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Hollywood Likely to Set a New All-Time Box Office Record in 2008

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May 11, 2009 | 1:20pm EDT

The Dark Knight (Warner Bros), which has generated an estimated $315M since opening 10 days ago, has provided a huge boost to the film industry. 2007 was a record-breaker for the business with a total domestic take of $9.65 billion, almost 5 percent better than 2007. The current year is at $5.66 billion so far, which is less than 1 percent behind last year’s pace.

The final five months of 2008 look very strong, and I believe that Hollywood will set a new all-time box office record, proving once again that the movie business is recession proof. Gas prices have led to more “staycations,” and at a national average of just over $7 for a movie ticket, a trip to the local multiplex remains a very good value .

In 2007, the August-thru-December period included 4 films that went on to gross $200M+, 10 movies that ultimately surpassed $100M domestic and 13 titles that topped $75M in U.S. ticket sales.

December 14 - I Am Legend (Warner Bros) - $256.39M

August 3 – The Bourne Ultimatum (Universal) - $227.47M

December 21 – National Treasure: Book of Secrets (Disney) - $219.96M

December 14 – Alvin & The Chipmunks (Fox) - $217.32M

December 5 – Juno (Fox Searchlight) - $143.49M

August 10 – Rush Hour 3 (New Line) - $140.12M

November 2 – American Gangster (Universal) - $130.16M

November 21 – Enchanted (Disney) - $127.8M

November 2 – Bee Movie (Dreamworks/Paramount) - $126.63M

August 17 – Superbad (Sony) - $121.46M

December 25 – The Bucket List (Warner Bros) - $93.46M

September 28 – The Game Plan (Disney) - $90.63M

November 16 – Beowulf (Dreamworks/Paramount) - $82.19M

I am projecting that this year’s August-thru-December period will feature at least 2 films with $200M+, 11 movies surpassing $100M domestic and 2 more that seem certain to get past $75M. Plus, there are seven more “Wild Card” movies with real breakout potential.

$200M+

November 7 – Madagascar 2 (Dreamworks/Paramount)

Everyone at Dreamworks Animation is very high on this one. The original 2005 movie finished with $193M US, and this one has a real shot at $200M domestic.

November 21 – Harry Potter & The Half Blood Prince (Warner Bros)

There is a guaranteed $250M in a Harry Potter movie, The last November HP release was Goblet of Fire, which hit $290M. It is fair to expect something in that range.

$100M+

August 1 – The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Universal)

Should easily top $100M in its US theatrical engagements. Industry tracking looks exceedingly solid, and Brendan Fraser has the “family-friendly action star” thing down pat.

August 15 – Tropic Thunder (Dreamworks/Paramount)

I long ago tapped this as the late summer’s biggest hit. Robert Downey Jr. will have his second consecutive $100M, and look out for Tom Cruise, who reportedly steals the movie.

August 15 – Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Warner Bros)

My guess is that anything with Star Wars in the title and the George Lucas seal of approval is good for at least $100M.

October 24 – High School Musical 3: Senior Year (Disney)

No-brainer. The Disney Channel phenomenon comes to the big screen and $100M is a certainty. The on-again, off-again real-life romance of Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens will make great copy, and director Kenny Ortega has this formula down.

November 7 – Quantum of Solace (Sony)

Bond is Bond, and Daniel Craig is the best version since Sean Connery. I do not love the title, but my gut says it will be the biggest Jame Bond movie ever.

December 12 – The Day the Earth Stood Still (Fox)

I saw the trailer on the big screen for the first time before The The Dark Knight, and the audience seemed to respond well. I have my reservations, namely Keanu Reeves as Klaatu, but there is always room for an aliens attack/end of the world movie with a lot of great F/X.

December 12 – Seven Pounds (Sony)

Will Smith has 8 consecutive $100M grossing hits, and I do not think that streak will be broken here. Director Gabriel Muccino and the rest of the creative team from The Pursuit of Happyness return with the world’s biggest star in tow, and it cannot miss.

December 19 - Yes Man (Warner Bros) 

Jim Carrey is coming off of The Number 23, his weakest live action film since The Majestic, but he is returning to his fool-proof brand of comedy. Funny premise. Life-affirming, feel-good movie for the holidays. Feels like a very safe bet for $100M+.

December 25 – Bedtime Stories (Disney)

In the same slot as last year’s Night At the MuseumBen Stiller returns in a family-friendly story about a handyman whose bedtime stories begin to become real.

$75M+

August 6 – Pineapple Express (Sony)

Huge buzz. The formerly humorless James Franco reportedly steals the show with an outrageously funny performance. This picture has a shot at $75M-$100M.

October 3 - Beverly Hills Chihuahua (Disney)

Part of what should be a huge fourth quarter for Disney. Talking chihuahuas, Disney’s marketing machine and an all-star Latino voice cast should bring tweens and families--especially Latino families. Salma Hayek, Andy Garcia, Edward James Olmos, Cheech MarinPaul Rodriguez and George Lopez lend their voices along with Drew Barrymore. There is at least $75M in this family film.

WILD CARDS

September 26 – Eagle Eye (Dreamworks/Paramount)

Director DJ Caruso and Shia LaBeouf, who scored a surprise hit with Disturbia, re-team on a thriller coming to theatres in late September.

September 26 – Miracle at St. Anna (Disney)

Spike Lee’s WWII drama about four African-American soldiers sounds uplifting, but his venomous back-and-forth with Clint Eastwood has taken some of the shine off of this project. Lee’s last movie, Inside Man, was his most accessible film yet.

October 10 – Body of Lies (Warner Bros)

Oscar winner William Monaghan (The Departed) has adapted the excellent David Ignatius novel of the same name. With director Ridley Scott and Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe in the leads this picture could break out the way R-rated titles like The Departed and American Gangster did the last two years in this release slot.

October 17 – W (Lionsgate)

It is certain to be much talked-about, especially a few weeks before the Presidential election. This is an A-list cast and Oliver Stone’s typically creative version of the truth, and it may score big.

November 26 – Bolt (Disney)

With at least 800 3D locations (probably more by late November) and Miley Cyrus providing one of the voices, this animated movie will be a big family event for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

December 12 – Twilight (Summit Entertainment)

I have not read the books that spawned this film (probably because I am not a teenage girl), but there is no question that there is a huge audience waiting with bated breath for the film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s series of novels. Hard to say how big the film will fly, but it certainly has a shot at $75M.

December 19 – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount) 

Brad Pitt stars as a man who begins aging backwards. With a script by Oscar winner Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, The Insider) and directed by David Fincher (Zodiac, Se7en), there is a real Oscar pedigree here, and there could be significant commercial upside.

Go to our Box Office section for recent weekend movie analysis.

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