After September and October turned out just one clear $100 million movie (Jackass 3-D), November seems poised to deliver a handful of potential blockbusters. Megamind and Due Date aim to kick off the month strongly, while Unstoppable, Skyline and Tangled also have potential. Towering over all of these movies, though, is the beginning of the end of the Harry Potter series, which will undoubtedly generate massive sales.
With over 57 percent of polled Box Office Mojo readers voting it as their top choice to see in November, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 rides a tidal wave of anticipation to its Nov. 19 debut. Distributor Warner Bros. has counteracted any fears regarding the novel's less action-oriented first half by ramping up the action and dramatic stakes in its advertising. Deathly Hallows is the first Harry Potter movie to open on a Friday in November since Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in 2005. That movie debuted to $102.7 million on its way to just over $290 million. Even if interest is equal to Goblet of Fire, ticket price inflation and IMAX premiums should allow Deathly Hallows to easily top those grosses.
While Harry Potter is poised to dominate November, the month starts with high-profile tiltes Megamind, Due Date and For Colored Girls facing off. DreamWorks Animation's Megamind is the latest 3D computer-animated movie in a year that's already seen four such pictures each gross over $200 million, and it features an appealing voice cast that has been out campaigning for the movie for months (though Brad Pitt has been conspicuously absent thus far). While it could be held back by its similarity to Despicable Me, Megamind is well-positioned for a nearly-heroic run.
Following up on the massive success of The Hangover, which earned $277.3 million last summer to become the top-grossing R-rated comedy ever, director Todd Phillips reunites with Hangover star Zach Galifianakis for Due Date. Also along for the ride is Robert Downey, Jr., who has become hugely popular after starring in the Iron Man movies, Tropic Thunder and Sherlock Holmes. Advertisements have rightfully put the focus on the Hangover connection and the interplay between the leads, and, though Due Date won't earn as much as Hangover, it could easily become a comedy hit in its own right.
For Colored Girls is writer-director Tyler Perry's first R-rated drama, and it's also the first time he's adapted someone else's work. Distributor Lionsgate is using its early November release date and dramatic themes to position it as this year's Precious, which made $47.6 million. Based on Perry's track record, a similar result from For Colored Girls would be a reasonable expectation.
The second weekend of November finds Skyline, Unstoppable and Morning Glory battling for audiences. Skyline is the first alien invasion movie since District 9 last year. Whereas District 9 had a unique premise (aliens living in apartheid-like conditions), style and location (South Africa), Skyline features a standard abduction plot set in the movie industry's favorite place, Los Angeles, which may translate into a lower gross than District 9's $115.7 million.
Unstoppable marks director Tony Scott and star Denzel Washington's second train-related collaboration in a row, following The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, which derailed at $65.6 million. Commercials thus far have played up the thriller aspects and the camaraderie between Mr. Washington and co-star Chris Pine (Captain Kirk in the Star Trek reboot), but the lack of a clear villain could hold it back.
The wild card on the Nov. 12 weekend is Morning Glory (which actually opens on Wednesday). Despite being produced by J.J. Abrams and starring Harrison Ford, advertising has opted to put Rachel McAdams front-and-center, pushing a Devil Wears Prada-type vibe (Aline Brosh McKenna wrote both movies). Commercials and poster art have been relatively non-descript thus far, though, so it's hard to imagine Morning Glory replicating Prada's success.
Paul Haggis's The Next Three Days has the unfortunate distinction of opening Nov. 19 opposite Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, which means it's going to struggle to receive much attention. The movie stars Russell Crowe as a man attempting to break his wife out of prison. Aside from Robin Hood, Mr. Crowe has had a rough stretch at the box office over the past few years, and The Next Three Days looks to be in line with disappointments like Body of Lies and State of Play. While it clearly faces an uphill battle, all may not lost for the Haggis-Crowe movie: Walk the Line managed a strong opening against Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire back in November 2005.
All of Thanksgiving weekend's new releases appear unlikely to unseat Harry Potter. Disney's 3D animated movie Tangled, which re-imagines the Rapunzel story, seems like the best bet. Another non-Pixar Disney animated movie, The Princess and the Frog, debuted to $24.2 million last December, though Tangled lacks the same nostalgia-factor. Still, it's tough to doubt Disney when it comes to marketing and distributing animated content, so expect Tangled to have at least a respectable run.
After a number of years working in more family-oriented comedies, The Rock moves in to R-rated territory with action movie Faster. Unfortunately, The Rock's only other foray in to R-rated action was Doom in 2005, which tanked with $28.2 million. In fact, he tends to be most successful either as part of an ensemble (Get Smart and The Other Guys) or in family movies (The Game Plan, Race to Witch Mountain, Tooth Fairy), and Faster falls in to neither of these categories. Faster will probably be viewed as a mild success if it can replicate Transporter 3, which opened on Thanksgiving weekend 2008 and ultimately grossed $31.7 million.
Rounding out the Nov. 24 releases is Burlesque, a project that doesn't seem to have a lot going for it. It features Christina Aguilera in her first big screen role, but its generic storyline echoes Showgirls, Coyote Ugly, Flashdance and others. So far, distributor Sony's marketing has focused on the combination of pop stars Aguilera and Cher on screen, and neither of them have proven box office credentials.
November also features a few significant movies opening in limited release. 127 Hours, which is director Danny Boyle's followup to Slumdog Millionaire, opens at four locations on Nov. 5 following strong advanced buzz. After what will inevitably be high per-theater grosses, Fox Searchlight will mount an expansion, though an official nationwide release date is not currently set. Also opening that day at 35 theaters is Fair Game, which stars Naomi Watts and Sean Penn. The true story has planned expansions on Nov. 12 and Nov. 19. Fast-forwarding to the end of the month, Toronto International Film Festival favorite The King's Speech opens on Nov. 24 along with the 3D retelling of The Nutcracker story (which is now set to go nationwide the following weekend).