June 2005 Box Office Forecast

By John Hamann

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The end of May brought hope to what's been a box office struggle through the first half of 2005. The Memorial Day weekend delivered three films with grosses over $58 million and the second biggest Memorial Day total ever, but it still wasn't enough, as year ago box office was higher for the 14th straight weekend. There is some good news in the June slate, but nothing too dramatic (BOP decided as a group to cover War of the Worlds in our July Forecasts). Probably the best news for the month of June is that June 2004 was somewhat soft, leading me to think that we may get ahead of last year's total at least by the July 4th weekend. Below is what I think will be the top grossing movies for the month of June, from highest to lowest, and remember, War of the Worlds will be covered next month (but let me say now that its got $100 million open written all over it).

1. Batman Begins – Warner Bros - $60 million 3-day

Much of how June does box office wise is going to depend on Batman Begins, which stars Christian Bale and opens June 15th. Warner Bros.' have $135 million (plus a rumored $100 million in marketing costs) on the line for Begins, so the casting of Bale is a large gamble for the studio. Those who do recognize Bale most likely remember him from American Psycho, which didn't leave a kind taste in many people’s mouths. However, Batman is a legendary American Psycho, and this Batman has a fantastic team of supporting actors. They include Michael Caine, Katie Holmes, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman and Rutger Hauer, amongst others. The bad news here I think is the lack of a marketable villain ala The Joker or The Penguin, and a so-so trailer. Batman Begins gets started on a Wednesday, so I'll ballpark the five-day weekend at $85 million, with a three-day around $60 million.

2. Bewitched – Columbia/Sony - $40 million

The fact that Bewitched is my number two film for June may mean big trouble, on the other hand, if it opens like I think it will, it may not. The other problem may be that the trailer shows more Will Ferrell than Nicole Kidman. The good news here is much like Batman, its that today's built-in audience that likes a safe bet, likes to know what their seeing before they plunk down their $10 bucks at the ticket window. Additionally, Will Ferrell looks really funny in this role, and they gave Nicole Kidman a whole bunch of makeup and a few meals, so she doesn't look like she's fading into the background. Backed up by a strong supporting cast (Shirley MacLaine, Michael Caine, Jason Schwartzman) Bewitched should have no trouble finding $40 million over opening weekend. Sure, The Stepford Wives only found $21.4 million when it opened in fifth last year in June, but going in The Stepford Remake looked like a car accident, Bewitched looks a lot more fun. Let's hope it is.

3. Mr. & Mrs. Smith – Fox - $35-40 million

With all the press regarding the love triangle between Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston, Mr. & Mrs. Smith should have some decent awareness when it rolls into theatres June 10 against three other wide releases. Mr. & Mrs. Smith will be the film to catch that weekend, as Fox will be pulling out all the marketing stops to ensure their $100 million investment makes the grade. The spy flick is from Doug Liman, who deftly directed The Bourne Identity, Swingers and Go, and produced the best TV show currently almost being cancelled in Arrested Development. The Fox product has a PG-13 rating, so this should do $35 million to $40 million over opening weekend.

4. Herbie: Fully Loaded – Disney - $30 million

America has gone NASCAR crazy, let alone Lindsey Lohan mad, so there's no reason why Herbie shouldn't open solidly, or even break out. Like three of my top four, this one has a built-in audience that bridges generations; the original Herbie films were huge for Disney (IMDb reports a $50 million gross for the original in 1968). In addition, Lohan is the ideal star for this one after finding success playing against Mean Girls, which opened to $24.4 million in late April 2004. Herbie also stars a bevy of NASCAR names, including Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (unfortunately, Herbie opens one week after a NASCAR race called The Batman Begins 500). Herbie has a lot more things going for it than one might think, I like it for a three-day open around $30 million.

5. Cinderella Man – Universal - $25 million

Russell Crowe is back after a year and a half long absence from movie theatres, this time playing a real-life Depression-era boxer named Jim Braddock. Cinderella Man opens this weekend, and is powered by two former TV stars who worked on the same TV franchise. Ron Howard directs and Penny Marshall is one of the producers on this epic, which is being distributed by Universal. The studio may have timed the release of this one just right – The Interpreter with Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn has almost slid out of the top ten grossers, and other than Crash there is little adult fare playing right now. I like Cinderella Man for a $25 million open, and a long strong summer to come.

6. The Honeymooners – Paramount - $25 million

Well boys and girls, what's the theme of this column so far? That movies with built-in audiences, especially cross-generation ones, can sell a lot of movie tickets, due mostly to simple awareness. The Honeymooners from Paramount is another example of that. Here we have a TV series from a very long time ago (that still repeats today) that has good association with the average Joe. The difference here is that this Honeymooners subs African-Americans for old white guys, which could make this appeal to a number of demographics. Cedric The Entertainer stars as Ralph Kramden, with Mike Epps playing the sidekick Ed Norton. Gabrielle Union and Regina Hall play the wives, Alice and Trixie. While all of this is good news, I do have to say for a June 10th release, promotion for this one has been sparse at best, but it still has another week to work. I'm looking for a $25 million open, if the marketing department pulls up their socks.

7. George A. Romero's Land of the Dead – Universal - $20 million

Proving there are no new ideas coming in June, Universal is set to launch the next film in George Romero’s Living Dead series, Land of the Dead. Universal's remake of Dawn of the Dead opened to $26.7 million in March 2004, minting the fact that there would be more of these films to come (and thank goodness!). This one stars Dennis Hopper, Asia Argento and John Leguizamo, and was made for only $15 million. The zombies become thinkers in this version of basically the same tale, and despite no real above the title names, this should find at least $20 million when it opens June 24 against Bewitched and Herbie: Fully Loaded.

8. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants – WB - $15 million

Okay, I'll admit I've never heard of Ann Brashares' novel of the same name, but The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants sounds too much like The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood to completely ignore it. Reviews are excellent for the teen-aimed feature, and with it opening this weekend, may provide excellent counter-programming for Cinderella Man, The Longest Yard and Star Wars. Because of the following of the book, I like it for $15 million this weekend, and $20 million for its first five days.

9. The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl – Dimension - $15 million

Since this movie has been on the release schedule, I've wondered about it. Is this part of the Spy Kids franchise? It’s from director Robert Rodriguez of Spy Kids (and Sin City) fame. It has the same look as Spy Kids, and is in 3-D, just like the third film in the Spy Kids franchise. It’s from Dimension Films – just like Spy Kids, and stars... well... kids. Shark Boy and Lava Girl is another film from Rodriguez that was made mostly in his basement on his home PC, and is rumored to be an idea that came from his seven-year-old son, Racer. Most likely budgeted in the $30-40 million range, Shark Boy won't benefit from being part of the Spy Kids franchise, but if parents are like me at all, they may think this is part of that franchise anyway. I bet it's good for at least $15 million over its opening frame, if not more.

10. High Tension – Lions Gate - $10 million

It was either Hilary Duff, The Lords of Dogtown or this French horror flick to round out the top ten June films, and I couldn't bring myself to write about Duff. High Tension is a horror film that opened last year in Europe, and now US critics are clamoring to call it the best horror film of the year. While I don’t know about that, it does have an excellent trailer that communicates some serious thrills, so if Lions Gate (who is having a ton of success currently with Crash) can market this one effectively, they could have a decent overnight success with this one. It could have an opening weekend above $10 million.

The Rest of the Pack

There are other great films opening this month, but won't find the kind of opening success to put them in the above list. The Lords of Dogtown also opens this weekend, but at less than 2,000 venues, which could limit its success. The $25 million Heath Ledger film from Sony will look to expand in the weeks to come. Also opening this month are the previously mentioned Hilary Duff film The Perfect Man, which also stars Heather Locklear and Chris Noth and sounds a lot like The Parent Trap. Probably the most personally exciting movie released this June for me is Howl's Moving Castle, another animated film from Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese director who made the Oscar winning Spirited Away. It starts out in limited release June 10th – you won't be disappointed.

Michael Bentley's June Preview
Marty Doskins's June Preview
Dan Krovich's June Preview
John Seal's June Preview



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