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2010 Preview: July

July 1st, 2010

The summer has really started to get depressing, not just disappointing. It's getting to the point where a film merely matching expectations is enough to celebrate, while beating expectations is practically unheard of. Speaking of which, of the ten wide releases that opened in June only four matched expectations. Granted, that's better than May, but still disappointing. Going forwards, what is likely the biggest hit of July actually opens on the last day of June. Given how front-loaded The Twilight Saga: Eclipse could be, this could have a serious effect when we compare this year's box office to last July.

Weekend of July 2nd, 2010

The Independence Day long weekend brings us two films that have been garnering a lot of buzz for a long time. However, in both cases, not all of it has been positive. For one of these films, it will likely have zero effect, as its target audience will go regardless of the negative buzz, while its crossover appeal was already nearly zero. For the other film, perception is a little more important. There is some good news when compared to last year, as last year's winner at the box office was actually a holdover, so that could help 2010 maintain its lead over 2009.

The Last Airbender

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site:
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: July 1st, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG for fantasy action violence
Source: Based on a TV Series
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Martial Arts, Revenge, Coming of Age, Live Action Cartoon, and more.
Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone, and Dev Patel
Production Budget: Reported at $150 million, plus a $130 million marketing budget
Box Office Potential: $125 million

There is a lot of uncertainty regarding this film's box office potential. On the one hand, it is based on a TV series that has a rabid fanbase and that won numerous awards. Additionally, it is being directed by M. Night Shyamalan, who has had some fantastic successes in his career. He has also had some worrying failures recently. Additionally, while The Last Airbender is a great TV show, it might be tough adapting it into a live-action movie and any perceived problems will be magnified by the rabidly devoted fanbase.

Given the mixed to negative buzz the film earned before it was made, it will need strong reviews and a powerful ad campaign to overcome that. As I'm writing this, there are still no reviews online, which is a troubling sign. On the other hand, it was reported that the studio is spending $130 million to advertise the movie, which would be a huge boon, even if this is the global P&A budget. Opening on Independence Day long weekend should help the film at the box office, even if it has to play second fiddle to Eclipse. The success of The Karate Kid shows that this type of film can succeed.

That said, even high end expectations have this film falling short of its total budget. But it should have a solid shot at matching its production budget domestically, and with international box office, home market sales, not to mention increased sales of the TV show on DVD, it should show a profit sooner rather than later.

Last Minute Update: The reviews are in, and they are a disaster, the worst of M. Night Shyamalan's career. Hardcore fans of the show and of his could still flock to the movie opening weekend, but odds are it will have short legs.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site:
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Release Date: June 30th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some sensuality
Source: Based on a Book and Sequel
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Revenge, Vampire, Werewolf, and more.
Directed By: David Slade
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Bryce Dallas Howard, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $65 million
Box Office Potential: $350 million

When Twilight was released in 2008, I underestimated its box office potential. Okay, I grossly underestimated its box office potential, but to be fair to me, it was the studio's first hit after a full year of misses. When New Moon came out last year, it also beat expectations. I figured given the Fangirl nature of the books, either you loved the books and went to see the first film, or you didn't care and weren't going to see the second film. I was wrong, again. This time around, I'm tempted to predict the film will make $1 billion domestically, just so it can't embarrass me a third time. I decided against that.

In reality, I do think the third film will be the biggest of the series thanks in part to its release date, but it won't see as large of a jump as the series saw from the first to the second installment. Also, while there are no reviews on Rotten Tomatoes as I write this, early word is that it could be the best film in the series as well, which would be a pleasant surprise.

Regardless, this film should be incredibly front-loaded. In fact, it could break the record for biggest Wednesday opening, currently held by Revenge of the Fallen. Eclipse could make more on opening day than it cost to make. On the downside, it could make more opening day than it makes over the weekend as a whole. That's the worst case scenario. Best case has it making $100 million in two days, $200 million in five and more than $400 million in total.

On a side note, as a Canadian I am kind of torn on this movie. On the one hand, the producers squeezed out Rachelle Lefevre from her role as Victoria in order to get a bigger named actress in the part. (There was an issue of scheduling, but those are pretty easy to work around if you know about them that far in advance.) On the other hand, Jodelle Ferland enters the case in the small, but important role of Bree Tanner. If the film struggles, I can say it's because they didn't have Rachelle Lefevre in the cast. If it is a huge hit, I can say it's because they added Jodelle Ferland. At least in that way, it's a win-win situation for this loyal Canuck.

Last Minite Update: The reviews are in and they are the best of the series so far, albeit by a tiny margin. More importantly, the film broke records during its midnight showings and should break more records during the full day. This does make reaching $400 million a little more likely.

Weekend of July 9th, 2010

The weekend after a long weekend is hardly the best time to release a movie, and the two releases here definitely seem to be second tier releases. Don't get me wrong, I expect both films to be hits to some degree, but neither will be true blockbusters. There is good news in the year-over-year comparison, as this week last year was not filled with blockbusters either. Last year's number one film missed high expectations, while the only other major release was expected to struggle, and did so, in a major way. Both new releases this week have a chance to top the combined box office of last year's two releases, which means 2010 should extend its lead over 2009.

Despicable Me

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Despicable.Me/
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: July 9th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG for rude humor and mild action
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy / Adventure
Keywords: Revenge, Super Villain POV, Unexpected Family, 3D, and more.
Directed By: Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud
Starring: Steve Carell, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, and Elsie Fisher
Production Budget: Reported at $110 million
Box Office Potential: $150 million

This is a movie of firsts. It is the first digitally animated film for Universal's new studio. The first feature-length film for both directors, Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud. It is also the first film for two of the three girls. (Dana Gaier and Elsie Fisher are making their movie debuts in this film, while Miranda Cosgrove made her theatrical debut in School of Rock.)

The fact that this is the first feature-length film for the directors is a real question mark regarding the quality of the film. However, early reviews are very hopeful, even if it is too soon to judge. I am concerned that Universal won't give the film a strong enough advertising push to really sell it. Since this is their first first digitally animated film, they won't be able to use past successes in the ads, unlike Pixar, for instance. (At this point, a Pixar teaser trailer is just a list of past hits, and even then they tend to skip a few of their lesser hits.) Also, the studio is on a bit of a losing streak. They haven't had a real hit all year. Granted, Robin Hood made over $100 million, but it also cost $180 million to make. The studio's last $200 million hit was The Bourne Ultimatum back in 2007. And they haven't had the biggest hit of the year since How the Grinch Stole Christmas opened in 2000, which is the longest streak among the big six studios. (I'm counting Shrek 2 as a Paramount movie, because at the time, that's who was distributing Dreamworks' films.) That is not to say the film won't be a hit, but they are troubling signs and do limit box office potential.

If all goes well, it could make as much as The Grinch did, not taking into account inflation, but that's probably a little too bullish. The 3D ticket prices means reaching $200 million is not out of the question, but direct competition will likely stop that from happening. Still, it should make enough to keep the studio quite happy and encourage them to make more such films.

On final note, I believe Elsie Fisher, who plays Agnes, the youngest of the three girls, may in fact be the cutest living entity on the planet. More research is needed to make a definitive conclusion, but I will leave that task to someone else. ... Are there internationally recognized experts on cuteness?


Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site:
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: July 9th, 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Probably going for an R-rating
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Alien Abduction, which is like a combination of Alien Invasion and Kidnapping
Directed By: Nimród Antal
Starring: Adrian Brody, Alice Braga, Laurence Fishburne, Topher Grace, Danny Trejo, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $40 to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million

Considering how long the franchise has been around in various formats, it's a bit surprising that none of the Predator movies have earned $100 million or more. In fact, it was the franchise crossover Aliens vs. Predator that came the closest. This film could be the first to reach that milestone, but I'm not willing to make that bet for a couple of reasons. Firstly, while it has a good cast, not a lot of them are top-notch box office draws. Secondly, most action films have struggled so far this summer.

Let's look closer at that second point. The first blockbuster release of the summer, Iron Man 2, was an action film and is still the biggest hit of the summer... for now. But it still missed high expectations. The next action film that was released was Robin Hood, although you could argue it is an adventure film. Many thought it would bomb, but it merely struggled. MacGruber was an action / comedy and it bombed, hard. Prince of Persia was action / adventure and compared to its production budget, it was a bomb (at least domestically). Killers was expected to struggle and it did. The A-Team missed expectations. The Karate Kid topped its high end expectations. But the less said about Jonah Hex the better. And finally, Knight and Day missed lowered expectations. That's nine action films, or nine films that have action as a main component. Of those nine films, there's only one unqualified success and one that was a true monster hit, but not as big as expected. Only three reached $100 million domestically, while only two will top their production budgets domestically. That's a track record that is impossible to ignore.

That said, Predators won't need to make $100 million to be considered a solid hit. If it can earn half of that domestically and do well internationally and on the home market, it should be able to show a profit sooner rather than later. (Especially if you take into account increased home market sales of the previous films in the franchise.) I think $50 million should be an easy target to reach and I'm going with a box office potential of $75 million, while I'm not willing to write off the potential for a $100 million run.

Weekend of July 16th, 2010

There are two films opening this weekend, both of which have real potential to be monster hits. Or they could both bomb. There's a lot of uncertainty this week. Hopefully they will both at least do reasonably well, because they will need to to make sure 2010 keeps pace with 2009. This time last year saw the release of the latest installment in what is arguably the biggest franchise of all time. It is likely that neither Inception nor The Sorcerer's Apprentice will be a $300 million hit like The Half-Blood Prince was, but hopefully they can top that figure combined.


Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site:
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: July 16th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Suspense
Keywords: Dreams, Heist, and more
Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Caine, Cillian Murphy, and more
Production Budget: $170 to $200 million, reports vary
Box Office Potential: $175 million

I'm seriously torn on this film's chances. On the one hand, it is directed by Christopher Nolan, whose previous film was The Dark Knight, which was not only one of the best comic book movies of all time, it also became just the second film to reach $500 million domestically. On the other hand, besides his two Batman films, his career average is ... well ... less impressive. Memento did go from limited release to a final tally of $25 million, which is not easy to do. However, The Prestige had a strong cast and good reviews, but it barely made $100 million worldwide.

It is also a very high concept film, which could help or hurt its chances at the box office. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Dominic Cobb, a man that can go into people's dreams to steal their ideas. As a hired thief, he and his crew have made a lot of enemies; however, he is asked to do one job as a way of wiping the slate clean. He has to go into a dream and insert an idea, a task called Inception. If it works, the film could be great and have incredible replay value. If it fails, then it could be such a mess. Given Christopher Nolan's track record with critics, the former is more likely. That said, this movie may have cost as much as $200 million to make, so it will need to be the second biggest hit of his career to have any chance of showing a profit any time soon.

It might do that. It might make $250 to $300 million at the box office. Or it could make half that or less. The above box office potential is a weighted average of the two extremes with the lower end being more likely till.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site:
Distributor: Disney
Release Date: July 14th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG for fantasy action violence, some mild rude humor and brief language
Source: Original Screenplay / Remake / Based on a Short Film / Based on a Poem
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Secret Magic, Live Action Cartoon, Good vs. Evil, and more
Directed By: John Turteltaub
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Monica Bellucci, Teresa Palmer, and Toby Kebbell
Production Budget: Reported at $150 million
Box Office Potential: $125 million

John Turteltaub and Nicolas Cage team up again after previously making the successful National Treasure films. The studio is obviously hoping this film will have the same box office success. After all, you don't spend $150 million on a movie if you don't expect it to be a monster hit. Fortunately, producer Jerry Bruckheimer has made more than a few of those. Also, this movie does have an interesting backstory. It is a Live Action adaptation of the Sorcerer's Apprentice segment from Fantasia, which in turn in based on a 18th century German poem.

However, it is clear that this movie is only using that as a starting point and the story itself is more or less original. I say more or less, because I'm getting a serious Harry Potter wannabe vibe from the movie. Well, Harry Potter crossed with an over-produced Jerry Bruckheimer film. In the movie, Jay Baruchel plays the Harry Potter in question, who learns magic is real and that he is being recruited to be a powerful sorcerer in a battle of Good vs. Evil. This also sounds a lot like Percy Jackson, which is a movie that failed to reach $100 million at the box office. Granted, this film has a much stronger release date and cost nearly twice as much, so the studio will be pushing harder. In fact, bumping the film up from a Friday release to a Wednesday release might be a sign that the studio is worried and they want to give the film every little advantage they can. Being a little worried is better than being overconfident.

I think it will make enough domestically that the studio will be able to put on a brave face and call it a success. But I don't think it will make enough to be the next major franchise.

Weekend of July 23rd, 2010

This week brings us a couple female dominated movies: for older demographics we have Salt starring Angelina Jolie while for the younger set we have Ramona and Beezus starring Joey King and Selena Gomez. Clearly Salt has more drawing power, but perhaps Ramona and Beezus will do well in the counter-programming role. Both will have to do well if 2010 is to keep pace with last year, which had three wide releases and all three of them could be considered hits to some degree or another.

Romona and Beezus

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site:
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: July 23rd, 2010
MPAA Rating: G for General Admission
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Visual Effects and others, depending on what book(s) they are adapting. There seems to be some confusion over that.
Directed By: Elizabeth Allen
Starring: Joey King, Selena Gomez, and others
Production Budget: Unknown - predicted at $25 to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

The counter-programming for the week. Ramona and Beezus is the latest film produced by Walden Media, which is a studio with a dubious record. They've only had one blockbuster (the first Chronicles of Narnia) while they've had a few more that did well compared to their production budget (Journey to the Center of the Earth, Bridge to Terabithia, etc.). On the other end of the scale, they've had some embarrassing bombs (City of Ember, Hoot, The Seeker, etc.).

The movie is based on a popular book, but its director has only made one other movie, Aquamarine, which underperformed. Its two main stars have no box office track record to compare to. Joey King is most famous for playing Katie in Horton Hears a Who. (Katie was that weird yellow fluffy... thing. It was the coolest part of the movie, but I don't remember it having a lot of lines. Or any spoken words.) Selena Gomez has a more recognizable name, but she's mostly worked on TV. In fact, this is her first theatrical release.

I see this film having a similar run to another film of their, Because of Winn Dixie. It might do as well as Diary of a Whimpy Kid. Hopefully it will, because with the number of special effects shots shown in the trailer, this film could have cost more to make than the average kids movie.


Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site:
Distributor: Sony / Columbia
Release Date: July 23rd, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Secret Agents, Assassination, Falsely Accused, Fugitive, and more
Directed By: Phillip Noyce
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and others
Production Budget: Unknown - predicted at $50 to $75 million
Box Office Potential: $105 million

The Schadenfreude Squad could be out in force with this movie. For those who don't know, this movie was originally written for Tom Cruise, who declined to be in the movie because it was too similar to his Mission: Impossible films. So he instead made Knight and Day... which is another spy action film, only with more comedy. The movie was then re-written to make his character a woman and Angelina Jolie was cast. With Knight and Day struggling, if this movie is a hit, the Tom Cruise haters will have plenty of ammo to use against him. And let's face it, Schadenfreude is fun.

In the movie, Angelina Jolie plays a C.I.A. agent, Evelyn Salt, who is brought into an investigation to interrogate a Russian defector to see if he is on the level. To prove himself, he states there is a high ranking C.I.A. agent that is actually a Russian spy that is on a mission to assassinate the president of the United States. He even has the name of that agent, Evelyn Salt. Her partner, Liev Schreiber, thinks she is being set up, but fellow agent, Chiwetel Ejiofor, has to make sure. However, when her husband is kidnapped, she goes on the run to figure out who set her up and try and stop them. Spy thriller action ensues.

On a side note... Russian spies? When I started writing this monthly preview, I felt this was a little anachronistic, since the Cold War has been over for decades now. However, earlier this week nearly a dozen people were arrested in the United States for being Russia spies. Talk about fortuitous timing. I wouldn't be so flippant about spies operating in the United States, but apparently they didn't have any information you couldn't get off a quick Google search.

On the positive side, action films are Angelina Jolie's specialty while Phillip Noyce has experience in the genre having directed two of the Jack Ryan films. On the negative side, this is a genre that has struggled this summer. Meanwhile, those two Jack Ryan films represent more than half of Phillip Noyce's career box office numbers.

I think it has a real shot at the century mark, but I don't think it will be one of the bigger hits of the summer.

Weekend of July 30th, 2010

Every year sometime during August, summer abruptly ends. There are not enough school holidays left to boost a film's box office numbers, so studios stop releasing potential monster hits and start dumping films that seemed like a good idea at the time. This year, the weekend summer end could be the last weekend of July. There are three films that are opening this weekend and all three could bomb. There is some good news, for instance, this time last year all three new releases also struggled, so 2010 will have a good shot at keeping pace with 2009 even if none of the new releases are breakout hits.

Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site:
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: July 30th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG for animal action and humor
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Action / Comedy
Keywords: Secret Agents, Taking Animals, Animal Leads, Taking Over the World, and more
Directed By: Brad Peyton
Starring: Bette Middler, James Marsden, Nick Nolte, and others
Production Budget: Unknown - predicted at $60 to $100 million
Box Office Potential: $50 to $150 million

This is a film that could be the last big hit of the summer, or it could be an embarrassing bomb. There is evidence pointing in both directions. The original made more than $90 million, and that was back in 2001, so it is even more impressive after you take into account inflation. Also, last year G-Force made close to $120 million, and there are obvious similarities between the two films. Plus this film has the 3D ticket prices helping it out. On the other hand, it has been nearly a decade since the first movie came out, which is way too long between installments. Even most people who liked the first film won't remember it well enough to want to see the second. Heck, most people who liked the first film are no longer in the target demographic for this film. Also, the film looks a little cheap. G-Force was hardly high art, but it had excellent production values. The scene in the trailer of the exploding squirrel (it's a robot squirrel) looks poorly made. Although that might not be an issue with the target audience.

This film could really go one of two ways. If it connects with its target audience, it could be in for a $150 million run. After all, it is the last family film of the summer, which means it could have really long legs. Or it could fail to match Marmaduke at the box office, which would be disastrous.

On a side note, this is director Brad Peyton's first feature-length film. However, he has made several short films, including the award-winning Evelyn: The Cutest Evil Dead Girl. I recommend taking the time to find it online.

Charlie St. Cloud

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site:
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: July 30th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language including some sexual references, an intense accident scene and some sensuality
Source: Based on a Novel
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Romance, Hauntings, and more
Directed By: Burr Steers
Starring: Zac Efron and Amanda Crew and others
Production Budget: Unknown - predicted at $30 to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Zac Efron first came to prominence in 2002 when he had a guest shot as the young Simon Tan on Firefly. (Specifically, it was the episode "Safe".) Okay, while Firefly nerds such as myself might have known that about him, most people know Zac as Troy Bolton from High School Musical. However, he is starting to build a resume outside of that franchise.

In this movie he plays the titular Charlie who loses his brother in a car crash. But while he survives, he can still see and talk his brother's ghost. He makes a promise to him, but when he meets a girl, Amanda Crew, he must choose between honoring his promise to his brother and moving on with his life.

Zac Efron's previous wide release was 17 Again, which earned a solid $60 million domestically and $130 million worldwide. I don't think this film will be able to match that. For one thing, this is a romantic drama, which is a tougher genre to sell than romantic comedies are. For instance, Remember Me failed to find much of an audience earlier this year. The supernatural element is reminding a lot of people of Lake House, which made $50 million back in 2006. However, I'm going to take the position that Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves have more box office drawing power than Zac Efron and Amanda Crew.

Because of inflation, this film might top the $50 million Lake House earned, but it also has a chance of do no better than the $20 million Remember Me. Split the difference and we come away with a box office potential of $35 million.

Dinner for Schmucks

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site:
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: July 30th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of crude and sexual content, some partial nudity and language
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Boss From Hell, Corporate Life, and more
Directed By: Jay Roach
Starring: Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Zach Galifinakis, and others
Production Budget: Unknown - predicted at $50 to $70 million
Box Office Potential: $105 million

Paul Rudd stars as Tim Wagner, an IRS agent who is looking at a big promotion; however, if he wants to be seen as a "team player", he has to be part of his boss's monthly dinners. Every month his boss and the other top executives gather together for dinner and each of them brings an idiot, or schmuck, with them so they can make fun of them. The one with the biggest schmuck wins. At first Tim is shocked and decides not to go, then he meets Barry, played by Steve Carell. Barry might be the perfect schmuck and an enthusiastic one at that. Tim takes Barry to the dinner, much to the dismay of his girlfriend, and competes against against other schmucks like Zach Galifinakis, who plays a mentalist.

But of course, in the end Tim and Barry will becomes friends, he and his girlfriend will reconcile, and he will recognize that there's more to life that getting that big promotion. That's not really a spoiler, as I'm basing that on nothing more that an educated guess. I've seen a lot of films like this.

Hopefully predictability won't negatively affect the film's box office potential. I don't think it will, as Jay Roach's box office track record is truly impressive. I'm not a real fan of the Meet the Parents films, but I'm not going to argue with their box office numbers. And the Austin Powers films were almost as lucrative during their run. In fact, his only box office miss was Mystery, Alaska. I don't think Dinner for Schmucks will be one of Jay Roach's biggest hits, but it does have the potential to be a monster hit. Pie in the sky, it could be this year's The Wedding Crashers or The Hangover. Assuming its reviews are good, on the low end it should reach the same level as Forgetting Sarah Marshall or I Love You, Man. I think the lower end is more likely, but a run like The 40-Year Old Virgin is possible (but with a faster start and shorter legs).


Filed under: Monthly Preview, Inception, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Ramona and Beezus, Despicable Me, Salt, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Dinner for Schmucks, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, Predators, Charlie St. Cloud