Almost eighteen months ago, actor-turned-filmmaker Jon Favreau predicted that the summer of 2011 was “…going to be a bloodbath. There’s never been a summer like this next summer. It’s going to be bloody…There’s not a weekend where there won’t be teeth on the floor. The audience wins, but it’s going to be rough for people making these movies. Then there was the big rush to 3D, so you have all of these people fighting for a limited number of screens and to get the 3D done, since most of these are hybrids or conversions, so this is a technology that is still in the relatively early stages and there’s going to be a lot of blood pressures going up in the months ahead.”
And he wasn’t far wrong (in fact the words are probably haunting him still today). Things weren’t quite as bad as he predicted (at least not for others); while domestic grosses were down in general, international were way up, with several films crossing the billion dollar mark across the globe, and some of the films that were most problematic on paper — “Thor,” “Super 8,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” — proved to be big hits. But there were a number of high-profile casualties as well, including, ironically, Favreau’s own film, “Cowboys & Aliens,” while “Green Lantern” and “X-Men: First Class” disappointed when compared to their Marvel competition. Ryan Reynolds had two flops (“The Change-Up,” “Green Lantern”) and August proved to be the predicted clusterfuck, with “Conan,” “Fright Night,” “Spy Kids 4” and “30 Minutes or Less” all doing near-disastrous business.
But has Hollywood calmed things down for this summer? Of course not. A couple of days ago, Universal made the summer a little more crowded by moving Oliver Stone‘s “Savages” to the July 4th weekend, a bold move for a film without superheroes or CGI monsters. And indeed, the summer movie season seems to start at the beginning of March, and wrap up, well, on December 30th, with a steady stream of would-be tentpoles taking us through the rest of the year. And it can only follow that not everything will land; indeed, many of this year’s films seem like riskier propositions than last year’s. There are certain sure-fire hits out there: “The Dark Knight Rises,” “The Avengers,” “Brave,” “The Hobbit,” “Skyfall” and “The Hunger Games.” But what are the films that could be in trouble?
What Is It And Who Does It Star? Keanu Reeves toplines an epic actioner, shot in 3D, retelling the famous Japanese legend of the titular 47 masterless samurai who set out to avenge their master. He’s backed up by Japanese stars including Rinko Kikuchi (“Babel“) and Hiroyuki Sanada (“The Last Samurai“), while commercials helmer Carl Erik Rinsch, who at one time was set to direct the project that became “Prometheus,” makes his feature debut.
What’s The Risk Factor? With “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” having proven that action-adventure fare can work in the holiday season, the studios have lined up plenty of possibilities this November and December with Bond, Hobbits, Bin Laden and zombies, among others. But “47 Ronin” is less of a sure bet: a tale less than familiar to audiences outside of Japan, with a star, Reeves, who hasn’t led a studio movie in four years (since the underperforming “The Day the Earth Stood Still“). Furthermore, The Hollywood Reporter recently ran a story suggesting that newbie director Rinsch had clashed with the studio and gone way over budget, which syncs with rumors we’ve heard of late; namely, that a whopping ten weeks of additional photography were being planned, possibly with a new director at the helm. The film should play internationally, but given the giant cost, will that be enough? Especially with it opening the same day as the star-laden, reportedly game-changing “Gravity.”
What’s The Cost? THR says it began with a $175 budget, but has long since crossed that mark. Let’s call it $200 million, but even that’s likely to be conservative.
What’s The Estimated Return On Investment? “The Day the Earth Stood Still” closed out over $200 million, which would barely cover the production budget here, let alone P&A. Then again, “The Last Samurai” made nearly $500 million worldwide, and that didn’t have the audience-pleasing fantasy elements that this does. But it did have Tom Cruise. Even with a $175 million dollar budget, this one’s going to have to be a huge hit even break even.
When? November 21st
“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter“
Who’s In It And What’s It About? Russian helmer Timur Bekmambetov (“Wanted“) directs a Tim Burton-produced take on the best-selling novel, with newcomer Benjamin Walker as the legendary president, who, as it turns out, had a secret second career as an undead-fighter. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Rufus Sewell, Jimmi Simpson and Alan Tudyk co-star.
What’s The Risk Factor? Silly titles are all well and good for grabbing attention, but as “Snakes On a Plane” and “Hot Tub Time Machine” proved, they don’t necessarily convert into dollar bills. As such, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” has a disadvantage, and its little-known cast won’t help matters very much, and neither will opening on the same day as Pixar‘s “Brave.” That being said, Tim Burton’s name as producer means a certain amount, and a striking trailer with Bekmambetov’s trademark killer visuals could help this become something of a sleeper.
What’s The Cost? Relatively cheap compared to its competition, targeted at about $70 million, which should help it into profitablity.
What’s The Estimated Return On Investment? Fox would be over the moon with anything near the $340 million that “Wanted” made, but this won’t perform anywhere near as well internationally, and is absent Angelina Jolie. This one’s either going to be a surprise hit a la “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” or one that mostly goes unnoticed like “Fright Night.”
When? June 22nd
“The Amazing Spider-Man“
What Is It And Who Does It Star? A reboot of Sony‘s key superhero franchise, with Andrew Garfield as your friendly neighborhood wall-crawler, Emma Stone as lady-love Gwen Stacy, and Rhys Ifans as the villainous Lizard. “(500) Days Of Summer” helmer Marc Webb directs.
What’s The Risk Factor? Given that the previous “Spider-Man” movies were all giant blockbusters (the first remains the second-biggest grossing superhero movie), it feels odd to call Sony’s reboot “a risk.” But in a summer with “The Dark Knight Rises” and “The Avengers,” both as close to sure-fire hits as there can be, it doesn’t dominate in the same way, and there seems to be a genuine resistance among both geeks and the general public to a reboot so hot on the heels of the third film, however disliked that was. That early teaser trailer with the video-game POV shot didn’t help matters. That being said, it’s one of the best known action-adventure properties; the Comic-Con footage suggested a film that could give Raimi a run for his money; and Sony is about to restart their marketing campaign with “Dark Knight Rises”-style sneak peek screenings next week.
What’s It Cost? Despite early talk of a relatively low $90 million budget, this is more likely in the upper echelon ballpark of most tentpoles (likely at least $140 million), although probably not as high as the giant $260 million that “Spider-Man 3” cost.
What’s The Estimated Return On Investment? Barring the film becoming an unexpected phenomenon, we’re expecting this to take the same reboot drop that “Batman Begins” and “X-Men First Class” did, but it should still be a healthy number.
When? July 4th
Who’s In It And What’s It About? Peter Berg (“The Kingdom,” “Hancock“) directs this summer’s mostly randomly-assembled cast, with TV stars Taylor Kitsch and Alexander Skarsgard leading, Liam Neeson lending gravitas, and Rihanna and Brooklyn Decker lending…well, boobs, if we’re being honest.
What’s The Risk Factor? Let’s not beat around the bush here: it’s an action movie based on the board game, and it’s been a punchline ever since it was announced. It looks dumber than a rock and bar Neeson (who’s likely stuck behind a desk for the movie, rather than playing to his strengths by punching foreign people or animals), is entirely absent of names (it’s possible that that could change when it comes to Taylor Kitsch, but we’ll discuss him more below). It seems to be the kind of thing where something’s been greenlit without anyone wondering if anyone actually wants to see a “Battleship” movie, and it faces a tough line-up of competition in May. That being said, something being too stupid has never exactly been a downside to the general public, and Universal‘s plan to make the film look like “Transformers 4: At Sea” in the trailer could be a genius stroke.
What’s It Cost? $200 million, give or take.
What’s The Estimated Return On Investment? Universal knows where its bread is buttered here; they’re rolling out internationally up to five weeks earlier than the U.S., with a U.K. release set for April 11th, and we’re expecting the film to do well there. Whether the film can crack $100 million in the States is another question.
When? May 18th
Who’s In It And What’s It About? It’s a potentially explosive revenge slavery Western from Quentin Tarantino, with the auteur’s starriest ever cast, featuring Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, Kurt Russell, Sacha Baron Cohen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, among others.
What’s The Risk Factor? “Inglourious Basterds” was by far Tarantino’s biggest-ever hit, taking over $300 million worldwide, and he’s clearly stuck with the formula, making sure that there’s at least one Brad Pitt-style A-lister there to carry the can for the film: in this case, DiCaprio. But Westerns are unpredictable (see “Cowboys & Aliens“), and the film is likely his most expensive to date, and the subject matter is likely to turn off as many as it turns on. As depressing as it is, black actors who aren’t Will Smith (who turned the film down) aren’t box office draws overseas, and black subject matter doubly so (“The Help” took a mere $35 million internationally). And that’s even without mentioning a particularly crowded Christmas season, with the film opening on the same day as another DiCaprio picture, “The Great Gatsby.” Which one do you think his female fans will be drawn to more?
What’s It Cost? “Inglourious Basterds” was about $70 million, we’re going to assume that this one crests closer to $90 mil, given the wealth of star names.
What’s The Estimated Return On Investment? Hard to say. ‘Basterds’ made over $300 million worldwide, but the politically-charged nature of this, plus the fact that Westerns don’t do well overseas (even “True Grit” wasn’t a smash abroad) makes it a question mark for being a huge ‘Basterds’ sized blockbuster. Plus that film had Brad Pitt in the lead. Watch for the studio to put supporting character and villain Leonardo DiCaprio is the marketing as much as possible.
When? Christmas Day
Who’s In It And What’s It About? Classic British comic character, the near-fascist supercop Judge Dredd, returns to the screen, with Karl Urban donning the helmet and Olivia Thirlby and Lena Headey in support. “Vantage Point” helmer Pete Travis directs a script from “28 Days Later” and “Never Let Me Go” scribe Alex Garland.
What’s The Risk Factor? In a year full of better-known comic book characters, Lionsgate are hoping to make a minor killing with the revival of the much-loved 2000AD character. But the bastardized version starring Sylvester Stallone didn’t have much success a couple of decades back, and that at least had star power; this has the guy from “Red” and “Star Trek” continually behind a helmet. On top of that, reports flew of behind-the-scenes clashes, with Travis supposedly being locked out of the editing room by Garland. The rumors were swiftly denied (less than convincingly) by the creatives, but it can’t help but feel like damaged goods. It’s likely to get an R-rating too, and has some tough competition in September too, with “Looper” and “Resident Evil: Retribution.”
What’s It Cost? All that being said, the film’s probably the cheapest one on this list, independently financed to the tune of about $45 million.
What’s The Estimated Return On Investment? Lionsgate and DNA Films are likely hoping for something around “District 9” numbers ($200 mil worldwide), but they’ll be lucky to get to half that, unless it turns out to be a real surprise hit. A film like this is probably close to being in profit from international pre-sales before it hits theaters, but it won’t necessarily birth a franchise.
When? September 21st
Who’s In It And What’s It About? Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Anthony Mackie, Michael Pena, Robert Patrick and Giovanni Ribisi star as a crack team of 1940s LA cops assembled to take down legendary mobster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn). Emma Stone is the woman playing both sides, and her “Zombieland” director Ruben Fleischer is at the helm.
What’s The Risk Factor? Studios continue to outside the summer calendar for places to unleash potential blockbusters, and the latest month to attract their attention in October. The trouble is, it hasn’t worked out so well so far: none of last year’s candidates, like “Real Steel,” “In Time” or “The Three Musketeers,” really connected. Unbowed, Warners are trying again in 2012, setting their big hope “Gangster Squad” in October. We’re excited about the film, to be sure, but neither Gosling, Brolin nor Penn has proven himself to be a big box office draw, and Fleischer’s last film “30 Minutes Or Less” died on release. And it’s got a fair amount of competition, with “Taken 2” and “Parker” landing in the weeks before, plus it’s going head-to-head with horror behemoth “Paranormal Activity 4.” Will they be able to do blockbuster numbers in one of the quieter months of the year?
What’s It Cost? Given the cast and period setting, it won’t be cheap, but might not be a bank-breaker either; let’s call it $65 million for now, conservatively.
What’s The Estimated Return On Investment? In genre terms, there’s no real recent precedent, bar Michael Mann‘s “Public Enemies,” which could only manage $214 million worldwide, despite megastar Johnny Depp. Then again, this is less experimental in style, so should do fine unless it gets dreadful reviews. Expect it to be a solid “The Town“-style hit, rather than a juggernaut, though.
When? October 18th
“G.I Joe: Retaliation“
Who’s In It And What’s It About? Sequel to the 2009 toy-based actioner, with Channing Tatum the lone major returning cast member (although the trailer suggests not for long…), this time he’s joined by Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis and a host of newcomers. “Step-Up 3D” director Jon M. Chu helms.
What’s The Risk Factor? When J.J. Abrams wasn’t ready to roll on “Star Trek 2” in time to make a summer 2012 release, it caused Paramount to have something of a tentpole gap, and “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” got a promotion from its slated August slot. But here’s the thing: it’s a film that seems to exist only to fill that release date. The first did ok, but not brilliantly: $300 million worldwide on a $175 million budget. And do you know anyone who really liked it? Who was really, truly amped to see a sequel? Paramount have smartly added star power this time out with Dwayne Johnson, but his action fare, outside “Fast Five” has tended to underperform, and Bruce Willis isn’t exactly a home-run every time at bat either. In a competitive summer, this could well be the one that falls between the cracks.
What’s It Cost? Stephen Sommers went over budget on the first one, so Chu’s hiring is likely in the hope of it being fast and cheap, although Johnson and Willis likely didn’t come without hefty paychecks. Let’s call it somewhere between $100-125 million, but don’t be surprised if it’s more.
What’s The Estimated Return On Investment? Paramount likely figured that the film would end up with around the same gross as the original, hence the lowered budget, to amp up profitability, but the brand is already established on screen so chances are unless it’s a major stinker, the numbers are going to climb. If it does end up exceeding the original significantly, Johnson will officially have inherited Arnie’s mantle as an action star.
When? June 29th
“The Great Gatsby“
Who’s In It And What’s It About? Baz Luhrmann adapts F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s classic novel, in 3D, no less, with Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton and Isla Fisher.
What’s The Risk Factor? It’s Oscar bait, for sure, but Warners were certainly thinking of the bottom line when they greenlit this one. However even with a starry cast, it’s an expensive prospect. And that cast isn’t bulletproof — DiCaprio is the only real draw, but his Oscar-type projects tend to bottom out at around $35 million, like last year’s “J. Edgar.” The literary source material and the spectacle sure to come with a Luhrmann production should help things over that barrier, but don’t forget that Luhrmann’s last awards-baiting film, “Australia,” didn’t do much business, domestically at least; if the reviews aren’t there, people won’t go for the sake of it. December is very crowded (with “Django Unchained” opening on the very same day), and could the 3D element hurt more than it helps? There’s no proof that audiences could be drawn to a three-dimensional film that’s not action/fantasy led, and 3D receipts are dropping as it is.
What’s It Cost? Reportedly around $125 million, which is an awful lot for a drama, even if it is a period one.
What’s The Estimated Return On Investment? Despite everything we’ve said, we think the high-school favorite text paired with DiCaprio and Luhrmann will prove a big draw, and it should easily top “Australia”‘s $200 million worldwide total, so long as the reviews are enthusiastic (not necessarily a given, with the source material being so well known, everyone has already made this movie in their heads). But given the cost, plus P&A and awards campaigning, we can still see this struggling to make a profit.
When? Christmas Day
Who’s In It And What’s It About? Edgar Rice Burrough‘s classic pulp hero finally reaches screens, embodied by Taylor Kitsch, while Willem Dafoe, Lynn Collins, Mark Strong, Thomas Haden Church, Ciaran Hinds and Samantha Morton are also among the cast. Pixar grad Andrew Stanton (“Wall-E“) makes his live-action debut.
What’s The Risk Factor? Well, boy, at this point, what isn’t? A tough sell to begin with (a relatively little known property, lots of weird looking aliens), it’s been plagued both by production issues (THR had a story a week or so ago that the film had major reshoots, in part thanks to Stanton’s live-action inexperience, and the budget has soared) and a truly botched Disney marketing campaign that suggested that the studio had little confidence in the project. On top of that, it’s led by Taylor Kitsch, who between this, “Battleship” and “Savages,” will either be the biggest star in the world by the end of the year, or the male Gretchen Mol. All that being said, the film’s reportedly testing well, and let’s not forget, many thought “Avatar” would flop a month ahead of release (although that film obviously had more novelty value when it came to its performance capture and 3D elements). Disney kicks the marketing campaign up again with the Super Bowl this weekend so let’s see how it catches on across the next few weeks.
What’s It Cost? Initially planned at $200 million, the reshoots are said to have pushed it closer to $300 million, which allegedly means the film needs to clear $700 million worldwide to guarantee a sequel.
What’s The Estimated Return On Investment? It’s possible that this could be a “Mars Needs Moms“-level disaster, but we suspect the film has a few things on its side, principally being the first blockbuster in a marketplace that’s been starved of such fare since Christmas, even if “The Hunger Games” and “Wrath of the Titans” could hurt its tail. But also don’t forget the long-term success of “Tron: Legacy,” which was hugely expensive, opened soft, but topped out at $400 million worldwide. It’s possible that could serve as the model for “John Carter,” but it’s also not a semi-established franchise as “Tron” was, even if the sequel was super belated. It if catches on, it could reach “Tron: Legacy”-like numbers, but if it tanks completely, it could make a quarter of that.
When? March 9th
“Life Of Pi“
Who’s In It And What’s It About? An adaptation of Yann Martel’s bestseller, which attracted the attention of directors like Jean-Pierre Jeunet and M. Night Shyamalan over the years, this sees the return of Ang Lee for a fable about a shipwrecked boy on a raft with a tiger. A cameoing Tobey Maguire is the biggest name in the cast.
What’s The Risk Factor? Arguably the biggest dice-roll in a December full of expensive, risky fare, Ang Lee‘s 3D film might be full of CGI creatures, but it’s closer to something like “Cast Away” in tone than to, say, “We Bought A Zoo.” Lee is rarely a box office home-run, and the film’s not exactly swimming in A-listers. We’re intrigued to see how Fox sells the film, as it’s far from the cutesy fare of “Marley & Me” or “War Horse” — this is dark, scary, grown-up stuff, possibly too much so for pre-teens, and Lee is unlikely to have watered it down. Plus, with “The Hobbit” opening the week before, and “Les Miserables,” “World War Z” and “The Great Gatsby” either side, it’s got tough competition. Ultimately, this is one film that will really need awards love to make its money back.
What’s It Cost? Fox initially pulled the plug fearing that $70 million was too much. But still, it’s probably around $60 million.
What’s The Estimated Return On Investment? The $400 million haul of, say, “Slumdog Millionaire” feels like a long way off without ecstatic reviews, but the book is beloved, and it could find itself striking a chord. The relatively low cost means it likely won’t lose money, but it probably won’t make a huge profit either unless it becomes a global surprise hit.
When? December 21st
“Men In Black 3“
Who’s In It And What’s It About? The original trio of Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and director Barry Sonnenfeld return for a time-traveling adventure that sees Josh Brolin play the younger version of Jones’ character, with Jemaine Clement as the evil alien killer they face off against. Emma Thompson, Alice Eve, Michael Stuhlbarg and Bill Hader are also among the cast.
What’s The Risk Factor? The return of Will Smith to his biggest franchise after being absent from screens altogether for four years seems like a home run on paper, but it’s riskier than it looks. Smith’s having a bit of a Tom Cruise-in-2005 moment, with plenty of negative publicity for the previously untouchable star. And the film’s had well-publicized production problems, with the budget heading north of $215 million. Perhaps most importantly, the disliked second installment a decade ago took $441 million — strong, but not when your film costs not far off that, once you add in P&A. We suspect that there’s enough residual love for the original, and for Smith, for this to do OK, but OK doesn’t necessarily bring you out of the red when a film’s this expensive.
What’s It Cost? Last we heard, $215 million, but that’s got to be close to $350 million with P&A.
What’s The Estimated Return On Investment? Worst case scenario: the film’s a trainwreck, teens don’t care about a franchise that started when they were toddlers, and it does “Wild Wild West” numbers. Best case scenario, 3D add-ons sees it top the original, which made nearly $500 million, the franchise is reborn, and Smith is safely the world’s favorite movie star again. But it’s such a big global brand, you can almost guarantee that even if it’s a huge piece of shit, it’s going to make at least $200 million worldwide and Sony knows this.
When? May 25th
Who’s In It And What’s It About? Tarsem (“Immortals“) gives a comic spin to the Snow White tale, with Julia Roberts as the wicked queen, Armie Hammer as the prince, and Lily Collins as the heroine.
What’s The Risk Factor? Have you seen that trailer? Looking like some kind of dreadful ABC Family TV movie, with severely misjudged comic timing, it’s arguably our least anticipated film of the year. But that aside, it’s got other problems: Julia Roberts is no longer the box-office behemoth she once was (see: “Larry Crowne” last year), and that goes double when she’s out of her comfort zone, as she is here. Hammer and Collins aren’t yet box office draws, and there’s no evidence as yet to suggest that anyone wants to see any of these fairy tale movies, especially as it’s got “Snow White and the Huntsman” hot on its heels. Plus, the film was moved back a couple of weeks recently, meaning it’s opening head-to-head with “Wrath of the Titans” and “The Pirates!,” cannibalizing its own audience. That being said, it seems to skew very young, which may be a genius stroke — after all, that’s the audience that should be watching fairy tale movies.
What’s It Cost? Well, it looks cheap as hell, but there are plenty of effects, and Roberts still commands a hefty paycheck. Somewhere in the region of $70-90 million, most likely (conservatively of course).
What’s The Estimated Return On Investment? “Red Riding Hood” didn’t even make it to $100 million worldwide, but this being less edgy, it may be able to bring in the kids over spring break, although any hope of it being a four quadrant monster is pretty much dead on the vine.
When? March 30th
Who’s In It And What’s It About? Ridley Scott reboots/prequelizes/does something vaguely connected to the “Alien” franchise he made his name on, with Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Logan Marshall-Green and Idris Elba leading the cast.
What’s The Risk Factor? It might be one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the year among the geek set, but does it have the same appeal to the general public? They’re not necessarily aware of the “Alien” link, and even if they are, that brand was tarnished by weak later installments. They’ve likely not heard of much of the cast, and the film looks prohibitively dark, even if it ends up with a PG-13 rating. While some will point to “Inception” as evidence that original sci-fi can pay off in a big way, that film had Christopher Nolan coming off “The Dark Knight,” and an A-lister in the lead role. We’re not saying it doesn’t look great, but it’s a less-than-concrete commercial proposition, particularly with “Men In Black 3” and “Snow White and the Huntsman” in theaters ahead of it.
What’s It Cost? H.R. Giger was quoted as saying the film cost 230 million Swiss francs, which is something like $250 million, but our guess is it’s probably closer to $200 mil; still a hefty sum.
What’s The Estimated Return On Investment? Very hard to say. We can absolutely see a world in which the film doesn’t clear $100 million in the U.S, like “Robin Hood” (although international should be strong, like that film). We can also see it taking off in a big way, as (relatively) original fare in a sequel- and reboot-happy summer.
When? June 8th
Who’s In It And What’s It About? Oliver Stone returns to studio fare for a crime thriller, based on Don Winslow‘s novel, about a pair of Californian pot growers (Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch) who do battle with a Mexican cartel. Blake Lively, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Demian Bichir, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek and Emile Hirsch co-star.
What’s The Risk Factor? Universal raised eyebrows this week when they moved the film from September to the very heart of summer. Presumably putting the film head-to-head with “The Amazing Spider-Man” suggests a certain confidence in the project, and we can certainly see it working as good counter programming; there are almost no grown-up adult thrillers between May and September, and clearly the studio saw a gap. That being said, it’s a cast led by untested young stars, and opening directly against ‘Spider-Man,’ on the July 4th weekend, no less, could see it trampled on completely. Plus, Stone hasn’t had a film that’s topped $100 million since “Platoon.”
What’s It Cost? It’s unclear, but our guess would be no more than $55 million, and possibly less.
What’s The Estimated Return On Investment? We’re in almost uncharted waters here, it having been a long, long time since someone tried to release this kind of (presumably) R-rated crime fare at the height of the summer months. We can see it falling flat with domestic audiences, but we could see the gamble paying off unexpectedly.
When? July 6th
“Snow White and the Huntsman“
Who’s In It And What’s It About? The second of the two Snow White movies this year, this is a harder-edged, “Lord of the Rings” style version, from commercials helmer Rupert Sanders, with Charlize Theron as the wicked queen, Kristen Stewart as Ms. White and Chris Hemsworth as the huntsman, plus a who’s-who of British character actors as the dwarves.
What’s The Risk Factor? As we said above, Hollywood have pinned their hopes on fairy tale reboots as big box office hits, but “Alice in Wonderland” aside, none has landed to date, This film, originally set for a release later in the year before being moved up to unsuccessfully try to beat its rival to the punch, has the added problem of being the second in the marketplace; will it be the “Infamous” to “Mirror Mirror“‘s “Capote“? Furthermore, neither Stewart, Hemsworth nor Theron have ever been major draws outside their franchises. That being said, the cracking teaser trailer seems to have made people genuinely excited about the project; if Universal can keep that up, they shouldn’t have too much of a problem.
What’s The Cost? At least $150 million, probably higher.
What’s The Estimated Return On Investment? The billion dollar toll of “Alice in Wonderland” is likely well out of reach, but this feels like one of the more solid prospects on the list at present, although it’s in more trouble if “Mirror Mirror” is a hit.
When? June 1st
Who’s In It And What’s It About? The sequel to the 2009 surprise hit, this sees the father of one of Liam Neeson‘s victims from the first film seeking revenge by kidnapping him, forcing his daughter (Maggie Grace) to embark on a rescue attempt. The brilliantly named Olivier Megaton directs.
What’s The Risk Factor? “Taken” was a shock smash a few years back, opening to $25 million on Super Bowl weekend before riding to a domestic total of $150 million. Fox and Luc Besson have fought hard to get a sequel made, but can lightning strike twice? Neeson has proved his box office mettle again recently with “The Grey,” and the original’s well-liked, but is it likely to be a case of diminishing returns, particularly with an odd premise without the same instant appeal as the first film? Furthermore, can it hold its own in October, with competition from Judge Dredd, Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis and Jason Statham either side of its release?
What’s The Cost? Not a lot, but Neeson’s sure to have had landed a killer paycheck, probably pushing the film to twice the original $25 million budget, so $50 million or so.
What’s The Estimated Return On Investment? We can’t see the film matching the $250 million gross of the original, although maybe that’s just because we think the sequel sounds so terrible. There’s no denying that Neeson’s got a fanbase, so it won’t be far off.
When? October 5th
Who’s In It And What’s It About? Len Wiseman (“Live Free and Die Hard“) remakes Paul Verhoeven‘s Philip K Dick adaptation, with Colin Farrell taking over from Arnie, and Eva Mendes, Kate Beckinsale, Bill Nighy, Ethan Hawke and, as the villain Cohaagen, Bryan Cranston.
What’s The Risk Factor? Our pick for the diciest prospect of the summer, this is a redundant remake of a film only twenty years old, which, from the Comic-Con footage we saw, has nothing new to add. Furthermore, it has as its lead Colin Farrell, who was never a big draw even in his heyday (his biggest hit was “S.W.A.T.” in 2003, at $116 million), and who had a big flop last summer in “Fright Night.” Most importantly, it’s opening side-by-side with “The Bourne Legacy,” which is aiming for the exact same audience, and is almost certain to trample all over it. It’s not cheap either, and we just can’t see it hitting a number that makes it profitable, short of Sony releasing some really killer footage. Don’t be surprised if this ends up getting moved to a quieter 2013 slot — it might at least manage “Underworld” or “Resident Evil” numbers with a January or September release date.
What’s The Cost? Quotes have it as high as $200 million. We hope for Sony‘s sake that’s off by at least half.
What’s The Estimated Return On Investment? Best case scenario, the 3D helps it to do “Resident Evil: Afterlife” numbers internationally, but bear in mind that film hit in a quiet September at the height of 3D mania, so don’t be surprised if this falls well short of that film’s $300 mil total.
When? August 3rd
“World War Z“
Who’s In It And What’s It About? Brad Pitt stars in the Marc Forster-directed adaptation of Max Brooks‘ faux-oral history of a zombie plague. Mireille Enos, David Morse, Matthew Fox and James Badge Dale are in support.
What’s The Risk Factor? Brad Pitt is about a solid box-office prospect as you could ask for, in commercial fare at least. But “World War Z” feels particularly risky in terms of his studio fare: a sweeping, epic horror flick aimed at the Christmas market, but one that’s almost certain to carry a PG-13 rating. Paramount are probably hoping that the mega-grossing “I Am Legend” (nearly $600 million worldwide) leads the way, but that didn’t have the high-falutin’ socio-political aspirations that Pitt has talked about, and was also virtually unchallenged on release, whereas “World War Z” has to face off against “The Hobbit,” “Kill Bin Laden” and “Django Unchained,” among others.
What’s The Cost? The film was nearly scrapped when Paramount got uneasy about the $125 million budget; it’s unclear if that got trimmed down, or if partners Skydance helped make that more palatable.
What’s The Estimated Return On Investment? We’d be very surprised if this did anything close to “I Am Legend” numbers; Pitt’s biggest hit remains the $500 million “Troy,” a more commercial prospect than this. That being said, Pitt rarely misses with a non-arthouse film, so no one’s going to lose their job on this one.
When? December 21st
“Wrath of the Titans“
Who’s In It And What’s It About? In the sequel to the 2010 hit, Sam Worthington returns as Perseus to face off a rebellion by Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Ares (Edgar Ramirez) that aims to unleash the Titans. Liam Neeson returns as Zeus, God of Exposition, while Rosamund Pike, Toby Kebbell and Bill Nighy are among the new additions, and “Battle: Los Angeles” director Jonathan Liebesman takes over from Louis Leterrier.
What’s The Risk Factor? “Clash of the Titans” proved a healthy hit two years ago, riding the post “Avatar” 3D wave to $500 million worldwide, so surely a sequel is something of a home run. But then, sequels tend to work best when people like the original, and you have to look pretty hard to find people who are professed fans of ‘Clash.’ All involved have promised a film that steps up from the original, but the filmmakers are once again going down the same 3D post-conversion that plagued the original. The process may have improved, but communicating that to audience isn’t easy. Plus, the film now has stiff competition in March, when it once had that time to itself; “Mirror Mirror” opens on the same date, and “John Carter” and “The Hunger Games” will still be in theaters.
What’s The Cost? The original was around the $125 million mark, and we can’t imagine this being significantly more.
What’s The Expected Return On Investment? We’re not saying this’ll tank, but we can easily see the grosses dropping below the first one, enough so that Warners start to rethink a third installment.