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2005 Preview: December

December 1st, 2005

After Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire saved last month, we have two potential monster hits leading the way this month. However, both will be compared to Lord of the Rings, and neither will be able to live up to that high standard. Even so, it should be a better month than December last year, but will it be too little, too late to save 2005's box office?

Since this is the heart of award season, there are plenty of films that are first opening in limited release. Some will get a wide release later in the month, while others, like Munich, The New World and Match Point, don't open wide untill after the new year, and will appear in January's preview.

Want to talk about any of the December movies? Join the discussion in our forum.

Name: Aeon Flux
Studio: Paramount
Official Site: AeonFlux.com
Release Date: December 2nd, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and sexual content.
Source: Based on a TV Series
Major Genre: Action / Adventure
Genres: Live Action Cartoon
Production Budget: $55 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million
Notes: I'm of two minds with this film. On the one hand, the cartoon it is based on was stylish and original and if done right the movie will certainly be an intriguing experience. On the other hand, it was also a cult hit and these types of adaptation rarely go well. Somewhere along the line, some aspects that made the TV show so cool will get changed to make the movie more mainstream, but that will just alienate the true fans. Lastly, it is the only movie opening wide that weekend, so that should help, a bit, but probably not enough to be considered a real success. Last minute update: The movie will not be screened for critics, and we all know what that means. I knew there was a chance for this and took it into account with my original prediction. But now that it's been confirmed, I've had to adjust it downwards, which means instead of the film being a reasonably success, it will likely struggle to make a profit and won't get there until the home market at the earliest.

Name: Cheaper by the Dozen 2
Studio: Fox
Official Site: CheaperByTheDozen2Movie.com
Release Date: December 21st, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG - for some crude humor and mild language.
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Comedy
Genres: Family Vacations
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $40 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million
Notes: Normally sequelitis causes a film to start faster but fall quicker, but this film seems like a really unnecessary sequel. So it is unlikely to have such a strong start as the first one, and it will still have shorter legs. Even so, it is still a family film opening on the Wednesday before Christmas and it should easily do enough business to show a profit by its initial push into the home market. One last note, the film is about a summer vacation, so why is it opening in the middle of winter? And more importantly, will this hurt its box office chances? I don't know the answer to the first question, but the answer to the second one is, "Probably not enough to make a significant difference."

Name: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Studio: Disney
Official Site: Narnia.com
Release Date: December 9th, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for battle sequences and frightening moments.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Fantasy
Genres: Animated Characters
Production Budget: $150 million
Box Office Potential: $225 million
Notes: Just to get this out of the way, there is no organized boycott of this movie by secular groups, despite what some people are trying to report. If you do a search for "The Chronicles of Narnia" and "Boycott" all you'll find is some groups are dropping their boycott of Disney, partially because of this film. As for the movie itself, every time I see the trailer I think, "Meh. Lord of the Rings did it better." The reason for the comparison is obvious; the same company did the creature effects for both movies. This comparison will hurt the film at the box office, but not by enough to keep the film from showing a profit and getting a sequel or two. In fact, it might do well enough worldwide that the next two or three are given the go ahead and filmed simultaneously. Those movies, on the other hand, won't be success, as this is the only book in the series that is easily adapted into a mainstream movie.

Name: The Family Stone
Studio: Fox
Official Site: TheFamilyStoneMovie.com
Release Date: December 16th, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some sexual content including dialogue, and drug references.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Genres: Christmas, In-Laws, and Dysfunctional Family
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $17 million
Box Office Potential: $54 million
Notes: Early buzz on this film is strong, but I'm not entirely sure it will become a box office hit. One of the problems is the cast, most of which are not proven box office draws. On the other hand, the rumored production budget is low enough that the film should still show a profit even if the P&A budget is more in line with the industry average ($35 - $40 million). I think the best this film can hope for is sleeper-hit status and go on to become a bigger hit on the home market.

Name: Fun With Dick and Jane
Studio: Imagine
Official Site: SonyPictures.com
Release Date: December 21st, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for brief language, some sexual humor and occasional humorous drug references.
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Black Comedy
Genres: Disorganized / Amature Crime
Production Budget: $70 million
Box Office Potential: $125 million
Notes: Jim Carrey is one of the most popular movie stars, even if his last movie didn't live up to expectations. While this film doesn't look like it will be one of his best, he should have enough star power to make it a hit at the box office. On the other hand, remake are still in a bit of a slump; true, there were a couple of hits this summer, but most of those could be considered re-adaptations. I don't think this will be a monster hit, and with its high price tag it could take a while to see a profit, but in the end it will make the studio happy.

Name: Hoodwinked
Studio: Weinstein Co.
Official Site: HoodwinkedTheMovie.com
Release Date: December 23rd, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some mild action and thematic elements.
Source: Based on a Fairytale
Major Genre: Animated
Genres: Digital Animation
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $50 million
Box Office Potential: $100 million
Notes: A tale about Little Red Riding Hood that has more in common with Rashomon than it does with the original fairytale. Unfortunately the first trailer killed any hope I had for the movie, as almost nothing seemed to work. The jokes were bad, the animation looked cheap, etc. Even something as basic as the characters seemed out of place. Even so, it is a digitally animated movie opened during one of the best times of the year for family films so it should do big business.

Name: King Kong
Studio: Universal
Official Site: KingKongMovie.com
Release Date: December 14th, 2005
MPAA Rating: Unknown - Aiming for a PG-13 rating
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Fantasy
Genres: Animals Gone Bad, Creature Feature, and Visual Effects
Production Budget: $207 million
Box Office Potential: $275 million
Notes: Another film with a connection to Lord of the Rings, and one that will also be hurt by the comparison. It's Peter Jackson's first film since the hugely successful trilogy and there's a lot of expectations placed on the film, so much so that it is hard to imagine that the film will live up to them. Also, this is a hugely expensive film, setting a record with a production budget of $207 million; add in a worldwide P&A budget that will be north of $100 million and it will need to make about $600 million worldwide to show a profit. Fortunately, it should easily be able to do that, but it won't have the same level of success of the Lord of the Rings films did, and some might be disappointed because of that.

Name: Memoirs of a Geisha
Studio: Sony
Official Site: SonyPictures.com
Release Date: Limited Release December 9th, 2005 - Wide release December 23rd, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for mature subject matter and some sexual content.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Genres: Coming of Age and Costume Drama
Production Budget: $85 million
Box Office Potential: $105 million
Notes: Obvious Oscar bait, one of several such films opening this month. However, like most of the big budget, high profile Oscar hopeful films coming out this year, I'm merely ambivalent about it. It should perform at about the same level as The Aviator did last year, at least at the box office. As for its performance with the critics and award committees, I'm not as bullish. Look for nominations for set design, costumes, etc. but the more prestigious awards will likely be out of reach.

Name: The Producers
Studio: Universal
Official Site: TheProducersMovie.com
Release Date: Limited: December 16th, 2005, Wide: December 25th, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sexual humor and references.
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Musical
Genres: Con-men and Performing Arts
Production Budget: $45 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million
Notes: Both the play and the original movie are widely considered to be classics, which means there's a lot of pressure on this film to succeed. I'm still a little worried that the film will fail, but all indications are that at the very least it will be entertaining. On the other hand, it's not that often that a musical becomes a genuine hit and such films almost never reach $100 million. The film should do better than last year's The Phantom of the Opera and earn more than enough to show a profit, but it probably still won't reach that rare milestone.

Name: The Ringer
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Official Site: FoxSearchlight.com
Release Date: December 23rd, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language and some drug references.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Genres: Miscellaneous Sports - Track and Field
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million
Notes: This is one of those movies that many people will laugh at only to feel really bad about themselves afterward. At least I know that's what will happen with me. The film is being produced by the Farrelly Brothers, who started their careers with some major hits before hitting a rough patch recently. Compounding the film's troubles is the fact that the storyline was used in a recent episode of South Park and since this movie shares a lot of the same target demographic, that will really hurt the film's chances at the box office if they feel it is not fresh enough. Even so, it should still do marginally better than Stuck on You, which was the last Farrelly Brothers movie to get a winter release.

Name: Rumor Has It
Studio: Warner Bros.
Official Site: RumorHasItMovie.WarnerBros.com
Release Date: December 25th, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content, crude humor and a drug reference.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Genres: Dysfunctional Families and Wedding Disasters
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $40 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million
Notes: I think most people would admit that Kevin Costner's a really good actor. However, too many of his roles are humorless, stiff characters that alienate moviegoers. This is a shame since he plays the laid back, charming characters so well. You don't need to look any further than his performance in Upside of Anger to see that. The rest of the cast here is equally good, and the concept is intriguing enough to draw moviegoers in. For those that don't know, just before her sister's wedding, Sarah Huttinger discovers that her family may have been the inspiration for The Graduate. There was some intrigue behind-the-scenes as first time director Ted Griffin was fired just 10 days into shooting and then replaced by Rob Reiner, who has had more than a few hits, but is in a bit of a slump recently. He should bounce back with this film as it becomes a solid midlevel hit.

Name: Syriana
Studio: Warner Bros.
Official Site: SyrianaMovie.WarnerBros.com
Release Date: Opened in limited release on November 23rd, 2005, opens wide December 9th, 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated R for violence and language.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Thriller
Genres: Politics and Hitmen
Production Budget: $50 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million
Notes: With a limited release performance even better than expected, this film should have no problem capturing a sizable slice of the box office when it goes into wide release. Also helping the film is its political nature, which is generating a lot of extra publicity. The only possible downside is a backlash against star and producer, George Clooney, but that seems very unlikely. As for its Oscar-potential, I think it might suffer from vote-splitting with Good Night and Good Luck and that will prevent either from making a big splash.

Name: Wolf Creek
Studio: Dimension
Official Site: WolfCreekTheMovie.com
Release Date: December 25th, 2005
MPAA Rating: Unknown - aiming for an R-Rating but that might be difficult to achieve
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Horror
Genres: Serial Killer
Production Budget: $1 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: There are few things I hate more then when studios try to sell an obviously fictional story like it was based on real life events. However, I can't deny that the marketing usually works, especially for horror
films. I also can't deny that the early buzz is excellent, and the film should be a minor hit. The biggest obstacles to a wider level of success are the sadistically violent nature of the film, which will limit its appeal, and the timing. Movies that open on Christmas are generally happier movies, although Darkness did try a similar strategy last year and that worked out rather well for the film. It matters little, since the production budget is so low that any level of wide release will result in a significant profit.

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Filed under: Monthly Preview, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, King Kong, Fun With Dick And Jane, Cheaper by the Dozen 2, The Family Stone, Memoirs of a Geisha, Syriana, Rumor Has It, The Ringer, The Producers: The Movie Musical, Wolf Creek, Aeon Flux