a record-breaking summer at the box office, movie studios suffered from
a relatively sluggish fall, casting doubt that box-office sales would
top last year’s $9.2 billion.
The industry did surpass the $9 billion mark this week thanks to
strong openings for the Will Smith apocalyptic thriller “I Am Legend” –
which set a December record by grossing $77.2 million in its first
weekend – and the mix of live action and computer animated “Alvin and
the Chipmunks,” which took in a whopping $44.3 million in ticket sales.
If Hollywood has a strong showing the final two weekends of the
year, 2007 could mark the second consecutive up year at the box office
after a disappointing 2005, when grosses fell 6 percent.
Studios such as Viacom’s (VIAB) Paramount , Warner Bros – which like
CNNMoney.com is a subsidiary of Time Warner (TWX) – Sony’s (SNE)
Columbia, Walt Disney’s (DIS) Buena Vista and GE’s (GE) Universal were
the big box office winners this year. Each studio captured at least 10
percent of the total U.S. box office, according to figures from movie tracking firm Box Office Mojo.
But what about 2008?
Jeff Bock, a box office analyst with movie industry research firm
Exhibitor Relations, thinks there is a decent chance that next year
will top 2007 but that it’s far from a sure thing. That’s because many
studios are taking a gamble by planning to launch would-be franchises
next summer instead of relying on less-risky sequels.
Bock said that some non-sequels to watch in summer 2008 are “The
Love Guru,” a comedy starring Mike Myers; “Iron Man,” the latest film
based on a Marvel (MVL) comic book character; “Kung Fu Panda,” a
computer generated animated movie from DreamWorks Animation (DWA); and
“Hancock,” a superhero action film starring box office Midas Will Smith.
Two other summer films he said will be worth keeping an eye on are
“Wall-E,” the latest from Disney’s Pixar powerhouse, and “Speed Racer,”
a live action version of the cult hit Japanese anime series from the
Of course, there will also be sequels galore in 2008. Most notably,
next summer will feature the long-awaited fourth film in the Indiana
Jones series, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” and
the second movie in the “Chronicles of Narnia” series: “Prince
Caspian.” There will also be sequels to “Hulk,” “The X-Files” and “The
Mummy” as well as “The Dark Knight,” a sequel to “Batman Begins.”
But the industry has to do more than have a hot summer to exceed
2007 sales, Bock said. It’s become increasingly important to spread out
the release of big movies throughout the whole year.
To that end, Bock said he thinks that Viacom’s Paramount is making
an interesting gamble with “Cloverfield,” a movie that has generated a
lot of buzz thanks to a cryptic trailer that first aired before this
summer’s smash hit “Transformers” and Web site featuring more footage from the movie.
The movie has no big stars in it but features what appears to be a
monster of some kind on a rampage in New York City – the poster shows a
decapitated Statue of Liberty. “Cloverfield” has been widely promoted
and is from “Lost” and “Alias” creator J. J. Abrams. It hits theaters
on Jan. 18, not a date typically associated with big blockbusters.
“January is usually a wasteland for the forgotten film. But
Paramount is doing a great job of hyping ‘Cloverfield.’ I think this
one will deliver and has an opportunity to dominate in not just January
but February,” Bock said.
Bock said the “Hannah Montana” concert movie – due out in February –
could also be a big blockbuster considering how much money people were
willing to pay for tickets to this consistently sold-out tour, which
features Miley Cyrus from the popular Disney Channel TV show. Plus, it will be in 3-D, a format gaining in popularity following the successful debut of “Beowulf” this year.
And Bock said that “10,000 B.C.,” a caveman epic from “Independence
Day” director Roland Emmerich, could be 2008’s answer to “300,” the
historical action film that was a surprise smash, pulling in more than
$210 million. Warner Bros. released “300″ and will be releasing “10,000
B.C” in March.
The end of next year looks promising at first blush as well, with
the penultimate film in the Harry Potter franchise, “Harry Potter and
the Half-Blood Prince,” a new James Bond movie, a sequel to the
DreamWorks animation hit “Madagascar,” and a revamped version of “Star
Trek” all on tap for next November and December.
Still, despite all of these possible hits, Bock doubts next year
will top the all-time record of $9.4 billion set in 2004. He’s more
hopeful about 2009. Why? He points to a new “X-Men” sequel focusing on
Wolverine as well as sequels to “Transformers,” “Ice Age” and “Night at
the Museum.” Not to mention “The DaVinci Code” prequel “Angels and
Demons” and the eagerly awaited 3-D movie “Avatar” from “Titanic” and
“Terminator” director James Cameron.
“2009 is the one that could wind up beating 2004. I’m more
optimistic about that. Next year is more of a question mark,” he said.
Powered by ScribeFire.