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2011 Preview: March

March 1st, 2011

This is going to suck. February wasn't exactly a banner month at the box office and 2011 is already roughly $400 million behind 2010's pace. To make matters worse, last March broke records starting with the release of Alice in Wonderland. There is no movie coming out this month that will come close to Alice in Wonderland's performance; in fact, the number one film this March will likely not do as well as the second best film from last March. The best case scenario has the month producing three $100 million movies, plus a number of midlevel hits, while still failing to match last year's pace by about $100 million. The worst case scenario has two of the three potential $100 million hits missing that mark, plus the midlevel hits also struggling. In that case, we could end March about $300 million further behind 2010's pace. (Hopefully things will start to turn around in April.)

Weekend of March 4th, 2011

The first week of March this year has some strange similarities to the first week of March last year. In both cases, the biggest hit of the month will open during the first week and in both cases these films star Johnny Depp. On the other hand, Alice in Wonderland opened with more than $100 million during its first weekend, while there's a better chance that Rango won't make $100 million in total than there is that it will open with $100 million. As for the other three films opening this weekend, one or two might become midlevel hits, but at least one will likely be squeezed out by the competition.

The Adjustment Bureau

Trailer: Click Here
Official Site: TheAdjustmentBureau.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: March 4th, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image.
Source: Based on a Short Story
Major Genre: Suspense
Keywords: Dance, Romance, Fate / Destiny, Altered Reality, and more
Directed By: George Nolfi
Starring: Matt Damon and Emily Blunt
Production Budget: Reported at $51 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

This film stars Matt Damon as a man who falls in love with Emily Blunt, a dancer, only to run into fate. Literally. He walks in on the agents of fate messing with things. Of course, people are not supposed to see this happen, or even know they exist, so now he's a target of these mysterious forces.

I'm cautiously optimistic about this film. It's based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, who has written some amazing stories. However, his track record in being translated into a movie is less impressive. For every film that at least tries to get the essence of his work, there are two that go the cheap action route. This film was written by George Nolfi, who also wrote The Bourne Ultimatum, so I do have some hope there. He's also directing for the first time, which is a wildcard. On the other hand, this time last year Matt Damon starred in The Green Zone, which missed expectations at the box office. Also, this movie was originally scheduled for a September release before being pushed back. Granted, March is a better release date than September, but it's still not a good release date. Early reviews are mixed, but as long as it doesn't fall too much further than a 55% positive rating, it should do relatively well at the box office.

It all adds up to a midlevel hit, but with quite of bit of uncertainty. I'm going with $55 million, but it could make $35 million or $75 million and I wouldn't really be surprised either way.

Beastly

Trailer: Click Here
Official Site: BeastlyTheMovie.com
Distributor: CBS Films
Release Date: March 4th, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language including some crude comments, drug references and brief violence.
Source: Based on a Short Story
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Romance, Curses, and more
Directed By: Daniel Barnz
Starring: Vanessa Hudgens and Alex Pettyfer
Production Budget: Reported at $17 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

I'm not optimistic about this film's chances for a number of reasons. Firstly, while Vanessa Hudgens has a lot of name recognition, thanks to her starring performance in the High School Musical franchise, that hasn't translated into box office success for most of the cast. Secondly, while I've seen Alex Pettyfer on a lot of "Stars of the Future" or "Top 25 Under 25" type lists, his past performances have not shown that to be the case. His last film, I Am Number Four failed to meet expectations by a considerable amount. Thirdly, this is writer / director Daniel Barnz's second film, while his first, Phoebe in Wonderland, did not live up to the hype. Finally, this is the latest release from CBS Films and they've yet to produce anything more than a minor hit. Plus, they pushed the release date back and are opening the film in just 2000 theaters, more or less.

None of this suggests the film will be a serious box office contender, and with three others films opening wide this weekend, it could be squeezed out at the box office.

Rango

Trailer: Click Here
Official Site: RangoMovie.com
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: March 4th, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG for rude humor, language, action and smoking.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Animal Lead, Talking Animals, Gangs, Spoof, and more
Directed By: Gore Verbinski
Starring: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Bill Nighy, Afred Molina, Abigail Breslin, and more
Production Budget: Estimated at $50 million to $100 million or more
Box Office Potential: $175 million

This could be an interesting film to watch. For the longest time, the two giants of digital animation were Dreamworks and Pixar. For the longest time, Paramount was distributing Dreamworks films, but they've moved on. If this film proves to be a massive hit, then they won't miss their old partnership quite as much. However, if it struggles...

There are some aspects of the film that make me hopeful. For instance, neither Gore Verbinski nor Johnny Depp are strangers to box office success. On the other hand, this is the former's first animated film. Meanwhile, the latter's only other animated film as The Corpse Bride, which disappointed at the box office, despite its amazing reviews. On the plus side, its by far the biggest release of the week and its only competition for families will be Gnomeo and Juliet, which will be in its fourth week of release. It should be a huge hit, but perhaps not $200 million huge.

On a side note, Gore Verbinski referred to this movie as a "small" film he could do after working for so long on the Pirates Of The Caribbean movies. Given the price of those films, "small" could mean more than $100 million, which would put the film's production budget in line with other top-tier animated films. On the other hand, he could mean "small" for an animated film, which would put it in the $50 million range. There's a lot of uncertainty there.

Last minute update: Early reviews are amazing and so the chances of the film being a massive hit have improved. This is great news for this film, not so good for next week's competition.

Take Me Home Tonight

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: IAmRogue.com/TakeMeHomeTonight
Distributor: Relativity
Release Date: March 4th, 2011
MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual content and drug use.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Delayed Adulthood, Twins, Drugs, Romance, One Night, Coming of Age, and more
Directed By: Michael Dowse
Starring: Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Dan Fogler, Teresa Palmer, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $25 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million

This film could really struggle at the box office. It was made in 2007, but sat on the studio shelf all this time. Topher Grace, who has been pushing for this film to get released for a while now, said that this could be an issue of trying to find the right marketing for the film, which relies heavily on 1980s nostalgia. Others have suggested that poor audience testing was to blame. Without any reviews it's hard to figure out which side is right.

Regardless of the reason, it doesn't bode well for the film's chances. Either the studio doesn't know what to do with it, which means a weak advertising campaign. Or the film is not very good, which means weak word-of-mouth. Worst case scenario is a little bit of both, causing the film to open below the Mendoza line before crashing and burning. I don't think it will get that bad, but it is a possibility one must seriously consider.

Weekend of March 11th, 2011

The second weekend of March brings the possibility of two $100 million hits, but there's also a possibility that neither film will reach the century mark, and indeed no other film will get to that milestone until April. There is some good news / bad news when compared to last year. On the one hand, there were four wide releases last year, none of which were massive hits, although none bombed either. So there's a chance the biggest film this year will open with more than those four opened with combined. On the other hand, this time last year Alice in Wonderland was still dominating the box office and there's a chance that all three new releases this week won't earn the same as that film did during its sophomore stint.

Battle: Los Angeles

Trailer: Click Here
Official Site: BattleLA.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: March 11th, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sustained and intense sequences of war violence and destruction, and for language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: War, Alien Invasion, Inspired by a True Story, and more
Directed By: Jonathan Liebesman
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Ramon Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan, Ne-Yo, Michael Peña, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $100 million
Box Office Potential: $105 million

During World War II, a rumored air strike against Los Angeles by Japanese forces caused a panic. Screenwriter Christopher Bertolini took this event and used it as the basis for an Alien Invasion film set in modern day Los Angeles. That's an interesting setup, how well it was executed is still up for debate.

It is a little too similar to Skyline, which is bad news for this film. You never want to be compared to a movie that made just $20 million at the box office. However, that movie cost just $10 million to make, and its cast was populated by people mostly known for their TV work. Also, it earned terrible reviews, which also had an effect at the box office. Hopefully Battle: Los Angeles can generate a lot better buzz and it is possible it will earn more money on opening day than Skyline did in total.

I would put the over / under at $95 million, but its potential to be a breakout hit and earn $150 million or more is a lot more likely than becoming a complete flop and earning $50 million or less.

Mars Needs Moms

Trailer: Click Here
Official Site: Disney.Go.com/DisneyPictures/MarsNeedsMoms
Distributor: Disney
Release Date: March 11th, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG for sci-fi action and peril.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Alien Invasion, Kidnapping, Rescue, Coming of Age, 3D, Narration, and more
Directed By: Simon Wells
Starring: Seth Green, Seth Robert Dusky, Joan Cusack, Dan Fogler, Elisabeth Harnois, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $50 million to $75 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million

Seth Green provides the motion capture acting and the narration in this movie, which is about a boy (voiced by Seth Robert Dusky) whose Mom is abducted by Martians and he has to rescue her, with the help of an astronaut / slacker Gribble and more competent Martian Ki (Elisabeth Harnois).

A lot of people talking about this movie think it will be a serious miss. However, if Disney can shepherd Gnomeo and Juliet to over $100 million, then they should be able to do the same with Mars Needs Moms. In fact, with the sci-fi angle, it could be a bigger hit. On the other hand, it is being made by ImageMovers Digital, Robert Zemeckis' company, which previously made Monster House, which made less than $75 million, despite having a much better release date and no direct competition.

Worst case scenario has the film earning less than Planet 51 did. Best case scenario has Rango bombing and this film becoming the biggest hit of the month with well over $100 million. That's a pretty wide range of expectations. But with Rango's reviews being so strong, the lower end seems more likely now.

Red Riding Hood

Trailer: Click Here
Official Site: RedRidingHood.WarnerBros.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: March 11th, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and creature terror, and some sensuality.
Source: Original Screenplay / Based on a Fairytale
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Romance, Werewolf, and more
Directed By: Catherine Hardwicke
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons, Gary Oldman, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $40 million to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

Amanda Seyfried stars as the titular Red Riding Hood character, Valerie, but instead of going to Grandma's house, she has to choose between the man she loves, Shiloh Fernandez, and the man her father has arranged for her to marry, Max Irons. She decides on the former and is about to run away with her true love when the wolf that has been terrorizing their village kills her sister. When famed werewolf hunter, Gary Oldman, comes to their village to help them out, he informs the townsfolk that it is not a wolf, but a werewolf and that any one of them could be the killer. Valerie begins to suspect the werewolf is one of the men in her life.

This film has quite a lot of buzz going in and it stars Amanda Seyfried, who could be poised to become an A-list actress. Not to mention Catherine Hardwicke, who directed the first Twilight movie. However, a lot of people are also attacking it for being a Twilight clone. This seems grossly unfair, but there is a chance it will still hurt the film's box office numbers. Additionally, both Amanda Seyfried and Catherine Hardwicke have mixed track records at the box office. After her directorial debut, Thirteen, Hardwicke's next two film's missed expectations. Likewise, after breakout success with Mamma Mia, Seyfried has been alternating hits and misses. (And that's only if you generously consider Letters to Juliet a hit.)

I think it all adds up to a midlevel hit, nothing more, nothing less. However, depending on how much it cost to make, this could be enough to secure a profit sooner rather than later.

Weekend of March 18th, 2011

Three wide releases this week, all three of which could be solid midlevel hits, but there's also a chance all three will flop. We have a courtroom drama, the latest from Pegg and Frost, and one that is a lot harder to categorize. None of them seem likely to match last year's number one film; in fact, all three combined might not earn as much during their opening weekend as Alice in Wonderland earned during its third weekend of release. That's the worst case scenario. Best case scenario still has the three wide releases from this year struggling to match the opening weekends of the three wide releases from last year. In short, it is very likely this will be yet another losing weekend at the box office when compared to 2010.

Limitless

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: IAmRogue.com/Limitless
Distributor: Relativity
Release Date: March 18th, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material involving a drug, violence including disturbing images, sexuality and language.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Writer, Super Hero, Conspiracy, Hitmen, Drugs, and more
Directed By: Neil Burger
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish, Johnny Whitworth, Robert De Niro, Anna Friel, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $26 million, but that seems low
Box Office Potential: $65 million

Bradley Cooper plays Eddie Morra, a writer who has a serious case of writer's block. After his girlfriend suggests giving up on the dream, they break up. That's when he meets an old friend who tells him about a new drug that can unlock the full potential of the human mind. The results are amazing and not only does he finish his book, he gets a job on Wall Street and starts raking in the money. However, this draws the attention of his boss and a shadowy conspiracy, and then there are the side effects when he starts to run out and goes through withdrawal.

It's a cool premise and hopefully it will be a good movie. However, it's not a great release date and the high concept might be hard to sell. After The Hangover, Bradley Cooper can be seen as a box office draw, but it's too soon to tell if he will be a true A-lister. Success here would certainly help.

The Lincoln Lawyer

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheLincolnLawyerMovie.com
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: March 18th, 2011
MPAA Rating: R for some violence, sexual content and language.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Courtroom Drama, Sex Crimes, Lawyers, Wrongfully Convicted, Surprise Twist, and more
Directed By: Brad Furman
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Phillippe, Marisa Tomei, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Matthew McConaughey stars as a lawyer whose usual clientele are drug dealers and gang members. However, he is hired by the playboy son of a rich developer who is accused of raping a woman and trying to kill her. At first it seems like a pretty simple case, but the more he looks into it, the more complex it becomes and the more likely that it is connected to a previous case he worked on.

Remember when Courtroom Dramas / Legal Thrillers used to be all the rage at the box office? I wouldn't blame you if you didn't, as it has been a while. But there was a time about 15 years ago when the latest John Grisham adaptation was viewed as a tent-pole release, similar to the way the latest comic book adaptation is viewed today. That was a long time ago, and there's little hope this movie will be the one to revive the genre. In fact, of the three films opening this weekend, it will likely perform the worst. It is a Lionsgate film, so that probably means it was relatively cheap to make and it might eventually show a profit, even if it fails to become a midlevel hit theatrically.

Paul

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: WhatIsPaul.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: March 18th, 2011
MPAA Rating: R for language including sexual references, and some drug use.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Friendly Alien on Earth, Conspiracy Theory, Road Trip, Religious, and more
Directed By: Greg Mottola
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogan, Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $50 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost star as two alien enthusiasts taking a Road Trip along all the famous UFO sites when they come across Paul, a real alien. After picking up Ruth, the quartet have to try to get Paul to freedom while avoiding being captured by government agents.

So far Simon Pegg and Nick Frost haven't been able to find mainstream success in the United States. Shaun of the Dead made just over $13 million here, which was about the same as it made back in the U.K., while Hot Fuzz made more than $40 million in its native market and only $24 million here. So far, Paul has made $16 million in just 10 days in its native market and should finish with about $25 million. However, it should be a more accessible film for American audiences and that could help it at the box office, perhaps even enough to earn $75 million. I'm not expecting a massive return on the studio's investment, but if it can become a solid midlevel hit, it should sell well enough on DVD / Blu-ray to show a profit.

On the other hand, it could be yet another film aimed at geeks that misses at the box office, following in the footsteps of Kick-Ass, Scott Pilgram, Machete, and to a lesser extent Let Me In. (I'm not saying that film was a lesser miss, but that it wasn't aimed exclusively at geeks.) Since this is the film I'm looking forward to the most all month long, I really hope this isn't the case.

Weekend of March 25th, 2011

The month ends with two wide releases, including what could be the film I'm looking forward to the most all spring. (It's a close race between Sucker Punch and Paul.) Unfortunately, it's kind of a geek film, and those have struggled of late. The other wide release is a sequel to a kids movie that was released just last year. A turnaround that short is usually a bad sign. Compared to last year, 2011 is again in trouble, as no film opening this weekend, or indeed this month, looks like it can compete with How To Train Your Dragon.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodick Rules

Trailer: Click Here
Official Site: DiaryOfAWimpyKidMovie.com/
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: March 25th, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild rude humor and mischief.
Source: Based on a Book / Sequel
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Coming of Age, Dysfunctional Family, and more
Directed By: David Bowers
Starring: Zachary Gordon, Devon Bostick, Rachael Harris, Steve Zahn, Peyton Roi List, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $15 million to $25 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

Zachary Gordon returns as Greg. This time he has to deal with Rodrick after his mother forces the pair to spend time together so they will stop fighting. In the meantime, a new girl comes to school, Holly, and Greg has a crush on her.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid made more than $60 million on a $15 million budget, so it should come as no surprise that they made a sequel. The only surprise is that it came out this soon. This has been done before with Agent Cody Banks, to disappointing results. There are a couple reasons for this. Firstly, the rushed production results in a weaker film. Secondly, the short time between releases threatens over-exposure. In this case, they do have the advantage of adapting a book, so the quick turnaround might not lead to weak reviews. On the other hand, the over-exposure is still an issue. The DVD / Blu-ray for the first film came out in early August, while the first trailer for this film came out in late December. That's not a lot of time to let demand build up.

That said, unless the film cost a lot more to make, even if it struggles to make half of what the original made, it will show a profit some time on the home market.

Sucker Punch

Trailer: Click Here
Official Site: Sucker-Punch-Movie.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: March 25th, 2011
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language and some sexual content.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Mental Illness, Hospitals, Escape, Visual Effects, Ensemble, and more
Directed By: Zack Snyder
Starring: Emily Browning, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Abbie Cornish, Jamie Chung, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $85 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

I really want this movie to be a huge hit. It was made by Zack Snyder, who has made some great movies in the past. Plus, it stars a huge number of talented young actresses, and I've often complained about the lack of strong female roles in movies.

However, what I want and what I think will happen are two different things.

Sucker Punch looks like a visually stunning movie, but it also looks like the visuals might overwhelm everything else, which could make it hard to sell. Secondly, while I like films with strong female roles, they tend to struggle at the box office (which is one of the reasons there are so few of them). Finally, it's a geek movie, and we all know how well they've done recently. I would love to see this film earn as much as Watchmen did, but there's little chance of that. I just hope it doesn't completely bomb at the box office.


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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Sucker Punch, Beastly, Rango, Battle: Los Angeles, Mars Needs Moms, The Adjustment Bureau, Take Me Home Tonight, Limitless, Paul, Red Riding Hood, The Lincoln Lawyer, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules