May 2006 Forecast

By Michael Bentley

May 4, 2006

Cirque Du Soleil performances are far too interactive.

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1) X-Men: The Last Stand

One of the most popular and lucrative movie franchises in recent years (after perhaps just Star Wars, Spider-Man, and Harry Potter) returns for a third outing. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Rogue (Anna Paquin), Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and most of the gang (plus a couple new faces including Kelsey Grammer as Beast) are back to face off against Magneto (Ian McKellan). The X-Men have a very large following of comic book fans, plus a sizeable number of people who were simply turned on by the first two films from Bryan Singer. Singer is gone though, moving on to Superman Returns, and replaced by Brett Ratner (Rush Hour 2, Red Dragon).

How will Singer's departure affect ticket sales? My hunch is not very much, though it could hurt a little bit if people perceive that the quality of the movie will slip. This is the third movie in the series, a point at which many action franchises begin to lose their luster. Think: Superman 3, Batman Forever, Die Hard With a Vengeance, etc. Don't get me wrong: this will make a ton of money. But I wouldn't be surprised if it struggles to pass $200 million total.

One thing is for certain, though: with so many key films opening in May this year, the Memorial Day weekend is bound to be one of the biggest weekends in box office history. The megaxplexes will be very crowded for sure. But if you head there in hopes of catching a more adult, arty picture, you're probably going to be out of luck this time of year.

Opening weekend prediction: $80 million + $19 million Monday.

2) The Da Vinci Code

One of the biggest selling books in recent memory makes its way to the big screen this month in The Da Vinci Code starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou. Author Dan Brown's book has been trashed by many literary critics, but embraced by mass audiences to the tune of 40 million books sold worldwide (and more than 12 million in the U.S.). It is no stranger to controversy either, as plenty of Catholics have condemned the fictionally religious elements. Directed by Oscar-winner Ron Howard, who is no doubt hoping that the controversy will only serve to increase awareness and interest in the blockbuster. Could be a fun battle with X-Men to see which one ends up on top for the May releases, and both will also be high on the leaderboard out of all 2006 releases.

Opening weekend: $66 million.

3) Mission: Impossible III

Crazy Tom Cruise is back as superspy Ethan Hunt in the third installment of the Mission: Impossible franchise. It has been a very up and down year for one of the world's most bankable movie stars. After his escapades last Summer with Oprah and Matt Lauer, and his further adventures into nuttiness throughout the year, he and Katie Holmes finally had their baby recently. His blockbuster duo with Steven Spielberg on War of the Worlds was a success last year, though perhaps not as much as one might have expected. This time he'll have some help from first-time film director J.J. Abrams, of TV series Alias and Lost. Abrams, of course, is no stranger to the spy world given his experiences on cult-fave Alias. Cruise is again joined by Ving Rhames, as well as recent Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman.

It seems like every Summer is the "Summer of Sequels and Remakes" anymore, doesn't it? In any case, the Summer movie season unofficially opens the first weekend in May with MI:III. No doubt that many studio executives (not just at Paramount) will be keeping a close eye on theater attendance, considering the gloomy results from much of 2005.

The first Mission Impossible opened to about $45 million ten years ago, before coasting to almost $200 in the States alone. The sequel improved on those figures six years ago with a $58 million opening bow, before settling in at $215 million total. I expect a slight increase from that, though not by too much. Yes, higher average ticket prices need to be factored in. But also consider that the second MI was a letdown for many fans, and oftentimes interest in a series begins to wane after the third film (as mentioned with X-Men). Plus, Cruise perhaps isn't as big as he once was. Still, it'll make quite a bit of money.

Opening weekend: $59 million.

4) Poseidon

Poseidon is a remake of the 1972 disaster film The Poseidon Adventure. The latter arrived during the wave of disaster flicks and was very popular (earning about $85 million domestically) and even scored a number of award nominations. This one has a very strong trailer and is likely to please a whole new generation of filmgoers, plus older folks who enjoyed the first one. It helps that director Wolfgang Petersen has plenty of experience with this type of film, as he previously directed The Perfect Storm, plus Outbreak and Air Force One. (We'll just forget about his last film, Troy, which was a dud.) This could be one of the biggest hits of the Summer.

Opening weekend: $52 million.

5) Over the Hedge

From the creators of Shrek! For better or worse, all you need to do to market a movie successfully is to make that phrase the focus of your campaign and it's probably worth a minimum of $20 million on top of what you would have had. But with the recent failure of The Wild, it's clear that CGI animated movies are not sure bets to make a mint. Though with incredible successes like Ice Age: The Meltdown still luring plenty of families to the theater, there is certainly still demand for them. And the voice cast including Bruce Willis, Garry Shandling, and Steve Carell can only help.

Opening weekend: $46 million.

6) Just My Luck

The charming American princess and high-class debutante, Lindsay Lohan, stars as one of the luckiest women in the world in Just My Luck. Her luck takes a turn for the worse though, when she meets an unlucky man and their fortunes soon switch. Directed by Donald Petrie, who managed to score moderate hits with How to Lose in Guy in Ten Days iand Miss Congeniality.

Opening weekend: $11 million.

7) See No Evil

WWE wrestling superstar Kane (a.k.a. Glen Jacobs) makes his movie debut in See No Evil. From director Gregory Dark - who previously led such films as Sex Freaks and New Wave Hookers 2, 3, and 4 - See No Evil is about a big, vicious criminal hiding out at a seedy hotel. A group of juvenile delinquents go to the hotel to clean it, along with the cop who once shot the criminal. Mayhem and violence soon break out in this horror film.

If this were to be released during any time of year other than the Summer movie season, I'd have no trouble believing that it could make the customary $20 million for the horror genre. Especially with a popular wrestler like Kane in the cast. But it's up going up against some pretty big films, so will likely get lost in the crowd. I expect a very short window between the theatrical and DVD releases.

Opening weekend: $10 million.

8) Hoot

Hoot is an adaptation of author Carl Hiaasen's book about a young kid in Florida who puts up a fight when he learns that a construction site is endangering a wild owl population. Hiaasen's books, including Tourist Season and Striptease (which got turned into the Demi Moore abomination) are always a lot of fun, but this is the first that focuses on a kid as the main character. It doesn't have a lot of hope going up against Mission Impossible, but should be good for a little business with families looking for some PG-fun.

Opening weekend: $7 million.

9) An American Haunting

The premise of An American Haunting is pretty intriguing: it tells the tale of the only documented case in American history of a spirit causing a man's death. Will it be intriguing enough, though? Veteran actors Donald Sutherland and Sissy Spacek star in the creepy ghost story. They are two fine actors, for sure, but neither are exactly draws for the teenage and young adult crowd that is so crucial. And among more adult thrillers, this isn't Nicole Kidman (in The Others), or Naomi Watts (in The Ring). And it isn't riding a great marketing campaign, with help from a 30-year-old classic (The Exorcism of Emily Rose). If the reviews are positive, it could have enough juice to stay in theaters for a bit, but it's more likely to get tripped up and kicked out. For better or worse, assuming anyone is even aware of the movie, most people will see this as having "wait for DVD" written all over it.

Opening weekend: $6 million.


10) Goal! The Dream Begins

In just about any other month of the year, films like Goal! wouldn't make the top ten list. But with so few low-to-mid range films brave enough to go up against the heavyweights, everything that is likely to go wide has made the cut. This is a story about a young soccer player from Los Angeles with dreams of becoming a star. It is scheduled to be the first part of a trilogy. I know what you're thinking: "Soccer?! What a strange thing to make a movie about." I can't say I disagree, but there actually are some soccer fans in this country. And the movie is sure to appeal to Hispanic and Latino audiences.

Opening weekend: $5 million.

Just Under the Radar

Art School Confidential

The very talented director Terry Zwigoff, of Ghost World fame (as well as Bad Santa and Crumb), brings another graphic novel to the big screen. Art School confidential stars Max Minghella and John Malkovich and is both a comedy and a murder mystery, among other things.

Down in the Valley

With such a top-notch cast, it's hard not to put Down in the Valley on your radar. Edward Norton stars as a delusional man who thinks he is a cowboy, and Evan Rachel Wood is the rebellious young woman he meets, in this drama. Ellen Burstyn, and David Morse are among some of the others who appear.

An Inconvenient Truth

Otherwise known in some circles as "that Al Gore movie." Truth is a documentary about the globetrotting former VP and Presidential candidate and his tireless efforts on environmental issues.

* Please note that all opening weekend estimates are preliminary and do not account for final screen counts.



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