October 2004 Forecast

By Marty Doskins

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October 2004 turns out to have quite an interesting release schedule. In addition to the usual selection of wide release films, there are an unusually high amount of limited releases scheduled to open in theaters. To make sense of this madness, I’ve put together a top ten list to help you out. On to the list!

1. Shark Tale

The beginning of this month should see the two biggest releases of October. People love animation. People love Will Smith. If you add them together, you should get a big hit, correct? Well, I think that this film will be the biggest opener for the month, but it won’t rival other animated features such as Shrek 2 or Pixar's upcoming The Incredibles. The market is being saturated with commercials and product tie-ins so that no one can ignore this movie. Look for big numbers when the final tally comes in.

2. Ladder 49

This is the first wide release movie brought to the big screen about firemen since the profession gained renewed respect after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Enough time has passed since that tragic day that we can take a look at their job and what a wonderful service they provide to our communities. The casting of John Travolta as the fire captain was a brilliant move and brings even more credibility to the film. There's been a lot of buzz since word first came out about the shooting of this picture and with the commercials that we're seeing now, it looks like they did it right. The effects are high quality and the storyline is supposed to be solid as well. It should make a big splash during opening weekend.

3. Taxi

Jimmy Fallon is teamed up with the multi-talented Queen Latifah in this movie. Fallon plays a cop with problems driving and he ends up working with the extreme taxi-driving Latifah. I think that one of the pluses of the film is that it’s not a movie version of one of Fallon’s Saturday Night Live characters. That almost always seems to be the kiss of death for a movie. Latifah is also coming off her recent success with the movies Chicago and Bringing Down the House. In addition, the airwaves are being flooded with advertisements. With all these factors, I think this film has a decent chance to open in the upper portion of this month’s top ten films.

4. Friday Night Lights

Sports films, especially well-advertised ones, seem to open fairly well. However, unlike horror films, they tend to have more staying power at the box office. Billy Bob Thornton again shows his versatility by playing a football coach trying to inspire his team to victory. The “based on a true story” aspect of this film will also play a factor in the amount of interest from moviegoers. The advertising dollars have been spent very efficiently by focusing on the potential core audience of this movie – sports fans. But the studio was also wise to not ignore the general public as well.

5. Surviving Christmas

Some big-name stars have signed up for this feature film – the handsome and popular Ben Affleck, the beautiful and funny Christina Applegate, and the talented James Gandolfini. All three stars have their own personal touch they add to the box office draw for this movie. Each, of course, draws in longtime fans. In addition, Affleck draws in the women, Applegate brings in the men, and Gandolfini brings in both sexes that are fans of The Sopranos. Another plus is that Affleck will be able to promote the film when he hosts the season premiere of Saturday Night Live. I don’t think this will be a blockbuster, but it’ll produce a solid opening weekend.

6. Ray

There’s been quite a bit of publicity surrounding this film because of the recent passing of the movie’s subject, the legendary Ray Charles. Jamie Foxx has always done an incredible impersonation of Charles and he finally gets to use it in a serious manner, rather than a comedy sketch. Also, early word leaking out about this movie is that Foxx is brilliant in this more serious portrayal and honors Charles with his acting ability.

7. The Grudge

This film is one I’m not too sure about placing here. I think there is some potential because of Sarah Michelle Gellar being the star. On the other hand, I don’t believe she’s proven herself as a box office draw. If you were thinking of using her role in both Scooby-Doo movies as an example, you’d be mistaken. She’s not the driving force behind those movies’ success. The entire cast and the Scooby-Doo franchise brought these together. I think there is enough interest in Gellar, but not enough to make it a huge success.

8. Raise Your Voice

Unlike Ms. Gellar at the number seven position, Hilary Duff is proving she can bring in audiences. However, I placed this film down at number eight because her star power is still on the rise. She got her name out there with her popular Lizzie McGuire TV series and subsequent movie. She’s also used her popularity to build a promising musical career. This is all adding up to positive results and we should keep seeing success from Hilary in the coming years.

9. Team America: World Police

I think this will be an interesting test for creative team behind the successful South Park TV series. They’ve gone away from their recognizable animation style to marionettes, like the ones used in the original Thunderbirds series. From what I’ve seen, this film should have similar appeal as with South Park. You either love that type of humor or you don’t. I don’t think there’s much middle ground.

10. Shall We Dance?

Richard Gere dancing? Yup. Jennifer Lopez dancing? Yup. I’m not very confident at all about putting this one at number ten. It could easily bomb, but the “wide release” tag pushed it up a bit for me. There’s been a bit about this film already on Entertainment Tonight, but that’s certainly no guarantee of success.

Honorable Mention

If our Box Office Prophets feedback mail is any indicator, one of this month’s limited releases has the potential to be a breakout hit. We have been getting a ton of e-mails asking about the movie Woman Thou Art Loosed. This film from director Michael Schultz has been running a big “word-of-mouth” campaign and, at least at BOP, it seems to be paying off. This film may have a solid opening, but more than likely it will steadily attract theaters across the nation and be in theaters for some time to come.

John Seal's October Forecast



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