February 2009 Forecast
By David Mumpower
February 6, 2009

What's my favorite scary movie?

The February slate is one of the most befuddling in recent memory in that there is no clear cut frontrunner. Before you say that no one had pegged Paul Blart Mall Cop as a heavyweight (which is true), the reality of the current box office landscape is that it's rare for a month not to have a favorite to win the month. Just look at the next three months of releases and Watchmen, Hannah Montana and X-Men Origins: Wolverine all jump off the page. There is no such champion among the 11 titles due for release in February. In fact, I struggle with the notion of which of these to eliminate from the top ten. I had originally planned to leave Fired Up off the list but after some serious consideration, I came to realize that Push is the film that seems to have the least studio support. It also has the added problems that the trailers for the feature film are so vague that more had to be made that explicitly stated this is not a television show. I've heard members of the production staff assert that this movie is going to get a sequel but while I admire their confidence, I think Push is the box office loser of the month. I see it finishing 11th in an 11 horse race. As for the winner, I guess it's going to be a chick flick or Steve Martin.

1) He's Just Not That Into You

The story of the past 13 months has been women flexing their newfound box office muscle, starting with the record-setting debut of 27 Dresses last January. Since then, titles such as Mamma Mia!, Sex and the City, and Twilight have been unqualified blockbusters. 2009 has already seen Bride Wars become the second most successful film of the year to date, with a total north of $50 million. February sees two titles attempt to replicate its success. The better of them appears to be He's Just Not That Into You, a film whose cast and composition is Robert Altman-esque. The adjoining story arcs featuring established talents such as Ben Affleck, Scarlett Johansson, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, and Jennifer Aniston seem uniquely complex for a romantic comedy. Even so, the marketing for this title has been spot on and the name of the movie will provide jokes for the rest of us for many years to come. He's Just Not That Into You is win/win for everyone. Rub it in the face of all of your recently dumped friends.

2) Pink Panther 2

The surprise success of the original has unsurprisingly led to a sequel, but this outing may have rested on its laurels a bit too much. The first Pink Panther movie's $82.2 million domestically and $158.9 million both seem way out of range here. Even 70% of that domestic total strikes me as ambitious. Okay, this argument made a bit more sense prior to Paul Blart (Kevin James' success continues to haunt me), but The Pink Panther 2 is currently 6% (!) fresh at Rotten Tomatoes. Surely to God, word-of-mouth is going to hurt its legs some. Right? RIGHT? Stupid Paul Blart and his god-accursed Segway.

3) Friday the 13th

I was joking with my wife yesterday that the prolific number of horror re-makes all but assures we'll be seeing a new Scream re-boot in a few years. I look forward to all sorts of self-referential jokes about the rules and conventions of the horror re-make. This is all Michael Bay's fault for that insipid Texas Chainsaw Massacre do-over. Friday the 13th as an original franchise effectively died when they sent Jason into space in Jason X, a movie I thought was a lot of fun. Rather than continue to explore the galaxy, however, Friday the 13th has returned to its roots. This means it should experience roughly the same success as the recent re-make of My Bloody Valentine ($46 million thus far) and probably a bit more. Friday the 13th lacks the technology of 3-D as a selling point, but being a much more established name should matter more.

4) Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience

I have a lot of trouble deducing the whims of the target audience here. I am inclined to believe that Miley Cyrus and her alter ego, Hannah Montana, are trending downward a bit now that (over)saturation has set in. How do these ugly little Jonas Brothers fit into that equation? That haven't suffered from as much overexposure and they are undeniably THE boy band of the moment. Is that enough to allow them to duplicate the $65 million success of Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour? I'm inclined to say no but girls of this age group are the very definition of inscrutable.

5) Confessions of a Shopaholic

Everything about this project is insulting. The message here is unmistakable. Women must buy lots of shoes and clothes, but they are too dumb to understand math and finance. For this reason, they get huge credit card bills and need men to sweep in and save them from financial doom. It's insulting, it's chauvinistic, and it doesn't even fact check with the current economic crisis created by all of the men running major corporations. Despite all of this, the buzz for Confessions of a Shopaholic is significant enough that I could see this one breaking out...and this saddens me.

6) The International

My love of Clive Owen is well established and I am glad to see him getting lead roles in action thrillers such as this one. That's the good news. The bad news is that there doesn't seem to be anything special about The International. An ominous overlord of a bank is the villain? I guess this film has some parts of The Firm, Eagle Eye and Inside Man (Owen's second best recent film after Children of Men) meshed together, but how appealing is that? I have to say not very. I strongly expect to like this movie, but I think it's going to be a mediocre box office performer in the $15 million opening/$40 million finish range.

7) Madea Goes to Jail

This is the scariest title in February from my perspective. I never seem to anticipate the appeal of Tyler Perry projects. When one strikes me as having huge popularity, it winds up being a Daddy's Little Girls ($31 million domestic). When I think one is going to bomb, it always seem to do Madea's Family Reunion-level box office ($63.3 million). I wash my hands of this. Madea Goes to Jail strikes me as the most marketable movie he has ever made and, as such, I am predicting it only makes about $38 million. My logic here is largely based on the fact that I'm always wrong about the dude's films. God, am I ever dreading making a Star Trek prediction.

8) Street Fighter

The other Street Fighter movie is legitimately one of the worst I have ever seen. For a good five years afterward, I made exactly the same sorts of jokes I have recently been recycling for The Love Guru. The entire experience was absolutely miserable. Had it not been for that film, I would almost certainly be excited for Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li. I used to love the videogames and I have always believed the storyline for Street Fighter 2 was light years ahead of its time for videogames in general. So, I'm conflicted and that even ties back to the director. Andrzej Bartkowiak directed Romeo Must Die (that's good), Cradle 2 the Grave (that's bad), Doom (that's good) and Exit Wounds (the frogurt is also cursed). This movie could go any number of ways in terms of quality, but the one thing I am relatively confident about is that it will not be a box office dynamo.

9) Fired Up

This film strikes me as a full length feature for the comic relief guys from Stick It. Most people seem to consider it a Bring It On knock-off, which would be equally accurate if not for the fact that the Bring It On franchise has been doing that to itself a for straight-to-video sequels now. Nevertheless, I think the commercials for Fired Up are quite good with a killer joke at the end, "I want to cut the blond one." Fired Up is upwardly mobile in the month of February.

10) Coraline

As much as I love Neil Gaiman, this novel did absolutely nothing for me. The movie version, however, strikes me as exactly the sort of labor of love I will probably enjoy. In terms of mainstream support, it's just not getting that much, though. Coraline is being exhibited in a modest 2,299 venues, albeit with many of those offering 3-D support (and ticket pricing). I think this title's best days will be on home video as it becomes a hidden gem. For now, it's probably looking at a single digit opening weekend and an unspectacular box office run. It's hard to expect anything else when Stardust, a much more marketable project, could manage only $38.6 million.