey side, and if that is the case here, it could struggle to show a profit especially with films like this having nearly zero drawing power internationally. If my budget estimate proves to be too high, then it could earn a profit after its initial push into the home market.

Name: The Guardian
Studio: Disney
Official Site: None
Release Date: September 29, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of action/peril, brief strong language and some sensuality
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Rescue and Mentor
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $50 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: At its heart, this movie is a story about redemption. In it Kevin Costner plays Ben Randall, a member of the aviation survivalmen section of the Coast Guard. After a tragic accident results in the deaths of his entire crew he is moved into the training program where he must deal with brash, but talented newcomer, Jake Fischer. Given the events of the movie, this should be a powerful ride, but the trailer doesn't make it seem that way. Sure, they tried to sell the film on the emotions (as well as the special effects), but all the scenes that were supposed to be emotionally moving failed to resonate with me. Perhaps others will see it differently. On an interesting side note, Ashton Kutcher has two movies opening the same day, this and Open Season. The latter movie should prove to be the bigger hit.

Name: Hollywoodland
Studio: Focus Features
Official Site: HollywoodlandMovie.com
Release Date: September 8th, 2006
MPAA Rating: R for language, some violence and sexual content.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Movie Business, Biography, and Film Noir
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million
Notes: While the film looks on the surface as a biography of George Reeves (the first Superman, played by Ben Affleck), the film is more about Adrien Brody's character Louis Moglio. Louis Moglio is a Private Eye hired to investigate George Reeves' death, which was ruled a suicide. The film is buoyed by excellent performances, including the previously mentioned actors as well as Diane Lane and Bob Hoskins. However, while there's enough here that works, they will be frustrated by its flaws; a terrible film is in many ways easier to accept than one that was so close to amazing that the audience can feel it. Add in an opening theatre count that will reportedly be only by marginally north of 1,000 and you have a film that will struggle to find an audience during its theatrical release. But hopefully it will have a second life on DVD. Last minute note: Reviews continue to trickle in and they have pushed the film's Tomatometer rating from average to overall positive. If this trend continues, it could top my original prediction by a substantial margin.

Name: Idiocracy
Studio: Fox
Official Site: None
Release Date: September 1st, 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language and sex-related humor.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Time Travel
Production Budget: Unknown - Could be Anywhere from $10 million to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $1 million
Notes: Originally set for an August release -- an August 2005 release, in fact. This film is being dumped during the first weekend of September in a mere 130 theatres. Normally I wouldn't have included a film with such a small opening in this list, but I did most of the research when it was supposed to first come out and just made minor adjustments each time there was a release date change, and there were plenty of them. So since I put in so much work, I'm going to use it. The film has a funny premise, a man volunteers for an experiment where he is frozen in time and awoken 1,000 years in the future. In the 1,000 years, society has become so dumbed-down that he is now the smartest man on the planet. Given the talent on both sides of the camera, the film could become a cult classic, but it has almost no box office potential. In the ultimate irony, a movie about the dumbing-down of society has been dumbed-down because of poor test screenings. Maybe the film will be released in its original form on DVD, but I doubt it.

Name: Jackass: Number Two
Studio: Paramount
Official Site: JackassMovie.com
Release Date: September 22, 2006
MPAA Rating: R for extremely crude and dangerous stunts throughout, sexual content, nudity and language.
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Reality TV
Production Budget: $10 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million
Notes: The original was a surprise hit back in 2002 opened with more than $20 million on a budget of just $5 million so it was inevitable that a sequel would be made. What is shocking is it took this long. I guess they were making sure that had a top-notch script. ... Moving on. This film costs twice as much to make and doesn't have as much box office potential, but it should still more than double its production budget on its opening weekend and perhaps even show a profit before its domestic run is over. That last prediction depends heavily on how much the studio spends to promote the movie. If it spends the industry average of $35 million or more on prints and advertising, then it will have to wait until the home market to break even. However, a more likely figure is $25 million, which would mean it would only take about $50 million to be in the black. Either way, it seems very likely that the franchise will continue from here.

Name: Jet Li's Fearless
Studio: Rogue Pictures
Official Site: JetLi'sFearless.com
Release Date: September 22, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and martial arts action throughout.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Martial Arts, Biography, and Foreign Language
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at between $10 million and $20 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: Jet Li has developed a sizeable fanbase in the North American markets with the 6 films he has starred in grossing a combined $250 million. This film won't have the pageantry of Hero, but will have more mainstream appeal than Unleashed. As for the film's chances at profitability, it like reached that goal before its first European release date earlier in the Summer and will have more than $50 million in the bank before it sells a single ticket here. As for the announcement that this is Jet Li's final Martial Arts movie, this could improve the film's box office potential. However, despite the fact the actor turned 43 this year, it seems few of his fans really believe this will truly be the last such film he does.

Name: The Last Kiss
Studio: Paramount
Official Site: LastKissMovie.com
Release Date: September 15, 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated R for sexuality, nudity and language.
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Delayed Adulthood
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: A remake of the Italian film, L'Ultimo Bacio, which roughly translates as The Ultimate Bacio. It was a critical darling in its native market, a box office hit, and a major award winner. This film has a lot going for it, including a rising star and an Oscar winning screenwriter. In many way it reminds me of Garden State and not just for the obvious Zack Braff connections. Both films have a similar feel and deal with the same demographic and with major studio backing, The Last Kiss should outperform that film by a serious margin. Then again, I thought the same thing about Elizabethtown and look how that turned out. I still think it will do well at the box office, but it won't be one of the bigger hits of the month. On the other hand, it could earn some of the best reviews and strong word of mouth should propel it on the home market.

Name: Open Season
Studio: Sony
Official Site: SonyPictures.com
Release Date: September 29, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG for some rude humor, mild action and brief language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Revenge, Animal Lead, Talking Animals, and possibly Animals Gone Bad
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $50 million
Box Office Potential: $60 million
Notes: I'll admit, when I first saw the teaser trailer for this movie I was not impressed. However, the more ads I see, the better it looks. Granted, it still looks like a kids movie as opposed to Finding Nemo, which looked like a movie for adults that kids could enjoy. This is an important distinction and could mean the film will struggle to earn overall positive reviews. However, it looks to have what it takes to become the biggest hit of the month and earn a similar total to Barnyard: The Original Party Animals. Because of the release date it won't earn quite that much, but it should be enough to ensure a profit by the time the DVD sales are taken into account. One last note, the film is coming out in IMAX 3-D and should prove to be a solid hit there as well.

Name: The Protector, a.k.a. Tom-Yum-Goong
Studio: Weinstein Co.
Official Site: TheProtectorMovie.com
Release Date: September 8th, 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated R for pervasive strong violence and some sexual content.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Marial Arts
Production Budget: 300 million Thai Bahts or about $8 million American
Box Office Potential: $15 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? People watch movies like this to see Tony Jaa kick a little ass knowing that is nearly pure martial arts with little or no wire works and CG. 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 over a hundred theatres and it might not top Ong-Bak.

Name: School for Scoundrels
Studio: Weistein Co.
Official Site: SchoolForScoundrels-Movie.com
Release Date: September 29, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language, crude and sexual content, and some violence.
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Relationship Advice
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at between $20 million and $30 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: The teaming up of Billy Bob Thorton and Jon Heder seems inspired. As does putting them in this remake of the British film of a similar name. (It's actually called, "School for Scoundrels, or How to Win Without Actually Cheating!") In the film, Jon Heder plays a loser who enrolls in the School for Scoundrels, run by Billy Bob Thorton, in order to improve his self-esteem and win the heart of the woman he loves. However, when Billy Bob Thorton sets his sights on her as well, it's a battle between student and teacher. Think of it as a combination of Bad Santa and Hitch. However, so far I've not been impressed with the ads and it will take more before I'm convinced of its box office potential. That is not to say I think it will bomb, but it won't be one of the biggest hits of the month either.

Name: The Wicker Man
Studio: Warner Bros.
Official Site: TheWickerManMovie.com
Release Date: September 1st, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for disturbing images and violence, language and thematic issues
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Suspense
Keywords: Kidnapping, Surprise Twist, and Cults and Cultists
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $40 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: I have a serious question about this movie, namely, does anyone not know what a Wicker Man is? I'm sure most people don't know the details of its pagan roots (mainly the fact that it doesn't have any), but most people interested in the film will know enough to spoil the Surprise Twist. The fact that it is a remake doesn't help matters either. Add in a star with limited box office appeal, a September release date and you have a film that will likely struggle to match its production budget at the box office.

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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Open Season, Jackass: Number Two, The Guardian, Gridiron Gang, Crank, Huo Yuan Jia, The Wicker Man, The Covenant, The Black Dahlia, School for Scoundrels, Everyone's Hero, Hollywoodland, Flyboys, Tom yum goong, The Last Kiss, All the King's Men, Crossover, Idiocracy