Monday, June 13, 2011

What will be #500?

At the time this is being posted, there are officially 487 movies that have broken the once important $100 million barrier at the box office. As film budgets increase, the significance of making $100 million at the domestic box office decreases. And, with the meteoric rise in ticket prices, $100 million is much easier to achieve than it was when the average ticket price was around $3. When you see that films that were considered disappointments at the box office (Yogi Bear, Evan Almighty, Gone in 60 Seconds) still managed to break the $100 million mark, it's hard to get excited about that number.

Even the $200 million mark was surpassed for the 100th time last year. In fact, that plateau was passed by NINE movies that came out in 2010. Remember when people talked about what a disappointment the numbers were for Disney's Tangled? It cracked $200 million, albeit, just recently.

What about $300 million? That's a huge number, right? It used to be. Prior to 2000, only 9 movies had ever reached it. Since 2000, 27 more movies joined that once exclusive club.

And $400 million? It's still somewhat rare. Only 11 movies so far. And 2 of them, Star Wars and E.T., only reached that level after being re-released. Prior to 2000, only 2 movies made that much on their initial release: Titanic and Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. Since 2000, it's been passed by the first Spider-Man, the third Toy Story, the second Pirates of the Caribbean, the second Shrek, The Dark Knight (part 2 of the Batman reboot) and Avatar. Basically, James Cameron is the only person who can seem to reach such heights without using a built-in audience.

$500 million? Just 3 movies. Avatar, Titanic and The Dark Knight. Drop Batman and you have the $600 million club. And Avatar is all alone for $700 million. Which makes $100 million seem so much more insignificant. That one movie about blue aliens outgrossed #'s 481-487 of the all time biggest hits combined shows how small that number seems these days.

Adding to that, the 500th movie to make $100 million domestic could possibly do it this summer and we're still 13 movies away from getting there. And by the end of today, June 13, 2011, that number will likely be 12 since X-Men: First Class finished yesterday at $98.8 million. It will most certainly break $100 million by dinner. Another possibility is the animated film, Gnomeo and Juliet. It was just released on DVD, but it's still in about 80 theaters. This matters because, as of June 9th, it was only $250,000 away from $100 million. Whether it was pulled from theaters remains to be seen.

So let's look ahead at what could be #500?

J.J. Abram's Super 8 opened this weekend with about $38 million. A little disappointing to some I'm sure, but considering that Kyle Chandler is the biggest name in the film and it only cost $50 million to make, I'm certain they're pleased with that number. Can it break $100 million though? Possibly, but it may take a few weeks, which makes it a contender to be #500.

Opening this week, we have The Green Lantern and Mr. Popper's Penguins. The Green Lantern will make $100 million fairly quickly, bringing the countdown to 11. Mr. Popper's Penguins didn't look THAT interesting in the earlier trailers, but I saw one before Super 8 this past weekend that made me want to see it. If it has a $40 million opening weekend, I think it will have the legs to bring us down to 10.

The following weekend is certain to bring us to 9. Cars 2 would have to be the lowest grossing Pixar movie ever if it only made $150 million, much less $100 million. The other release is Bad Teacher. Looks entertaining enough, but I don't see it making much more than $60 million or so.

Then comes the 4th of July weekend. Transformers: Dark of the Moon will undoubtedly make $100 million in its first weekend. 8 slots remaining. But 4th of July weekend brings us another question mark in Larry Crowne. Most Tom Hanks movies make at least $100 million. In fact, he's only starred in FOUR movies in the last 20 years that DIDN'T make $100 million. And, it's got Julia Roberts to boot. It's light-hearted, adult fare, which you don't get a lot of during these summer months (except for the exceptional Midnight in Paris, if you can find it playing near you). BUT, one of the four movies that DIDN'T make $100 million was one that he also wrote and directed, like Larry Crowne. We will see, but I'm going to leave it off the list at the moment.

Post 4th of July brings us Horrible Bosses and The Zoo Keeper. Jason Bateman doesn't have a strong history at the box office, so let's ignore that one. Kevin James, however, has had a surprisingly good run of hits. Paul Blart, Mall Cop grossed $146 million in a January slot. That's almost unheard of. It's the second highest grossing January release ever. The Zoo Keeper seems like Paul Blart meets A Night at the Museum meets Madagascar. After everyone's taken their kids to see Cars 2, they'll need another family comedy to go see and, let's face it, Bad Teacher and Horrible Bosses aren't it. 7 slots left.

The weekend of July 15th brings us the final Harry Potter. In 3-D, no less. The AVERAGE gross for a Harry Potter movie is $286 million. And this is the last one. If this one doesn't come close to topping The Dark Knight for the opening weekend record, I will be shocked. Winnie the Pooh also opens this weekend, because someone at Disney is asleep at the wheel. Poor Pooh will get buried. The genius who chose this weekend to release Pooh is probably the same idiot who thought Real Steel is a good idea. 6 slots left.

The next slot will certainly be filled by Captain America: The First Avenger. The only reason it might not is if audiences are just tired of super heroes. But, since this one ties into the Iron Man's, Hulk, Thor and next year's The Avengers, I'm sure people will give this one a shot. 5 left.

August is where things might get a little tricky. Rise of the Planet of the Apes looks like it could re-ignite that franchise, or at least make us forget about Tim Burton's take on it. (Side note: Can we just ban Tim Burton from doing remakes or franchise movies?) But if Rise of the Planet of the Apes doesn't do it, I will have probably missed on one of the others, so let's say 4 left. Actually 3, since Super 8 will cross $100 million around this time.

September is not usually a month for boffo box office, but I think Labor Day weekend offers some promise this year with Apollo 18. The success of Paranormal Activity 1 & 2 shows that people aren't yet tired of the "found footage" movies, especially when there's a lot of hype behind it. Apollo 18 has hype to spare. I have a good feeling that one will take off, even if only a handful of movies have made $100 million plus in September. 2 left.

October brings us another Paranormal Activity, as well as the previously mentioned, already over-hyped Real Steel. One or the other will do $100 million, but I'm thinking it probably won't be both. So, it's quite possible, we will head into November with 499 movies having broken the $100 million barrier.

So, assuming I've been at all accurate, which will be the first to do it in November? That's VERY easy. The first weekend of November brings us the fifth entry in the Shrek universe, Puss in Boots. And, if I overshot on what will make $100 million, November also will have Happy Feet 2.

If you have any thoughts as to what will be number 500, please feel free to comment.

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