2007 Preview: December

It's been a while since we went into the final month of the year on such a down note. Since mid-September the box office has been down on a year-to-year comparison every weekend but two. There is some good news, including a competitive Oscar race and a strong group of films aiming for box office glory. While there are no films that appear to be heading for the monster hits territory, there are also no films that look like outright bombs. (Although a couple would be there if it weren't for the holidays.) Every week at least one Oscar contender and one box office giant are being released. This means that every weekend there is at least one film that should hit $100 million, or more. If five or more can reach that milestone, 2007 will set the record for most $100 million films in a year.

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

Name: Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem
Distributor: Fox
Official Site: AVP-R.com
Release Date: December 25, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for violence, gore and language
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Action and / or Horror
Keywords: Alien Invasion, Franchise Crossover, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $100 million, but that seems high
Box Office Potential: $75 million
Notes: When the first Aliens vs. Predator film came out, a lot of fans of the two franchises were not pleased. Up to that point, the six films has all been R-rated and fans thought the studio has sold-out and cut back on the intensity to get the PG-13 rating and the bigger audiences that usually go with it. However, one look at the Red Band trailer will be relieved to know that this film is certainly earning its R-rating. There are still those that are upset that the movies are not following the cannon created by the novels, comics, video games that appeared before the first movie. But I think most moviegoers will forgive the filmmakers for setting this film directly after Aliens vs. Predator as long as they fix a few problems, and early word is they've done a good job there. There are still concerns that the film will be a lot more Action than Horror, but a splatter heavy action-fest is still better than what we got before. On the other hand, opening this kind of film on Christmas day may turn out to be a mistake.

Name: Alvin and the Chipmunks
Distributor: Fox
Official Site: AlvinAndTheChipmunksMovie.com
Release Date: December 14, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild rude humor
Source: Based on a TV series, which was originally based on a novelty song
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Animal Leads, Talking Animals, Live Action Cartoon, sort of, and Musicans, but only if you call when they do music
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $70 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million
Notes: Ugh. Just the thought of hearing those grating voices is more than I can bear. I don't know how I'm going to survive once the promotional machine kicks into high gear and the ads are everywhere. Jason Lee better pray every night that My Name is Earl is not cancelled, cause his choice in movie roles this year have been terrible. Underdog earned just 13% positive reviews, and this film looks worse. That said, it is December and it is a family film and there's little chance it will bomb outright and a rather good chance it will be at least a midlevel hit. Just don't make a sequel. Please don't make a sequel. On a side note, well I'm prediction the film will be a midlevel hit, it is also the film on this list that is most likely to completely bomb.

Name: Atonement
Distributor: Focus Features
Official Site: No Official Site
Release Date: December 7, 2007 (limited)
Release Date: December 14, 2007 (expansion)
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing war images, language and some sexuality
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Falsely Accused / Wrongfully Convicted and Coming of Age
Production Budget: Unknown - reported at $35 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: This film is obviously Oscar bait. It is also very likely that the film will be nominated for several awards and almost as likely that it will come away on February 24th with at least one trophy. As for the film's box office chances, I think Pride and Prejudice is a great comparison, and not just for the obvious Keira Knightley connection. Both are British, both are historical fiction, both are based on books by popular authors, and both were considered Oscar contenders before they opened. Pride and Prejudice earned just over $25 million during its run in its native United Kingdom and just under $40 million here. Atonement has earned just under $25 million in the U.K., which would work out to about $35 million here, assuming the same ratio. However, Atonement has a couple of advantages. Firstly, it is earning better reviews and secondly, the overall Oscar competition is a lot weaker this year. On the other hand, the American dollar is in the tank right now, and that artificially increased Atonement's box office in the U.K. throwing off the comparison. I believe the positives outweigh the negatives and Atonement will become one of the biggest limited release hits of the year.

Name: The Bucket List
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: TheBucketList.net
Release Date: December 21, 2007 (limited)
Release Date: January 11, 2008 (expansion to wide release)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language, including a sexual reference
Source: Original Screeplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Medical and Hospitals and Road Trip
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at between $40 and $60 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million
Notes: A movie that practically screams Oscar. The film stars Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, who have a combined 16 Oscar nominations including 4 wins. They star as two men both confined to a cancer ward with terminal cancer. After initial animosity, they realize that for different reasons, they both never did much of what they wanted to do before they died. So they escape the hospital and road trip to complete their list before they kick the bucket. The big worry here is the film will be overly sentimental. If it can avoid that, and early reports are encouraging, then it could become an Oscar favorite. The other concern is vote splitting between the two stars, which could prevent either one from being nominated, never mind winning. However, odds are one will be called the lead actor and the other the supporting actor and both will have an excellent shot at an Oscar nod.

Name: Charlie Wilson's War
Distributor: Universal
Official Site: CharlieWilsonsWar.net
Release Date: December 25, 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Likely Aiming for a PG-13 rating
Source: Based on a Book that is Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: War, Secret Agent, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - mixed reports but $75 million seems likely
Box Office Potential: $175 million
Notes: After setting the record for most $100 million hits in a row, Tom Hanks is in the midst of another streak that could break his own record. In fact, if Charlie Wilson's War hits $100 million, he'll be halfway there. There's almost no one who doesn't think this film has a real shot at $100 million, and there are plenty that think it could reach $200 million. On the other hand, it could have an uphill battle with Oscar. The trailer was good, but not great, and not the instant Oscar favorite that some were thinking the film was. That said, it still has a very impressive cast with a combined nine Oscar nominations and four wins. Add in an Oscar-winning director and a multi-Emmy winning screenwriter, (not to mention a weak field), and the film could still earn enough Oscar buzz to pick up a nomination or two, (or six), while earning a bundle at the box office. Worst case scenario still has earning a couple hundred million worldwide and more than enough to show a profit relatively soon. Last minute update: early reviews and in and they are overwhelmingly positive, but not enthusiastically positive. These initial reports are backing up the earlier opinion that this is a very good film, but not good enough to be a major player during award season.

Name: The Great Debaters
Distributor: Weinstein. Co.
Official Site: TheGreatDebatersMovie.com
Release Date: December 25, 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Likely aiming for PG-13
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: College and Inspirational Teacher
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million
Notes: Denzel Washington's second stab at directing. The first film he directed was Antwone Fisher, which earned excellet reviews, but barely more than $20 million at the box office. Early buzz has this film earning even better reviews, and with the help of Oscar buzz, a lot more at the box office. The Great Debaters seems tailor made to win Oscars as voters tend to like historical dramas that are based on true stories, and even the sub-genre of the inspirational teacher should help. Add in an Oscar winning actor turned director, (not to mention a rather weak field), and this could earn nominations in nearly every major category. If that's the case, it could more than double my prediction. And even if it doesn't, it should earn more than enough to make the studio happy and reach profitability on the home market.

Name: His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass
Distributor: New Line
Official Site: GoldenCompassMovie.com
Release Date: December 7, 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Likely Aiming for PG but they could have trouble
Source: Based on a Novel
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Talking Animals, Good vs. Evil, and others
Production Budget: $180 million
Box Office Potential: $135 million
Notes: His Dark Materials is aiming at a similar target audience as Narnia, only it won't be able to rely on churchgoers to boost its box office numbers. The movie is based on the first novel of a series that attacks corruption the author saw in the church. Some have declared the movie is anti-Christian and are talking about boycotts, which seems like an overreaction, and perhaps unnecessary. The two stars, Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, both starred in The Invasion, and the less said about that movie the better. In fact, neither is particularly hot at the box office at the moment with fewer hits than misses. On the other hand, it is the only film opening wide that weekend, and there's only one film opening wide the weekend before it so there won't be any holdovers challenging for domination either. This lack of competition should give it a decisive edge and a fast start should give it enough publicity to carry it straight through January. Even so, odds are the film will do better internationally than domestically, unless the studio can turn this controversy into a lot of free publicity. Regardless, it should make enough money to show a profit by its initial run on the home market, assuming the talk of a product budget over the $200 million mark were exaggerations.

Name: I am Legend
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: IAmLegend.WarnerBros.com
Release Date: December 14, 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Likely Aiming for PG-13
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Post Apocalypse and Vampire
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at more than $150 million
Box Office Potential: $175 million
Notes: Will Smith is one of the most bankable action stars around. In fact, his last action film to not reach $100 million at the box office was Bad Boys back in 1995 and 10 of his last 13 films in total have reached that milestone, including his two most recent films, a drama and a romantic comedy. This is a very impressive streak and at this point any project Will Smith touches has to be regarded as almost a can't miss film. On the other hand, he hasn't had a film reach $200 million in nearly as long. Additionally, with a production budget of more than $150 million, I am Legend will need to at least come close to that latter figure if it wants to show a profit anytime soon. Good news is Will Smith is just as big of a draw internationally as he is domestically, which is not true of most African-American actors. This is true because too often African-American actors are only cast in movies aimed at other African-Americans, with emphasis on the American part. Since the movies are so tied with American experience, they don't translate well into other cultures.

(You can see this effect in the recent Pixar films. Finding Nemo, their biggest hit, earned more than 60% of its worldwide box office internationally. The Incredibles earned just under 60% internationally, and super heroes are an American invention and only recently have they been able to break out internationally. (Technically they are an American-Canadian co-invention, but we don't need to get into that.) Cars, on the other hand, earned only 47% internationally, and cars as an obsession is very American while elevating food to an art form is not, and it showed as Ratatouille earned more than 66% of its box office internationally, and it is still on the charts in many markets.)

Since most movies starring African-Americans are marketed primarily, if not solely at African-Americans, they tend not to draw in other demographics. This, in turn, reinforces the notion that only African-American moviegoers are interested in seeing movies with African-American actors in them, and the cycle continues. Will Smith is one of a few African-American actors to break this cycle and this will help the film's bottom like immensely. This practice may sound racist, and maybe it is, but remember that I'm just reporting on the racism and not condoning it. Hopefully Will Smith and Denzel Washington and others will end this practice.

Name: Juno
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Official Site: FoxSearchlight.com
Release Date: December 5, 2007 (exclusive)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Unexpected Families / Unplanned Pregnancies
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $25 million, but that seems high
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: This film is scheduled for a limited release on the first Wednesday of the month and as of yet, there are no hard plans to expand wide. That said, I think it will get there, or at least taste some mainstream success. There's already buzz that Ellen Page could pick up her first Oscar nomination after just earning her first Independent Spirit Award while Diablo Cody, (who has the greatest name ever), could pick up a nomination for Best Original Screenplay. With early reviews that are nearly unanimously positive, and a weaker than expected field, the film should earn enough Oscar buzz to lift it out of the art house circuit and into multiplexes. Should this happened, it could easily turn into the biggest limited release of the year, however, there are two or three other limited releases coming out in December that are also aiming at that title. On a side note, the film pulls a double Development featuring both Jason Bateman and Michael Cera. Hopefully this won't hurt the film. While Arrested Development was one of the best shows of the past few years, films featuring cast members haven't done so well these past few years, either at the box office or with critics.

Name: National Treasure 2: The Book of Secrets
Distributor: Disney
Official Site: Disney.Go.com
Release Date: December 21, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG for some violence and action
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Treasure Hunters, Politics, Kidnapping, Assassination
Production Budget: Unknown - reported at $100 million, but likely more
Box Office Potential: $125
Notes: The first National Treasure seemed like a cheesy, old fashioned adventure film, emphasis on the cheesy. However, it caught fire with moviegoers and showed amazing legs earning $175 million in total. There is a chance this film will build on the first's success, but it is more likely that the first was lightening in a bottle and the filmmakers will be unable to recapture it. That said, it should still open with roughly the same, but while the holidays will help it over the following weeks, it won't have the same legs. It should still hit $100 million, but depending on how much more it cost to make compared to the original, and how well it does internationally, this might not be enough to show a profit anytime soon.

Name: The Orphanage
Distributor: Picture House
Official Site: SimonIsMissing.com
Release Date: December 28, 2007 (limited)
Release Date: January 11, 2008 (expansion to wide release)
MPAA Rating: R for some disturbing content
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Hauntings
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: One of the handful of limited releases that already have their wide release scheduled. This one seems to be following in the footsteps of Pan's Labyrinth, which grabbed close to $40 million last year. Although The Orphanage has earned more in its native market, it probably won't earn as much here. The reviews are good, but not nearly as strong as Pan's Labyrinth were and the moody nature of the horror doesn't translate as well. Different cultures are scared by different things, and the more the film relies on mood, the less is translates well. $30 million is still a huge number for a foreign language film and if it can earn an Oscar nod or two, it will do even more business, especially on the home market.

Name: P.S., I Love You
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: PSILoveYouMovie.WarnerBros.com
Release Date: December 21, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual references and brief nudity
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Romantic Drama
Keywords: Unexpected Death of a Spouse
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $40 - $50 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: Based on a novel of the same name, which has been described by some as the most romantic novel of the last decade. A lot of men are going to see this movie in the theaters, but very few will choose to go as they will be dragged there but wives and / or girlfriends. I have nothing against romances as a genre, (although I prefer romantic comedies over the dramatic films), however, the trailer didn't impress me. Far from being romantic, it felt sappy. In addition, its two stars are not exactly known for being box office powerhouses. Sure, they've each had at least one big hit, and a couple of films that did well with the critics, but they've also made movies like The Core or Timeline. Even so, similar films that are releases during this time of year like The Family Stone or Spanglish tend to be solid performers, not major hits, but solid performers, and this film should be no different. On a side note, this is the third film dealing with a woman recovering after the death of her husband with the other two being Catch and Release and Things We Lost in the Fire. Neither were hits, which could be a bad sign going forward.

Name: The Perfect Holiday
Distributor: Yari Film Group
Official Site: ThePerfectHolidayMovie.com
Release Date: December 12, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG for brief language and some suggestive humor
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Romance / Drama
Keywords: Christmas and Divorc´┐Że Romance
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million or less
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: A holiday film for families aimed at African-American moviegoers. Recently films aimed at this target demographic have done very well at the box office, however, Yari Film Group films have not. So far the company has only released eight films, only one of which has reached $10 million at the box office. Given the time of year and the success similar films have had, if they can give the film a proper advertising push and get the film into more than 2000 theaters, it could easily double the box office potential above. If not, it could be the latest film of theirs to fail to hit $10 million. The above potential is a weighted average of the two extremes.

Name: Persepolis
Distributor: Sony Picture Classics
Official Site: SonyPictures.com
Release Date: December 25, 2007 (limited)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material including violent images, sexual references, language and brief drug content
Source: Based on a Graphic Novel
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Coming of Age
Production Budget: $8.1 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: Yes another potential Oscar contender opening in limited release this year. The film is one of 13 films trying to get one of 3 nominations, and should be a favorite to do that. (Although I still have Ratatouille as the favorite to win the award.) At the box office, the film's chances are not as strong. It is only opening in limited release on December 25th and there is no wide expansion currently scheduled, but award buzz should help it grow and do similar business as The Triplets of Belleville did a few years back. It appears that 2-D animation, (even if it is done on a computer), will have a place in theaters. It might not be dominating the box office, but at least find it could find a niche market among art houses while pleasing award committee voters.

Name: Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Distributor: Paramount
Official Site: SweeneyToddMovie.com
Release Date: December 21, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for graphic bloody violence
Source: Based on a Musical
Major Genre: Musical
Keywords: Serial Killer, false Imprisonment, Revenge, Food
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $65 million
Box Office Potential: I have no idea
Notes: This is probably one of the most difficult movies to predict. On the one hand, it is starring Johnny Depp, who is one of the most bankable stars of the decade, and is directed by Tim Burton, who is averaging more than $100 million in his career. On the other hand, it is a horror musical, and I can't think of the last film like that that was a hit. I can't think of the last film that was like that, period. (Rocky Horror Picture Show, perhaps?) This film could easily flop like The Producers or Rent, or it could be a $100 million hit like Dreamgirls or Hairspray. If the Internet buzz is any indication, the latter is more likely. But we know from the past, Internet buzz doesn't always translate into box office dollars. Strong reviews will help, as would Oscar buzz, but it's still too early too tell if those will be a factor. I'm going with a prediction of $75 million, but it could earn $25 million, or even $125 million, and I wouldn't be shocked at all.

Name: Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
Distributor: Sony
Official Site: SonyPictures.com
Release Date: December 21, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Spoof, Biography, and Musicians
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at under $30 million
Box Office Potential: $110 million
Notes: The guy from Talladega Nights starring in a movie written by the guy who made The 40-Year Old Virgin. This could be an incredibly funny movie. On the other hand, it's a spoof, and it's been a while since one of those films wowed critics, and most recent ones have been soft at the box office as well. You would have to go back to Galaxy Quest to find a pure spoof that earned overwhelmingly positive reviews, and even then it struggled at the box office and didn't really find an audience till the home market. In addition, John C. Reilly is not someone who is known for being able to carry a movie. Then again, neither were Jonah Hill or Michael Cera, and Superbad still made more than $120 million at the box office. This film might not make quite that much, but everything Judd Apatow touches has been gold and I see no reason why this film won't earn positive reviews and $100 million at the box office, or at the very least come close.

Name: The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep
Distributor: Columbia
Official Site: TheWaterHorse.com
Release Date: December 25, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG for some action/peril, mild language and brief smoking
Source: Based on a Book that is Based on a Legend
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Monster Movie and visual effects
Production Budget: Unknown - probably close to $100 million depending on the special effects budget
Box Office Potential: $75 million
Notes: There are two films this movie reminds me of, Eragon and Night at the Museum. Both were family friendly fantasy films that opened in December last year. One struggle at the box office and became a money loser for the studio, the other earned more than $250 million domestically and $500 million worldwide. Sadly, the former is a lot more likely here. The Christmas opening could help the film as several such releases have managed to earn more than $100 million during their domestic run. However, for every Cheaper by the Dozen or Catch Me If You Can, there's a Fat Albert or Ali. I also think this will be a tough film to market as I don't think The Water Horse is the most marketable name. I don't think it will be a flop, but it is not likely that it will be one of the bigger hits of the month.

Name: Youth Without Youth
Distributor: Sony Picture Classics
Official Site: YWYFilm.com
Release Date: December 14, 2007 (limited)
MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality, nudity and a brief disturbing image
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: World War II, Evil Twin, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $1 million
Notes: Francis Ford Coppola's first time behind the camera in a decade, and that alone should make it very interesting for a lot of cinemaphiles. However, it is based on a little-known book that deals with subjects that are too out there for most critics. In fact, they are too out there for most fans of art house cinema. However, the curiosity factor might draw in enough people and the philosophical / metaphysical debates the film will start will earn it a cult following. It is unlikely to find much mainstream success; perhaps Tetro or the long-delayed Megalopolis will be the return to form fans of the director are waiting for.


- C.S.Strowbridge


Date posted: 2007-12-01