November Forecast

By Kim Hollis

1. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets ($320 million)

For a period of six months, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was the highest-opening film in history. It accumulated a jaw-dropping $90.3 million in its first three days, and went on to gross $317.6 million in North America. Worldwide, it's the second-highest-grossing film of all time.

Fast forward one year later. The first Potter film has been dethroned by Spider-Man as opening-weekend box office champ, and we're still waiting for J.K. Rowling to finish Book Five. Has the luster surrounding the series died somewhat? Probably. Even so, the first film amassed an amazing $90.6 million in video rentals. It grossed $187 million in video/DVD sales in its first week alone. It's pretty clear that demand for the film remained high even after it left theaters and the phenomenon died down somewhat.

Nonetheless, there's no doubt that a simultaneous launch of Book Five and the second film in the beloved Harry Potter series would have made for spectacular publicity. Instead, Chamber of Secrets is faced with winning over a fickle audience that quickly moves on to shinier things. Additionally, Sorcerer's Stone was generally received positively, but not remembered as particularly magical or special. I expect this film to open slightly lower (in the $75-80 million range), but with positive reviews and audience response, to be a wonderful anchor for the holiday season.

2. Die Another Day ($130 million)

James Bond returns to theaters with the 20th installment of the storied series about a super-spy with a license to kill. As always, the plot will take 007 through a variety of exotic and worldly locales, including Hong Kong, Cuba and London, as he seeks to reveal a traitor and prevent a disastrous war. Pierce Brosnan will be making his final Bond appearance, ending a very strong run in a role that has been played to varying degrees of success by a number of different actors over the past 40 years.

Lending support and adding a potential box office boost is last year's Academy Award® winner for Best Actress, Halle Berry. With trailers and commercials emphasizing how terrific she looks in a bathing suit, along with the action and quips that are standard for the series, Die Another Day should fall right in line with the box office performance of its predecessors and provide welcome relief for a struggling MGM.

3. 8 Mile ($125 million)

Eminem's acting debut is going to be absolutely huge. Not only is it going to appeal to teens and young adults who are solidly in the demographic for his music, but cinephiles who have enjoyed the fine work of Academy Award® winner Curtis Hanson will turn out to see what he's done with the volatile young man.

For anyone who believes that Eminem is a flash-in-the-pan recording artist (see: Vanilla Ice), they need only to look at his appearance on the MTV music awards for proof of his mystique. Even as the audience booed him at times, everyone in the auditorium was waiting with bated breath to see what he would do next. Taking things a bit further, though it's not a perfect indicator, Eminem sits at number two on Yahoo!'s Buzz Index, which ranks subjects based on the frequency of searches. As if that wasn't enough, reports that passes for early screenings of 8 Mile were being scalped for $100 and up certainly seem to indicate an urgency and fascination that is generally reserved only for sporting events and concerts.

Universal has done a terrific job marketing the film, with moody commercials and trailers that prominently feature an Eminem soundtrack that sets 8 Mile's tone. With early reviews proving to be quite positive (Surprise! Eminem can act!), this is a film that is going to make a big splash at the box office and possibly at the end-of-year awards ceremonies.

4. Solaris ($120 million)

Featuring the combined talents and power of George Clooney, Steven Soderbergh and James Cameron, Solaris is a remake of a 1972 Russian film that is largely unknown to the movie-going populace. A brooding and heavy sci-fi tale about a mission on a planet that is home to some vague form of intelligence, the main character in the tale is sent out to the planet to replace a scientist who mysteriously disappears. When he arrives, the station is rundown and the remaining scientists are non-responsive...and he also happens to run into his wife, who has been deceased for seven years.

20th Century Fox is taking a fascinating approach to the marketing of the Solaris, emphasizing the romance aspect rather than the sci-fi. For anyone seeing commercials, Solaris seems to be a dark and dreamy love story, and this tactic works. Where sci-fi films generally draw a very targeted and specific audience, expanding the demographic to women and older moviegoers is nothing short of a masterstroke. Long-term success will largely be determined by word-of-mouth, so it's going to be important that these ads follow through on their promises.

5. The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs Clause ($115 million)

Almost exactly eight years after the original film hit theaters, Tim Allen again appears as the Jolly One in The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs Clause, only this time, he's looking for a bride.

The Santa Clause, released in 1994, was a huge success at the box office, with its $144.8 million in final domestic box office proving that good family films are perfect releases for the holiday season. The past year, unfortunately, has not been particularly kind to the Tool Man, and the stigma of the failures of Joe Somebody and Big Trouble may still be attached to him in the minds of audiences.

Despite these recent troubles for the film's lead, Disney has done some savvy marketing by releasing The Santa Clause on special-edition DVD just as the sequel is about to hit theaters. Commercials are cute, though not particularly prevalent, and early reviews are just good enough to indicate that The Santa Clause 2 should be an audience-pleaser even if it's not quite a complete critical success. It's going to be a strong box office performer; however, I do expect it to follow the trend of most children's sequels and wind up with lower final receipts than the original.

6. Treasure Planet ($90 million)

Science-fiction cartoons are extraordinarily tough to sell (unless they have cute, fuzzy little aliens), and Disney is no stranger to this difficulty. In 2001, Atlantis: The Lost Empire fell well short of expectations, particularly in comparison to budget. Animation Department execs must therefore be feeling some level of trepidation with regards to the upcoming Treasure Planet, which reportedly had a budget of $100 million. Based on Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island, the movie is updated to take its pirates from the sea to outer space. Though early trailers were absolutely awe-inspiring for anyone who loves pretty animation, they weren't received very well by potential audiences.

Still, the Disney name is attached, and that always seems to inspire confidence in parents looking to take their children out for a day of family fun. Treasure Planet will probably have to wait for video release to fully recoup its production budget, but a solid long-term run during the profitable holiday season will go a long way toward getting it close to the mark.

7. Friday After Next ($55 million)

The third in the series of films about cousins Craig and Day Day (Ice Cube and Mike Epps), Friday After Next sees the pair finally moving out of their parents' houses and into their own place along with new jobs as night security guards at the local mall. When a thief robs their home on Christmas Eve, they work together to track him down.

Thus far, the Friday films have enjoyed spectacular success within their target demographic and a fair amount of crossover appeal to boot. In January of 2000, Next Friday even proved to be an opening weekend shocker to the majority of prognosticators, pulling in $21.5 million and doubling its production budget. It topped out at $55 million by the end of its run, and Friday After Next can be expected to follow a trend similar to this and any number of other comparable films of the genre.

8. I Spy ($42 million)

Let me make this perfectly clear: I love Owen Wilson more than almost any other performer in the business. He's an adaptable actor who is appealing in both funny and serious roles, though his forte is pretty clearly using his comic capabilities in films such as Bottle Rocket, Shanghai Noon, The Royal Tenenbaums and Zoolander. That's why in theory, I Spy seemed like a formula for success. A buddy film costarring one of Hollywood's most famous comedians and based on a terrific television series from the '60s should have been a blast.

Then we started seeing commercials.

Though Wilson and Eddie Murphy do seem to share a certain chemistry, from all appearances, the material they're forced to work with here is so painfully unfunny that they can't believe they're being asked to pull it off. I Spy is a film that wants to follow in the footsteps of predecessors like Rush Hour but it just doesn't feel like a hit.

Of course, Eddie Murphy's recent track record at the box office doesn't help matters any. Showtime, another buddy film that should have been good, couldn't even hit the $40 million mark for final box office, and the less said about The Adventures of Pluto Nash, the better. Audiences may be gun-shy when it comes to his stuff, and with very good reason. I Spy smells like a bomb, and only sneaks into the top ten at all by virtue of the fact that some of the other releases this month are even more repugnant.

9. Adam Sandler's 8 Crazy Nights ($38 million)

I honestly don't know exactly what to make of this film. It's an animated movie set during the eight nights of Chanukah, with Sandler himself voicing the three lead characters. The trailers and commercials aren't good, but I always hesitate to count any Sandler film out. His fans respond to him on a very basic level and they're quite loyal. That said, cartoons that are specifically targeted at adults are almost never successful. That's why I'm splitting the difference; I think just enough Sandler fans will support this film to give it a middling overall result.

10. The Emperor's Club ($36 million)

This film is my dark horse candidate to really catch on in popularity at the box office. The trailers evoke a real sense of Dead Poet's Society, but I've also seen it compared (favorably) to last year's indie success In the Bedroom. It's pretty clear that Universal Pictures sees this as a potential award contender, and though time will tell on that front, The Emperor's Club does relate the kind of mentor/student story to which audiences respond favorably; the aforementioned Dead Poet's Society, Good Will Hunting, and Finding Forrester are all perfect examples of previous films that have succeeded with precisely this formula. The Kevin Kline star vehicle isn't going to break any records, but it does have a lot of potential to be a surprise sleeper hit.

  • Read Tim Briody's November forecast
  • Read Walid Habboub's November forecast
  • Read Dan Krovich's November forecast
  • Read David Mumpower's November forecast
  • Read Stephanie Star Smith's November forecast
  • Read Calvin Trager's November forecast



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    Monday, October 18, 2021
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