Although it may not be obvious at first glance, July 2009 is looking like a strong month. Aside from the two big bruisers (Potter and the token CGI release), there are enough movies that have the potential to end up around, or even solidly over, the $100 million mark. There is also a higher than average concentration of family films competing for the same demographic - a sure sign of some bad scheduling decisions.
July 2009 Forecast
By Michael Lynderey
July 3, 2009
1) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (July 15th)
The Harry Potter films are becoming like this decade's version of the Friday the 13th series. They just won't stop making them (no letters, please; yes, I know there's some semblance of difference between the two). No matter how many times it looks like Potter is finally dead, they always bring him back for another go-around. Where did the last one - part 5, was it – leave off? Was that the one where they accidentally resurrected Potter with a lightning bolt, and then had to spend the movie trying to drown him again in Hogwarts Lake? Or was that the one where he had to fight that pissed-off psychic teenage girl? Well, if Potter can survive that, I doubt he's going to have any trouble making it through whatever they have lined up for him this time. As long as the series fundamentals are the same - a bunch of horny teenagers, a lake, and the somehow-still alive Potter on the rampage again - this latest and decidedly needless entry will have no trouble raking in the cash. And if it's a success, I imagine we're going to get another sequel. Or two.
Opening weekend: $150 million five-day / Total gross: $292 million
2) Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (July 1st)
The Ice Age series is like this decade's version of the Nightmare on Elm S... okay, I won't go there again. If I seem disgruntled, it's because this month has managed to pack in several of my least favorite subgenres. CGI franchisery, in particular, has gone haywire. The last Ice Age opened with $68 million and finished with $195 million. Thanks to the plump 4th of July opening slot, this one's going to end up even higher. A drawback is the sameness of the film - aside from a female version of Scrat (that little sabre-toothed squirrel), there don't appear to be any additions to the fray. In a sense, that's a strength (don't fix what isn't broken), but it's also a weakness. The kidmovie assault in the weeks following will probably hurt Ice Age's legs some, but it seems like an easy $200+ million grosser anyway.
Opening weekend: $95 million five-day / Total gross: $250 million
3) Funny People (July 31st)
Speaking of unfriendly subgenres - Funny People looks to be the definitive Apatow male-bonding movie of the year. For Seth Rogen, it's going to be a return to solid $100 million shores, after his solo disappointments Observe and Report and Zack and Miri. For Adam Sandler, it'll be yet another in a long, long line of three-digit grossers, though his last two films only just passed the $100 million mark. I maintain, in fact, that Sandler remains the second biggest movie star in North America (with Will Smith at #1) – other than Sandler and Smith, no actor has headlined a $100 million-grossing movie in every consecutive year since (and including) 2002. That very respectable chain isn't going to be broken anytime soon. Bottom line - the audiences that loved the 40 Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up are certainly not going to be kept away from Apatow's third directorial effort, and the presence of Sandler is only going to up the ante.
Opening weekend: $45 million / Total gross: $155 million
4) Bruno (July 10th)
Here comes trouble... Sacha Baron Cohen insists on disguising himself as various outlandish characters and going around exposing our worst prejudices, or something like that. Doing so is good for at least $100 million, as Borat proved, and Bruno isn't shy to basically position itself as a sequel. The Eminem stunt at the MTV Movie Awards, coupled with the fairly effective new trailers and hordes of controversy being heaped upon the film already, are all big, big pluses. The Box Office Gods must be smiling on Cohen, because Bruno has now also become somewhat topical - the film's title character is gay, which relates the movie to several chapters in this year's national storyline (Proposition 8, Milk's Oscar, Adam Lambert, and Miss California, among others I'm probably forgetting about). Expect overwhelming media coverage, debate, analysis, re analysis, and all manner of culture warring as the film nears release. Every little bit helps.
Opening weekend: $50 million / Total gross: $130 million
5. Public Enemies (July 1st)
An odd film to open over the 4th of July weekend. Johnny Depp and Christian Bale certainly bring some star power to this 1930s-set action drama, and Michael Mann at the helm gives it a lot of prestige. The reviews, I think, are going to praise it through the roof. The trailer isn't bad. So what's the problem? Well, it is a 1930s-set action drama. While audiences older than 35 are going to embrace it, I'm not sure if it's the kind of film the Friday night action crowd - of which I am a member - is going to go for; the lack of a single other action movie in the entire month may force them to (speaking of which, just where did all the action movies go?). As for that release date, period pieces just naturally do better in October or December, where the Oscar season gives them a considerable bump. Regardless, Public Enemies has a lot going for it, so it'll probably do just fine.
Opening weekend: $50 million five-day / Total gross: $125 million
6) G-Force (July 24th)
What do you say about a movie starring hordes of cute, furry little critters on some all-important mission to save the world? As little as possible. Greenlighting such a film is the equivalent of finding $100 million in a suitcase outside the studio lot. And it's produced by Jerry Bruckheimer?!? So that's what he's been doing this summer, instead of making the next great action film. And Brucky's even brought along his favorite star, Nicolas Cage, for a voice role as "Speckles the Mole". Oh yeah, and it's a Disney film. What am I trying to say here? What am I getting at? G-Force is going to make a whole lot of money, that's what, and there's nothing any of us can do to stop it.
Opening weekend: $33 million / Total gross: $108 million
7) The Ugly Truth (July 24th)
Katherine Heigl's quest to become the next big leading woman continues (or, has she already succeeded?). Judd Apatow made her a star in Knocked Up, and now here she is competing with his new film. Originally slotted for April 3rd, then kicked up to a plump summer slot, this is easily going to fill the romantic comedy niche that's hungering for new material. Gerard Butler is a decent foil - he had some success in the genre with P.S., I Love You. The direction is by Robert Luketic, who helmed Monster In-Law and Legally Blonde. So, like the Proposal before it, the Ugly Truth has all the right elements lined up for a hit. While I don't see a $100 million tally at this point, I'm ready (though not willing) to be proven wrong.
Opening weekend: $30 million / Total gross: $93 million
8. Aliens in the Attic (July 31st)
If you put together blubbery aliens, Ashley Tisdale, some crafty marketing and a few well-placed trailers, you may be pleasantly surprised at the box office take. I think that's what's going to happen here. Aliens in the Attic is the kind of movie that looks like silly, absolutely harmless summer fun, and that's a good description if you're trying to bring in family audiences. Will being released only a week after G-Force hurt it? Absolutely. But it should still do well. By the way, I liked the film's original title, "They Came from Upstairs", a little better.
Opening weekend: $25 million / Total gross: $68 million
9) I Love You, Beth Cooper (July 10th)
One of the few teen movies to open this summer. It's based on a book of the same name, but something about the release date and marketing reminds me a little of John Tucker Must Die, a mild hit ($41 million) in July 2006. I was fairly surprised to see that the direction is by Chris Columbus, who's usually making higher profile fare than this. I Love You, Beth Cooper is basically positioned as a star vehicle for Hayden Panettiere, who's transitioning from some TV show to starring roles in film; her presence, coupled with the trailers - effective in targeting the right demographic - should add up to a modest run.
Opening weekend: $21 million / Total gross: $50 million
10) Orphan (July 24th)
Boy, I almost can't believe they went and made this one again. Yes, it's another Spawn of Satan movie - another unholy child harassing his/her parents, their friends, the local postman or librarian who figures out the child is evil, and so on. Peter Sarsgaard and Vera Farmiga play the parents. Wait a minute, Vera Farmiga?!? Wasn't she already in one of these? She played the mother in Joshua, an evil child movie from two years ago. Talk about typecasting. That film ended with her under lock and key in a mental institution, while her husband was flailing about helplessly in Central Park. Better luck this time. The villain here is a little girl the couple adopts – that was also the set-up for The Godsend (1980), not to be confused with Godsend (2004), which was about an evil little boy, alas. The point is, I think, that those same masses of teenagers that turned up for every single horror movie this year (except for the only good one, Drag Me to Hell) are going to show up for Orphan. Unless, that is, this film gets good reviews. In that case, foggedaboutit.
Opening weekend: $15 million / Total gross: $36 million
11) (500) Days of Summer (July 17th)
This one stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, so you know it's not exactly Transformers 3. The Indie people are hyping this one in epic proportions. Why, I don't know. Did it get good reviews at Sundance or something? I guess so. Happens a lot at Sundance, that. Oh well. We all know Indie hype means zero to nothing for movie box office, at least if you're trying to outgross Orphan. As of late June, (500) Days of Summer is listed as opening wide. I would not advise this. Platform it. Maybe then it can reach the $10 million mark. But it still won't outgross Orphan, or anything else on this list. Except for...
12) I Hate Valentine's Day (July 3rd)
There's a reason I chose to write about this film - which doesn't even have a Wikipedia page yet, for Pete's sake: it's yet another comeback vehicle for Nia Vardalos. Yes, believe it or not, she's already back. Scheduling this just a month after the distinct failure of My Life in Ruins is a mistake. Yes, it's opening in a limited release only, but even so - and especially with that title - a later date, like February, would be an improvement. Valentine's Day sees the reunion of Vardalos with her Big Fat Greek Wedding co-star, John Corbett. But does that really matter at this point? Only good reviews can save this.