After a soft July, Hollywood was back on the upswing at the boxoffice throughout the month of August.
As anticipated, August got off on the right foot thanks to the blockbuster launch of Paramount, Spyglass Entertainment and Hasbro’s PG-13 action adventure “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” to $54.7 million the weekend of Aug. 7-9. That momentum continued with Sony’s surprisingly strong opening of its R rated sci-fi sleeper hit “District 9” to $37.4 million the weekend of Aug. 14-16. A week later (Aug. 21-23) The Weinstein Company scored with its $38.1 million kick-off of Quentin Tarantino’s World War II R rated action adventure “Inglourious Basterds”. And the month ended (Aug. 28-30) with the arrival of Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema’s R rated suspense thriller sequel “The Final Destination” in 3D to $27.4 million.
By month’s end “G.I. Joe” had grossed over $132 million and “District 9” was over $90 million, both success stories. Also looking good was Sony’s PG-13 adult female appeal drama “Julie & Julia”, which by late August had taken in over $70 million and was holding its own nicely in the marketplace.
Compared to July when most of Hollywood’s original product fizzled at the boxoffice, August was an okay month. As September approached, Hollywood’s revenues were running about 7.4 percent ahead of last year, according to Hollywood.Com Box-Office president Paul Dergarabedian. As for attendance, in late August it was up about 3.5 percent over the prior year. Dergarabedian also reported that Hollywood enjoyed record breaking summer season grosses — approximately $4.25 billion from May 1 through Aug . 31, up about 1.3 percent from the previous summer.
Looking at August on a weekend by weekend basis, the first weekend (Aug. 7-9) was up over 22 percent vs. the previous year. Weekend 2 (Aug. 14-16) saw business up by over 14 percent vs. ’08. Weekend 3 (Aug. 21-23) was up over 19 percent compared to last year. And Weekend 4 (Aug. 28-30) ended the month on a positive note with the boxoffice ahead by nearly 28 percent from last year.
Looking ahead, September isn’t likely to set boxoffice records, but it could generate a few success stories as Hollywood muddles through the fall on its way to what, hopefully, will be a strong holiday season.
The following synopses include details about September’s wide openings, but beware of possible spoilers if you don’t want to know too much in advance. As always, be sure to check out our Zamm Cam movie previews to find out more about the films you most want to see.
The best tracking release arriving Sept. 4 is Lionsgate and Lakeshore Entertainment’s R rated sci-fi fantasy suspense-thriller “Gamer” starring Gerard Butler. Its strongest core group has been males under 25 with females under 25 its second strongest audience, a very promising combination.
The Story: “Gamer” is a high-concept action thriller set in the near future, a time when mind-control technology has taken society by storm. Humans control other humans in a mass-scale, multiplayer online game. Reclusive billionaire Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall) has created the controversial form of entertainment, “Slayers”, a hugely popular game that allows millions to act out their innermost desires and fantasies online in front of a global audience. Gaming has evolved into a terrifying new dimension…mind control…manipulation…people playing people!
At the film’s center is Kable (Gerard Butler), the superstar and cult hero of “Slayers”, the savage, ultra violent first person shooter game. Kable is controlled by Simon, a young gamer with rock star status who continues to defy all odds by guiding Kable to victory each week. Taken from his family, imprisoned and forced to fight against his will, the modern day gladiator must survive long enough to escape the game to free his family, regain his identity and to save mankind from Castle’s ruthless technology.
Directed by Brian Taylor and Mark Neveldine, it stars Gerard Butler, Michael C. Hall, Amber Valletta, Logan Lerman, Terry Crews, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Kyra Sedgwick, Milo Ventimiglia, Zoe Bell, John Leguizamo, Alison Lohman, Johnny Whitworth and Aaron Yoo.
20th Century Fox will also help get the month underway with its PG-13 romantic comedy “All About Steve”, starring Sandra Bullock. Bullock had a big hit for Disney this summer with “The Proposal”, which opened June 19 to $33.6 million and went on to do over $160 million domestically. “Steve” has been tracking nicely with women under and over 25, which could translate into excellent ticket sales since the ladies either come to see films in groups or drag along their husbands and boyfriends.
The Story: A brilliant crossword constructor decides, after one short date, that a cable news cameraman is her true love. Because the cameraman’s job requires constant traveling, she crisscrosses the country, turning up at media events as she tries to convince him they are perfect for each other. She fails in this objective but falls in with a band of misfits who appreciate her for who she is.
Directed by Phil Traill, it stars Sandra Bullock, Thomas Haden Church, Bradley Cooper, Beth Grant, Howard Hesseman, Ken Jeong, Katy Mixon, DJ Qualls and Gillian Vigman.
Also arriving Sept. 4 is Miramax’s R rated comedy “Extract”. Although it’s been tracking best with men and women under 25, “Extract” hasn’t been showing up as a big first choice movie.
The Story: A flower extract plant owner deals with workplace issues and a stream of bad luck, including his wife’s affair with a gigolo.
Directed by Mike Judge (“Beavis & Butthead”), it stars Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, Kristen Wiig, J.K. Simmons, Ben Affleck, Brent Briscoe, Clifton Collins Jr., David Koechner, TJ Miller, Dustin Milligan and Gene Simmons.
“Whiteout” in theaters September 11.
Focus is launching Rogue Pictures’ PG-13 animated sci-fi action adventure “9” on Wed., Sept. 9 — which is, of course, 09-09-09 — to get the jump on its weekend competition. “9” has been tracking very strongly with under-25 males and almost as strongly with females under 25, a prime moviegoing combination.
The Story: A post apocalyptic fantasy nightmare in which humanity’s legacy is threatened.
Directed by Shane Acker (“The Astounding Talents of Mr. Grenade”), its voice talents include Elijah Wood, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, Crispin Glover and Martin Landau.
Meanwhile, Fri., Sept. 11 will see three wide releases competing for moviegoers’ time and money. The strongest of these is Lionsgate’s PG-13 urban drama “Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself”, which is doing best with women under and over 25, the same core audience that’s driven Perry’s earlier hit Madea films.
The Story: Madea (Tyler Perry) discovers a 16 year old girl and her brothers looting her home and sends them to live with their Aunt April, a hard-drinking nightclub singer.
Directed by Tyler Perry, it stars Taraji P. Henson, Adam Rodriguez, Brian White, Mary J. Blige, Gladys Knight, Marvin Winans, Tyler Perry, Kwesi Nii-Lante Boakye, Hope Olaide Wilson, Frederick Siglar, Janet Jackson and Louis Gossett, Jr.
Also on deck Sept. 11 is Summit Entertainment’s R rated horror thriller “Sorority Row”, whose core audience is under-25 females.
The Story: After a prank on one of their sorority sisters ends deadly, the sisters find themselves haunted — and hunted — by the consequences.
Directed by Stewart Hendler (“The Closet”), it stars Rumer Willis, Briana Evigan, Leah Pipes, Audrina Partridge, Jamie Chung, Carrie Fisher, Julian Morris, Margo Harshman, Caroline D’Amore and Matt Lanter.
Rounding out the weekend is Warner Bros. and Dark Castle Entertainment’s R rated suspense thriller “Whiteout”, starring Kate Beckinsale, which has been tracking best with 25-plus females and second best with males over 25.
The Story: Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale), the lone U.S. Marshal assigned to Antarctica, is investigating the continent’s first murder, which draws her into a shocking mystery. Now, with only three days until the sun sets for six months of winter, Carrie must solve the crime before Antarctica is plunged into darkness and she is stranded with the killer.
Directed by Dominic Sena (“Swordfish”), it stars Kate Beckinsale, Gabriel Macht, Columbus Short, Tom Skerritt, Alex O’Loughlin and Shawn Doyle.
“Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” in theaters September 18.
The weekend of Sept. 18-20 will see four wide releases fighting for position in the marketplace. With different target audiences in their sights, they all have a shot at decent openings.
Families will be the core audience for Sony’s PG rated animated 3-D feature “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs”, which has been tracking particularly well with over-25 females or moms who will bring their kids to see it.
The Story: A scientist tries to solve world hunger only to see things go awry as food falls from the sky in abundance.
Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, its voice talents include Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Andy Samberg, Bruce Campbell, Mr. T , Bobb’e J. Thompson, Benjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris, Al Roker, Lauren Graham and Will Forte.
Also opening this weekend is Warner Bros.’ R rated offbeat comedy “The Informant!”. Originally developed by the now shuttered Warner Independent Pictures, it’s directed by Steven Soderbergh and stars Matt Damon. The film has been tracking equally well with men under and over 25, but even better with 25-plus females.
The Story: What was Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) thinking? A rising star at agri-industry giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Whitacre suddenly turns whistleblower. Even as he exposes his company’s multi-national price-fixing conspiracy to the FBI, Whitacre envisions himself being hailed as a hero of the common man and handed a promotion. But before all that can happen, the FBI needs evidence, so Whitacre eagerly agrees to wear a wire and carry a hidden tape recorder in his briefcase, imagining himself as a kind of de facto secret agent.
Unfortunately for the FBI, their lead witness hasn’t been quite so forthcoming about helping himself to the corporate coffers. Whitacre’s ever-changing account frustrates the agents and threatens the case against ADM as it becomes almost impossible to decipher what is real and what is the product of Whitacre’s rambling imagination. Based on the true story of the highest-ranking corporate whistleblower in U.S. history.
“The Informant” in theaters September 18.
Sept. 18 is also opening day for 20th Century Fox’s R rated “Jennifer’s Body”, a dark comedy/horror film originally slated to be released through the now shuttered Fox Atomic Pictures.
“Jennifer’s” writer/executive producer Diablo Cody is famous for having written Fox Searchlight’s hit dark comedy “Juno”. “Jennifer” has been tracking best with under-25 males and almost as well with under-25 females. But it’s been a low first-choice title compared to the weekend’s three other wide releases.
The Story: A cheerleader who is possessed by a demon starts feeding off the boys in a Minnesota farming town. Her bookish best friend must take drastic measures to protect their town from the seductive teenager and her appetite for high school boys.
Directed by Karyn Kusama (“Aeon Flux”), it stars Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Simmons, J.K. Simmons, Amy Sedaris and Adam Brody.
The weekend’s fourth wide release is Universal Pictures and Relativity Media’s PG-13 romantic comedy “Love Happens”, which has some good star power in Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston.
“Love” has been tracking best with 25-plus females and second best with under-25 females. Although males under and over 25 haven’t expressed nearly as much definite interest in seeing it, they are typically dragged along by their wives and girlfriends so they may not have much choice here. The first-choice interest in “Love” has been running about as high as for the family appeal “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs”.
The Story: When best-selling self-help author Burke Ryan (Aaron Eckhart) headlines a grief seminar in Seattle during his national tour, he is beset with memories of his wife’s death three years earlier. After he encounters the charming hotel florist, Eloise (Jennifer Aniston), he learns some unexpected lessons about rediscovering love and happiness.
Directed by Brandon Camp (his first feature), it stars Aaron Eckhart, Jennifer Aniston, Dan Fogler, Judy Greer, Joe Anderson, John Carroll Lynch and Martin Sheen.
The month’s last weekend (Sept. 25-27) will bring four more wide releases, including two sci-fi thrillers that could cut into each other’s ticket sales.
MGM, which has been on the distribution sidelines all year, will get back into action with its PG rated musical drama “Fame” whose core audience should be teens and, especially, teen girls. It’s an updated version of the 1980 musical of the same name that spawned a 1982 TV series.
The Story: Students sing and dance their way to success at the New York City High School for the Performing Arts.
Directed by Kevin Tancharoen (his first feature), it stars Thomas Dekker, Kristy Flores, Paul Iacono, Paul McGill, Naturi Naughton, Kay Panabaker, Kherington Payne, Collins Pennie, Walter Perez, Anna Marie Perez de Tagle, Asher Book, Kelsey Grammer, Megan Mullally, Charles S. Dutton, Debbie Allen and Bebe Neuwirth.
Warner Bros. PG-13 romantic comedy “The Invention of Lying” will also be entering the marketplace this weekend. It’s co-writer/co-director is Ricky Gervais, the award-winning creator and star of the original BBC series “The Office” and HBO’s “Extras”.
The Story: The film takes place in an alternate reality in which lying — even the concept of a lie — does not even exist. Everyone — from politicians to advertisers to people in the street — speaks the truth and nothing but the truth with no thought of the consequences. But when a down-on-his-luck loser named Mark (Ricky Gervais) suddenly develops the ability to lie, he finds that dishonesty has its rewards. In a world where every word is assumed to be the absolute truth, Mark easily lies his way to fame and fortune. But lies have a way of spreading, and Mark begins to realize that things are getting a little out of control when some of his tallest tales are being taken as, well, gospel.
Co-directed and co-written by Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson, it stars Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Jonah Hill, Louis C.K., Jeffrey Tambor, Fionnula Flanagan, Rob Lowe, Tina Fey, John Hodgman and Nate Corddry.
Overture Films’ R rated sci-fi horror film “Pandorum” is one of two films arriving this weekend that are competing for sci-fi movie fans.
The Story: Two crew members are stranded on a spacecraft and quickly — and horrifically — realize they are not alone. The astronauts awaken in a hyper-sleep chamber aboard a seemingly abandoned spacecraft. It’s pitch black and they are disoriented. The only sound is a low rumble and creak from the belly of the ship. They can’t remember anything — including who they are or what their mission is.
“Pandorum” in theaters September 25.
With Lt. Payton (Dennis Quaid) staying behind to guide him via radio transmitter, Cpl. Bower (Ben Foster) ventures deep into the ship and begins to uncover a terrifying reality. Slowly the spacecraft’s shocking, deadly secrets are revealed and the astronauts find their own survival is more important than they could ever have imagined.
Directed by Christian Alvart (“Case 39”), it stars Dennis Quaid, Ben Foster, Cam Gigandet, Antje Traue, Cung Le, Eddie Rouse and Norman Reedus.
Sci-fi fans will also be the target audience for “Surrogates” from Disney’s Touchstone Pictures label, starring Bruce Willis. Unlike “Pandorum” which is sci-fi in outer space, “Surrogates” is sci-fi on a planet some time in the future. The film’s PG-13 rating will make it accessible to a broader audience than the R rated “Pandorum”, which could help it. The film’s director (Jonathan Mostow) and screenwriters (Michael Ferris and John Brancato) previously teamed up to make “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines”.
The Story: The film is set in the near future in a world where humans live in isolation and interact vicariously through surrogate robots. After several humans are murdered and their surrogates destroyed, the crimes are investigated by a policeman’s (Bruce Willis) own surrogate.
Directed by Jonathan Mostow, it stars Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike, Jack Noseworthy, Ned Vaughn, Ving Rhames, Boris Kodjoe and Jordan Belfi.