August Forecast

By John Hamann

Ah, the eighth month. Home of either innovative, idea-based movies, or more junk for the Wal-Mart $2.99 bin. August has always been the bottom-feeder month of summer. Last year The Adventures of Pluto Nash opened and set an August record for the lowest opening weekend gross for a film released on more than 2,000 screens. The Eddie Murphy flop took in only $2.2 million from 2,320 venues. There are a lucky 13 wide releases this August. How many will have Pluto Nash type results?

1. S.W.A.T. - August 8th

After a summer of sequels, North American audiences are hungry for new meat at theatres. Sony and Original Film's S.W.A.T. may fill the bill, as it has some name recognition with older audiences due to the TV show and has a very hot promotional campaign aimed at the younger set. S.W.A.T. also employs some very familiar names; the cast includes Samuel L. Jackson and Colin Farrell as well as LL Cool J and Michelle Rodriguez. The last two years have proven that the right property can break out in August, as both Rush Hour 2 and Signs opened over $60 million. Can S.W.A.T. find that kind of success? My quick answer is no. Rush Hour 2 had a huge built-in audience, and Signs had one of the best marketing campaigns ever. On the other hand, most of the straight action flicks released in July will be slowing, so the audience for S.W.A.T. should be primed by the time its release date hits. S.W.A.T. will open on its own August 8th; its only "competition" is Disney's Freaky Friday, which will have opened two days earlier. Lastly, word-of-mouth on this one could be decent, which would be a refreshing change from the usual summer blockbuster. Ebert & Roeper both appear ready to give it a thumbs up and that can go a long way in the marketing of the film. According to IMDb, S.W.A.T. cost Sony a relatively cheap $70 million, and should make a large part of that back opening weekend.

Open: $50 million

2. American Wedding - August 1st

It's hard to believe that this will be the third American Pie movie in four years. The Universal franchise has quietly become an international phenomenon; the first two films took in $247 million domestically, and over $520 million worldwide. Those are stunning grosses compared to the small investment made by the production company. The first two films cost only $42 million combined, which makes this franchise one of the shrewdest movie investments ever for Universal Films. The marketing for the third film seems to be working; early buzz seems positive so far. I'm a little hesitant to say that it will gross more than the second American Pie film, mostly due to the title choice (does a 15-year-old kid want to sneak into a film called American Wedding?). I'm also wondering if the built-in audience will still show up since half the cast is MIA. However, the sequel's opening gross of $45 million was a surprise, as was Austin Powers in Goldmember, so I'm going to hedge my bets and say it beats the sophomore entry in the series by a nose.

Open: $47 million

3. Freaky Friday - August 6th (Wednesday)

Is it August 2001 all over again? The eighth month in 2001 started with the release of The Princess Diaries (with American Pie 2 following a week later); it was Disney's angle on the lucrative teen girl movie market. TPD was a huge surprise; it found $22.9 million over its opening weekend, and held its audience well enough to gross $100 million by the end of its run. This set the stage for Freaky Friday, the Jamie Lee Curtis/Linday Lohan remake. Like TPD, Freaky has had some very positive preview screenings, and the trailer was attached to some lucrative Disney flicks like Finding Nemo and Pirates of the Caribbean. My question is whether Freaky Friday will behave like TPD, or more like The Parent Trap, which opened smaller ($11.1 million). I say everything works here, and Disney recoups its $26 million production budget in the first five days of release. Freaky opens on a Wednesday, so expect its opening Friday-Sunday gross to soften somewhat.

Open: $19 million

4. Freddy vs Jason - August 15th

I debated a lot about where to put this one on my list, as its very hard to tell at this point whether or not audiences will come out en-masse to see this one. August has had some success with horror and with pop culture-based material. The successful horror films in August list is actually quite long even if we disregard Signs and The Sixth Sense. Hollow Man and Spawn both grossed more than $20 million over their respective opening weekends, and The Cell, Blade, Halloween H20, and Jeepers Creepers all found more than $15 million in their opening frames. The question is whether audiences have already had their fill of Voorhees and Krueger. It's been almost ten years since Freddy has been on screen, and Jason X wasn't as hot as distributor New Line had hoped; it opened to only $6.7 million. So, will the match between the two super-villains result in box office success? I don't think so, but a decent opening weekend isn't out of the question.

Open: $18 million

5. Jeepers Creepers 2 - August 29th

I know the question most of us are asking is why MGM, why? Why are you putting us through this, again? Easy answer: $$$$. It's been two years since MGM surprised us with their little film that could, and the studio has come back to the faucet for more. The question is, was the first film popular enough to spawn a sequel? It shouldn't matter. Jeepers 1 cost MGM only $10 million, and made $13 million over its opening weekend. Creepers 2 cost $25 million, and this time around won't make its budget back opening weekend, but will still be successful no matter what after its DVD/video release.

Open: $12 million

6. Uptown Girls - August 15th

Can Girl Power resurface after the disastrous Charlie's Angels 2 and the disappointing Legally Blonde 2? Brittany Murphy is taking her winning streak out for a solo test drive with Uptown Girls, which also stars young Dakota Fanning and Heather Locklear. Uptown Girls is MGM's only non-sequel movie of the summer, and the studio hopes to pile onto Murphy's current big-time winning streak. The young blonde star has had four consecutive wide releases gross more than $10 million, dating back to Don't Say A Word (open: $17.5 million) which was released in September 2001. Since then, her wide releases have included Riding in Cars with Boys (open: $10.4 million), 8 Mile (open: $51.2 million) and Just Married (open: $17.5 million), so there is some name recognition there. However, Uptown Girls will be her first "solo" movie, where there is no other major star involved to help keep the grosses up. MGM needs a hit, but can Uptown Girls find a foothold in a month already busy with comedies? I'm going to say yes, but hedge my bet with a proposed $10 million opening.

Open: $10 million

7. My Boss's Daughter - August 22nd

Although this feels more like Stealing Harvard than Just Married, I just can't bet against Ashton Kutcher. These days I think Kutcher can even quasi-open a "dumped" film. Just Married didn't look like much leading up to its opening weekend last January. However, as I said above, it still grossed $17.5 million in its first three days, although it did have a very funny trailer and TV ad. This time out, Tara Reid takes over for Brittany Murphy, which is probably not good news as Murphy was coming off of the huge 8 Mile. Reid hasn't had a hit since her small role in American Pie 2 (and she's notably absent from American Wedding). Boss's Daughter is from Dimension Films, which already has a hit this summer with Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over; let's see if they can turn the trick again with a comedy this time.

Open: $9 million

8. Gigli - August 2nd

While it will probably be one of the worst-reviewed movies of the year, I think Bennifer fans will still turn out opening weekend for this one, dreck or not. "Bennifer" is the new slang term for the Jennifer Lopez/Ben Affleck combo, and is reminiscent of Billy Talent's sell-out band in Hard Core Logo. The two have marketed themselves very well to the popcorn press over the last year, and Bennifer now has two films due out over the next several months, Gigli and Jersey Girl. Gigli has been sold very poorly; Sony seems to be working hard, trying to draw the pair's fanbase, and then be done with it. Sadly, I think the fanbase is there to open this in the mid to high single digits, despite some of the worst word-of-mouth ever. The film reminds me of Sweet November, the truly awful melodramatic teaming of Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron. November had 14 positive reviews out of a possible 95, and Gigli should do no better. The thing is, November still racked up $11 million opening weekend.

Open: $8 million

9. The Medallion - August 22nd

I liked this better when it was called Highbinders. Even though Jackie Chan has been almost a $10+ million guarantee lately, I'm just not getting the warm and fuzzy feeling about this one. For a plot summary, visit the preview page here at BOP, as it's too long and involved for me to repeat here. The late August release date rings an alarm bell, Jackie works well in early August, but late August can be the death knell for a movie like this ones. I'll let BOP's Jackie Chan fans convince you that this will open better than what I think.

Open: $6 million

10. Open Range - August 15th

Kevin Costner is back on the Range again this summer, and the question is, does anyone care? Early marketing reaction has involved a lot of eye rolling and cries of "Again?" Costner's last western was the poorly received Wyatt Earp, which opened to $7.5 million in June 1994. Open Range, at this point in my mind, looks to do even worse.

Open: $5 million

Most of the wide releases not making my list don't look awful, they just don't have enough punch to open strongly. "Misses with potential" are Shaolin Soccer, which has a great trailer, but certainly is an odd film to sell. Others are Grind, the new skateboarding movie from WB that feels like it's a year too late, and Marci X, the new film with Friend Lisa Kudrow.

  • Read Marty Doskins' August forecast
  • Read David Mumpower's August forecast