Posted on Saturday, January 12th, 2008 by Hunter Stephenson
Over at U.S. News & World Report, assistant managing editor James Pethokoukis has transformed into a sort of hedge fund swami, predicting that next week’s Cloverfield will be the most profitable film of 2008. The key word here is “profitable.” With a reported $30 million budget, average marketing costs and countless months of rabid Internet buzz, the film could be in the black by Sunday of its opening weekend, a feat that Iron Man, with a budget estimated at $200 million and millions in additional marketing costs, simply will not accomplish. So, could Pethokoukis be right?
The most optimistic predictions have Cloverfield grossing $150 million maximum domestically (roughly $100 million profit), but that number would be considered a low domestic gross for Iron Man, The Dark Knight, Prince Caspian, Indiana Jones IV, Speed Racer, Wall-E, Hancock, The Mummy 3, Angels and Demons, Bond 22, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Star Trek, and The Love Guru. The chance that more than one of these aforementioned blockbusters will be a meteoric smash (top 10 all time) looms large. And worldwide prospects for Cloverfield are also hazy, not to mention miniscule when you consider that Prince Caspian‘s predecessor The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe grossed $750 million worldwide, while Caspian was reportedly $50 million cheaper to produce and has a built-in global audience.
While Pethokoukis is out there predicting Cloverfield‘s end of the year superlatives, I’m still wondering if it’s going to be a major hit ($100 million plus). I put as much weight on my circle of friends as audience tracking, and some still aren’t aware of the film. This wasn’t the case with I Am Legend or Juno, but it was with AVP-R. There’s not only more awareness for There Will Be Blood but feverish excitement, which is strange to me. Cloverfield‘s title is awful and in no way memorable. Nothing about it thunders “must-see event.” It also reminds me of Neil Young’s high concept album Greendale, which was reportedly the flick’s original title as well. What else makes its hit prospects less than stellar? There are no stars, no big director, not much promotion on the talk shows, and there are constant references to The Blair Witch Project in old media articles and newsbytes, which give the impression that the film is “all hype, no delivery” to a lot of casual moviegoers.
Those people don’t want to get “burned” again, nor do they want to see a movie with such an esoteric and high geek quotient a la Grindhouse. As for the marquee value of J.J. Abrams, I’m not convinced. The third Mission Impossible‘s domestic performance is blamed on Tom Cruise, which is fair, but J.J.’s name didn’t help one way or the other. Why is his name being put on par with Bruckheimer’s or even Apatow’s? Lost? I don’t know anyone who knows anyone who follows this show, except for those two universal guys at work who passionately chat about it in their cubicles. Maybe. Similar to Al Sharpton’s creation by the media, I’m convinced the “Lost craze” was invented by Entertainment Weekly. Two other things: I Am Legend already destroyed New York and for many that cathartically ended the chaos and anxiety that was 2007, so why start 2008 with more of the same? And I still believe that the words “too soon” subliminally trigger in the minds of many American moviegoers when they see trailers for films that inherently conjure the imagery of 9/11. [Re: Yes, of course I'm going to see Cloverfield.]
In defense of the film possibly being a big hit, the PG-13 rating is going to suck all teens off the street and shake the money out. A real deal non-lame monster movie is something today’s teens haven’t experienced in a theater. There is also nothing opening for the entire month of January except Rambo. With the TV strike ongoing, crystal meth being dangerous and books being books, this is to Cloverfield‘s utmost advantage. Everything about it is original, which is a positive. And then there’s the Internet and the geeks, but don’t get me started: biggest enigma ever.
I predict that Cloverfield opens to $35 million and reaches $105 million domestic. That’s a lot of fuss for Die Hard 3 numbers. But I admit it’s a shot in the dark. If it does anything less than $100 million, maybe the Internet’s meant for something besides huge viral marketing campaigns.
Will Cloverfield cross $100 million? Moreover, will it be the most profitable flick of 2008? Are you all talk or are you really going to see it? Does your mom know about it?
Thanks to /Film reader asdsa for submitting the link for this story