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Saturday, August 30, 2014



2013 Preview: February

For the most part, January was a really good month and 2013 got off to a really good start. I'm not so sure about February, on the other hand. There's only one film that has a statistically significant shot at $100 million, A Good Day to Die Hard, but I'm a little concerned that it won't live up to expectations. The franchise has been around a long time and it is possible that the target audience has either moved on or are too young to remember when these films were huge at the box office. The film I'm most looking forward to seeing is Warm Bodies, which is earning amazing early reviews (the keyword there is "early"), but it is too high-concept to be a major hit. Last February, there were a couple of films that topped $100 million, plus a few other midlevel hits. I would like to think that would also be the case this year, but I have to be more cautious than that. The evidence points to a weak month ahead, for the most part.

Weekend of February 1st, 2013

There are just a pair of wide release to start the month. (Stand Up Guys is opening in select theaters and it only has a slim shot at the top ten.) Bullet to the Head looks like an effective action film and even though the reviews are mixed, that might be good enough for an action film. Warm Bodies's early reviews were perfect, and while they've fallen, they are still positive. On the other hand, it is a high-concept film, which means it could bomb, even if it does win over the critics. Last year there were two films that opened with more than $20 million. I don't see that happening this year, especially with the Super Bowl as competition, so the month will likely start on a losing note.

Bullet to the Head

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: BulletToTheHead.WarnerBros.com
Distributor: Focus Features
Release Date: February 1st, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, bloody images, language, some nudity and brief drug use.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Based on a Graphic Novel
Keywords: Hitman, Buddy Cop, Kidnap, Rescue, Revenge, Martial Arts, Organized Crime, and more
Directed By: Walter Hill
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Sarah Shahi, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $55 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Sylvester Stallone stars as a hitman, who becomes the target after a hit goes wrong. He then teams up with a cop, played by Sung Kang, to rescue his daughter, Sarah Shahi, after she's kidnapped.

This film was pushed back a year and it has to deal with direct competition in the Super Bowl. Both of those are really bad signs. The early reviews were good, but have since slipped below the overall positive level. The same was said of The Last Stand and look how badly that film performed at the box office. The two films also have an aging action star as the lead, which is another reason for the studio to be terrified. This one has a better chance at success, but I wouldn't bet money on it.

Warm Bodies

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: WarmBodiesMovie.com
Distributor: Summit / Lionsgate
Release Date: February 1st, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for zombie violence and some language.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Horror / Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Zombie, Romance, Romeo and Juliette Romance, Unnamed Character, Narration, Epidemic, Post-Apocalypse, and more
Directed By: Jonathan Levine
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Rob Corddry, John Malkovich, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

Nicholas Hoult plays a zombie in a post-apocalyptic world. One day while hunting humans, he sees Teresa Palmer and falls in love. This love starts to cure him of his zombism; however, her father, John Malkovich, is the leader of the remaining humans, so this is a relationship with added difficulties.

Early buzz for this film was mixed. The idea of a woman and zombie falling in love reminded many people of Twilight, and while those movies have a fanbase, they have a lot of detractors as well. The early reviews were amazing, and even though they have since fallen, they are still strong enough to help its chances at the box office. Additionally, the studio released the first four minutes of the movie online and the buzz has gotten a lot better since then. I don't know if it will be enough to be more than a midlevel hit, even under the best of circumstances.

Weekend of February 8th, 2013

The second weekend of February features two wide releases (some reports have A Glimpse Inside The Mind of Charles Swan III opening wide, but that's unlikely.) Identity Thief is the latest from Seth Gordon, whose previous two films have both crossed $100 million. Side Effects is the latest by Steven Soderbergh, who has three Oscar nominations and one win under his belt. This weekend last year had two films open with more than $40 million and two others open with more than $20 million. There's no way that's going to happen this year and 2013 is going to get spanked at the box office. Then again, this weekend last year was Valentine's Day, so the misalignment comes into play.

Identity Thief

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: IdentityThiefMovie.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: February 8th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: White Collar Crimes, Conmen, Road Trip, and more
Directed By: Seth Gordon
Starring: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, others.
Production Budget: Estimated at $40 million to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

Jason Bateman plays a man who is the victim of identity theft. He decides to pursue the thief, Melissa McCarthy, but quickly learns she's not to be messed with. Seth Gordon's previous two films both earned more than $100 million. However, both had prime release dates. February is a pretty weak month of the year to release a film and there's almost no chance this film will reach the century mark. On the other hand, Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy are both very funny and could help the film succeed. Back to the original hand, the buzz is pretty bad. Maybe it will be a breakout success, but midlevel hit is probably as good as it will get.

Side Effects

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: SideEffectsMayVary.com
Distributor: Open Road
Release Date: February 8th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for sexuality, nudity, violence and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Pharmaceuticals, Therapy, Life on the Outside, Phobias and Anxieties, and more
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and others.
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

Rooney Mara plays a woman plagued with anxieties because her husband, Channing Tatum, is getting out of jail. When her psychiatrist, Jude Law, put her on a new medication, she has a reaction, blacks out, and kills someone.

The early reviews for this film are amazing, but unfortunately the buzz is not as loud as I would like. Given the star power and the reviews, I don't think it will bomb, but unless there is a strong marketing push right away, being a midlevel hit is likely as good as it will get.

Weekend of February 15th, 2013

Nothing says Valentine's Day like Die Hard. The latest in the franchise, A Good Day to Die Hard, leads a group of four films opening wide this week. Since Valentine's Day lands on the Thursday, all four films are opening wide that day. This should give a boost to most films, especially ones with any hint of romance. Speaking of romance, Safe Haven is the latest from Nicholas Sparks, which should please his target audience, even if critics wince. I don't think it is unfair to call Beautiful Creatures an attempt at a Twilight / Hunger Games franchise. Its prospects are not nearly that strong. Finally there's Escape from Planet Earth. It's a family film and there haven't been many choices for families this year, but that's the only thing going for it. This weekend last year was actually the weekend after Valentine's Day, so this misalignment should help 2013 ends its mini-losing streak.

Beautiful Creatures

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: BeautifulCreatures.WarnerBros.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: February 14th, 2013
MPAA Rating:
PG-13 for violence, scary images and some sexual material.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Secret Magic, Good vs. Evil, Romance, First Love, and more
Directed By: Richard LaGravenese
Starring: Alice Englert, Alden Ehrenreich, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $65 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

Alice Englert is part of a witch coven and soon will come of age at which time she will be locked in as either good or evil. This process is complicated when she falls in love with Alden Ehrenreich.

I think studio is hoping for a franchise similar to Twilight or Hunger Games, but while watching the trailer, I was reminded of I am Number Four, which opened this time of year two years ago. That film was also an attempt at a franchise, but it only did acceptable business worldwide. Beautiful Creatures has similar buzz, which is a bad sign, as there's simply not enough buzz to think it will be a breakout hit. Neither the director nor the two leads have real box office track record to think it overcome the quiet buzz. Finally, it is opening during the busiest weekend of the month.

I think it will do well enough to cover its production budget sometime during the home market, but not well enough to warrant a sequel.

Escape From Planet Earth

Trailer: Coming Soon
Official Site: EscapeEarthMovie.com
Distributor: Weinstein Co.
Release Date: February 14th, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG for action and some mild crude humor.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Friendly Alien on Earth, Rescue, Sibling Rivalry, Escape, Government Conspiracy, and more
Directed By: Cal Brunker
Starring: Rob Corddry, Brendan Fraser, William Shatner, and others
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $30 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Rob Corddry and Brendan Fraser provide the voices for two alien brothers, Gary and Scorch, both of whom are part of an elite force that perform rescues throughout the galaxy, although Scorch takes most of the credit. Their latest mission takes them to Earth, where Scorch is captured by the evil government agent, voiced by William Shatner. Now it is up to Gary to rescue him. It doesn't go that well.

This isn't the first time Weinstein Co. has released a digitally animation film. Hoodwinked did very well when it came out in 2005. However, Hoodwinked 2 bombed so hard that I'm a little amazed they are trying again. I don't think this film will do as poorly as Hoodwinked 2 did, but I think it will struggle to match Space Chimps' 2008 box office numbers. The animation looks dated, the writing looks weak, and the buzz just isn't there. Even for a family film, the buzz isn't there.

A Good Day to Die Hard

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: DieHardMovie.com
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: February 14th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language.
Source: Original Screenplay / Sequel
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Father's Footsteps, Terrorism, Secret Agent, Delayed Sequel, and more
Directed By: John Moore
Starring: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $60 million to $80 million
Box Office Potential: $125 million

I admit I kind of lost track of this film. In fact, I had to look up the plot details when researching this article. I'm probably not alone in this regard, but since the movie is the most anticipated release of the month, I am in the minority.

There are some reasons to be concerned, and not just the age of the franchise and its star. A Good Day to Die Hard will be the third film starring an older action star to open so far this year, and since The Last Stand bombed and most don't have high hopes for Bullet to the Head, this could be a case of bad things coming in threes. On the other hand, this is the only one of the three that is part of a major franchise, so it does have that going for it. It's directed by John Moore, whose previous films include Behind Enemy Lines, a box office disappointment; Flight of the Phoenix, a box office bomb; The Omen, a box office disappointment; and Max Payne, a box office disappointment. That's not a good track record.

That said, the franchise name should help it cross $100 million, despite these issues and the rather weak release date.

Safe Haven

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Facebook.com/SafeHavenMovie.com
Distributor: Relativity
Release Date: February 14th, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material involving threatening behavior, and for violence and sexuality.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Romance, Widower, and more
Directed By: Lasse Hallstrom
Starring: Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $25 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million

A Nicholas Sparks film opening on Valentine's Day. This film should have a huge opening. On the other hand, it likely won't earn a lot of critical praise. That's really all that needs to be said about the movie's box office chances. Nicholas Sparks has developed a following who will see his movie, regardless of how well they do with critics, which is good, because his movies tend to earn really bad reviews. Julianne Hough has made almost no movies, and none that were major hits. Josh Duhamel has more than $1 billion in domestic box office numbers, but almost all of that comes from Transformers. Lasse Hallstrom did direct Dear John, which made $80 million back in 2010 and maybe this film will match that figure, but I don't think Safe Haven has the star power to do it.

Weekend of February 22nd, 2013

The month ends with just two films, neither of which look like they will be even midlevel hits. Dark Skies looks like a rather generic horror film that is not getting the marketing push it needs to thrive, or set itself apart from The Last Exorcism: Part 2, which opens the following weekend. Snitch is a generic action film starring Dwayne Johnson, who has some success in the genre, but a recent vehicle of his, Faster, bombed. Last year Act of Valor got off to a better than expected start with nearly $25 million during its opening weekend. That's probably more than the two new releases will make combined this year, leading to yet another loss in the year-over-year comparison.

Dark Skies

Trailer: Coming Soon
Official Site: DarkSkiesFilm.com
Distributor: Dimension
Release Date: February 22nd, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, terror throughout, sexual material, drug content and language - all involving teens.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller / Suspense
Keywords: Alien Invasion, Surprise Twist, and more
Directed By: Scott Stewart
Starring: Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, Dakota Goyo, J.K. Simmons, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton are a couple whose life is thrown into chaos when some alien force targets them and their kids. The trailer does very little to help this film stand out against a lot of the competition like The Haunting in Connecticut or The Last Exorcism Part II, which opens the following week. The latter film will likely prove to be too much competition for Dark Skies.

Snitch

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Snitch-Movie.com
Distributor: Summit
Release Date: February 22nd, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for drug content and sequences of violence.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Wrongfully Accused, Narcotics, Organized Crime, Prison, Life on the Outside, Undercover, Inspired by a True Story, and more
Directed By: Ric Roman Waugh
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Susan Sarandon, Benjamin Bratt, and others
Production Budget: Estimated $35 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million

Dwayne Johnson stars as a father whose son is falsely accused of trafficking drugs and is about to be sentenced to 10 years in prison. He goes to the D.A., Susan Sarandon, who tells him his son needs to give information on his cohorts. If he can secure convictions, she will reduce his sentence. The son refuses, because he doesn't want to get shived in prison. Dwayne Johnson offers to go undercover into a drug cartel run by Benjamin Bratt to shut them down, in exchange for a reduced sentence for his son. It's not a bad setup for a movie, but it isn't exactly unique either. The buzz isn't particularly strong and it feels too much like Parker. It's a film we've seen before starring an actor who has done this part in the past. Unless the reviews are great, it likely will struggle just to match its production budget.


- C.S.Strowbridge


Date posted: 2013-02-01

Movies 
 Bullet to the Head
 Warm Bodies
 Identity Thief
 Side Effects
 Beautiful Creatures
 Escape From Planet Earth
 A Good Day to Die Hard
 Safe Haven
 Dark Skies
 Snitch