June 2006 Forecast
By Michael Bentley
1) Superman Returns
The Man of Steel is back. Gone are Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Sidney J. Furie (I guess Alan Smithee wasn't invented yet), and the late Christopher Reeve. Replacing them are Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, Bryan Singer, and Brandon Routh (who?). Director Singer gambled and jumped ship from the lucrative X-Men franchise - something that many mutant fanboys are probably shaking their fists at right now - and took a chance on reviving what was once America's most beloved comic.
It is easy to wonder if the last Superman movie - the absolutely terrible Superman IV: The Quest for Peace - will haunt Superman Returns and scare people away from seeing it, as likely happened to some degree with Batman and Robin on last year's Batman Begins. I tend to suspect that the impact from the negative karma of Superman IV will be negligible. It has been nearly 20 years, compared to just eight for the Caped Crusader. There are a number of factors in its favor: the sizeable built-in audience of comic fans, people curious to see what Singer does with it, and of course it will have the long weekend prior to July 4th with little direct competition. However, though it probably won't matter much (except maybe in the long run) but I can't help but wondering if casting a complete unknown in the title role was a mistake.
Opening weekend prediction: $82 million + $53 million Wed-Thu.
Cars is Pixar Animation Studio's first release since its deal to remain with Disney. Back to its roots of featuring talking creatures and other objects (other than The Incredibles) it tells the tale of a hot young race car (voiced by Owen Wilson) who stops over in a small town on his way to a big race. There he meets a wild group of cars including a sexy Porsche (Bonnie Hunt), a beat-up old truck (Larry the Cable Guy), and a certified classic (Paul Newman).
The last two Pixar films, Finding Nemo (which opened around the same time of year, in late May 2003) and The Incredibles (which opened in November of 2004), both opened to about $70 million opening weekend. Nemo had better legs overall and went on to become the highest grossing animated film of all-time in the U.S. (though behind The Lion King and some earlier Disney films when adjusted for inflation). This should be no different, especially with the large fanbase of loyal Pixar fans as well as its appeal to the legions of NASCAR fans. Though it could be a tad embarrassing for John Lasseter and company if they fail to surpass the $68 million that Fox's Ice Age: The Meltdown earned in its opening frame.
Opening weekend: $71 million.
Adam Sandler is one of the more consistent box office draws in recent years. With few exceptions, his starring vehicles since The Waterboy in 1998 have opened between $37 and $47 million. Even those final domestic grosses have been very consistent, falling in the $120 - $163 million range. And the exceptions are fairly easy to explain. Spanglish was more of an adult dramedy, and didn't cater to Sandler's usual audience. Ditto for Punch Drunk Love, which was pretty much Bizzarro-Sandler. Eight Crazy Nights was a poorly marketed (and poorly made) movie, and the fact that it was animated probably turned off some of his base. The only real black eye in that time is Little Nicky, which is a truly atrocious movie and luckily most people saw right through that.
I don't expect Click to perform like Little Nicky, though. Just imagine having a device that would allow you to fast-forward or rewind to any point in your life that you want! And I'd especially like the ability to pause things. With a fine trailer, and a concept that plays into the same sort of god-like fantasies as 2003's Bruce Almighty with Jim Carrey, Click may very well be destined to be one of the top comedies of the year. A $68 million opening is probably out of the question, but $50 million is very do-able. There is little doubt that Sandler will add another hit to his resume with Click.
Opening weekend: $47 million.
4) The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
In 2 Fast 2 Furious, the idiotically named sequel to The Fast and the Furious, star Vin Diesel and director Rob Cohen were gone but the film was still a big success. Although it did fizzle out afterwards (closing at about $125 million), it opened to a whopping $50 million. That must have been a blow to Diesel as it proved that the series didn't need him. People just wanted to see fast cars and scantily clad women. Now, in Tokyo Drift, everyone is gone. Even Paul Walker. In their stead are people you've probably never heard of. It may see a slight decrease from the previous film, but should still challenge the $100 million threshold again.
Opening weekend: $40 million.
5) The Break-Up
In The Break-Up, Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn play a couple who ...break-up. Neither of them wants to move out of the condo they share (they aren't yet married) and soon resort to a small-scale version of The War of the Roses. That is until they discover that maybe they are fighting in order to stay together.
There is no doubt that Universal is crossing their fingers that they can capitalize on the off-screen relationship between Jennifer and Vince, as 20th Century Fox did last year with Brad and Angelina on Mr. & Mrs. Smith. The problem with that comparison is that the Smith was prototypical Summer fare with plenty of guns and expositions. But the romantic comedy could provide a reprieve for people tired of action films. And it will go a long way towards determining how valuable of a star Vince Vaughn actually is. Can he duplicate his enormous success from last year's Wedding Crashers?
Opening weekend: $25 million.
6) The Omen
It's been 30 years, but now we are getting a remake of The Omen, about a couple who learn that their son is actually the anti-Christ. It's good timing too, as it is being released on a Tuesday, which seems quite odd, but is actually June 6th, or 6-6-6. There seems to be little reason why it won't do close to the usual $20 million opening weekend for horror films, plus some solid business earlier in the week. This should be followed by a short stint in theaters and a short DVD window - probably just in time for Halloween.
Opening weekend: $19 million + $9 million Tue-Thu.
7) The Lake House
Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves reunite for the first time since action blockbuster Speed made them both stars twelve years ago. The Lake House tells the story of a couple who fall in love two years apart through some sort of magical mailbox.
The warm season is generally not the friendliest time for moviegoers looking to see a romance or a good date movie. For as long as I can remember, explosions, special effects, and car chases have been the big-ticket items during Summer. But that doesn't mean that there is no room for a good romance, in fact, a few have found a good degree of success. But you really have to go back a number of years to find many (other than things like The Runaway Bride or My Big Fat Greek Wedding). Can Bullock and Reeves rekindle their magic and prove that it is possible for a drama or romance to succeed this time of year? If nothing else it will give folks another option and, if it's good, could play well throughout the Summer.
Opening weekend: $19 million.
8) Nacho Libre
I don't know. I just don't think I see Jack Black as a movie star who can carry a movie on his own. Shallow Hal was a disappointment for the Farrelly brothers. Orange County came and went. Envy was a financial and critical disaster. King Kong was a hit in spite of Black (and probably did worse than many expected). The only movie that he can really point to is School of Rock, which opened to $19.6 million and cruised to over $81 million domestically. And I think that was a more of a success because it was marketed very well and just looked like a fun, family-friendly movie (and it is). Don't get me wrong; I generally like Jack and, if anything, he will always have a place in my heart for his role in one of my top five movies.
But a movie about an obese wrestler who manages to make Homer J. Simpson look dapper? It may look pretty funny, but director Jared Hess (of Napoleon Dynamite) just won't be enough of a draw to get past the stiff opening week competition. This will need the teen and young adult demo to do well, and my hunch is that the Fast and the Furious will be a more attractive option.
Opening weekend: $17 million.
9) Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties
Yeah... I got nothing.
Opening weekend: $13 million.
10) The Devil Wears Prada
Meryl Streep as the Devil? Perfect. The Devil Wears Prada is an adaptation of the best-selling novel of the same name, where a young woman (played by Anne Hathaway) gets a job working for one of the most famous and influential fashion magazine editors. The trailer is one of the more unusual ones I've seen in recent years. Forgoing the traditional formula of recycling some popular music, and basically slimming the entire movie down into a brief couple minutes of fast cuts, it is simply a two or three minute clip directly from the movie. No music, no voiceover, no big words on screen, nothing. It's very bold, but very risky and likely immediately cements whether or not someone will go see it. It opens up against Superman Returns, so should be good counter-programming and will likely skew heavily female.
Opening weekend: $11 million.
Just Under the Radar
A Prairie Home Companion
In legendary director Robert Altman's latest, written by Garrison Keillor, A Prairie Home Companion is a look at what goes on behind the scenes of a popular radio program. As usual, Altman employs an ensemble cast including Meryl Streep, Woody Harrelson, Virginia Madsen, and even Lindsay Lohan (trying to earn some credibility).
The Road to Guantanamo
This docu-drama follows the travails of a threesome of British Muslims who head to Afghanistan for a vacation, where they are arrested and taken to the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There they are held and abused for two years before finally being released. Directed by Michael Winterbottom (of 24 Hour Party People and Tristam and Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story).
Who Killed the Electric Car?
This hot new documentary for first-timer Chris Paine examines the energy efficient electric car from its birth to its quick demise. At fault are big energy companies, governments, and especially us. With panic over rising gas and oil prices, Who Killed the Electric Car? looks to be very timely.
* Please note that all opening weekend estimates are preliminary and do not account for final screen counts.