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2005 Preview: September

September 1st, 2005

September is the prime dumping ground for movie studios, where the films that just didn't work get ditched to die an undignified death. So why are there no less than five movies opening wide that look like they should be reasonably good? Either the studios are trying to counteract the poor reputation September has, or I have really bad taste in movies.

This month is very difficult to predict for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fluidity of the release schedule with several films on the bubble for wide releases. In fact, there are almost as many films that may or may not open wide in September than there are films with a solid release schedule. Predicting what a film will earn without knowing if it will open wide is tricky because you have to figure out how much it would earn if it opens wide, how much it will earn if it goes the limited route, and what are the odds it will open wide versus a limited release. This resulting weighted average is lower than a similar prediction for a movie that is known to be opening wide, which makes the month look even worse that it otherwise would.

Join us in the forums to discuss this month's box office prospects

Name: The Constant Gardener
Studio: Focus Features
Official Site: TheConstantGardener.com
Release Date: August 31st, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language, some violent images and sexual content/nudity.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Genres: Whistleblowers
Production Budget: $25.5 million
Box Office Potential: $23 million
Notes: Since the movie was moved to an August 31st release date I'm considering it a September movie. However, since I already wrote about the film in the August Previews I'll just add a couple of points. Firstly, it looks like the early buzz on this one proved to be wrong as the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. Secondly, it is getting a widish release, so I've adjusted the box office potential accordingly.

Name: The Corpse Bride
Studio: Warner Bros.
Official Site: CorpseBrideMovie.WarnerBros.com
Release Date: Limited September 16th, Wide September 23rd, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some scary images and action, and brief mild language.
Source: Based on a Fairy Tale
Major Genre: Animated
Genres: Stop Motion Animation
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $60 million
Notes: The film stars Johnny Depp, is directed by Tim Burton, and has music by Danny Elfman, a combination that hasn't been seen since... well, since Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Unfortunately, this film's box office potential has a lot more in common with The Nightmare Before Christmas than Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. However, even if The Corpse Bride earns less during its entire run than what Charlie and the Chocolate Factory opened with, it could still be the more profitable movie because it cost so much less to make.

Name: Cry Wolf
Studio: Rogue Pictures
Official Site: CryWolfMovie.com
Release Date: September 16th, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for violence, terror, disturbing images, language, sexuality and a brief drug reference.
Source: Original Script
Major Genre: Thriller
Genres: Serial Killer, Boarding School, and Surprise Twist
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $1 million
Box Office Potential: $12 million
Notes: Going for the same market as Saw, but it's opening too early to capture any Halloween Horror boost. There are a couple of things that might push the film's box office potential lower, the September release date being one of them; also, it might not get a truly wide release. But the biggest question mark is the Surprise Twist. The best surprise twists can surprise a person so much that as soon as the movie ends they immediately want to watch the movie again, look for clues, see the film under a different light, etc. However, a really bad surprise twist will ruin the movie, and that will make the audience angry and create hostile word-of-mouth. It's too soon to tell which way this movie will go, and since this is the first feature length film for both the writer and the director we can't even look at past work to judge. Assuming it opens in roughly 1,500 theatres then it should hit $10 million to $15 million, which is great for a film that cost $1 million to make.

Name: The Exorcism of Emily Rose
Studio: Sony
Official Site: SonyPictures.com
Release Date: September 9th, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic material, including intense/frightening sequences and disturbing images.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Genres: Possessed and Religious
Production Budget: $20 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: Another movie that spends more time trying to convince me it's real rather than convincing me it's entertaining. And since the church declared that Anneliese Michel, the woman whose story this movie purports to tell, was not possessed, they have a pretty hard case to prove. Others have said the trailer is creepy and scary, but I don't see it. There just wasn't enough that seemed new and fresh. If my opinion is in the minority it could become a minor hit, or at least cover its production budget. Otherwise it will struggle mightily.

Name: Flight Plan
Studio: Disney
Official Site: FlightPlan.Movies.com
Release Date: September 23rd, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for violence and some intense plot material.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Genres: Can't really say without spoiling the movie, I guess Surprise Twist is the safest.
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $55 million
Box Office Potential: $60 million
Notes: A lot of people are comparing this film to The Forgotten, but unfortunately the surprise twist is being called both illogical and lame. However, most critics didn't like that film either, so as long as the viewers are hooked it will still do strong repeat business at the box office. Others are comparing the film to Jodie Foster's last big hit, Panic Room, for its claustrophobic feel. It's unlikely this film will rise to the heights of either of those films, but it could come close.

Name: The Greatest Game Ever Played
Studio: Disney
Official Site: GreatestGameEver.com
Release Date: September 30th, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some brief mild language.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Genres: Golf
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $25 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: One of several films that are on the bubble with regard to getting a wide release. Even if it does get a wide release I doubt it will become a hit: Golf movies rarely are. The last golf movie, which also was a period piece, opened in barely more than 1,000 theatres are earned less than $3 million during its entire run. And 2000's The Legend of Bagger Vance, which was also a period piece, also had a disappointing box office. In fact, you have to go back to 1996's Tin Cup (with Kevin Costner), before you find a Golf movie that was a hit. This film should finish on the lower end of the scale, but its total depends heavily on if it gets a wide release or not. On a side note, I really, really, hate it when at campaigns use the phrase, "from the studio that brought you..." I can understand bringing up directors, screenwriters and even producers. But the studio... how lame is that?

Name: A History of Violence
Studio: New Line
Official Site: HistoryOfViolence.com
Release Date: September 30th, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong brutal violence, graphic sexuality, nudity, language and some drug use.
Source: Graphic Novel
Major Genre: Drama
Genres: D.C. Comics and Mafia
Production Budget: $32 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: Adapting Graphic Novels is a new fad in Hollywood as they have a comic book cool aura about them, but generally have a much more mature storyline backing them up. Early buzz on the film has been very positive. Some are even mentioning Oscar with regards to Viggo Mortensen's performance. Many are also calling this film David Cronenberg's most commercial work; normally this is an insult hurled at a artist that has sold out, but in this case it's a good thing. After all, Cronenberg's previous works include some of the most inaccessible films made, so being a little more mainstream is not the same as selling out.

Name: Into the Blue
Studio: MGM
Official Site: MGM.com
Release Date: September 30th, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence, drug material, some sexual content and language.
Source: Original Script
Major Genre: Action / Adventure
Genres: Treasure Hunters
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $50 million
Box Office Potential: $27 million
Notes: This movie was pushed back from a prime summer release date till the end of September and that's all you really need to know about the film's chances. The advertisement seems to be emphasizing Jessica Alba being in a bikini above any actual plot elements or thrilling scenes, possibly because there are none of the latter. The film could succeed if the action is fun since Treasure Hunters flicks have always been popular, but something tells me this film took itself was too seriously, and that's going hurt its chances at the box office.

Name: Just Like Heaven
Studio: Dreamworks
Official Site: JustLikeHeaven-TheMovie.com
Release Date: September 16th, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some sexual content.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Genres: Hauntings
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $40 million
Box Office Potential: $85 million
Notes: The film should probably become the biggest hit of the month, after all Reese Witherspoon's previous September release set a couple of records for the month and went on to become one of the few movies to open in September that reached $100 million. I have to admit, I'm really looking forward to this movie even though I'm not really part of the demographic. True, it looks predictable, but almost all Romantic Comedies follow a pretty standard formula and Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo seem to have a smooth chemistry. Add in Jon Heder, who looks great in his follow-up role to his breakout hit Napoleon Dynamite and you have the biggest hit of the month.

Name: Lord of War
Studio: Lions Gate
Official Site: LordOfWarTheMovie.com
Release Date: September 16th, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong violence, drug use, language and sexuality.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Action / Adventure
Genres: Mid-Life Crisis
Production Budget: $42 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: Opening on the busiest weekend of the weakest month of the year will hurt this film. Nicolas Cage rebounded at the box office thanks to National Treasure, but this film will have a box office more in line with Matchstick Men, maybe a little more thanks to ticket price inflation. A better release date would result in a $60 million to $80 million box office, but even now it should do well enough to eventually show a profit. It just might take until after its initial push into the home market.

Name: The Man
Studio: New Line
Official Site: TheManMovie.com
Release Date: September 9th, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for language, rude dialogue and some violence.
Source: Original Script
Major Genre: Comedy
Genres: Buddy Cop and Undercover
Production Budget: $20 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: The partnership between Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy is either inspired genius or a recipe for disaster. Lets fact it, both Jackson and Levy are incredible talents, but they also have a tendency to pick roles in movies that are of dubious quality. The buzz is very negative, and the September release date doesn't help either. It will likely open with less than $10 million and barely top its production budget, and the only reason it will do that is because it's an inexpensive movie to make.

Name: Proof
Studio: Miramax
Official Site: None
Release Date: September 16th, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some sexual content, language and drug references.
Source: Based on a Play
Major Genre: Drama
Genres: Mental Illness
Production Budget: $20 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million
Notes: This film is geared for Award Season, but it's being released a little early for that, during a busy month and may or may not get a wide release. Early buzz is good, especially since the last time John Madden and Gwyneth Paltrow teamed up they produced the multi-Oscar winning Shakespeare in Love. But you have to weight that against the likelihood of a wide vs. limited release, hence the low prediction.

Name: Roll Bounce
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Official Site: FoxSearchlight.com
Release Date: September 23rd, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for language and some crude humor.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Genres: Miscellaneous Sports
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at under $10 million
Box Office Potential: $5 million
Notes: This looks like a bad, bad movie, but what a soundtrack! Let's face it, the poor underdogs go against the richer, affluent adversaries is so overused there's almost no chance that this film be able to stand out in a very crowded genre. Roller Disco is also not a subject matter that most people will get excited over, further reducing the box office potential. Add in a likely limited released and this film won't have an easy time at the box office. One last thing, before I get any complaints over calling Roller Disco a sport, if Ballroom Dancing can be an Olympic sport, than Roller Disc can also be considered a sport.

Name: Serenity
Studio: Universal
Official Site: SerenityMovie.com
Release Date: September 30th, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense violence and action, and some sexual references.
Source: Based on a TV Show
Major Genre: Science Fiction
Genres: Visual Effects
Production Budget: Originally reported at $50 million, but reports have it under budget
Box Office Potential: $45 million
Notes: This is one of those movies that may show a profit before the first ticket is sold. Excitement over the movie will increase the ratings of the show it is based on. This will increase sales for the DVD set, and there should be plenty of merchandise for the Uber fans. (Personally, I'm looking for a really detailed model of Serenity and maybe complete set of action figures of the crew and The Operative, maybe some Reavers so I can have a little battle on my desk while I pretend to work. ... Stop looking at me like that.) The fan base for this show is very rabid, but perhaps not large enough to support the film domestically, but the international audience should be even bigger and the home market sales should get a Sequel or two. One last note, The Numbers will be hosting a contest and having a full review of the movie. Stand by for further details.

Name: A Sound of Thunder
Studio: Warner Bros.
Official Site: AsoundOfThunder.com
Release Date: September 2nd, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence, partial nudity and language.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Science Fiction
Genres: Time Travel
Production Budget: $80 million
Box Office Potential: $5 million
Notes: The film could surpass Thuderbirds as Ben Kingsley's worst film. The film has been delayed more than two years because the production company went bankrupt and there wasn't enough money to finish the film. And considering how bad this film's prospects looks, they probably shouldn't have spent the extra dollars. Last minute note: it's opening in less than 1000 theatres and will likely disappear from theatres before the end of the month.

Name: Transporter 2
Studio: Fox
Official Site: Transporter2Movie.com
Release Date: September 2nd, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 intense sequences of violent action, sexual content, partial nudity and brief language.
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Action / Adventure
Genres: Car Chase Movies and Kidnapping
Production Budget: $32 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: I'll be the first to admit that the original wasn't a particularly good movie. But it was a fun movie, glorious overly-choreographed fight scenes and all. The original made about $25 million during its domestic run back in 2002, but Transporter 2 should make much more if its run in France is any indication. The Transporter sold just 570,000 tickets during its run in France while The Transporter 2 has sold more than 1,000,000 tickets in just four weeks and is still in the top ten there. If it can perform the same here it should become a surprise midlevel hit.

Name: Underclassman
Studio: Miramax
Official Site: Miramax.com
Release Date: September 2nd, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual references, drug material and some teen drinking.
Source: Original Script
Major Genre: Action / Adventure
Genres: Undercover and Boarding School
Production Budget: $25 million
Box Office Potential: $12 million
Notes: This film has been pushed back from January to early August, which is usually a slightly better release date. However, with the boarding school theme it would have been better to release this film during the school year. Even September might have been a better time to release this film. The undercover angle should provide some laughs and the car chases should provide some action, and as long as they can balance the two the film should do fine. But early buzz says that's not the case.

Update: The film was bumped to September 2nd, which could possibly be the worst release date the studio could pick. The target audience won't want to be reminded that they have to go back to school on Tuesday. The end of the month would have been better.
Additional Note: This film is opening in just over 1000 theatres and its box office prospects have been reduced accordingly.

Name: Venom, previously known as The Reaper and Backwater
Studio: Dimension
Official Site: Miramax.com
Release Date: September 16th, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong horror violence/gore, and language.
Source: Based on a Video Game, sort of.
Major Genre: Horror
Genres: Teenage Slasher and Possessed
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $25 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: From the makers of Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer and the studio is hoping to capture a bit of that magic and earn the same box office rewards. They haven't, and it won't. In fact, I have serious doubts it will get a wide release. Also of note, the Video Game the movie was based on never got made. I don't know if it is stuck in development hell, or if the project was dropped.

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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Flightplan, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Corpse Bride, Just Like Heaven, The Transporter 2, The Constant Gardener, A History of Violence, Serenity, Lord of War, Into the Blue, Roll Bounce, The Greatest Game Ever Played, Cry Wolf, The Man, Proof, Underclassman, A Sound of Thunder, Venom