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2006 Preview: October

October 1st, 2006

It's October, that means there's more hits, more Oscar hopefuls, and more horror films being released. But more importantly, it means September is over. September seemed weaker than normal in terms of top box office draws, but even though October is bound to produce more hits, the box office potential still seems soft. I only see one $100 million movie, but a least a few more might come within striking distance.

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

Name: Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker
Studio: Weinstein Co.
Official Site: StormbreakerTheMovie.com
Release Date: October 6, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG for sequences of action violence and some peril
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Kid Spies
Production Budget: 25 million Pounds or $40 million American
Box Office Potential: $1 million - see notes
Notes: This British spy film opened in its native market over the summer earning nearly $12.5 million during its run, which is equivalent to about $60 million here taking into account the relative size of the two markets. However, that doesn't take into account this film's home field advantage. Heavily British films may make nearly as much in their native market as they do here and while the action-oriented nature of the film will likely prevent that, it will still not show the same traction as it did at home and without more international appeal the planned franchise could be in trouble. On a side note, more than a few analysts have commented that the film flopped in England, but $12.5 million is hardly a flop, perhaps not as strong as the studio had hoped for, but not a flop. Last Minute Update: The film was moved from a wide release on October 6 to select cities release October 13th and the box office potential as been reduced from $27.5 million to $1 million as a result. This may seem harsh, but the select cities release strategy so rarely works.

Name: Catch a Fire
Studio: Focus Features
Official Site: CatchAFireMovie.com
Release Date: October 27, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material involving torture and abuse, violence and brief language.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Terrorism
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $30 - $40 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: So far this film has failed to build much momentum when it comes to public awareness. Part of the problem is that the film depicts events that are more than 25 years old, and while there are definitely connections between the past and the current political situation, the film doesn't do enough to make those connections felt. This is a shame since expect for that issue, early reviews are strong. But even if the ad campaign improves there seems to be little hope that this film will be a breakout hit.

Name: The Departed
Studio: Warner Bros.
Official Site: TheDeparted.com
Release Date: October 6, 2006
MPAA Rating: R for strong brutal violence, pervasive language, some strong sexual content and drug material.
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Corrups Cops / Undercover
Production Budget: $90 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million
Notes: Out of all of the movies opening wide this month, this is number two on my list of films to watch (Flags of Our Fathers is the only film ahead of it). The film is a Remake of the hugely successful Hong Kong film, Infernal Affairs (on a side note, I much prefer the original name). That film was a big hit in its home market and cleaned up at the 2003 Hong Kong Film Awards, winning 7 times after being nominated in 13 categories, including 3 of the 5 Best Supporting actor nominations. This film looks to replicate that film's success both at the box office and during award season, and there's plenty of reasons to think it could succeed from the director to several members of the cast. But will it last in theatres long enough to be remembered come award season? Unfortunately, I don't think so. The buzz is simply not there and it should be building to a crescendo by now. I could be proven wrong; I hope I'm proven wrong, but the studio doesn't have much time to build the hype.

Name: DOA: Dead or Alive
Studio: Miramax
Official Site: None
Release Date: October 20, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for pervasive martial arts and action violence, some sexuality and nudity.
Source: Based on a Video Game
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Martial Arts
Production Budget: $30 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: So far this film has opened in a few international markets, and has bombed in pretty much all of them. Its best market has been Australia, and there it only opened in fourth place and will end with roughly $1 million at the box office. Taking the relative size of the two markets into account, that would lead to a $10 million total here. On the other hand, using U.K. as a guide gives up an opening of $2 million and $5 million as a total. I'm going with the high end for here since there are several aspects of the movie that should be very easy to advertise. But there's enough negative buzz floating around for this movie that even a strong ad campaign won't save it from becoming a financial flip.

Name: Employee of the Month
Studio: Lionsgate
Official Site: EmployeeOfTheMonthFilm.com
Release Date: October 6, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Delayed Adulthood and Slackers
Production Budget: $12 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: Dan Cook tries to make the transition from Stand-Up to leading man. Granted, he has been in a lot of movies during his career but mostly in bit parts and this is his first chance to be the main draw. The problem is, he's better is smaller doses. His performance as Floyd the cook in Waiting... was great, and the very fact that you only saw him for short clips made it better. Had he been in the movie too much more, he would have quickly worn out his welcome. Unfortunately, I don't think the rest of the cast can compensate. Jessica Simpson didn't win over many new fans with The Dukes of Hazzard; you ask people what their opinion of Dax Shepard and most will say, "Who?" On the other hand, Employee of the Month was cheap enough to make, and the expectations are low enough that the movie will still show a moderate profit by its initial push into the home market.

Name: Flags of Our Fathers
Studio: Dreamworks
Official Site: FlagsOfOurFathers.com
Release Date: October 20, 2006
MPAA Rating: R for sequences of graphic war violence and carnage, and for language.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: World War II, Historical Battles
Production Budget: Approximately $53 million
Box Office Potential: $110 million
Notes: "And the Oscar goes to..." Expect to hear that phrase a lot when people discuss this movie. In fact, at this point the buzz is so high for this film's Oscar chances that if it doesn't win Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and at least three technical Oscars it will be looked at as a major disappointment. At this point my only fear is that expectations are so high that any minor flaw the film might have, any weakness in the final product will be blown so far out of proportion that there will be a backlash against it. If that happens it will be unfairly criticized for not living up to expectations that are, let's face it, almost punitive. So far all signs are positive and the film should have no problem earning a profit, but whether it will be the big winner come Oscar night is still a question. (On a side note, a lot of people felt the same way about Jarhead and look how that turned out.) One final note on the budget, many sources say the budget was $80 million, however, it was reported in Variety that it was, "under $55 million." The discrepancy might be explained by the fact that this film was produced concurrently with Letters from Iwo Jima and the two budgets were lumped into one figure.

Name: Flicka
Studio: Fox
Official Site: FlickaMovie.com
Release Date: October 20, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild language.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Animal Lead
Production Budget: $15 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: I'm going to use my brilliant power of prognostication to predict at least one movie critic will use the phrase, "Chicka Flicka" somewhere in their review. This film is based on a book, a book that has been made in to a movie once before. In both the book and the previous movie the lead character has been a boy, so casting Alison Lohman has been a cause for concern for some. I'm not that concerned about the fact that they've changed the main character's gender; I'm more concerned about the lack of an advertising push. The film looks rather generic, even more than last year's Dreamer. That film's final box office looks like the target goal for this movie, but while it should get close, it will likely come up short.

Name: The Grudge 2
Studio: Sony
Official Site: SonyPictures.com
Release Date: October 13, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material, disturbing images/terror/violence, and some sensuality.
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Hauntings
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $70 million
Notes: The original remake earned mediocre reviews but still was a major hit bringing in $110 million on a production budget of just $10 million. Early buzz suggests that this film will earn even weaker reviews and will finish its theatrical run well back of the $100 million mark. However, even with a substantial increase in production budget, this is more than enough to show a profit and keep the plans for a third film on track. (Tentative release date of part 3 is currently October, 2008.)

Name: Man of the Year
Studio: Universal
Official Site: ManOfTheYearMovie.net
Release Date: October 13, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language including some crude sexual references, drug related material, and brief violence.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Politics
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $65 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million
Notes: It's been a while since Robin Williams has had a film that was a box office and critical hit. For that matter, the same can be said for director Barry Levinson. The good news is that these two men have worked together before, creating the critical and box office hit, Good Morning, Vietnam. On the other hand, they also worked together on Toys, which was not well received. This film should have more in common with Good Morning, Vietnam with its decidedly politics tone, but there are still lingering worries that Robin Williams' schtick has become stale and many are taking a wait and see approach. This means the film will have to rely on a clever ad campaign, even more than most films do. I see it opening significantly better than R.V. and while it won't have the same legs, it should still end up earning enough to be considered a hit.

Name: Marie Antoinette
Studio: Sony
Official Site: SonyPictures.com
Release Date: October 20, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, partial nudity and innuendo.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Biography and Costume Drama
Production Budget: $40 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: This film has a lot of obstacles to overcome, not the least of which is opening during the busiest weekend of the month. There is some negative buzz attached to this film, including a teaser trailer that left people cold, talk of boos at Cannes, etc. While this could hurt the film's box office potential, comparisons to Sofia Coppola's previous film are what will do the most damage. Early reviews are better than most, but the film is too light, too insubstantial compared to Lost in Translation to satisfy its target audience. It seems like the film was made for the MTV crowd, but while they might appreciate the style more, they will be turned off by the Costume Drama aspect.

Name: The Marine
Studio: Fox
Official Site: TheMarineMovie.com
Release Date: October 13, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action, sensuality and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Kidnapping, Returning Soldiers
Production Budget: $15 million
Box Office Potential: $22.5 million
Notes: John Cena is the latest wrestler to make the leap to acting and this film is the latest one produced by WWE Films. Neither transition has been particularly smooth. The last such film, See No Evil, missed the top five when it opened and quickly disappeared from theatres. This film should open better thanks in part to its PG-13 rating since the target demo graphic for wrestling is teenage boys too young to get into R-rated movies. Also, this film doesn't have nearly the same level of competition to deal with. On the other hand, there's little in the trailer to suggest the film with be anything other than a generic action film and unless the ad campaign blows people away, it will struggle to get noticed.

Name: The Prestige
Studio: Warner Bros.
Official Site: Prestige-Movie.com
Release Date: October 20, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and disturbing images.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Costume Drama Stage Magician
Production Budget: $40 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: This may or may not get a wide release, sources seem to be evenly split. If it does get a wide release, I don't expect it to be at saturation levels (3,000 or more theatres), and even with a cast of highly skilled actors, they don't have a huge amount of drawing power. Add in the fact that the similar film, The Illusionist was able to make the transition from limited release to wide release (and is still in many theatres), and this film has a lot of obstacles to cross. This isn't the first time two similar films have been released close together. In fact, you just have to look back to September to see the last time that happened. But when it does, it usually means both films suffer at the box office. Should The Prestige earn a wide release, it should top The Illusionist thanks in part to its bigger marketing push and finish with around $50 million. On the other hand, it if goes the limited release route, it could struggle just to reach $10 million.

Name: Saw III
Studio: Lionsgate
Official Site: Saw3.com
Release Date: October 27, 2006
MPAA Rating: R for strong grisly violence and gore, sequences of terror and torture, nudity and language
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Serial Killer
Production Budget: $10 million
Box Office Potential: $95 million
Notes: I think this could become just the second film in history to open with more than $40 million but fail to reach $100 million. Coincidentally, the only other film to do so was Scary Movie 4, which parodied the previous films in this franchise. This highly successful franchise started in 2004 when Saw opened with more than $18 million on a budget of just $1.2 million. In fact, the combined production budget of the three films is a fraction of the average Hollywood film and making a profit is all but guaranteed. On the other hand, I think the franchise will peak this time and if they continue to make an installment a year they should be prepared to see diminishing returns.

Name: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
Studio: New Line
Official Site: TexasChainsawMovie.com
Release Date: October 6, 2006
MPAA Rating: R for strong horror violence/gore, language and some sexual content
Source: Prequel
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Teenage Slasher
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $70 million
Notes: The prequel to the remake of the original film of the successful horror franchise. Well, maybe successful is too strong a word. While the original earned excellent reviews and became one of the most successful independent movies of all time, the sequels became progressively worse while earning less and less at the box office. This time around, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre earned bad reviews from the beginning and most expect the latest installment to be even worse. On the other hand, it is still going to be a big hit, out-grossing its production budget during its opening weekend and showing a profit as early as Halloween. And that can only mean one thing, more sequels.

Name: Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas 3D
Studio: Disney
Official Site: Nightmare3DMovie.com
Release Date: October 20, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG for some scary images.
Source: Based on a Poem
Major Genre: Musical
Keywords: Christmas in November, Halloween, Kidnapping, Vampire, Werewolf, Monster, and probably more
Production Budget: $18 million originally, unknown for 3-D conversion
Box Office Potential: $5 million
Notes: This film not getting a wide release, but it is my favorite musical so I thought I'd mention it. The film is going the dreaded select cities route and while normally this is the kiss of death, since it already has a wide following and will be looked at as more of an event picture than a simple release and this should help it earn strong per theatre results. Perhaps even strong enough that it will be released again and again, but that might be too optimistic. A more realistic result has the film earning a respectable amount at the box office while the special edition CD and DVD earn the majority of the revenue.

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Filed under: Monthly Preview, The Departed, Saw III, The Prestige, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, The Grudge 2, Man of the Year, Flags of Our Fathers, Employee of the Month, Flicka, The Marine, Marie Antoinette, Catch a Fire, Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker, DOA: Dead or Alive