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SPEARE'S TIPS - THE FILMS OF 12/18

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SPEARE'S TIPS - THE FILMS OF 12/18

Postby Shrykespeare » December 13th, 2009, 8:22 pm

Yikes. It’s always a blow to one’s ego when a prediction doesn’t even come close to actuality. But Invictus failing to even inspire $10 million on its OW? I am at a loss to explain it. Perhaps it’ll be a late bloomer. Perhaps it will take a plethora of accolades and nominations to find an audience. And perhaps it will go down in film history as a valiant effort and nothing more. Sigh.

We are now less than ONE WEEK AWAY from the launch of our new Americanized Mogul-game website, and with it, the start of the 2010 Super Leagues. Unlike the past, where I required all entrants to register beforehand, I will make these leagues Public instead of private… for the first round, anyway. That way, anyone and everyone can sign up. So watch the Boards and your in-boxes for the e-mail that you have been waiting for for over a year now! We’re almost there!

Well, the weekend of December 18th will bring with it four new titles, and it should come as no surprise that I will be starting off with the film that has had all eyes on it since the first trailer debuted a few months ago. I’m speaking, of course, of Avatar, the multi-everything, ultra-hyped CGI monster that marks the return to the big screen for director James Cameron, who hasn’t directed anything (fictional, anyway) since a little movie called Titanic broke just about every box office record in existence: $600 million domestically, $1.8 billion internationally, and fifteen consecutive weeks at #1.

Another record it held at the time was that it was the most expensive movie ever made, costing $200 million. Now, twelve years later, that number has been tied (by Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen), and then, finally, broken, by Cameron’s Avatar, which Wikipedia has estimated at $237 million, but I’ve heard wild rumors that it’s actually closer to $500 million. Needless to say, 20th Century Fox is betting heavily on history repeating itself, at least in some small measure.

And why not? It’s not as if Cameron is a flash in the pan, having directed some of the coolest action films in the past 25 years, including: The Terminator, Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and True Lies. That’s a resume many directors would kill to have. But will even that add up to bonzo box office numbers?

The plot, which takes place in the far-distant future, centers on a former Marine named Jake Sully (Terminator: Salvation's Sam Worthington), who was wounded and is paralyzed from the waist down. He travels to a world called Pandora, which is rich in valuable minerals vital to Earth’s military. The problem: the planet is inhabited by a race of ten-feet tall blue-skinned aliens called the Na’vi, who, despite being centuries behind humans in technology, are notoriously difficult to displace.

The other major drawback is that Pandora’s atmosphere is not breathable by humans, and Jake finds himself recruited for a program that will merge his consciousness with that of a genetically-created human-Na’vi hybrid called an “avatar”. And since this project will allow him to walk again, he jumps at the chance.

Of course, this is no simple assignment. Using his new body to infiltrate the Na’vi, he ends up learning their ways and customs, and developing feelings for a girl named Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). It’s then that he begins to realize that the big, bad, human military machine, led by the ruthless Col. Quaritch (Stephen Lang) are the bad guys, and thus begins the war for Pandora. (At least, this much is explained in the trailer.) Sigourney Weaver (Aliens), Michelle Rodriguez, and Giovanni Ribisi also co-star.

What more needs to be said? Whatever the final dollar total ends up being for Avatar, you can fairly well bet that a huge chunk of it went into the CGI, as well as developing the film for 3D and IMAX 3D theaters (more on that in a bit). About the only film this year that has been hyped this much was Watchmen, whose reach far exceeded its grasp by pulling in only $107 million. It’s ironic to note that Watchmen and Avatar have nearly identical running-times, at just over two-and-a-half hours. We’re all thinking it… will Avatar deliver, or will it die from Cloverfield syndrome before it even makes half of its budget back?

Well, it won’t come close to Titanic, that’s for sure: the Sully-Neytiri love story won’t hold a candle to Jack and Rose, and though it may be nominated in a few technical categories, it won’t be an Oscar darling like Titanic, which waltzed off with eleven statuettes in spring 1998. A month ago, I said that Twilight: New Moon, not Avatar, would be the #1 film of winter, and I stand by that… especially that it looks like New Moon will finish with close to $280 million before its run is done.

At $35 in Ultimate ($36 in Box Office), Avatar is obviously the most expensive property in the December leagues. Even a modest amount of success, say $150 million, would seem to make it a wise investment, given that apart from perhaps Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel, nothing else in the rest of the season is likely to come close to its overall output. For me, I predict an OW of $48 million and a total output of $175 million, to go along with fourteen Top 5 points, four PTA, and a very good user rating (which is currently at 8.3 with 1,500 votes). I venture that it’s possible to win without this title, but I daresay that unless it flops horribly, it might be very difficult to win without it.

Bowing in 2,700 theaters this Friday will be Did You Hear About the Morgans?, a romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker in what looks to be a typical “fish out of water” story. Directed by Marc Lawrence, who also directed Grant in Two Weeks Notice and Music and Lyrics, the film follows the marital struggles of Paul and Meryl Morgan, a couple who look like they are about half an inch away from adding to the country’s inflated divorce rate.

But during a marital spat, they have the bad fortune to witness a murder, and are summarily dispatched by the Federal government into the Witness Protection program, and sent to a small backwoods town in Wyoming, where they are to be looked after by the town’s grizzled sheriff (Sam Elliott, who else?) and his gun-totin’ wife (Mary Steenburgen). Forced to cohabitate despite their antagonistic relationship, they must make the best of their situation.

I’ve always liked Hugh Grant, and the array of deeply flawed, foppish malcontents that he plays always seem to make me laugh. Did You Hear About the Morgans? Looks like no exception, but I wonder if this film really has room to maneuver, especially given that a much juicier adult comedy is coming only one week later, that being It’s Complicated, which stars the ageless Meryl Streep.

A month ago I would have thought that Did You Hear had a chance to flirt with $100 million in total revenues, but now I’m thinking it will end up with closer to half that amount. Given its competition and its theater count, I’m predicting an OW of $18 million (probably not enough to snatch #2 from Disney’s latest masterpiece, The Princess and the Frog, which will likely suffer a very minute drop from its OW), and a final total of about $65 million. For $14 in Ultimate, I really wouldn’t opt for this one, given that it will only bring you three or four Top 5 points at the most, and I doubt a stellar User Rating or any PTA points await it either. $16 in Box Office might be feasible, but only just. Oh, wait a sec… it’s running time is 2:19?? Forget it.

In past years, musicals have done VERY well for those few players who saw their true worth, films like Hairspray and Mamma Mia!, both of which surprised everyone by how much they thrived despite incredible competition. However, those who bet heavily on Fame this past September learned the hard way that not everything is a hit, and I’m wondering if that failure is wearing on the minds of those players who are considering taking Nine, the latest musical endeavor by director Rob Marshall (whose last musical, Chicago, waltzed off with Best Picture).

Scheduled for release on four screens this Friday before opening wide over Christmas, Nine stars a whole bevy of Oscar-winning and –nominated actors. I don’t know if this film can brag that its cast has more gold statuettes on their respective mantles than any other film has ever had, but I bet it’s close: Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Sophia Loren, Kate Hudson, Penelope Cruz and Fergie all lend their acting and singing chops to this film, which was inspired by 8 ½, the autobiography of venerated director Federico Fellini.

I am loathe to underestimate ANY musical these days, especially one with such a stellar cast. RS’s own Jake Conlin’s review would seem to support that this is a tremendous film. Unfortunately, the majority of professional reviewers couldn’t agree less, given its current RT score of “38% Fresh”, with only five positive reviews out of thirteen. And said reviews are very disparate. The good ones have called it “filled with treats for the eye and ear”, “a worthy successor to Chicago”, and “truly dazzling”. However, the majority have called it “emotionally hollow”, “a shocking disappointment”, and “the movie that detractors of Chicago accused it of being.”

What does all this mean for you? Well, given that it will only be in four theaters, I’d say it’s almost a shoe-in to win the PTA crown on its OW. How wide it will go after that is unknown, but I really wouldn’t count on any Top 5 points. $11 in Box Office is so not worth it, and I’d only spend $13 on it in Ultimate if you think its PTA chances after its first week are really viable. (But with The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus and The White Ribbon coming up, do you think that’s likely?) It’ll give you a decent User Rating (it’s at 7.6 right now with 530 votes), so there’s that.

A less risky gamble might be to go for the obligatory December historical period piece, which comes in the form of The Young Victoria. This film, which will be debuting in 21 theaters on Friday, is what it advertises: a story about the early life of England’s Queen Victoria, or more specifically, about the first few turbulent years after her coronation, which included her romance with Prince Albert in the 1830’s.

Period dramas coming out in December should never be ignored, as they are usually Oscar bait. Rising star Emily Blunt plays Victoria, who has been getting favorable reviews over at RT (74% Fresh, with 31/42 positive). Veteran British actors Jim Broadbent, Miranda Richardson and Paul Bettany also lend their talents, as well as Rupert Friend (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas) as Prince Albert.

This is the kind of movie that you expect to be nominated, at the very least, for Set Design and Costumes. A nomination and possible win for Blunt could vault her to the top of the A-list, so watch out for that. On the other hand, it could be just another pick full of promise that doesn’t deliver. The bright side it, it won’t cost you much – only $6 in Ultimate, $2 in Box Office. It’ll give you a good User Rating if nothing else (7.2 with 2,700 votes), and I would honestly be surprised if it didn’t net you at least a couple of PTA points.


My predictions for the weekend of December 18-20, 2009:

1. Avatar - $48 million
2. The Princess and the Frog - $20 million
3. Did You Hear About the Morgans? - $18 million
4. The Blind Side - $13 million
5. Invictus – $6 million


Well, that will do it for me for another week. Next week, two previous films go wide, two more expand, and four more debut, and they are: Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel, a follow-up to the monstrously successful Christmastime film from two years ago; Sherlock Holmes, Guy Ritchie’s take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s immortal Victorian-era detective, with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law playing the roles of Holmes and Watson; It’s Complicated, a surefire R-rated comedy hit starring Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin as a divorced couple who decide to rekindle their relationship on the sly; and The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Terry Gilliam’s latest psychedelic mind-trip starring Heath Ledger in his very last performance.

Later!
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Re: SPEARE'S TIPS - THE FILMS OF 12/18

Postby Buscemi » December 13th, 2009, 8:38 pm

I think that run time on Did You Hear About The Morgans? is a typo. I'd say the running time is closer to 109 minutes than anything.
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Re: SPEARE'S TIPS - THE FILMS OF 12/18

Postby undeadmonkey » December 14th, 2009, 4:18 am

I really think Avatar will open around $75M or higher with the curiosity and hype alone. I might be eating my words in one week time, but it already has 42 reviews on RT and still has a 90% fresh rating, It's got a big and epic premise that people like to see this time of the year, again, has huge hype and expectations with 'the film james cameron has been working on for 10 years'. If 2012 can open with $60M+ I think Avatar can do a bit better.
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Re: SPEARE'S TIPS - THE FILMS OF 12/18

Postby Shrykespeare » December 14th, 2009, 9:07 pm

I actually hope you're right, UDM. I guess I just want something to beat New Moon.
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Re: SPEARE'S TIPS - THE FILMS OF 12/18

Postby thswrestler160 » December 14th, 2009, 11:22 pm

based on our bookings morgans runs at 104 min not including previews. also a side not for anyone interested its opening in two of our theaters which generally bodes well for a movie
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Re: SPEARE'S TIPS - THE FILMS OF 12/18

Postby Buscemi » December 14th, 2009, 11:49 pm

I'm agree with Shryke. $48 million on Avatar, which is about on par with Titanic's $29 million opening in 1997.
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Re: SPEARE'S TIPS - THE FILMS OF 12/18

Postby BanksIsDaFuture » December 15th, 2009, 11:46 am

As much as I hate to say it, Avatar might be able to pull in $60M this weekend. Maybe even more. My dad asked my about it yesterday, and the only movies he saw or really even knew about this whole year was Star Trek and District 9. He's nothing of a movie person and if he's interested in it, I'd say a lot of non-movie people are too.

It looks like Christmas Day is going to make up for the lackluster winter season by having 5 pretty big and interesting movies debuting.
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Re: SPEARE'S TIPS - THE FILMS OF 12/18

Postby transformers2 » December 15th, 2009, 6:36 pm

I think Avatar can pull 60 mill. The buzz is pretty crazy and the unexpected Golden Globe nomination and good review could add its to box office totals.
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Re: SPEARE'S TIPS - THE FILMS OF 12/18

Postby J.I. » December 16th, 2009, 8:20 pm

Avatar should be able to brak $65 million. Its got the hype and curiousity, the critics reviews, the awards buzz, James Cameron, marketing that actually tells the story and shows the heart of the movie, amazing special effects, and 3D and IMAX 3D including the higher ticket prices, and an empty marketplace (especially for men).

And Did you Hear About the Morgans? is going to bomb. It most likely won't breat $10 million.
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Re: SPEARE'S TIPS - THE FILMS OF 12/18

Postby BanksIsDaFuture » December 17th, 2009, 11:51 am

Yeah, Morgans will tank. I think most adults will wait until It's Complicated.
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Re: SPEARE'S TIPS - THE FILMS OF 12/18

Postby W » December 17th, 2009, 6:01 pm

I've been seeing previews for Morgans for a month, but just a little bit for It's Complicated. So, I don't know...
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Re: SPEARE'S TIPS - THE FILMS OF 12/18

Postby Buscemi » December 17th, 2009, 6:59 pm

I think both will do fine. It's Complicated skews towards older couples while Did You Hear About The Morgans is aimed at younger couples.
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Re: SPEARE'S TIPS - THE FILMS OF 12/18

Postby transformers2 » December 18th, 2009, 7:04 pm

I am unsure about Did You Hear About The Morgans? meanwhile i think It's Complicated will proably tank.
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