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August 2006 Forecast

By Michael Bentley

August 5, 2006

One of the summer's cuddliest stars isn't in an animated film.

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1) Snakes on a Plane

"I have had it with these motherf-ing snakes on this motherf-ing plane!"

By now, many of you have heard about the phenomenon that is Snakes on a Plane. Earlier in the year word began to spread around the Internet about the succinctly named film, starring everyone's favorite badass Samuel L. Jackson. "That's the only reason I took the job: I read the title," Jackson is said to have uttered upon once learning that the title had been temporarily changed. Wiser heads prevailed and it was changed back. Gradually more and more people began to hear about the film; it was probably going to suck but it sounded awesome! As the buzz on the movie grew louder, they creators made a radical move: new scenes were added in to bring the growing legion of fans more of what they wanted. Namely, more snakes, more violence, more nudity, and more language (and hence, the quote at the beginning of this forecast).

The cult-like status of the film (which had yet to even be released) bred numerous Web sites, parodies, and various forms of viral marketing. It is easily the biggest Internet revolution for a movie since The Blair Witch Project, and possibly more so. Eventually, the mainstream media caught on and the clamor grew louder, with some even speculating that the release should have been moved up by two months to capitalize on what was sure to die down eventually. But New Line held their ground, and here we are. People will likely be quite divided on this, between those who "just don't get it" or think it just looks stupid and those who have had it on their calendars since they first heard about it.

Opening weekend prediction: $42 million.

2) Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

If you are a fan of Will Ferrell's last all-out comedy, 2004's Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, then there is probably a good chance that you will like Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby too. And if you like Anchorman and NASCAR, then you'll most likely be there to see it opening night. It's definitely not a coincidence that the titles are so similar. And in both films, Ferrell hams it up in a role that seems to mock and poke fun at the profession that his character is in; first as a news anchor and now as a racecar driver.

Certainly Anchorman is easily the best comparison to make with Talladega Nights. That one opened to $28 million in early July before ending with a solid $85 million. It was beat out by another similar film, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story ($30/$114 million), and fell far short of Ferrell's biggest film to date, Elf ($31/$173 million). The latter was no doubt enhanced by its holiday theme and late-year release. But it was also a sweet, family-oriented picture that appealed to a broader audience. Ricky Bobby will almost certainly finish first in its debut, and given its subject it will likely edge past Anchorman. But, then again, Cars was not able to take advantage of its NASCAR-friendly story and actually fell short of several previous Pixar efforts. Still, it could be one of the biggest comedies of the year.

Opening weekend: $33 million.

3) Invincible

Invincible, starring Dirk Diggler, is the inspirational story inspired by real events of Vincent Papale. He played just one year of high school football and did not play in college because his school didn't have a team, but as 30-year-old bartender in the mid 1970s, he tried out for the Philadelphia Eagles and ...the rest is history.

The amazing thing about "inspirational sports movies" is that their stories are so outrageous that if they were to happen in real life you would think "that only happens in the movies." But yet, nearly all of them are based on real-life events. And they have been released to a fair amount of success recently, thanks to their audience-friendly stories and happy endings. It's a proven formula and unless we suddenly decide to stop paying to see it, Disney will probably continue to release one every single year. Results for similar films have been fairly consistent, among them: The Rookie ($16 million), Remember the Titans ($21 million), Glory Road ($13 million) and Miracle ($19 million). Invincible should end up in the upper range of its precursors, especially with the big marketing blitz in recent weeks.

Opening weekend: $21 million.

4) World Trade Center

It hasn't yet been four months since Universal's gamble on United 93. That film, of course, was the first major motion picture to deal with the horrific events of 9/11/2001. And though it met with near universal critical acclaim (it is currently 90% "fresh" at Rotten Tomatoes), there weren't too many people who were willing to go see it as it limped to just a $11 million opening tally. Or at least not to pay to see it, with a bunch of strangers (I imagine it will be a mild hit on home video).

So does that mean that Oliver Stone's World Trade Center is doomed in theaters? Well, not necessarily. But United 93's performance will certainly be a strong predictor. My guess is that people will talk about it and many will again say "Oh, it looks really good" or "I've heard good things about it" but "I just don't know if I want to see that again so soon." The name factor (Stone and lead actor Nicolas Cage) may well bring in a few more interested folks though. And don't be surprised if you hear more about this come awards season.

Opening weekend: $18 million.

5) Zoom

Tim Allen has made a second career out of the family-friendly PG-film, with Christmas-themed fare such as The Santa Clause and Christmas with the Kranks, bland risk-free remake The Shaggy Dog, and of course his voice in the Toy Story franchise. His newest family venture is Zoom, where he leads a group of kids and tries to transform them into superheroes at his school for superheroes. It's highly reminiscent of Disney's Sky High from last summer. That one starred Kurt Russell and raked in almost $15 million in its first weekend.




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Opening weekend: $15 million.

6) Accepted

Accepted may very well be the guilty pleasure of the month. The farcical plot (courtesy of IMDb) sounds like pure mindless fun. "When a high school burnout discovers he's been rejected from every college he's applied to, he creates a fake university in order to fool his overzealous parents." It sounds like an excuse to party and a place to go if you don't want to learn real stuff and read boring textbooks. The advertising has been funny, and is clearly aimed straight at teens and young adults - the bread and butter of the film industry. But there are two things working against it, holding it back. First is that it is only rated PG-13 (i.e., no gratuitous nudity). Second is that its release date was recently moved and it is going up against the behemoth known as Snakes on a Plane.

Opening weekend: $13 million.

7) Barnyard

It has become so prevalent and so ubiquitous in recent times that it now warrants its own subgenre: the CGI animated movie featuring talking bugs or animals. And CGI films in general have seemingly hit the wall lately. It would only be a slight exaggeration to say that a new one is released every single week, and audiences are starting to take notice. What was once a license to print money, has become almost as much a risk as any other film genre. After the great success of Ice Age: The Meltdown, Cars, and Over the Hedge (each of which has passed over $150 million total domestically), July's Monster House ($22 million opening) did only moderately, and then The Ant Bully was a total flop ($8 million). Several other smaller pictures (such as Hoodwinked or The Wild) have shown underwhelming results, at best. So where does this leave Barnyard, other than in the category of the CGI animated movie featuring talking bugs or animals? At this point, unless it's Shrek, Pixar, or Ice Age, it's going to have to really stand out. This one does not, so expect it settle in somewhere between the box office of the July animated releases.

Opening weekend: $13 million.

8) Pulse

Pushed around on the release schedule several times, Pulse finally sees the light of day this August from The Weinstein Co. It is a remake of a Japanese horror film, a "wireless" thriller that imagines what would happen if wireless technologies (such as cell phones or email) could connect to a world outside our own. When a computer hacker finds a mysterious signal, it sets off a chain of events wherein any time you use one of these technologies, your life is in danger. Kristen Bell (of TV's Veronica Mars) stars, along with Ian Somerhalder (formerly of Lost). With a script co-written by Wes Craven, Pulse should provide plenty of late-Summer nourishment to horror buffs. The plot might sound too cerebral and weighty, which could limit its chances at cracking the magical $20 million threshold for horror films.

Opening weekend: $12 million.

9) How to Eat Fried Worms

Growing up it seemed that nearly everyone had read How to Eat Fried Worms in elementary school. The icky-sounding title is a childhood classic, and now the beloved story from Thomas Rockwell has been adapted for the big screen. For better or worse, the cast is made up of a bunch of unknown child actors, with perhaps the most familiar name being Hallie Kate Eisenberg, who was a short-lived sensation in a series of Pepsi commercials in the late '90s. Unfortunately books like this, and others such as Judy Blume's Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, appear to have gone out of style in favor of bigger ones like Harry Potter. In an interesting twist, the theatrical fate of the film may well rest on how many adults who fondly remember the story show enough interest and curiosity to drag their kids to see it.

Opening weekend: $9 million.

10) Material Girls

Real-life sisters Hilary and Haylie Duff star as fictional sisters in Material Girls. The two are heiresses to their family's cosmetics fortune (at least they didn't make it a hotel chain), but after an investigation they lose everything. Being the Hollywood focus group, formulaic picture that it is, they obviously didn't do anything wrong though so they set out to uncover the real perpetrators. It almost sounds a variation of the plot of the Richie Rich movie.

Opening weekend: $7 million.

Just Under the Radar

Beerfest

From the people who brought you Super Troopers and Club Dread comes ...Beerfest! If you are still reading this after that sentence, then this one should be high on your radar. The Broken Lizard comedy is about a couple of Americans who discover a secret beer-drinking competition in Germany. They return home and spend the next year training for the contest.

Factotum

This independent drama stars Academy Award nominee Matt Dillon as a writer in 1940s Los Angeles. Aside from writing, he moves from one odd job to the next as he tries to feed his addiction of alcohol, gambling, and women.

The Night Listener

Robin Williams, the comedian who has made a sort of second career out of playing dramatic film roles (such as Good Will Hunting, Insomnia, and One Hour Photo), stars in The Night Listener. He plays an author and radio personality who develops a close relationship with a young listener (Rory Culkin). But the identity of the young man begins to raise questions and the radio man's life is spun upside down.

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


     


 
 

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