September 2009 Forecast
By Michael Lynderey
September 4, 2009
It's really a coin-toss as to what's going to end up the biggest film of September 2009, and it's entirely possible no movie will even pass $50 million. On the other hand, the usual early fall assault of awards-bait films appears to be on the down-lo this year. Indeed, outside of The Informant!, the only movies with Oscar potential are opening in very limited release, and most of them will likely stay there.
1) Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (September 18th)
Based on a kids' book from 1978, here's a film that started out looking like it was made to be obscure. The game-changer here was really the trailer: it's fast, funny, and bright, and it's gotten an enthusiastic reaction wherever I've seen it (those plopping-down fast food delicacies look great). Plus, it's in 3-D, of course, so that ups the box office a little right off the bat, and gives it an edge over some of the month's other heavy hitters (too bad Madea isn't in 3-D). Sony Pictures Animation was previously responsible for Open Season ($84 million domestic) and Surf's Up ($58 million). Those aren't earth-shattering numbers, but they're enough to win the month if Cloudy is made from the same mold.
Opening weekend: $19 million / Total gross: $64 million
2) Love Happens (September 18th)
Here's another entry in the romantic drama for grown-ups playbook. Unlike some other recent successes in the subgenre, Love Happens isn't based on a book, but it makes up for it in star-power: Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston play the lovelorners. In an extreme example of typecasting, the film once again features Judy Greer as the main female character's quirky best friend. Greer has played this exact character so many times that I suspect studios will soon cut out the middle man and simply use her scenes from the Wedding Planner or 27 Dresses as stock footage in their next romantic comedies. Anyway, Eckhart certainly seems ripe for a hit, and Aniston is one of the top female box office draws today (along with, I'd say, Katherine Heigl, Amy Adams, Reese Witherspoon, Sandra Bullock, and Madea). But Aniston only plays well to her base in the right roles. This looks like a right role.
Opening weekend: $19 million / Total gross: $55 million
3) Fame (September 25th)
The only movie I see having $100m potential this month, and even then it's kind of a pipe dream. I'm of two minds on this - on the one hand, MGM seems to be treating this as a high-profile musical aimed at the audiences that made High School Musical and Camp Rock such big hits on television (curious bystanders are welcome to see it, too, I suppose). On the other hand, the teen-musical trend seems to have outlived its box office usefulness, and there's really no particular reason for kids and teenagers to want to see this (the young cast are all unknowns; would it have killed them to put a Jonas brother in here?). The recent box office failure of Bandslam is a warning sign. Fame's ads and posters do have a glossy, atmospheric look (there's a genuine New York feel), and I appreciate that, but the fate of Fame will almost certainly depend on reviews more than anything. Funny how that works.
Opening weekend: $17 million / Total gross: $50 million