2014 Preview: March

Divergent poster

2014 continued its strong run in February with The Lego Movie beating even the high end expectations and will become the first film released in 2014 to reach $200 million. March doesn't look as strong, as no film is on track to hit $200 million, but there are five films that have a chance at $100 million. Granted, not all of them will get there; in fact, there's a chance only one of them will get there. Divergent is the film I think has the best shot at the century club, but it could be joined by Mr. Peabody and Sherman, for instance, which is earning surprisingly strong reviews. Noah is a big-budget Bible epic and the studio has to be hoping for at least $100 million, but the buzz is quite negative and there have been reports of troubles behind-the-scenes. Last March was led by Oz The Great and Powerful, which pulled in more than $200 million domestically. I don't think any film opening this March will match that figure. In addition, The Croods and G.I. Joe: Retaliation also hit the $100 million milestone, while Olympus Has Fallen came very close. Granted, there were also some big bombs last March, like The Host, but even so, I think 2014 will lose ground in the year-over-year comparison.

Weekend of March 7th, 2014

Mr. Peabody & Sherman poster

It's first weekend of March 2014, but it actually lines up with the second weekend of March 2013. This is really bad news, as this weekend last year Oz The Great and Powerful opened with nearly $80 million, which is likely more than both Mr. Peabody and Sherman and 300: Rise of an Empire will open with combined. Mr. Peabody and Sherman is an animated family film earning stunning reviews, so it has at least a chance to hit $100 million and I think it will get there. The original 300 earned more than $200 million domestically, but it also came out seven years ago, which is a long time for a sequel and it is likely moviegoers are no longer interested in the story. Even so, it is rare for a sequel to earn less than half of what the original made, so $100 million is still a reasonable target. Also opening this week is The Grand Budapest Hotel, which some sources are saying will be opening wide. I don't think that's true; however, given its reviews and pedigree, it should expand wide enough to earn some measure of mainstream success.

Mr. Peabody and Sherman

Mr. Peabody & Sherman poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: MrPeabodyAndSherman.com
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: March 7th, 2014
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild action and brief rude humor.
Source: Based on a TV Show
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Time Travel, Talking Animal, Animal Lead, Single Parent, and more
Directed By: Rob Minkoff
Written By: Jay Ward and Craig Wright
Starring: Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Ariel Winter, and others
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $60 million
Box Office Potential: $105 million

Mr. Peabody and Sherman is a feature-length adaptation of Peabody's Improbable History, which was a regular feature on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Turning something that works as a five-minute short into feature-length movie is a risk; however, the film has been playing internationally for a month and the reviews are amazing. The film opened in first place in the U.K. with $6.43 million and will cross $20 million in that market, which is equivalent to a $100 million run here. On the other hand, it only managed a third place opening in France and will likely fail to reach $10 million there. I'm not sure how popular the original show is in these two markets compared to how popular it is here, but I would guess the U.K. is a better predictor than France is. I'm a little more bullish than most, as the majority don't think it will get to the century mark, but given the number of digitally animated films released in March that do get there (The Croods) or come very close (Meet the Robinsons) you can't dismiss the possibility.

300: Rise of an Empire

300: Rise of an Empire poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: 300TheMovie.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: March 7th, 2014
MPAA Rating: R for strong sustained sequences of stylized bloody violence throughout, a sex scene, nudity and some language.
Source: Based on a Comic Book / Sequel
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: War, Sword and Sandals, Delayed Sequel, Sequel without the Main Star, and more
Directed By: Noam Murro
Written By: Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad
Starring: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro, and others
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $60 million
Box Office Potential: $85 million

300 opened in March of 2007 earning $70 million during its opening weekend and lasting long enough to reach $200 million domestically. That is an amazing run. It is such an amazing run that I'm a little surprised it took 300: Rise of an Empire seven years to come out. This seven-year gap is a real issue, as it is probably too long between the first and second installments of a franchise. It's not the longest such gap, but gaps like this tend to result in films like Dumb and Dumberer, Son of the Mask, X-Files: I Want to Believe, and Basic Instinct 2.

The good news is, it could drop 50% and still top $100 million and there are some who think this will happen. There are also some who think it will make less in total than the original film made during its opening weekend. I'm somewhere in the middle. I used to be in the former group, but there has been a string of similar films that have come out this year and all of them have bombed. I think 300: Rise of an Empire will break that streak and could open with more than the combined openings of The Legend of Hercules, I, Frankenstein, and Pompeii. On the other hand, it could do this and still make less in total than the above box office potential.

Weekend of March 14th, 2014

Need for Speed poster

The second weekend of March is the weakest weekend of the month. There are three films opening this weekend, although one of them is opening in limited release with a scheduled wide expansion at the end of the month. While there are several films opening in March with at least a shot at $100 million, none of these three films are among them. Need for Speed could be the bigger hit out of the two; however, it's a film based on a video game and most of those struggle at the box office. Tyler Perry's Single Moms Club is the latest film from Tyler Perry, but it is not a Madea film, so it likely won't do as well as his career average. This weekend last year, The Call became a surprise midlevel hit, although it opened well behind Oz the Great and Powerful. This year I think the two wide releases are stronger than last year's batch, but Oz will cast a large shadow and 2014 will come up short in the year-over-year comparison. On a side note, also opening this week is Veronica Mars, which had a successful Kickstarter and is coming out in select theaters. I'm looking forward to seeing it, but I'm unsure of its box office potential.

Need for Speed

Need for Speed poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheNeedForSpeedMovie.com
Release Date: March 14th, 2014
MPAA Rating:
PG-13 for sequences of reckless street racing, disturbing crash scenes, nudity and crude language.
Source: Based on a Video Game
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Street Racing, Life on the Outside, Revenge, Wrongful Conviction, and more
Directed By: Scott Waugh
Written By: John Gatins and George Gatins
Starring: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Michael Keaton, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $66 million
Box Office Potential: $60 million

Aaron Paul stars as a street-racer who is sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit. When he gets out, he seeks revenge against the people who killed his friend. The film is based on a video game, which is a rather popular source for a movie, given how short a time video games have been around compared to other sources. However, very few such films find success in theaters. Lara Croft: -Tomb-Raider is the only such film to crack $100 million and it came out a long time ago. The buzz for Need for Speed is also sadly quiet, not overly negative, just quiet. This means if the ad campaign ramps up over the next couple of weeks, it could be a surprise hit at the box office, but I wouldn't bet on it. I don't think it will bomb, but anything more than a midlevel hit is likely out of the question.

Single Moms Club

Tyler Perry's Single Moms Club poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheSingleMomsClub.com
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: March 14th, 2014
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexual material and thematic elements.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Single Parent, African-American, Directing Yourself, Screenplay Written By Star, and more
Directed By: Tyler Perry
Written By: Tyler Perry
Starring: Nia Long, Amy Smart, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Zulay Henao, Cocoa Brown, and others
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $25 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million

Tyler Perry's latest film doesn't feature Madea and isn't based on a play. I'm not sure how well it will do. Given those two facts, it could struggle at the box office. After all, his non-Medea films tend to earn substantially less than his Medea films. Additionally, his last Medea film, A Madea Christmas, didn't meet expectations at the box office. On the other hand, Tyler Perry has many times in the past topped expectations, so it is never safe to underestimate him.

Weekend of March 21st, 2014

Divergent poster

This is my favorite weekend of the month, as both wide releases are films I'm really looking forward to seeing. Divergent is the latest adaptation of a Young Adult novel. There have been many movies based on Young Adult novels to come out recently. Many of them. Many, many, many of them. Bad news: Most of them have bombed. Good news: Divergent is expected to be one of the exceptions. The other wide release of the week is Muppets Most Wanted and as longtime readers will know, I love the Muppets. I grew up on the TV show and loved nearly all of the movies. I really want it to reach $100 million and there is some evidence it will get there, but I'm a little worried my judgment is impaired here by confirmation bias. This weekend last year, The Croods opened with more than $40 million, while Olympus Has Fallen opened with just over $30 million. I think Divergent will earn over $50 million, but Muppets Most Wanted will have a harder time pulling its weight.


Divergent poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: DivergentTheMovie.com
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: March 21st, 2014
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense violence and action, thematic elements and some sensuality.
Source: Based on a Fictional Book
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Dystopia, Conspiracy Theory, Coming of Age, and more
Directed By: Neil Burger
Written By: Veronica Roth, Evan Daugherty, and Vanessa Taylor
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $80 million
Box Office Potential: $125 million

Shailene Woodley is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors. She gave an award-worthy performance in The Descendants and was just as good in The Spectacular Now. Meanwhile, the buzz for The Fault in Our Stars is unbelievably strong. On the downside, the buzz for The Fault in Our Stars might be stronger than the buzz for Divergent is. (At least that is my impression, but it could be due to the part of the Internet I call home. There are a lot of Nerdfighters among the YouTube channels I'm subscribed to.) Divergent should be the biggest hit of the month and it is the only one I think has a chance at getting to $150 million. It is a bit of a long shot and with all of the recent Young Adult adaptations that have failed, I've downgraded my predictions from $140 million to $125 million. I hope it is a surprise smash hit, but evidence suggests I should be more cautious than that.

Muppets Most Wanted

Muppets Most Wanted poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Muppets.Disney.com/Muppets-Most-Wanted
Distributor: Disney
Release Date: March 21st, 2014
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild action.
Source: Based on a TV Show
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Gratuitous Cameos, Doppelganger, Heist, Falsely Accused, Mistaken Identity, Puppets Living in a Human World, and more
Directed By: James Bobin
Written By: James Bobin, Nicholas Stoller, and Jim Henson
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey, Ray Liotta, a whole lot of Muppets, and even more cameos.
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $40 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $95 million

As the Muppets tour Europe entertaining the masses, Kermit is replaced by a master criminal, who just happens to look just like him. Hi-jinx ensue.

The Muppets reboot came out in November of 2011 and finished its box office run with just under $90 million domestically. I think Muppets Most Wanted will top that, perhaps even reach $100 million. There are a few reasons why I'm optimistic. Firstly, The Muppets earned amazing reviews, which should help the buzz this time around. Second, while The Muppets had an amazing release date for a family film, it also had a ton of competition. It was one of three family films that opened that weekend (assuming you consider Hugo a family film) and four of the top five films during its opening weekend were aimed at kids. It also came out only a week after Breaking Dawn, Part 1 came out. Muppets Most Wanted doesn't have nearly as strong a release date, but it also doesn't have nearly as much direct competition to deal with. Add in a couple of years of inflation and I think this film will top its predecessor. Granted, I am a little more bullish than most, so keep that in mind.

Weekend of March 28th, 2014

Noah poster

The final weekend in March includes two wide releases and a limited release expanding wide. Of these three films, only one of them, Noah, has a shot at first place. Some even think it will top $100 million, but I'm not among them. Sabotage is an action / thriller that stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, but he has yet to prove he can carry a film post Governator. The final wide release is actually a wide expansion, as Bad Words is opening on the 14th in limited release. It's Jason Bateman's directorial debut, which makes it note-worthy. However, the transition from actor to director isn't always smooth. Last year the box office was led by G.I. Joe: Retaliation with just over $40 million. I don't think Noah will top that and I think 2014 will lose out in the year-over-year comparison.

Bad Words

Bad Words poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: BadWordsMovie.com
Distributor: Focus Features
Release Date: March 14th, 2014 (Limited Release)
Release Date: March 28th, 2014 (Wide Expansion)
MPAA Rating: R for crude and sexual content, language and brief nudity.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Mid-Life Crisis, Tournament, Intellectual Pursuits, Bad Role Model, Directing Yourself, and more
Directed By: Jason Bateman
Written By: Andrew Dodge
Starring: Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Rohan Chand, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Jason Bateman stars as a middle-aged man who dropped out of school very early, so early that he technically still qualifies for the National Spelling Bee. Along the way, he meets a reporter interested in his story and connects with a young contestant.

Bad Words opens in limited release two weeks before its wide expansion, which is never an easy route for a film to take. Additionally, it is a rather dark comedy, which is a genre that is hard to get right and even when done well, it can struggle at the box office. However, its early reviews are promising. Jason Bateman's previous wide release, Identity Thief, made $134 million last year, so he's got some momentum at the box office. I don't think Bad Words will match that; in fact, it might not make as much in total as Identity Thief made during its opening weekend, but assuming it didn't cost a lot to make, it should do well enough to break even sometime on the home market.


Noah poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: NoahMovie.com
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: March 28th, 2014
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Very likely PG-13
Source: Based on Religious Text
Major Genre: Drama? Or possibly Adventure
Keywords: Religious, Disaster, Weather, Special Effects, Adopted Family, and more
Directed By: Darren Aronofsky
Written By: Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel
Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $130 million
Box Office Potential: $105 million

Am I the only one, or does this movie look really bad? To me, it looks 2012-level bad. I wasn't sold by the trailer and there are a few reasons why I think this film won't work and this includes the source material. Remember, in the Bible, the story of Noah and the Flood is just 2,000 words long. To put this into perspective, The March Preview is more than 3,000 words long. The average novel is 60,000 words long. Either this movie is going to take a lot of liberties with the source material inventing stuff that never happened in the Bible, or there is going to be a lot of padding in the movie. Also, Darren Aronofsky generally doesn't make big special effects laden movies. His only other film like this was The Fountain, which is his weakest film to date and bombed at the box office. Finally there's Russell Crowe, who is a good actor, but for several years now he's had more misses than hits at the box office. His most recent film, Winter's Tale, not only bombed in theaters, but also earned the worst reviews of his career.

On the other hand, Noah cost $130 million to make, so the studio is going to be pushing it really hard and at worst it at least has a legitimate shot at $100 million, especially if it can tap into the churchgoing market.


Sabotage poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Facebook.com/SabotageMovie
Distributor: Open Road
Release Date: March 28th, 2014
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some sexuality/nudity and drug use.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: DEA, Narcotics, Corrupt Cops, Organized Crime, Revenge, Internal Affairs, and more
Directed By: David Ayer
Written By: David Ayer and Skip Woods
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Joe Manganiello, Sam Worthington, Olivia Williams, Mireille Enos, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $35 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as the leader of a DEA strike force whose latest mission ends with a huge bust. However, some of the money captured goes missing and members of his group start dying.

In some measures, Sabotage has the quietest buzz out of any wide release coming out this month. In fact, it has quieter buzz than some of the limited releases coming out this month. Open Road is not a big studio and it has yet to release a film that hit $100 million. In fact, The Nut Job is the studio's biggest hit and it barely got past $60 million. Arnold Schwarzenegger's post-political movie career hasn't be strong. For instance, The Last Stand opened in January of last year and only managed $12 million domestically. This film will do better than that, but not by enough to be considered even a midlevel hit.

- C.S.Strowbridge

Filed under: Mr. Peabody & Sherman, 300: Rise of an Empire, Need for Speed, Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club, Divergent, Muppets Most Wanted, Noah, Sabotage