November 2005 Forecast
By Michael Bentley
1) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Well, everyone's favorite little wizard is back in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The young stars, who are all far along into their teenage years, all return and are joined by a new director (Mike Newell, who has a fairly diverse resume from Four Weddings and a Funeral to Donnie Brasco to Mona Lisa Smile) and a new teacher for the Defense Against the Dark Arts.
Opening weekend grosses for the three previous Potter films have all been very similar ($90.3, $88.4, and $93.7 million for the Sorcerer's Stone, the Chamber of Secrets, and the Prisoner of Azkaban, respectively). And the slight bump for Azkaban can be partly attributed to the June release (unlike Goblet of Fire and the first two, which all led off just prior to Thanksgiving). Further, the cumulative domestic grosses have seen a slight drop-off with each sequel. It's clear that there is a threshold here, and we've probably already reached it. Diehard Potterheads will continue to rush out opening weekend, more casual fans will wait a week or two, and those who never bought into the mania will continue to ignore it. Nevertheless, the movie is almost certain to be the box office hit of the season and will likely settle in as the number two film released in 2005 (after Star Wars Episode III).
Opening weekend prediction: $91 million.
2) Chicken Little
After years of (a) riding Pixars's coattails, and (b) releasing one traditional hand drawn clunker after another - Brother Bear or Home on the Range, anyone? - Disney has finally created its first in-house CGI animated movie. Voice talents include Zach Braff and Joan Cusack, among others, in a tale about the old "sky is falling" routine of doomsday soothsayers. The animation from the previews and trailers looks pretty good, and the story is certainly a fun idea.
But will Chicken Little be more Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, or more Shark Tale and Robots? My hunch is that it will be somewhere in between on the quality end of things. Financially, though, it is a big question mark. Of course it will bring easily pass the century mark (and, unless it's a stinker, will threaten $200 million total) and will no doubt sell a ton of DVDs, but in the larger scheme of things Disney has a lot riding on this. With a new CEO and its long-term relationship with Pixar still in doubt, Disney needs to prove that they can still hit it big on their own. The Disney name isn't what it used to be.
Opening weekend: $53 million.
Zathura is a sort of sequel to the 1995 family hit Jumanji. In that film, Robin Williams starred as a man trapped in a magical old board game that two kids discover one day. The game took them on a jungle-style adventure filled with all kinds of dangers and surprises. The fantasy was fairly successful and just a few years ago its author wrote Zathura about another mysterious game. This time the action will take place in outer space.
Excuse the pun, but the trailers for Zathura look out of this world. Expect it to pick up the vast network of Spy Kids fans, and plenty of other families who are looking to have a good, fun time. This could easily be the sleeper hit of the season.
Opening weekend: $27 million.
4) Yours, Mine and Ours
I swear this movie already happened, like, say, two years ago with Steve Martin in Cheaper by the Dozen. Or maybe it was The Brady Bunch. In any case, I get a strange feeling of deja vu from Yours, Mine and Ours. You get the idea ("Here's the story of a lovely lady..."). Anyway, Harry Potter or not, by opening during the very friendly Thanksgiving period, a lucrative take for this comedy is quite certain. Family flicks were made for this time of year. Bring. On. The. Cheese.
Opening weekend: $22 million.
Time for a simple math lesson:
(Jake Gyllenhaal x Jamie Foxx x Peter Sarsgaard + Chris Cooper + Political relevancy) x Sam Mendes*2 = Ooh-rah!
Opening weekend: $18 million.
Well, if you didn't like Rob Marshall's 2002 Chicago (or if you're just not a big fan of the musical in general), then you're probably not going to like what studio's have in store for you over the next few years. Because that was just the beginning. Chicago's Academy Award helped to revive a nearly dead genre, as Hollywood begins to adapt one Broadway musical after another. One of the lucky recipients of the revival is Rent, about a group of bohemians living life in New York's East Village. Director Chris Columbus (no stranger to the Thanksgiving time frame) tries to work his magic on a group of mostly unknown actors.
Opening weekend: $14 million.
7) Get Rich or Die Tryin'
The inner city rap music genre has quickly become a burgeoning sector of the movie industry. From 8 Mile of a few years ago, to Hustle & Flow from earlier this year, as well as numerous other low budget films and documentaries like Tupac: Resurrection, there is certainly a large audience clamoring for more. With Get Rich, thug-turned-rapper 50 Cent plays an inner-city drug dealer who attempts to turn his life around and become a rap star. Talk about a stretch in credibility! Jim Sheridan, who helmed the critically acclaimed In America, directs this pic, which could bring in some curiosity seekers to expand the potential audience. For what it's worth, note that this opens at about the same time of year as 8 Mile, which debuted to over $50 million in ticket sales.
Opening weekend: $12 million.
8) Walk the Line
In Walk the Line, the always likeable Joaquin Phoenix (yes, I had to look up how to spell it) stars as legendary country musician Johnny Cash. No doubt, Twentieth Century Fox is banking on reaping the same success and rewards that Ray had last year, with Jamie Foxx imitating Ray Charles. There are certainly a number of similarities between the two movies. Just as Ray fought the ravages of drug addiction and a sometimes-troubled marriage, Johnny had his own personal demons, addictions, and back-and-forth relationship with wife June (Reese Witherspoon).
While there is considerable awards buzz around both Phoenix and Witherspoon, I'm not convinced that this will have the same mass appeal that Ray did. It also opens the same weekend as Harry Potter. Could it get drowned out? If so, look for its award hopes to darken. If not, look for it to be a contender throughout the end-of-year season.
Opening weekend: $9 million.
9) The Ice Harvest
Everyman John Cusack plays a bit against type as a no-good, slimy lawyer who is trying to escape town with a lot of stolen mob money on a snowy Christmas Eve. Unfortunately for him, he must deal with a cast of unsavory characters who are out to get him. There is his associate (Billy Bob Thornton), his drunken friend, a stripper, and of course the local mob boss.
This movie, from Harold Ramis, is sure to be a nice alternative to the blockbusters, the musicals, the kid's stuff, and the melodramatic fluff that that will all be swarming the local megaplexes. And, hey, you can never go wrong with Cusack or Billy Bob!
Opening weekend: $8 million.
What's this, you ask? Derailed stars Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston as two married professionals having an affair and who must deal with a criminal who is blackmailing them. It also is one of the first films from the newly formed Weinstein Company - that would be the megalomaniacs Harvey and Bob, formerly of Miramax. So why isn't it getting more attention?
Opening weekend: $6 million.
Just Under the Radar
Bee Season stars Richard Gere who begins to see his daughter in a new light after she unexpectedly wins a spelling bee and moves on to the national competition. While he spends more time with her, her brother (who used to be the favorite child) becomes jealous.
The Dying Gaul
The presence of BOP favorite Peter Sarsgaard automatically puts The Dying Gaul up near the radar screen. In this intriguing drama, a screenwriter enters into an illicit relationship with a studio executive and his wife, while trying to get this movie made.
From the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Soderbergh's Traffic (Stephen Gaghan) comes Syriana, a timely ensemble piece about the CIA, terrorism, and politics in the Middle East. There is a lot of buzz around Syriana and the movie will likely become a platform release in anticipation of awards season.
* Please note that all opening weekend estimates are preliminary and do not account for final screen counts.
Marty Doskins's November Forecast