October 2006 Forecast
By Michael Bentley
1) Saw III
It has become an annual tradition every holiday season: just prior to Halloween, a new Saw movie will be released into theaters. In 2004 the first Saw opened to some $18 million, before settling in with a healthy $55 million (not too shabby, for a relatively modest budget). Last year, Saw II proved it was a verifiable franchise and clobbered theatergoers into giving up $87 million, with $31 million of that in its opening frame. Add on a couple mil. for inflation and you should have a pretty good idea of what this will do.
Opening weekend prediction: $33 million.
2) The Grudge 2
The first Grudge, a tepid remake of a Japanese horror film, came seemingly out of nowhere two years ago and posted a portly $39 million opening. Star Sarah Michelle Gellar only gets a small role this time though, handing the film over to Amber Tamblyn, who plays Gellar's character's sister. Takashi Shimuzi is back in charge though, as he also directed the original Japanese Grudge and its sequel (called Ju-on) and the Americanized Grudge.
It certainly has hopes of duplicating the box office success of the original, and may be able to shoot for something similar to The Ring Two's opening of $35 million if the wind blows just the right way. I don't expect it to quite get there, though, as the loss of Gellar as the central figure will hurt some.
Opening weekend: $26 million.
3) Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
Seeing a pattern here? Releasing a horror film in October is pretty much a license to print money.
Opening weekend: $23 million.
4) The Departed
For all the acclaim he has received, and fans that he has picked up along the way, Martin Scorsese has never been a real box office threat. He has just one $100 million domestic gross under his belt (The Aviator, which nudged past the mark courtesy of its Oscar hopes). Though Marty has arguably never worked with such a fine cast. Jack Nicholson (amazingly, working with Scorsese for the very first time), Matt Damon, and Leo DiCaprio (the new Robert De Niro) headline the story, which is actually a remake of Infernal Affairs, a four-year old Hong Kong film. Supporting stars include Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, and Alec Baldwin.
At the heart of the story are two men; one is a mobster (Damon) who has managed to become a police officer in Boston and the other is an undercover cop (DiCaprio) who has infiltrated the mafia. Jack is the mafia boss. What else more needs to be said?
Opening weekend: $19 million.
5) Flags of Our Fathers
And in the fifth spot this month is the next film from another legendary filmmaker, Clint Eastwood with Flags of Our Fathers. In case you aren't familiar with the movie, it is a very ambitious project. The film tells the heroic tale of the six men from the famous photograph of the flag raising at the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II. It is certainly a bit of a departure for Eastwood, whose last few films have been more character study without a ton of action.
That all sounds great, but Eastwood is topping that by also telling the story of the battle from the Japanese perspective. Yes, just a few months later, Letters from Iwo Jima will be released and will even be in the Japanese language. How, if at all, that will affect Flags of Our Fathers, I'm not sure. But I do know that history buffs, Eastwood fans, and people looking for well-made adult drama should be in for a treat. The chance of Clint being a presence at this year's Oscar ceremony is extremely high.
Opening weekend: $16 million.
6) Man of the Year
Over the past few years, especially in this volatile and often-nasty political climate, many fans of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart have clamored for the funnyman to run for President. Certainly some are just joking or having fun, but many are serious. The man just seems to get it. In Man of the Year, Robin Williams will try to capture that feeling as the host of a politically oriented late-night talk show who decides to throw his hat into the presidential mix. He never expected to win ...but he does. The farce also stars Christopher Walken and Lewis Black (himself a graduate of The Daily Show). Given Williams' track record in recent years with making comedy films, it may not be as good as it sounds, but you can bet that plenty of people will want to see it. Exactly how many though, will likely depend on early word-of-mouth.
Opening weekend: $13 million.
7) The Prestige
The Prestige, from director Christopher Nolan, is about two magicians during the late 19th century who were once friends but become bitter rivals after one of them starts to perform feats that were once only imaginable. The high-star wattage picture includes Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, and even David Bowie. Bale, of course, worked with Nolan on Batman Begins. And Nolan has developed quite a "following", as his features have all gradually increased box office from one to the next. With a strong trailer that is sure to spark plenty of interest from adult crowds, this could be a sizeable hit (though obviously not surpassing Batman Begins).
On the other hand... it's just like Hollywood to release movies with similar (or even identical) themes or plots within such a short span of time. I always think of Antz and A Bug's Life. Just a month or so after the release of The Illusionist, another film featuring a magician is coming our way (whereas, before you could probably count on one hand the number of movies that were primarily about a magician). Certainly the stories in The Illusionist and The Prestige are quite different, but one can't help but wonder if people who saw or remember the former will see a magician and think "do I really need to see this one too?"
Opening weekend: $12 million.
8) Employee of the Month
With a cast led by Jessica Simpson, Dane Cook, and Dax Shepard, how could you possibly go wrong??
Opening weekend: $9 million.
9) Marie Antoinette
If nothing else, Sofia Coppola's films have been all over the place. First she had a very solemn and dramatic look at a family of doomed sisters in The Virgin Suicides. Then a heartfelt look at middle age and being at a crossroad in life in the award-winning Lost in Translation. Now, in her third film, she moves onto historical drama with Marie Antoinette. It is - as evidenced by the new wave choice of music in the trailers - a highly stylized look at the infamous young queen of France who reigned during the tumultuous 1700s. The love-her or hate-her Kirsten Dunst stars as the title character and Jason Schwartzman is her husband, King Louis XVI.
The box office picture is a little murky, as Lost in Translation had just $4 million in its first wide weekend. The demographics will definitely skew older and probably female as well. But it could be a solid long-term hit if the reviews are strong. Something on the positive side of LiT's final take of about $45 million should probably be deemed a success.
Opening weekend: $8 million.
10) The Marine
John Cena, WWE wrestling star, is The Marine. Or, rather, a marine who comes home from fighting in Iraq to find his girlfriend (Kelly Carlson) has been kidnapped. John Bonito directs in his feature debut. After the failures of From Justin to Kelly and even American Dreamz, you can pretty much count out American Idol watchers as being reliable for watching movies. So the movie will likely appeal first and foremost to wrestling fans, though it could score a number of teens and young adults who just want some solid action.
Opening weekend: $7 million.
Just Under the Radar
Catch a Fire
Director Philip Noyce's latest is Catch a Fire, the story about a young man (Derek Luke) in 1980s South Africa who becomes an anti-apartheid fighter. Tim Robbins also stars.
Just last year, Philip Seymour Hoffman won an Oscar for his betrayal of In Cold Blood author Truman Capote in Capote. But, apparently that wasn't enough and yet another film will look at the story from another angle. Relative unknown Toby Jones stars in Infamous.
(Resists urge to make Mark Foley joke...) Little Children is from director Todd Field, of 2001's critically acclaimed In the Bedroom. Once again Field tries to capture the dark side of suburban life in a story about young married people who live seemingly reputable lives, but ...that isn't exactly the case. The cast includes Kate Winslet and Jennifer Connelly.
* Please note that all opening weekend estimates are preliminary and do not account for final screen counts.