December Forecast

By Stephanie Star Smith

1. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

This is probably as close to a no-brainer as one gets with box office prognostication. The second film in a trilogy, based on books beloved by millions and eagerly anticipated by a fervent fan-base easily as fanatical as any Star Wars fan, Two Towers is reportedly more faithful to its source material and more action-oriented. Certainly the trailer speaks of lots and lots of battles, whereas Fellowship of the Ring was mostly lots and lots of walking. I expect Jackson, Tolkien and Company to take the 2002 box office crown away from both Attack of the Clones and Spider-Man. And while I don't buy into the Oscar talk going round in some circles, I expect Two Towers to be with us well into the new year.

2. Catch Me If You Can

As I said, two and three were toughies, but Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg give the edge to Catch Me. In fact, it's difficult to imagine the film being anything but successful, especially when you add to the powerhouse star and director the fact that the true story on which it is based is such an intriguing and unique tale.

If there's one big debit on the books - other than a trailer that, according to some reports, does the film no service - it's that the lead is being played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who, as mentioned earlier, is hardly the hot box office draw he once was. Catch Me might also have been better served if DreamWorks had gone the platform-release route, building word-of-mouth much as they did for Road to Perdition this past summer.

I think the key here will be Hanks, who I'm beginning to think could bring in audiences to watch an hour-and-a-half of him doing the proverbial reading of the phone book. His role as FBI Agent Carl Hanratty is much more in keeping with his image than was Michael Sullivan in Perdition, and Hanks managed to lead that dark film to surprising-to-analysts success earlier in the year. I have no doubts he'll do as much for Catch Me, and the probable Oscar nomination or two coming the film's way should also provide a boost.

3. Analyze That

The number two and three slots were hard to pin down, as both films have a great deal to recommend them. In the end, I had to give the edge to the Hanks/Spielberg team, but it was a close call. Robert DeNiro and Billy Crystal reprise their roles from the first film, with Mafia don DeNiro once again needing psychiatrist Crystal's help

Analyze This being the surprise hit that it was in 1999, it was only natural that Warner Bros. would want a sequel. The first film was also quite the boost to both DeNiro's and Crystal's careers; in fact, DeNiro's new-found reputation as a comic actor was born with Analyze This. But I don't think this pair can beat the three-of-a-kind of Hanks/Spielberg/DiCaprio, even if the latter is about the level of a deuce career-wise. Add in the fact that sequels generally do less business than the original film and that sealed Analyze That's relegation to number three. Of course, rules are made to be broken, and if the last few years of box office have taught us nothing else, it's that historic trends go right out the window when a product warrants. If the material is fresh enough, Analyze That just might outdo its predecessor, but even if it doesn't achieve that feat, the film will certainly give Warner Bros. a lot to celebrate this Christmas from a box office standpoint.

4. Two Weeks Notice

Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock in a romantic comedy. How can you go wrong?

Well, if the scuttlebutt is to be believed, somehow the makers of this movie did. However, early ads look promising, and there seems to be definite chemistry between the leads. Given the track records of each when it comes to rom-coms, it's hard to imagine this one doing a complete crash-and-burn, and with the boost to sweet, heartwarming tales that December usually brings, this should manage not to tarnish either star’s box office clout. And who knows? Scuttlebutt has been wrong before.

5. The Hot Chick

Rob Schneider keeps making films, and people keep going to see them. I've never gotten the appeal of the guy, but they, at least he's not Pauly Shore. And if it will keep Shore from making more films, I'm more than happy to advocate going to see Schneider's latest, even if it is the umpteenth retread of Goodbye, Charlie. The trailer looks...adequate, likely even funny, if you're amused by Rob Schneider. Which I'm not.

Whoever thought the Copy Guy would be a hit in the movies?

6. Star Trek: Nemesis

Well, at least it's an even-numbered Trek film, so that's something.

Honestly, I'm not a fan of Next Gen, so I have absolutely no interest in this film. But the reason it's low on the list is that even Next Gen fans I've talked to aren't all that excited about the film. The attitude seems to be, "Yeah, there'll be Borg, so I'll probably see it, but it just doesn't look all that great."

Note to Paramount: If you have any hopes of salvaging the Trek franchise, lose Rick Berman. NOW. His deal with Satan must be about to expire anyway.

Oh, and have him take Brannon Braga with him while you're at it.

7. The Wild Thornberrys

I don't have kids and I'm not big on animation, but apparently this is another popular cartoon from Nickelodeon that is making the jump to the big screen.

So far, Nickelodeon has been batting .333. The Rugrats was a pretty big hit, but Doug's First Movie and Hey Arnold! The Movie didn't make much of an impact. Purportedly there's more of a following for the Wild Thornberrys, including some adult fans, so this might tip more towards the Rugrats end of the scale. Plus you've got all the little kidlets out for Christmas vacation and parents looking for someplace to park the little darlings while Mommy and Daddy go shopping. Which basically means either this or Pinocchio, and I'm liking the toons' chances better.

Then again, if The Santa Clause 2 and/or Treasure Planet are still around, The Wild Thornberrys might just get left in the dust.

8. Antwone Fisher

The true story of an angry young man who finds his way to a happier life thanks to his Navy psychiatrist, Fisher makes the list thanks to its co-star and director, Denzel Washington. Granted, this is his first time behind the camera, but his name on the marquee can't fail to bring in some bucks, especially following his Oscar win. Not a blockbuster, to be sure, but it will undoubtedly make a middling splash in the December box office pool.

9. Pinocchio

A live-action version of the classic fairy tale, starring Italy's answer to Jerry Lewis, Roberto Benigni.

Where do I begin?

Actually, I'm giving this one a slot because it is a children's film released during the holiday season. And the teaser for this made the film look a bit less God-awful than it sounds on first read. Given the time of year and the subject matter, this should do a nice bit of business, although I don't think Two Towers has anything to worry about.

10. Gangs of New York, Maid in Manhattan (tie)

It was a toss-up which films I see as the bottom of the December box office barrel were going to make the list and which would be eliminated, and these two made it by virtue of their respective casts.

Gangs of New York might have been quite the blockbuster, had it been released in the fall of 2001 as it was originally slated. But given it's been doing the Release Date Shuffle practically since it was in production, coupled with the fact that rumors of tensions on the set and poor advance screenings abound, I doubt even the name Martin Scorsese above the title will bring much of a boost. And Leonardo DiCaprio seems to have peaked with Titanic; it appears to have been all downhill in terms of box office since. Still, there's no denying the considerable pull these two gentlemen once had, so if the film doesn't stink up the place, it's bound to make a few bob.

Maid in Manhattan seems to rest solely on the shoulders of Jennifer "I want to beat Liz Taylor's marriage record before I'm 40" Lopez, at least judging from the minimal marketing I've seen to date. The storyline - yet *another* Cinderella-type tale where true love makes us all equal - is hardly fresh, and it doesn't appear to be handled with anything other than a yeoman effort. But Lopez does seem to bring in the crowds, at least to some extent, and sugary-sweet love stories do have a hallowed place in holiday box office, so one can't entirely count this one out. Although if it sees the New Year, I'll be quite surprised.

  • Read Tim Briody's December forecast
  • Read Walid Habboub's December forecast
  • Read Kim Hollis' December forecast
  • Read David Mumpower's December forecast



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