1) Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
July 2009 Forecast
By David Mumpower
July 3, 2009
When does a $655 million expenditure bring a revenue return of $4.5 billion? When Jerry Jones buys the Dallas Cowboys. Also, the Harry Potter franchise qualifies. Folks, if you are getting $7 back for every dollar you spend, you're doing just fine. It's like you have own Xerox machine that the kind (?) folks at the IRS don't know works on money. This is exactly the box office landscape Warner Bros. has cultivated over the past decade, starting with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone's $90.3 million opening weekend. So successful have the five releases been that the WORST box office performance domestically is $250 million. That is tantamount to the 50th most successful domestic release ever being the ugly duckling of the Harry Potter family. The answer is Prisoner of Azkaban if you were wondering which tiny duck needs Botox and a boob job.
What is noteworthy here is that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the first title to be released since the conclusion of the series was released in handy book form. With all the fates revealed, the movie franchise has both a hurdle to clear and a lot of momentum in its favor. People can see the finish line from here, even if there will be one more movie than there was a book in the series. With three films left and a lot of ground to cover, we are finished with the filler nonsense (i.e. Dolores Umbridge). It's all plot and action from here. This is good news not just for the fans but also for the bean counters at Warner Bros. The next three films all seem likely to earn $300 million, something only Sorcerer's Stone has done to date (although Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix were both within $10 million). I had thought at one point that $300 million would be enough to win the summer, but Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has pretty much torched that idea. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is playing for second place this season, barring something unforeseen and unprecedented for the series. In terms of overall success, this one is all but assured and the only question is the degree of huge-osity (I'm making up words now...deal with it) it manages.
2) Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
I have already discussed two of the top five films of July in this week's forecast. Suffice it to say that the highlight here is obvious. The first two Ice Age films have earned over a billion dollars worldwide. Almost two thirds of that came from the last one. And now there is an Ice Age release featuring dinosaurs that will get that oh-so-wonderful 3-D ticket revenue to boot. There is much to like here. Wednesday's box office of $13.8 million is even about 15% higher than I had forecasted for this surefire blockbuster, meaning this one is in great shape.
3) Funny People
The top two films of the July are readily apparent to anyone who follows the business. The debate between the titles in third and fourth place is much more intriguing to me. Adam Sandler is the Movie God of the $100 Million Release. Since November of 1998, he has had ten different films earn at least that much, roughly one a year. In that period, he has also occasionally tried to broaden his range with a couple of melancholy titles, Punch-Drunk Love and Spanglish. The combined box office of those two titles is $60 million. Clearly, people do not enjoy it as much when Sandler isn't performing a piledriver or working a goofy remote. So, where does that leave us with Funny People, a project that aligns the comedian with his longtime friend, Judd Apatow aka Mr. Comedy Blockbuster? The names in the title guarantee a solid box office result. A lot of people feel that this one is going to break out even more, but I worry that the second summer title that focuses on a person's coming to terms with their mortality will not be as readily accepted as the first was. In fact, I came very, very close to making the film just below this #3 instead.
No matter what you think of Sacha Baron Cohen on a personal level, you have to be impressed with what he accomplished with Borat. He somehow managed to make fun of his very target audience in a way that made them celebrate him as their champion. Not content to stop there, Cohen has upped the ante with Bruno, a film that will shove homoeroticism down the throats of his oftentimes homophobic fan-base. Will they be as willing to go along with the bit now? My thought process here is yes...at first. I expect Bruno's opening weekend to be spectacular. Then, anything other than Cloverfield-ian legs will surprise me, even if the movie has great reviews. They can show the iPod Baby all they want in the commercials. The reality is that the Bruno character is super-gay, and he is going to make a lot of (probably hypocritical) 18- to 29-year-old males very, very uncomfortable.
5) Public Enemies
Public Enemies managed something rather impressive on Wednesday. Not only was its first day in theaters a huge hit, it somehow finished in only third place on a weekday with $8.2 million. On a lot of Fridays, that's enough to score a first place result. You know we have a couple of heavyweights in release if an $8.2 million Wednesday gets overshadowed. People love Johnny Depp even more than I thought they did.
I have been laughing about this project for a couple of years now and that is not an exaggeration. Then, I saw Bolt and its breakout star, Rhino, and I had the epiphany that if kids love one hamster, a bunch of similar rat-type-things (what am I, a vet?) anchoring their own movie will do very well. It stopped being funny at that point. G-Force stopped being a punch line and started being a potential Alvin and the Chipmunks type of performer. Okay, that is not going to happen, but if you go to a theater packed with children and watch their reaction to this trailer, you'll see my point. This film is going to be a lot bigger than it has any right to be.
7) The Ugly Truth
Woman gets dream job. Woman discovers she has chauvinist boss. Woman apparently suffers from low self-esteem to the point that she winds up desperate enough to want to sleep with the chauvinist boss. Seriously, why do some women like this crap? Have some pride. Katherine Heigl has the personality of C. Montgomery Burns and Gerard Butler has the personality of a tube of toothpaste. The mere existence of this project dehumanizes all of us. And yes, it will do pretty well. These things do well for the same reason meth labs have popped up everywhere. We are a society full of emotional cutters.
8) Aliens in the Attic
Going back a full Web site, back in July of 1998, I was championing a largely unheralded children's movie from the up and coming DreamWorks SKG. The film was Small Soldiers, and while it wasn't quite as successful as the studio might hope for a $40 million production, $55 million worth of domestic revenue meant it was theoretically profitable. Given that Aliens in the Attic has a $60 million production budget, there is more at stake here. I'm not sure it's going to be big enough to justify that sort of investment, but toy sales are always the true driving force in such endeavors. I suspect that the presence of Ashley Tisdale combined with some very cute trailers does enough to make this a hit right along the lines of Small Soldiers, though.
The premise of this movie is sheer genius and the Americanized version's trailers give good creep. I'm not saying that this is going to be another The Strangers or anything, but I do feel this has a chance to have a double digits opening weekend before vanishing out of theaters almost immediately, the way horror films always do.
10) I Love You, Beth Cooper
The choices for tenth place come down to this and (500) Days of Summer. While that film looks better, there is a lot more marketing involved with I Love You, Beth Cooper. I suspect that aspect combined with the presence of rising star Hayden Panettierre should be enough. What is unmistakable to anyone following this film, however, is that it is not going to be the film that fans of the book, myself included, had hoped it would be. The Larry Doyle novel is a brilliant, hysterical story and the trailers demonstrate absolutely none of its verve, particularly surprising since he also penned the screenplay. I would like to be wrong about this, but I fear it's exactly the sort of mistake that the American re-make of My Sassy Girl proved to be. What's odd is that both titles seemed to nail the all-important female lead, but it didn't help any.