July 2010 Forecast
By Michael Lynderey
July 1, 2010

Apparently looks CAN kill.

2010's July is a strange little month, with a few surer bets hedged among a group of films that might end up at roughly the same box office place. A lot of questions abound: What's Inception going to be like? Will anything finish with less than $40 million? And could this be the first July in a long time without a single $200 million earner? Stay tuned.

1. Inception (July 16, 2010)

Introducing possibly the biggest wild card of the summer, and the season's one remaining title that Internet-frequenting movie fans are still salivating over. Inception's trailer mixes fantastical dreamworld special effects with more conventional action and thriller elements, and its pedigree certainly shows good breeding: it is unquestionably being positioned as the thematic follow-up to director Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight (the release date is no coincidence), and it stars Leonardo DiCaprio (back in box office's good graces after his stay at Shutter Island), along with an international hodgepodge of talent, including some Nolan vets (Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanabe). Early word is on the positive side, though the premise seems like a somewhat less bloody, more technologically-derived variation on what the Nightmare on Elm Street movies have been doing for some time now. Either way, if Nolan has done well here, the sky's the limit on the numbers.

P.S.: I sincerely hope that Inception doesn't have the same identikit, creatively-deprived ending as Shutter Island. Enough is enough with those.

Opening weekend: $64 million / Total gross: $191 million

2. The Last Airbender (July 1, 2010)

In the glory days of the 1990s, the 4th of July slot was reserved for mainstream mega-blockbusters that targeted every potential demographic, and thus raked in the grosses with aplomb (remember Independence Day, Men In Black, and Armageddon?). A decade later, the Independence Day slot has become a niche battleground arena for fanboy movies - the girls (Twilight: Eclipse) vs. their somewhat younger brothers (Last Airbender) - with both films possessing little apparent appeal outside their comfort zones. More to the point, I've long been confused as to the floor and ceiling of a Last Airbender movie, and the much-maligned choice of director has only added to my curiosity. There's no doubt that Last Airbender has a core base of support, and that's going to prop it up over opening weekend, as will the tiresome convert-or-die 3D. But the critics have really been going to town on this one, and that's going to chop, chop, chop away a lot of attendance from outside of the base. My guess: Airbender will join Prince of Persia and The A-Team as another summer 2010 franchise that wasn't. But it might just squeeze out about $100 million while it's at it.

Opening weekend: $61 million (four-day) / Total gross: $123 million

3. Despicable Me (July 9, 2010)

Another month, another unanimously critically-praised CGI megablockbuster. Despicable Me bears an uncanny resemblance (sort of) to the upcoming MegaMind (with the villain recast as protagonist), it contains the voice talent of the usual smorgasbord of Apatow alumns (Carell, Wiig, Segel - and Russell Brand?!?), and it features the token barrage of witty trailer jokes laughed at by everyone but me. Thus, to deny that Despicable Me will gross $100 million is to deny the inevitable. As a matter of fact, I believe it will bulk up a total take somewhat higher than the number I have allotted to it below. But gee, I couldn't really place a CGI cartoon above a big Fourth of July movie, could I? Some things are just sacred.

Opening weekend: $43 million / Total gross: $115 million

4. Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (July 30, 2010)

Here's a follow-up oft-rumored after the release of the first film (way back in 2001), but strangely greenlit only last year (see the upcoming Planet of the Apes prequel for more of this phenomenon). Look, after all the talking critter films we have seen (or have elected not to see) during the last few years, what more is there to say about this one? It would appear to be bright, sunny, inoffensive, and possessing the requisite amount of child-friendly humor. And without much in the way of special effects entertainment during the month's second half, what's there to stop it from breaking out? Not much, I think, and so it'll come in just under G-Force ($119 mil), whose release frame it has adopted as its own.

Opening weekend: $31 million / Total gross: $88 million

5. The Sorcerer's Apprentice (July 14, 2010)

Yet once more to the well we go with Nicolas Cage and Jerry Bruckehimer, with this particular entry in Brucky's road show reuniting some of the screenwriters, and cast (Alfred Molina, Toby Kebbell), of the recent Prince of Persia, and hoping for better luck, this time. As far as these things go, Sorcerer's Apprentice definitely has some intriguing visuals, even if the fantasy-adventure-dragons angle has slowly played itself out throughout the year. Basically, it's another one of those mid-level genre performers we're going to see a lot of this month, though I'm tempted to predict $100 million. Look to the reviews to decide this one's fate.

Opening weekend: $29 million / Total gross: $73 million

6. Salt (July 23, 2010)
Here's one of those mid-summer thrillers about government conspiracies, secret assassins, and car chases through New York - right in the tradition of The Manchurian Candidate and Pelham 1 2 3. The actors are respectable (Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber), the plot is intriguing, and the explosions are well spaced out through the trailer - but gee, action movies haven't been doing very well this summer, have they? Aside from that, through some inexplicable twist of cosmic fate, Angelina Jolie films can only gross $100 million if they're released in June (Shark Tale is the only exception). Therefore, when it comes to reaching three digits, I believe Salt is simply a month too late, although June 2011 still has a few slots open.

Opening weekend: $29 million / Total gross: $68 million

7. Ramona and Beezus (July 23, 2010)
Taking up the available family film spot, this seems like a pleasant enough concoction, with the source material a well-known if somewhat dated (1955) children's book. Wisely, this one's plugged in Disney starlet Selena Gomez, who's making her triumphant (?) big screen debut. Gomez is big in the right circles, and there's a large enough horde of adult actors around (Ginnifer Goodwin, Josh Duhamel, and the inimitable Sandra Oh) to attract the over-14 set. If critics give it the go-ahead, this could really be one of the month's breakouts. All the elements are definitely in place.

Opening weekend: $22 million / Total gross: $65 million

8. Dinner for Schmucks (July 30, 2010)
Here's late summer's try for comedy glory, a belated remake of the 1998 French film The Dinner Game (between this and Death at a Funeral, re-doing overseas farces seems to be back in vogue). It's directed by comedy king (?) Jay Roach, helmer of multiple Austin Powers and Meet the Parents/Fockers films, and it's got Paul Rudd, yet again playing the straight man to some nut (see also Role Models and I Love You, Man). Said nut would be Steve Carell, this time, looking here like a ginger serial killer in the Robin Williams tradition. Normally, a Rudd-Carell ticket would mean sturdy box office, especially in what seems to be a notably doldrummy late July slot. But Dinner for Schmucks could be a little too weird (just wait till we get to Zach Galifianakis, and Diane, the puppet wife from hell), and the premise, which may sound like fun, isn't made real clear in the trailers. We shall see.

Opening weekend: $27 million / Total gross: $59 million

9. Predators (July 9, 2010)
The month's token reboot/sequel, loaded with a cast of action movies toughs (Topher Grace and Adrien Brody being the notable exceptions), along with the standard foreign-accented love interest (Alicia Braga). To tell the truth - on its own, the Predator series never particularly lit the box office on fire (not since the first film, anyway), and this one brings itself to the table only three years after the last Alien Vs. Predator. There's no doubt that the series possesses some dedicated fans, most of whom are ready to take in this latest installment. I'm just not sure if it's a little too soon for the rest of us. Still, even if there is buzz in the right places, Predators won't break the summer's string of non-$100 million-grossing action films.

Opening weekend: $23 million / Total gross: $58 million

10. Charlie St. Cloud (July 30, 2010)
Previously known by the more brooding moniker The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud. The story could be interesting, with a balance between depressing and uplifting, and an apparent blend of magic realism with a more conventional teen romance. More importantly, though, St. Cloud is another test of the star power of Zac Efron, who still has a fanbase out there, I think, even after recent territorial encroachments by the Bieber-Pattinson brigades. And while I hate to sound like a broken record here, this is yet another title that'll win or lose a large chunk of its profit based on quality and reviews. Life just ain't fair that way, right?

Opening weekend: $17 million / Total gross: $46 million