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2006 Preview: November

November 1st, 2006

Note: Article updated 11/18/2006 with correct budget for Harsh Times

It's that time of the month again, a time to look forward, but it is also a time to look back. October was a stronger month than expected and, while there are a lot of reasons for that, I think one must pay particular attention to the play of Taylor Pyatt. The departure of Anson Carter to free agency over the summer was troublesome and many felt finding a right winger for the Sedin twins was a key in maintaining or even improving upon last year's numbers. Without good chemistry, Daniel and Henrik might have taken a step back this year. However, with a team leading 6 goals, Taylor Pyatt is more than proving he can play with the speedy Swedes. ... What? Oh right, movies. It was a pretty good month for movies as well. November sees the beginning of the most important time of year for the movie industry. Not only do the holidays start with Thanksgiving, but this is also the time of year that award season really heats up. This means there is an excellent mix of blockbusters, especially family films, and critically acclaimed films hoping that first impressions are lasting impressions. It also means there are several limited releases that could expand wide later in their run; these include Fur, Bobby, For Your Consideration and others.

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

Name: Babel
Studio: Paramount Vantage
Official Site: ParamountVantage.com
Release Date: Limited - October 27, 2006
Release Date: Expands Wide - November 10, 2006
MPAA Rating: R for violence, some graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Segments and Foreign Language
Production Budget: $20 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: While this film got off to an amazing start this weekend, it still has a long road from limited release to mainstream hit. There have been a few films to make this transition already this year, including Little Miss Sunshine, however, Babel's reviews are not nearly as strong. On the other hand, the cast does include Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt, who have more box office power. Back to the original hand, too much of the film is in a foreign language for it to have a massive mainstream appeal. On a side note, even if the film misses expectations from now on, it still has a very good shot at topping An Inconvenient Truth to become the Paramount Vantage's biggest hit.

Name: Bobby
Studio: Weinstein Co.
Official Site: Bobby-The-Movie.com
Release Date: Limited - November 17, 2006
Release Date: Expands Wide - November 22, 2006
MPAA Rating: R for language, drug content, and a scene of violence (to be appealed)
Source: Based of Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Assassination and Segments
Production Budget: $10 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: And the Oscar goes to... Emilio Estevez? He's still a bit of long shot, but there is a chance it could happen. This film is obvious Oscar bait and there is some buzz that it could be a player during award season, although its early reviews are a little weak for that. Should the film see the Oscar buzz grow it could have a long, long run ahead of it, but there's also a distinct chance it will stumble out of the gate. Its massive cast could prove to be both a blessing and a curse. Sure, Anthony Hopkins and William H. Macy will give the film a sense of legitimacy, but then there's Sharon Stone, who's box office poison, and Ashton Kutcher, who's not normally associated with award-winning movies. In the end the film will have to rely a lot on word-of-mouth to have success at the box office and it will need help from critics to get the ball rolling.

Name: Borat
Studio: Fox
Official Site: Borat.tv
Release Date: November 3, 2006
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive strong crude and sexual content including graphic nudity, and language.
Source: Based on a TV Show
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Mockumentary and Road Trip
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at less than $20 million
Box Office Potential: $17.5 million
Notes: Borat, a.k.a. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (that's the first time and the last time I type that name), stars Borat Sagdiyev, a.k.a., Sacha Baron Cohen. Cohen uses his character to expose other people's ignorance and intolerance - at least that's what a lot of fans claim. The trouble is, there's a fine line between pretending to be racist to expose other people's racist attitudes and just being racist. And unfortunately, he oversteps that line a few times in this movie. Even if this wasn't an issue, it is still a marketing nightmare. I think this is the reason why the studio is relying on the Internet and media reports for the bulk of the film's promotion, but this is very likely going to fail to sell the film to a wide audience and instead will be mostly preaching to the choir. However, even with the best marketing the film will still struggle to earn more than a cult status. Last minute update: The film's opening theater count has been slashed from 2200 to 800 with hopes to expand wide a week later after its debut. I don't think this plan will work and I've reduced the film's potential from $30 million to $17.5 million accordingly.

Name: Casino Royale
Studio: MGM
Official Site: JamesBond.com
Release Date: November 17, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action, a scene of torture, sexual content and nudity
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Secret Agent, Prequel, Gambling
Production Budget: $102 million - see notes,
Box Office Potential: $145 million
Notes: Without doubt, this is the most anticipated film coming out this month. Not only is the Bond franchise the longest, and arguably the most successful, in modern movie history, but Casino Royale marks the beginning of the Daniel Craig era. The casting of Daniel Craig culminated a long and arduous process and while there are many people excited by the choice, there were just and many who were upset. And by upset, I mean completely deranged. Lost their minds. The controversy has since died down, which is a shame since it would have undoubtedly helped the film's box office chances. One last thing, the budget is widely reported as $72 million, which would be a huge drop-off from the previous films. However, this is simply a result of an exchange error. The budget is 60 million Pounds, which converts into about $102 million American. Many people, myself included, mistakenly thought it is 60 million Euros, which converts into $72 million American.

Name: Deck the Halls
Studio: Fox
Official Site: DeckTheHalls.com
Release Date: November 22, 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Christmas in November
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $45 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million
Notes: Ick. I hate Christmas. Well, I don't really hate Christmas. I hate hearing about Christmas for six months of the year. I hate hearing about Christmas almost as much as regular readers of this site hate hearing about how much I hate hearing about Christmas. Going by the trailer the film, this film should bring in about $15, however, poorly reviewed family films have proven to be remarkably resilient. Of the three such films opening wide this month, this one seems the least likely to impress the critics as well as moviegoers. However, it should still make enough to show a profit, eventually.

Name: Deja Vu
Studio: Disney
Official Site: DejaVu.Movies.Go.com
Release Date: November 22, 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Time Travel
Production Budget: Unknown - reports vary from $75 million to $150 million
Box Office Potential: $95 million
Notes: Oscar winner Denzel Washington teams up with Tony Scott for the third time in Deja Vu. Their previous two collaborations, Crimson Tide and Man on Fire were both solid mid-level hits. Taking into account ticket price inflation, they would average above $100 million. This film might not reach that milestone, but it will come close. There are several factors helping the film, including Denzel Washington's box office drawing power, but the full trailer gave away too much information and that marketing faux pas might keep the film from reaching its potential. On the other hand, it could do better than average on the home market.

Name: Flushed Away
Studio: Dreamworks SKG
Official Site: FlushedAway.com
Release Date: November 3, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG for crude humor and some language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Culture Clash
Production Budget: $65 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million
Notes: At first glance this film has a lot going for it. It's made by the same people who did Wallace & Gromit, it's coming out at one of the best times of the year for a family film and while the Golden Age of digital animation is over, those films are still strong box office performers. So why did Paul Allen recently sell all of his shares in the company? Apparently some expect this film to struggle so much that it will drag down the stock prices significantly. Of course, before this year, $100 million for a digitally animated movie would have been nearly unheard of. But this year $100 million would be actually above average. Further complicating matters the film opens on the same weekend as Santa Clause 3 and they are going to cannibalize each other at the box office, which will reduce each film's chances of striking it rich.

Name: For Your Consideration
Studio: Warner Independent Pictures
Official Site: WIP.WarnerBros.com
Release Date: Limited - November 17, 2006
Release Date: Expands Wide - November 22, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual references and brief language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Mockumentary, Movie Business, and Gratuitous Cameos
Production Budget: $12 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: The latest from Christopher Guest and his gang is about the craziness surrounding award season. Of his previous films, this one is deals with a subject more close to home for fans of such films. While there are very few people reading this who will ever win an Oscar, most of them follow the Oscar race very closely. (And hopefully all of you will enter our Oscar prediction contest when it starts.) Given the subject of the film, and Guest and crew's combined drawing power, this should be the biggest hit of his directorial career, but even so it will need to wait to the home market until it earns a profit.

Name: The Fountain
Studio: Warner Bros.
Official Site: TheFountainMovie.com
Release Date: November 22, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 on appeal for some intense sequences of violent action, some sensuality and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Visual Effects
Production Budget: $35 million + $18 million in production costs from 2002
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: This movie looks like it will be hell to market, as it is just too out there for mainstream audiences. It was originally started in 2002 with a production budget of $70 million, $18 million of which was spent before the project was pulled. After a long and arduous journey the film finally premiered at the Venice film festival only to be greeted with boos, at least some boos. (There are conflicting reports on exactly how poorly the film was received.) It seems that the film it not commercial enough to work for a mainstream audiences while some critics are calling it too pretentious to work for art-house crowds. Add in a very crowded market and this film will likely miss the top five when it opens and quickly shed theaters after that.

Name: A Good Year
Studio: Fox
Official Site: AGoodYear.com
Release Date: November 10, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language and some sexual content.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Inheritance and Food
Production Budget: $35 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million
Notes: Russell Crowe made a name for himself with his Oscar nominated role in The Insider. That was the first of three Oscar nominations he earned in three years, including a win for The Gladiator. Since then his last two projects have failed to live up to expectations at the box office despite wowing critics. A Good Year seems to be following the same trend as it is unlikely to be a major hit this month, but it should please critics. On the other hand, it wasn't that expensive to make and it should eventually show a profit.

Name: Happy Feet
Studio: Warner Bros.
Official Site: WarnerBros.com
Release Date: November 17, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild peril and rude humor
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Musical
Keywords: Dancing
Production Budget: $85 million
Box Office Potential: $105 million
Notes: The latest digitally animated film is about tap-dancing penguins. The problem with this is two-fold: tap-dancing is not popular enough to entice people into coming to a theater, and having CG animals tap-dance is even less interesting than watching the real thing. I think digital animation Jumped the Shark when they started doing technically difficult stuff that had no real aesthetic payoff. Stuff that makes their fellow animators go, "Wow!" but the average moviegoer wouldn't even notice. I'm not impressed that they could get a CG Penguin to tap-dance, I'm more impressed by the feathers on Young Mumbles, and even then I don't think they are substantially better than the fur on Sulley from Monsters Inc.. I'm sure some aficionado can tell me in great detail what the difference is, but end result doesn't look different enough that the average laymen will notice. Too much time is spent on these details and not enough on story, for instance. In the end, the film just doesn't look fresh enough to be a major hit. However, the family friendly nature and the release date alone should assure the film of a $100 million box office, or at least very close.

Name: Harsh Times
Studio: MGM
Official Site: HarshTimes.com
Release Date: November 10, 2006
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, language and drug use.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Gangs
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 to $30 million $2 million (source)
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: Not too long ago MGM was bought out by Sony, and for good reason. It was a very poorly run studio that couldn't seem to consistently make quality movies, and more importantly, it couldn't successfully market the ones it did make. Since the brand was re-launched it has not been a rousing success with is biggest hit being Clerks 2 and MGM didn't even produce that movie, they just distributed it. Harsh Times is earning better than average reviews, with ample praise going to Christian Bale, but I don't see this one being marketed very well and it will get lost in the crowd.

Name: Let's Go to Prison
Studio: Universal
Official Site: LetsGoToPrison.com
Release Date: November 17, 2006
MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual content, some violence and drug material
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Prison, Revenge, and Buddy Comedy
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at under $20 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: This film will struggle at the box office as there is almost no buzz surrounding the movie and what little buzz there is ranges from ambivalence to disbelief. The two main stars, Dax Shepard and Will Arnett, have little to no experience leading a box office hit. Will Arnett is best known for his role of Gob in Arrested Development and has had a few smaller parts in a couple of big films, but he has never headlined a film. Dax Shepard has headlined a couple of films, but none have been big hits. In fact, it seems like his box office drawing power has declined. On the plus side, I doubt the film was terribly expensive to make so the studio wouldn't lose a lot of money.

Name: The Return
Studio: Focus Features
Official Site: TheReturnMovie.net
Release Date: November 10, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, terror and disturbing images.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Suspense
Keywords: Serial Killer
Production Budget: $15 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: Originally set for a September release date, this film was mercifully moved to November 17th, and then moved again to November 10th. November is not a great month for releasing a horror film. Then again, just about any month is better than September. As for the film's box office chances, it does star Sarah Michelle Gellar, who does have experience in these types of films. On the other hand, a lot of people will watch the trailer and this it is too similar to The Grudge and that could really hurt the film's chances. Add in a busy week for new releases and it will likely be squeezed out at the box office. At least the film was inexpensive to make and that should help it show a profit early in its home market run.

Name: The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause
Studio: Disney
Official Site: Disney.Go.com
Release Date: November 3, 2006
MPAA Rating: G for General Admissions
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Christmas in November and Fatsuit
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $60 to $70 million
Box Office Potential: $85 million
Notes: The third and final installment of the successful Santa Clause franchise starts its run this week. The film has a lot going for it but the competition is really going to hurt the film's chances. Odds are it will still be a financially successful film, just not as successful as the previous installments and will have to wait until the home market to show a profit. On the other hand, look for a box set of the trilogy to come out this time next year, just in time for Christmas.

Name: Stranger than Fiction
Studio: Sony
Official Site: StrangerThanFiction.com
Release Date: November 10, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some disturbing images, sexuality, brief language and nudity.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Author and Narration
Production Budget: $30 million
Box Office Potential: $80 million
Notes: I think this film could catch a lot of people by surprise and may in fact end up one of the surprise $100 million films of the year. A lot of people have it tracking at between $50 million and $60 million, however, I could see it earning twice that as early reviews are good, name recognition is higher than expected, and the talented cast is lead by a box office rejuvenated Will Ferrell, whose last film ended its run just shy of $150 million. On the other hand, the competition during its opening weekend is crazy. There are four films opening wide on the same weekend, as well as two others with planned expansions. I do see Stranger than Fiction as the most commercial of those six films, but it is still going to hurt its bottom line.

Name: Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny
Studio: New Line
Official Site: TenaciousDMovie.com
Release Date: November 22, 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Rock'n'Roll, Demons, Heaven and Hell, Gratuitous Cameos, and probably more.
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $27.5 million
Notes: This is a hard movie for me to predict. On the one hand, I am a huge fan of Jack Black and Kyle Gass and I truly think there is a demand for this film. On the other hand, I think the demand is more of a cult following and less mainstream appeal. Also, there's a lot of ways they can mess up, including failing to market the film well. One major issue is the rating. If they want to bring in the hardcore Tenacious D fans, the film will end up with an R-rating. On the other hand, Jack Black does have a strong following among the younger set, so the studio might be aiming for a PG-13 rating. The problem is, not matter what rating they get they will alienate half their fanbase. Should everything work perfectly, it could earn $75 million, possibly even more. On the other hand, the worst case scenario has the film failing to reach the top five during its opening weekend and quickly disappearing from theaters. Unfortunately, it seems like the latter is more likely at the moment. Although I certainly hope I am wrong.

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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Happy Feet, Casino Royale, Borat, The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, Flushed Away, Déjà Vu, Stranger Than Fiction, Deck the Halls, Babel, Bobby, The Fountain, Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny, The Return, A Good Year, For Your Consideration, Let's Go to Prison, Harsh Times