September 2006 Forecast
By Michael Bentley
September 2, 2006
1) Jackass: Number 2
The love-it or hate-it comedy mis-adventure is back for number two. Originally an MTV series, Jackass features Johnny Knoxville and his posse, including Bam Margera, Steve-O, and Chris Pontius. The whole point is for them to perform outrageous, ridiculous, juvenile, and often dangerous stunts ...all in the name of comedy. The first film from 2002 was a surprise box office hit, garnering over $22 million in its opening frame. While the coolness factor may have leveled off a bit since then, Knoxville and the gang still have a sizeable number of fans which should help clear a path to another winner.
Opening weekend prediction: $21 million.
2) The Black Dahlia
The big draw behind The Black Dahlia - other than the strong lead actors, the director, or the fact that it's based on the story of the most famous unsolved murder in California history - is that it is from the man who wrote critically lauded and fan favorite L.A. Confidential. Both films are from famed author James Ellroy's so-called "L.A. Quartet," which also includes books The Big Nowhere and White Jazz. The Black Dahlia was the first one published in the quartet, and is about two L.A. cops (played by Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart) who head the search for the vicious killer of an actress. Hilary Swank and Scarlett Johansson also star in Brian De Palma's film, his first since 2002's Femme Fatale.
Confidential also opened in the middle of September, and made $5 million to start (though in only moderately wide release), though it showed phenomenal legs amidst its award hype and excellent word-of-mouth and ended with over $60 million in domestic grosses. But that was also nine years ago. Confidential has become ever bigger on home video and cable. The autumn season is perhaps the biggest time of year for smart, adult dramas, and this could very well be the hit of the '06 season as it aims for the same success that L.A. Confidential had.
Opening weekend: $20 million.
3) Open Season
Yet another CGI animated movie about talking creatures. When will it end?! This time, in Open Season, a large grizzly bear (voiced by Martin Lawrence) and a mule deer (Ashton Kutcher) end up trapped in the middle of the woods during hunting season. The pair befriend one another and try to join forces with other animals to defeat the bad humans. (1) People buy tickets, then (2) buy the DVD, (3) studios make a similar film, (4) repeat ad nauseam.
Opening weekend: $17 million.
4) Gridiron Gang
It's kind of funny; football is easily the most popular sport in the United States and yet, with few exceptions, the popularity has not translated well to movies. There have been some good quality football flicks but by and large they have performed only modestly in theaters. Only three have cracked the $100 million mark in total U.S. box office. Two of these were Adam Sandler comedies (The Waterboy and The Longest Yard) and the third was Remember the Titans. With Gridiron Gang, Dwayne Johnson, once known as The Rock and one of the most popular superstars in wrestling history, hopes to change that.
Opening weekend: $17 million.
5) The Guardian
Ashton Kutcher is competing against himself this month, as both this and Open Season are scheduled to open on the same weekend. Andrew Davis, director of smash hit The Fugitive, directs The Guardian, about a young man (Kutcher) who enlists in the Coast Guard and is mentored by a hardened veteran of the team (Kevin Costner).
It should be able to perform similarly as April's The Sentinel, which paired Michael Douglas with recent Emmy winner Kiefer Sutherland. That action-drama managed a $14 million opening, and this should score a similar take ...unless all the Ashton Kutcher fans opt to see him play a deer instead, in which case it might perform more like January's Annapolis, which quickly sunk with less than $8 million.
Opening weekend: $13 million.
6) The Wicker Man
The Wicker Man is a remake of a 1973 British horror film. In this update, Nicolas Cage stars as a detective investigating the disappearance of a young girl. His search takes him to a remote island, where he discovers that the island's mysterious natives practice an unusual pagan religion. But as he digs deeper, he finds that both his life and the missing girl's might be in danger.
As with nearly any remake, there are going to be groans and anger from fans of the original. But in the horror genre, it is actually getting difficult to find a film that has not been updated or remade in some fashion. Director Neil LaBute seems like an odd choice for this task, as his previous work hasn't given much indication that he would ever make a horror or thriller, as his films have included things like Nurse Betty and In the Company of Men. But maybe some fresh blood is just what is needed, and with Cage in the picture it is sure to draw some attention from moviegoers. The genre seems to have been inundated so much lately that the $20 million mark seems to have been lowered, but it still seems a good bet to make a profit in the end.
Opening weekend: $13 million.
7) Jet Li's Fearless
Chinese action star Jet Li has become one of the most dependable names in Hollywood in recent years. A quick perusal of his last six film openings in the U.S. have looked like this: $18 million (Romeo Must Die), $13 million (Kiss of the Dragon), $19 million (The One), $17 million (Cradle 2 the Grave), $18 million (Hero), and $11 million (Unleashed). In martial-arts epic Fearless, the actor stars as China's most famous fighter near the beginning of the 20th century. Giving fans exactly what they want again, there doesn't seem to be much reason to expect Fearless to fall outside of Li's recent performances.
Opening weekend: $13 million.
8) All the King's Men
It's not too often that a studio would have the gall to remake an Oscar winning film. The 1949 picture, from the acclaimed novel by Robert Penn Warren, won three awards, including Best Picture. The story told the sensational rise (and eventual fall) of a Southern politician, whose everyman idealism quickly loses out to corruption and the allure of power.
Now, more than half a century later, the time must have seemed right for a remake. But with director Steven Zaillian (A Civil Action; plus screenplays for Schindler's List and Gangs of New York) and a very impressive cast including Sean Penn, Jude Law, and Kate Winslet, this will surely also be making a play at the big prize. Hopefully the year-long delay won't portend bad things about the film's quality, though...
Opening weekend: $11 million.
In Crank, Jason Statham (The Transporter) stars as Chev Chelios, porn star. Er... rather as a man injected with a poison that will kill him if his heart rate drops below a certain point (think Speed), so he must keep his adrenaline going, while seeking revenge on the bad guys and trying to find a cure. His name only sounds like an adult film star. How will this fact affect its box office? I don't know, but the nonstop action should help and will likely attract plenty of teen and young adult males.
Opening weekend: $10 million.
Amazingly, there is not just one (The Black Dahlia) but two films being released in September featured famous unsolved deaths from the L.A. area. And, even more amazingly, both films sound very good. Hollywoodland is about the case of George Reeves, the man who played Superman on TV in the 1950s. After the show ended mid-decade, Reeves (played by Ben Affleck) found himself typecast. In June 1959, just days before he was to be married, he was found dead. It was initially ruled a suicide, but other mysterious circumstances surrounding the death, have caused controversy to this very day.
Hollywoodland also stars Oscar winner Adrien Brody and Diane Lane and was directed by Allen Coulter, a veteran of several acclaimed HBO series such as Sex and the City and The Sopranos. Assuming the movie is as good as it sounds, it might very well show legs throughout the fall.
Opening weekend: $7 million.
Just Under the Radar
Viewers of series Project Greenlight should be familiar with this film. Feast, from contest winners John Gulager (the director), and Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton (the writers), was the result of the third (and apparently final) season of the project. The horror-comedy is about a group of people locked inside a bar as they fight monsters to survive.
Long awaited, long delayed, and having undergone a couple name changes, Mike Judge's Idiocracy finally hits theaters. Luke Wilson stars as an average man who is frozen and awakens a thousand years later to find that society has become so stupid that he is the smartest man alive. Judge's genius and acerbic wit has given us Beavis and Butthead, Office Space, and King of the Hill, and hopefully this can be added to the list as well.
This Film is Not Yet Rated
It is remarkable (but not surprising) that a controversial documentary titled This Film is Not Yet Rated is believed by most people to have a rating of NC-17 (perhaps through the agenda of the MPAA themselves?), though in fact this is not true and the film is simply unrated. Kirby Dick takes a hard look at the secretive, and often hypocritical, ratings system and the select group of people behind it.
* Please note that all opening weekend estimates are preliminary and do not account for final screen counts.