May 2007 Forecast
By Michael Bentley
Whether you are ready for it or not, here it is... the Summer 2007 movie season is officially upon us. And with it comes a barrage of franchise movies including three big-budget part 3s this month. So big, in fact, that few other movies are daring enough to compete. No doubt, Hollywood is poised for a record-breaking season.
1) Spider-Man 3
I'm not quite sure what more can really be said about Spider-Man 3. Let's face facts: it's a sure-thing, no-ifs-ands-or-buts, no-doubt-about-it blockbuster. Five years ago the widely anticipated first Spider-Man movie broke several records (including the opening weekend mark) on its way to over $400 million in domestic sales, making it one of the biggest movies of all-time. Its success was confirmed two years later when (part 2) produced similar results.
Now we are up to sequel #2, where we know by standard movie rules that it must be bigger, longer, and more action-packed than ever. No fewer than two new villains face off against everyone's favorite neighborhood webslinger (Tobey Maguire, returning for another lucrative payday), in addition to the return of the Green Goblin: Venom (Topher Grace) and Sandman (Thomas Haden Church). A potential new love interest for Spidey's alter ego even joins the fray (Gwen Stacy, played by Bryce Dallas Howard). Will this all be too much for a movie that is 140 minutes long? Perhaps. And early critical reviews confirm that the quality has been affected. But most people - especially all the millions of people who loved the first two - won't care. I find it hard to imagine that this won't approach similar numbers as Spider-Man and its sequel. And, in fact, the added excitement of the new villains - plus the fact that, besides 300, there hasn't been a big event movie so far this year - will push this towards new heights this weekend.
Opening weekend prediction: $129 million.
2) Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Last summer, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest shattered the previous record for domestic opening weekend box office with over $135 million. It was a stunning tally, eclipsing the old mark set by the first Spider-Man by more than $20 million. It coasted along to a cumulative domestic total of $423 million.
In general, audiences were quite pleased with the Pirates sequel, although critics tended to think it was an overlong mess. My feeling is that some people will stay away - at least on opening weekend, thinking that it will be better (and easier) to wait a couple weeks, no doubt remembering the crowds that they encountered last year. Also, Dead Man's Chest did not have to face off with two mega-blockbusters, with just a limp Superman Returns as its main "competition." By the time At World's End opens this Memorial Day weekend Spider-Man 3 will finally be cooling off in its fourth week, but family-friendly Shrek the Third will just be on week two. The market has shown that it can expand to accommodate multiple tentpole pictures, but there is a limit. Expect some drop-off, followed by a fairly lucrative June. And, no doubt, a king's ransom in DVD sales later this year.
Opening weekend: $120 million.
3) Shrek the Third
There is currently no bigger name in the animation world than "Shrek." Yes, even bigger than "Pixar." After the first Shrek walked away with the very first Best Animated Feature Oscar award for 2001, not to mention more than a quarter of a billion dollars in box office growth (plus who knows how much in merchandise and other ancillary deals), Shrek 2 catapulted itself into the big time with a $108 million opening and over $441 million total. All the key players return for the Third, including Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz. It's unlikely much else will change; why screw with a winning formula? I think we might see a small drop-off initially, in part due to competition from Spider-Man 3, but not too much to worry about. In fact, while it may start out in the third place of the Big 3, if history is any indication, it may well will be headed for the overall box office crown for this year.
Opening weekend: $99 million.
4) 28 Weeks Later
Four years ago 28 Days Later became a moderate Summer success and, along with others such as the Dawn of the Dead remake and Shaun of the Dead, helped to reinvigorate the zombie genre. It also helped to bring Cillian Murphy (who had yet to appear in Batman Begins) to a wider audience. 28 Weeks Later is the sequel. The story takes place six months after the original. Things seem peaceful now in the UK, and the dreaded "infection" appears to have been wiped out, so people begin to return to the island in hopes of starting fresh and rebuilding. But Murphy and the rest of the cast are gone, along with director Danny Boyle (now serving as a producer). Still, it will provide a nice reprieve for horror and zombie fans looking for something besides webcrawlers and pirates.
Opening weekend: $14 million.
5) Georgia Rule
Full-time slut and part-time actor Lindsay Lohan tries to continue (after a small role in Altman's A Prairie Home Companion) to move towards more serious acting in Georgia Rule. She plays a wild and out-of-control teenager (at least she's trying to stretch herself in her roles) who is sent by her mother (Felicity Huffman) to live with her strict grandmother (Jane Fonda) one summer. Sounds like it could be a half-decent movie and the pedigree is certainly there to attract adult audiences, though as with many of the films opening this month (lower on the list) you wonder how much notice it will get amidst all the popcorn and record-breaking blockbusters. But, regardless of how well Georgia Rule does in theaters, it will be remembered as the movie where Lohan was so wild and out-of-control that the president of the production company sent a letter (which became very public) demanding that she straighten up and start arriving to the set on time.
Opening weekend: $10 million.
6) Delta Farce
I weep for the future. I really do.
Opening weekend: $6 million.
7) Lucky You
Perhaps trying to capitalize on the current poker craze, Lucky You is about a top poker player (Eric Bana) who must also deal with a variety of personal issues. Although director Curtis Hanson has seen success before (most notably 8 Mile starring Eminem, and his masterpiece L.A. Confidential), it's hard to imagine this making much of a dent this month, regardless of how good it might be. It effectively commits suicide by releasing the same week as juggernaut Spider-Man 3. Talk about a risky gamble.
Opening weekend: $5 million.
Along with 28 Weeks Later, a second and less-prominent horror movie debuting this month is Bug. From director William Friedkin (The Exorcist) it is a thriller about a paranoid war veteran who sees insects everywhere. Sounds like it could be rather atmospheric and creepy. Ashley Judd stars (but not Morgan Freeman).
Opening weekend: $4 million.
9) The Ex
I've always found it kind of strange that studios don't release more romantic comedies in the summertime. They seem like such good alternatives to all the explosive, male-driven action films that get released seemingly every weekend from May until late August. That said, when they do get released, they have still look good. The Ex does not, which is unfortunate because is stars the very talented Zach Braff (Scrubs; Garden State). In the story he must go to work for his father-in-law after his pregnant wife (Amanda Peet) decides to leave her job.
Opening weekend: $3 million.
10) Home of the Brave
Home of the Brave is one of the first non-documentary theatrical releases to focus on the situation in Iraq. Directed by Irwin Winkler (whose lengthy career, mostly as a producer, includes such hits as the Rocky series, The Right Stuff and Goodfellas ), the story is about a group of soldiers who struggle to readjust to life back in the States after returning from military duty overseas. The diverse cast includes Samuel L. Jackson ("Enough is enough! I have had it with this motherf-ing quagmire in this motherf-ing country!"), Jessica Biel, 50 Cent and Christina Ricci. Probably not the best time of year to be released if it wishes to find an audience, but could find a niche with adults looking for something a little more serious this season.
Opening weekend: $3 million.
Just Under the Radar
It is Brooklyn in the mid-1980s, set against the backdrop of Cosa Nostra. The large cast includes such notable names as Alec Baldwin, Freddie Prinze Jr., Mena Suvari, Scott Caan, and Jerry Ferrara (a.k.a. Turtle in Entourage).
Paris, je t'aime
Paris, je t'aime is as anthology of numerous short stories set in one place: Paris. Numerous directors, writers, and actors contributed to the effort. Among those are Joel and Ethan Coen, Wes Craven, Alexander Payne, Steve Buscemi, Nick Nolte, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Natalie Portman.
This is Adrienne Shelly's final film. The writer-director was killed tragically this past fall. The movie stars Keri Russell as a pregnant, unhappily married waitress in a small Southern town who begins to fall for her doctor (Serenity's Nathan Fillion) and thinks about opening up a pie shop.
* Please note that all opening weekend estimates are preliminary and do not account for final screen counts.
Marty Doskins's May 2007 Forecast