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Tip of the Week: (Blog)

Category: P.S. I Love You News
Article Date: October 2, 2007 | Publication: Fantasy Moguls | Author: Mister Informative
Source: Fantasy Moguls

Posted by: DaisyMay


TIP OF THE WEEK: Charlie Wilson, a 'Golden Compass' and Other Reasons to Save Some Fantasy Moguls Money for December
by Mister Informative

Greetings, Moguls! Welcome to a back-on-schedule Tip of the Week. (Instead of Thursday or Friday, it's back on Tuesday. It feels ... comfortable, like returning home after a long vacation, or throwing on those old, worn-in workout pants that your wife wants to throw away, but you refuse because they're just so darn comfy. Wait, what's that? Dispense with the lame analogies? Fair enough.) Since the new October-December season has just been launched and begins this weekend, it opens up a whole new month of movies for Fantasy Moguls analysis. So, to capitalize, I'll take a look at nine December offerings that'll provide you the best value for the price: for from the Box Office Moguls game, four from Ultimate Movie Moguls, and one that's a good value in both games. These films aren't necessarily the best bargains — as you'll quickly find out with my first choice — but rather, the films that I think will provide you the most bang for your Moguls buck. (Stay away from using so many clichι phrases? Got it. Let's rock and roll. [Wink.])

First up is a film that reportedly represents the highest expenditure for New Line Cinema since the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I'm talking, of course, about His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass (Dec. 7), the first film to be adapted from another trilogy of fantasy stories, by author Phillip Pullman. (The other two are The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, if you were wondering, and New Line has optioned those for production as well.) Said Compass will run you $32 in Ultimate leagues, but that's a far cry from the $60 and $70 prices we saw for some of the summer's blockbusters. The first-weekend-in-December date is the same as was occupied by The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe two years ago, and though The Golden Compass is perhaps not as widely read as C.S. Lewis's books, the needle will still point to a similar family audience; it'll actually capture the demographic at which The Seeker is aiming (and will almost certainly fail to reach). Alvin and the Chipmunks skitters into theaters a week after The Golden Compass, but Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig and company should have no problem keeping the chipmunks at bay, even if they can sing Funkytown. The only real competition in the first two weeks comes from Leatherheads and I Am Legend, but Leatherheads, like John Krasinski's summer effort, License to Wed, looks to play second fiddle to the biggies. (It'll have moderate success, sure, but won't be any threat to top The Golden Compass at the box office.) And I Am Legend skews a bit older, audience-wise. The Golden Compass is sure to top $100 million in four weekends, and it'll get a nice holiday bounce, too. It's expensive, yes, but worth it.

While we're on December 7, let's move to Leatherheads, in which it appears that John Krasinski will shed his laidback persona from The Office and License to Wed, instead adopting the swagger of a hotshot, fresh-out-of-college professional football player. The catch? The story takes place in 1920. I haven't yet seen a trailer, but my only worry is that Renee Zellweger will squint too much and ruin it for me (not a big fan.) I like most of what George Clooney does, so his presence both in front of and behind the camera spells good things. (It did for Good Night and Good Luck, anyway, and I realize this is different, but I still respect the guy.) At $16 in Ultimate leagues, it's definitely not a bad pick — it's certainly better than Charlie Wilson's War, which'll also cost you $16, yet only has one weekend in theaters before the season ends. And if we're comparing football movies, Clooney and friends will top The Comebacks in every category. Leatherheads should do no worse than second place in its opening weekend, and should stay in the Top 5 the following weekend. Projections are for $48 million, and I think those are just about spot on.

Movies centered around war and/or politics almost seem to be in vogue this year; adding to that list is Grace is Gone (Dec. 7), in which John Cusack plays a man whose wife is killed in the line of duty in Iraq. He must deal with the loss himself, but also explain to his daughters that their mother isn't coming back. Skepticism is understandable here, as this is a Weinstein title, and it's already been moved once (and if history is any indication, Harvey and Bob will do it again) ... but if this date sticks, it's a great value at $8 in Ultimate leagues. It should compete for the PTA crown on its opening weekend; I don't think it'll win, but I'd rather pay $8 for 4 PTA points than blow $27 on Atonement. Reviews have been favorable, and it won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. Its IMDb score sits currently at 6.3, which isn't spectacular, but certainly won't hurt you, and if it expands beyond the scheduled small release, it could even net you some box office gross. The only question is, will America be tired of movies about terrorism and war by this time?

Foreign films can also be sterling PTA performers and, though I feel I may be stealing a bit of thunder from Indie Jones here (one, it's a much smaller film, and two, it's French!), The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Dec. 19) — or if you prefer the French title, Le Scaphandre et le Papillon — could provide a boost in that category, for the relatively cheap price of $9 in Ultimate leagues. Going with this and Grace is Gone will run you $17 combined, and could keep you competitive in the PTA column without having to sacrifice a bunch of your budget to grab something as pricey of Atonement. Getting back to The Diving Bell, I could swear I read somewhere at some point that Johnny Depp was attached; this must've fallen through. The film is based on the true story of French magazine editor Jean Dominique-Bauby, who suffered a stroke that paralyzed his entire body except for his left eye (he subsequently used that left eye to "blink out" his memoir). Like Bauby's book, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly hopes to describe "the aspects of his interior world, from the psychological torment of being trapped inside his body, to his imagined stories from lands he'd only visited in his mind." It won the award for Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival this May and was nominated for the top prize, the Palme d'Or (or Golden Palm). Looks like Miramax is angling this one for Oscar consideration ... and they're almost certain to get some.

If you could have had Superbad's first two weekends ($68 million, 5 PTA points, 10 Top 5 points) for $7 in either league type, you'd have taken it, wouldn't you? How about the first two weekends of Knocked Up ($65 million, 5 PTA points, 7 Top 5 points) for that price? Those would have been excellent pickups, and the seemingly Midas touch of Judd Apatow is why I think $7 for Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (Dec. 21) in both Box Office and Ultimates leagues is the best value out there for December. It'll be a dogfight at the top of the leaderboard that weekend between Dewey Cox, I Am Legend and National Treasure: Book of Secrets, but John C. Reilly and company can certainly hold their own, especially given the popularity of anything Apatow associates himself with. (And the marketing department certainly knows to highlight that Walk Hard is "from the guy who brought you" ... ) I know, this movie seems like it should star Will Ferrell, but Reilly is deserving and more than capable, and he likely caught writer Apatow's attention while filming Talladega Nights. (And he's probably cheaper to book. But what do you think the odds are on a Will Ferrell cameo? Or Seth Rogen?) The projected $39 million will fall easily by the wayside (I wouldn't be surprised if this one topped $60 million by the end of the year) and I daresay it'll do a touch better than 5.9 in the IMDb column. Plus Paul Rudd plays John Lennon. What's not to like?

Next up is another war movie, but this one's not about the Middle East, and there aren't any political undertones (or at least none that I can decipher). It's I Am Legend (Dec. 14), wherein Will Smith must fight off zombies/vampires/victims of a biological attack every night as the only inhabitant of New York City — and perhaps the only inhabitant of any city anywhere — to survive a catastrophic global war. Three weeks of performance doesn't make the Ultimate price ($37) worth it, but despite the still-expensive price of $36 in Box Office leagues, three weeks in that game scenario is certainly enough time to warrant the money you'd spend. After all, there'll be a holiday bounce around Christmas, and for the past few years, no matter what he's acted in, Will Smith has been box office gold. (So much so that, as faithful readers may recall, I created a genre specifically for him in one of my past columns.) Since 2004:

I, Robot — $115 million in three weekends, $144 million total
Shark Tale — $118 million in three weekends, $160 million total
Hitch — $121 million in three weekends, $177 million total
The Pursuit of Happyness — $104 million in three weekends, $162 million total

You can expect performance in the same neighborhood from I Am Legend; $120 million by the end of the year may not be out of the question. With many players opting for similarly expensive films Bee Movie or The Golden Compass to anchor their slate, giving Smith a chance to shine could open up some great results for your studio.

Romantic comedies, as "gooshy" as they may look to us guys, always manage to make decent money. The presence of Gerard Butler after his role in 300 may help to "lessen the sting" for those men who get dragged off to see P.S., I Love You (Dec. 21). (Of course, Hilary Swank could have the same effect.) The plot involves a widow whose late husband reaches out to her from beyond the grave via letters written prior to his death. (It's like Premonition, only not as crappy and with better actors!) There's not a whole lot of pure date movie material out around this time. Leatherheads, I Am Legend, and Walk Hard will all attract some couples, but there's nothing else that's aimed squarely at date night. And, everyone enjoys a feel-good, happy-ending story around Christmas. So, the box office results you do get from two weekends should more than make P.S. worth its $9 price in Box Office leagues. (If I may comment on Hilary Swank briefly: After Million Dollar Baby, she's done The Black Dahlia, Freedom Writers, The Reaping and now this. Isn't that the opposite direction from where you'd want to go? Nothing wrong with trying to do some more commercial roles, and P.S., I Love You should deliver on that front, but ... The Reaping? C'mon.)

Last up are a few films set for release on Christmas Day. They'll only give you the results from the holiday week and that final weekend, but they're priced accordingly. In Box Office leagues, $3 for The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep makes it the best pick of anything $3 or less. (That includes Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, because reports indicate that that film is about to be pushed back to Jan. 18.) The Water Horse is nothing terribly special, but it's a family film (ironically, about the Loch Ness Monster — which, if this film is any indication, is a lot less menacing than you might think. He's apparently quite affectionate, and his name is Crusoe.) So, it'll pull in a few million that last week from those who've already seen The Golden Compass or Alvin and the Chipmunks (or both), and could give you a nice little shot in the arm at the end of the season. (The margin of victory in one of my recent Box Office leagues was $6 million, definitely a tight one; The Water Horse will certainly provide that much in a week.)

And finally, I'll gladly sign up for Charlie Wilson's War for a week, since Fantasy Moguls will only charge me $7 in Box Office leagues for the privilege. It's got two of the best actors around in Tom Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman, a script by The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin, and direction from Mike Nichols, who's been nominated for Oscars in three different decades. There's also Julia Roberts, a past Best Actress winner, after all, and a not inconsiderable box-office draw. Add in the wartime theme (which, again, seems to be following a popular trend, but no matter) and you've got what many think is probably a sure-thing Best Picture nominee. (Boy, is Universal stacking the deck this year — between American Gangster, Elizabeth: The Golden Age and this, they've got to finagle at least one Oscar nom, right?) I'm eagerly awaiting a trailer (maybe with American Gangster or Elizabeth: The Golden Age, eh?), but even without that, a wide release on Christmas Day means you'll get a good contribution in that final week. (Catch Me If You Can, released on Christmas in 2002, came down with $48 million before the end of that year. Not too shabby.) Charlie Wilson's War may not blow anyone away with its box office receipts — especially since the Christmas Day release could end up being a small-scale affair, with the general public kept out of the loop until January. Keep an eye on that potential development as December draws nearer. That said, I'd much rather spend $7 here than on Feel the Noise, or Atonement ($8, and far less likely than any film starring Hanks and Roberts to see the light of wide release before 2008). It could be just the Christmas gift your studio needs to finish the year on top of your league.

***

 


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