Box Office Analysis: The Summer Box Office To Come
by Alex Keen
Published: April 29, 2002
Every summer there are a few turkeys in the marketplace that do so poorly entire studios can be in jeopardy. Last summer saw two Disney releases perform below expectations (“Pearl Harbor” and “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” made $198 and 84 million respectively), while Dreamworks SKG was hampered by “Evolution” (38 million), Warner Brothers was damaged by “A.I.” (78 million) and Sony bathed in the red with “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” (32 million).
Universal Pictures had a spectacular summer with “The Mummy Returns” (202 million), “The Fast and the Furious” (144 million), “Jurassic Park III” (181 million), and “American Pie 2” (145 million). Other hits included “Shrek” (267 million) for Dreamworks, “Rush Hour 2” (226 million) for New Line, and “Planet of the Apes” (180 million) for 20th Century Fox.
This year there will be some strong competition for the box office crown; two heavy hitting sequels, a comic book adaptation, a cartoon adaptation, Disney animation, and an explosive new look at the spy genre. However, beware there are also some obvious bombs looming large, hoping to hide behind expensive ad campaigns. There are also a few below the radar movies that hope to surprise like 2001's “Legally Blonde” and “Furious.”
The analysis below focuses on box office history, analysis of the advertising campaigns, and instinct. Click this link for a quick reference chart: Pop-Up Chart
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“Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” (Preview | Review | Soundtrack Review)
Estimate: $250 – 290 million
Once again George Lucas has honored the masses with another installment of his imagination. However, with the amount of backlash about “The Phantom Menace,” the fanbase has been weakened. Sure the merchandising will be out of control, and the film will open well. The big question is whether it can secure return business from the same people that saw “Menace” numerous times (even though they hated it). “Clones” should do well but will have difficulty breaking into the Top 10 of all time.
“Men in Black II”
Estimate: $250 – 290 million
The other monolithic sequel for 2002 is Will Smith’s return to sci-fi, alongside old friend Tommy Lee Jones. With a very funny teaser already released to the public, “MIB 2” should attract families nationwide and across all demographics. If “Clones” falters expect “MIB2” to leave Summer 2002 as the box office champ, and a possible record contender.
Estimate: $230 – 250 million
Still under some of society’s radar, “Minority Report” will need to secure solid reviews and outstanding word-of-mouth to really challenge the other sci-fi blockbusters listed above. Limited to a teen and above audience, “Report” should secure a solid opening weekend attached to the names Cruise and Spielberg. However the public’s tepid response to “A.I.” and “Vanilla Sky” aren’t the best indicators.
Estimate: $170 – 230 million
In theory “Scooby Doo” sounds like a terrible idea. In execution however, it could result in box office dynamite. Like “MIB 2,” “Doo” appeals strongly to families across all demographics. While nostalgia groupies will check out this live action caper, don’t expect the grunge goatee that Shaggy sports to re-emerge. If “Doo” is on par with something like “The Mummy” expect a solid return and rumors of sequels and prequels.
Estimate: $300 – 400 million
Edited May 11While my initial analysis left "Spider-Man" as mid-level hit, the truth has proved my estimations wrong. Comic and kid fans came out in force this May, showing Hollywood that comic movies are still in demand. "Spider-Man" should stay in theaters for quite some time, and has a great chance at being the biggest hit of the summer.
“Lilo & Stitch”
Estimate: $170 – 190 million
Gone are the days that studios feared the competition of Disney animation. Fox and Dreamworks have proven Disney is not as invincible as they were during the “Mermaid Era.” With the failure of “Atlantis,” Disney had to doubt the future of their traditional animation films. And although the CGI trend is no longer just a fad, “Lilo” should perform well because it has charm. “Atlantis” and “Fantasia” were not meant for children of any age, and suffered by limiting their audiences. Expect plush Stitch dolls to litter cribs nationwide by the end of the summer.
Estimate: $160 - 180 million
Vin Diesel’s follow-up to the explosive “The Fast and the Furious,” “xXx” looms as a possible heir to the Bond legacy, or a flash in the pan action flick remembered alongside likes of any of Nicholas Cage’s action trilogy “The Rock,” “Con Air,” and “Face/Off.” With Samuel L. Jackson in a co-starring capacity, “xXx” should have no problem opening strongly, but may be too much gloss for moviegoers that appreciate more substance. What I am really wondering about is what they could call the sequel.
“Austin Powers 3: Goldmember”
Estimate: $150 - 170 million
With copyright issues settled out of court, New Line finally has the opportunity to release the ‘60s hipster on time and without fear. While sequelitis will help “Goldmember” make money, the continued watering-down of the female lead (from Elizabeth Hurley to Heather Graham to Beyonce Knowles) will push away many former fans. The first teaser came across quite weak, and the film will need the support of better Dr. Evil jokes to even stand a chance of topping “The Spy Who Shagged Me’s” $206 million.
“The Road to Perdition”
Estimate: $140 - 160 million
Over the past six years, Tom Hanks has been King Midas. He lead five films over at least $100 million, and three of those over $200 million. His next film, “The Road to Perdition” is darker than most of Hanks’ recent films. Playing a hitman, he will not be the sweet and charming guy that filled the seats of “You’ve Got Mail,” “The Green Mile,” and “Forrest Gump.” Direction from Oscar winner Sam Mendes will surely generate interest and acclaim, but bofo box office is not guaranteed. Even the surest of A-List stars can be stifled when they stray from their type.
“Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams“
Estimate: $140 - 160 million
The final sequel in this section, “Spy Kids” was a quiet hit last year that took some analysts and moviegoers by surprise. Directed by Robert Rodriguez, “Kids” reunites the former cast in an all-new adventure. Kids movies typically do well as long as they have the proper amount of promotion, and “Kids” should be well backed. Expected a solid opening weekend followed by a consistent return from weeks to follow as the kids keep coming back. This may be one of the best bets of the year to perform up to expectation.
"About a Boy" (Preview | Review | Review)
Estimate: $60 - 100 million
Unafraid of the beast that is “Star Wars,” Universal Pictures is rolling the dice with what may be one of the best comedies of the year. And although the film is very good, it will need divine intervention to be a true break out success. Star Hugh Grant has had a very up-and-down relationship with American audiences, and has not proven if his name alone can generate box office. This film will live or die on movie reviews and word-of-mouth.
Estimate: $50 - 100 million
Critically acclaimed director Christopher Nolan is following up his indie breakthrough “Memento,” with this remake starring Al Pacino and Robin Williams. Stuck in the middle of “Star Wars” and “The Sum of All Fears,” while sharing the same release date as Jennifer Lopez’s “Enough,” is a difficult pond to swim in. It should perform well with older audiences, but will need something unique to draw teens away from the beach and the sun.
Estimate: $30 - 95 million
Perhaps the most difficult film to gauge this summer, “Signs” has star power and has incredible breakout potential. However, the theme of crop circles and the current ad campaign seems absolutely hokie. This seems like a film better suited for an April, October, or November release, where it could build steam and generate buzz. Something tells me “Signs” will need a lot of help to meet studio expectations.
Estimate: $30 - 85 million
Kids sports movies are a very trustworthy genre. Audiences love to see the underdog athlete overcome his failings and win a trophy. Lil’ Bow Wow’s Hollywood debut has a great trailer, and a strong fanbase that should secure sustained box office. Expect a performance similar to this Spring’s “The Rookie” if not better.
"Reign of Fire"
Estimate: $20 - 65 million
If current internet buzz were the primary indicator, “Reign of Fire” is one of the top 5 movies of Summer 2002. However, with a pretty busy release date and very limited star power, the appeal does not seem to reach beyond internet geeks. Expect the return to top fantasy releases “The 13th Warrior” and “Dungeons & Dragons,” but forget about a sequel.
"Undercover Brother" (Preview)
Estimate: $20 - 60 million
With practically the same release date as last year’s “The Animal,” “Undercover Brother” appears to be a low budget comedy with the right ingredients to encourage repeat business. It has a spectacular release date, without any real competition. If it can capture the magical kitsch quotient that “Austin Powers” has, expect “Brother” to become a franchise. Solid.
Estimate: $20 - 50 million
John Woo’s follow-up to “Mission: Impossible 2” looks to be the biggest bomb of the summer. Often delayed, “Windtalkers” has had a completely jumbled marketing campaign, reminiscent of this Winter’s “Rollerball.” Stars Nicholas Cage and Christian Slater are not dramatic draws, and the subject seems too boring for a Summer release. This film has the possibility of being the worst disaster since “Battlefield: Earth.” I’ll enjoy watching it disappear from theaters faster than “Glitter.”
”The Bourne Identity”
Estimate: $25 - 55 million
Sometimes good initial ideas wind up muddled by conflicting casting decisions. While the cast is a very strong one, they don’t seem to belong together in this specific movie. From the trailers Matt Damon seems miscast, while Julia Stiles appears to have a completely throw away part. And unfortunately Chris Cooper seems to be cast in the yelling villain role (see bad Ed Harris movies for explanation). While I will be seeing this, I doubt the general public could care less. It almost seems like “The Saint 2.”
”Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood”
Estimate: $35 - 50 million
Due to the worst trailer made this year, “The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood” looks to continue Sandra Bullock’s box office spiral. With the failure of “Murder By Numbers,” 2002 has been a poor year for Ms. Bullock. “Ya Ya” seems incredibly boring, confusing, and unfunny. Shaken together this mixture seems to reek of failure.
Estimate: $40 - 100 million
Although “Ya Ya” is the worst trailer for 2002, “K-19” is right behind. Harrison Ford with a glue-on Russian accent is ridiculous. Ford with a Russian Navy cap is moronic. The only glimmer of hope “K-19” is that Ford can still bring in an audience no matter what role he is in. “What Lies Beneath” proved the old man still has some pull, but failures like “Random Hearts” and “Six Days, Seven Nights” block out much of the sun.
“Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron”
Estimate: $45 - 60 million
This may be the most perplexing release of the summer. Animated horses that don’t talk?! Narration by Matt Damon?! Non-Disney Animation + Damon = box office poison. “Titan A.E.” will never be forgotten. However, due to a solid release date and ample studio backing, “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron” has a small chance to perform adequately. For some reason this film feels like it is hoping to be like “Dinosaur.”