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2010 Preview: March

March 1st, 2010

February was a stronger than expected month, for the most part, but 2010 continued to lose ground to 2009. Hopefully this trend will reverse itself, but it could be tough. Last March started with Watchmen, which earned just over $100 million at the box office. The month ended with Monsters vs. Aliens, which earned nearly $200 million. Granted, between these two releases there were a fair number of bombs, but it might be hard for this year to match last year at the top.

Weekend of March 5th, 2010

The month starts with a movie that could either be hailed as a visual feast to please critics and moviegoers alike or could be an utter mess leaving people wondering, "What were they thinking?" It is too soon to tell. Even if it is the former, it will have a difficult time matching last year's number one movie. Then again, last year there was only one wide release and the gap between first place and second was extreme. Hopefully there will be more depth this time around.

Alice in Wonderland

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Disney.Go.com/DisneyPictures/AliceInWonderland
Distributor: Disney
Release Date: March 5, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations, and for a smoking caterpillar.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Visual Effects, Royalty, Alternate Dimensions, Talking Animals, and more
Directed By: Tim Burton
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, and Helena Bonham Carter
Production Budget: Reported at $150 million
Box Office Potential: $105 million

This film could have my favorite MPAA rating of all time, as it ends with, "...and for a smoking caterpillar." This might beat Twister's rating of "PG-13 for intense depiction of very bad weather."

This is arguably the March release with the most buzz. After all, it is based on a well-known book that has already been made into more than a dozen films, the first of which is more than 100 years old. It is directed by Tim Burton, who is one of a handful of directors who has a more dedicated following than most movie stars. And it stars, among others, Johnny Depp, who is collaborating with Tim Burton for the seventh time. Their previous film was Sweeney Todd, which only managed to reach the low end of expectations with just over $50 million. On the other hand, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory earned more than $200 million back in 2005. Could Alice in Wonderland match that? Possibly. After all, Monsters vs. Aliens nearly did so last year. But I think the film's darkness might prevent it from finding a wide family audience. It could match Watchmen and earn more than $100 million. Or it could fail to match Sweeney Todd. There's a huge amount of uncertainty going in.

Brooklyn's Finest

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: BrooklynsFinestTheMovie.com
Distributor: Overture Films
Release Date: March 5, 2010
MPAA Rating: R for bloody violence throughout, strong sexuality, nudity, drug content and pervasive language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller / Suspense
Keywords: Corrupt Cops, Undercover, Organized Crime, and more
Directed By: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Don Cheadle, Wesley Snipes, Richard Gere, and Ethan Hawke
Production Budget: Reported at $25 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Directed by Antoine Fuqua, who previously made the Oscar winning Training Day. The two films have more than a few similarities, including being about corrupt cops. Both star Ethan Hawke. Here he plays a young cop who is tempted to steal drug money to help buy a bigger house for his family. Richard Gere plays a veteran cop who is just trying to survive his last few days on the job, but is forced to mentor a rookie cop. Meanwhile, Don Cheadle plays an undercover cop that has become too close to the crime boss (Wesley Snipes) he is trying to ensnare. There's not a lot of originality in those storylines, which is hurting the film's early reviews. Additionally, it is being released by Overture Films, which has never had a $100 million hit. In fact, they've only had one film, Law Abiding Citizen, crack $50 million. This film could be their second such hit, but earning closer to half of Law Abiding Citizen's run is more likely.

Weekend of March 12th, 2010

The second weekend of the month is busier than the first with four wide releases, but none of them feel like top tier offerings. Green Zone might be the only film in the group to become a midlevel hit. There is some good news, as last year wasn't particularly strong either and Green Zone should be able to top Race to Witch Mountain. As long as one of the other films opening this week can pull their weight, 2010 should maintain pace with 2009.

Green Zone

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: GreenZoneMovie.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: March 12, 2010
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language.
Source: Based on a Factual Book
Major Genre: Thriller / Suspense
Keywords: War, Iraq War, Conspiracy Theory, and more
Directed By: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson, and Amy Ryan
Production Budget: Unknown - Predicted at $60 to $80 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million

I remember when Matt Damon was cast as Jason Bourne, some people argued that he just didn't have what it takes to convincingly pull off the action scenes. No one makes that argument any more and after the success of Bourne, no one thinks this movie will fail because Matt Damon doesn't have the chops for action. In fact, one of the complaints I've read about this movie is that it is too much like the Bourne movies. In this movie, Matt Damon plays a U.S. army officer that discovers the intelligence that was used to justify going to war was faulty and he's determined to find the truth. So yes, there are some obvious parallels, including the collaboration between Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon, as well as the government conspiracy angle in the story. I don't think this film will earn nearly as much for a number of reasons, including the weaker release date and the weaker buzz. That said, it does have a shot at $100 million domestically, which would be more than enough to please studio executives. Even if it misses that figure and just matches the box office potential above, it should eventually show a profit.

Our Family Wedding

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: OurFamilyWeddingMovie.com
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Release Date: March 12, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexual content and brief strong language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Culture Clash, African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, Weddings, etc.
Directed By: Rick Famuyiwa
Starring: America Ferrera, Lance Gross, Forest Whitaker, and Carlos Mencia
Production Budget: Unknown - Predicted at $10 to $20 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million

In the film, America Ferrera and Lance Gross play two young people in love who announce to their families that they are getting married, it two weeks. But their two overbearing fathers, Forest Whitaker and Carlos Mencia, have a rivalry that could destroy their wedding plans. There are some reports that this movie will open in limited release, or at the very least in not enough theaters to be considered truly wide. Since it is being released by Fox Searchlight and not Fox, this does make sense. Given the director's previous two films (The Wood and Brown Sugar) this prediction is given more credence. Should it open truly wide, the movie should become Rick Famuyiwa's biggest hit, but there's also a chance it will open in limited release and never expand beyond that point. The above box office potential is a weighted average of those two extremes.

Remember Me

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: RememberMe-Movie.com
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Release Date: March 12, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, sexual content, language and smoking.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Romance, Cross-Class Romance, Suicide, and more
Directed By: Allen Coulter
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Emilie de Ravin, Pierce Brosnan, and Chris Cooper
Production Budget: Unknown - Predicted at $30 to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million

Summit Entertainment teams up again with Robert Pattinson, who is best known for Twilight. However, while that franchise is an absolute monster at the box office, Robert Pattinson can hardly take the credit for that. Up to this point, he has no major starring roles where he was the primary draw (as opposed to being part of a franchise) so it is hard to judge his true drawing power. Additionally, the director is mostly known for TV work and his only previous theatrical release was Hollywoodland, which was not a hit by any stretch of the definition. On the other hand, just last month Dear John opened and it had a similar "troubled romance" plot and did rather well at the box office despite weak reviews. This film won't have Valentine's Day to boost ticket sales, but it also won't have to deal with Valentine's Day as direct competition. Assuming this film is no worse, which is a fair assumption, it should match Dear John at the box office, or at least come close enough to call it a victory.

She's Out of My League

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: GetYourRating.com
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: March 12, 2010
MPAA Rating: R for language and sexual content.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Relationship Advice, Slobs vs. Snobs, Slackers, and more
Directed By: Jim Field Smith
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Alice Eve, Krysten Ritter, Geoff Stults, Nate Torrence, Mike Vogel, Lindsay Sloane, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - Predicted at $30 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

This movie represents a couple of firsts. Firstly, it's the theatrical debut for the director, Jim Field Smith, who has previously made a few short films. It is also the first time Jay Baruchel is the lead in a major movie, but he has been in a number of movies in supporting roles from Million Dollar Baby, Knocked Up, and Tropic Thunder, as well the as lead in I'm Reed Fish. In this movie he plays a slacker that has no real goals in life, other than win back his ex-girlfriend. However, that changes when he meets Molly. Despite her being hot and him being a geek, they click. But his insecurities and the constant negative comments from his friends and family threaten their relationship (not to mention the competition from her Ex). It's not a unique story, but there could be enough chemistry between the two leads that it won't matter. It's far too early to tell, but I remain cautiously optimistic. I don't think it will be a great movie; after all, most romantic comedies earn mixed reviews at best, but anything above 50% positive should be enough to please fans of the genre.

Weekend of March 19th, 2010

There's a lot of confusion when it comes to new releases for this week with studios playing musical chairs with the releases. There has been no less than eight different films that within recent months were scheduled to open wide this week; however, most of those have had a change of plans. (One of these films has been moved up a week, another was pushed back a week, another moved to July, another has been postponed indefinitely, and another might be opening in limited release.) What a mess. Of the three or four wide releases, none strike me as being guaranteed hits, and while the competition will likely result in one film flaming out, I'm not sure which it will be. Then again, this time last year we saw three wide releases finish one-two-three on the chart, so maybe all three films can succeed.

The Bounty Hunter

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ThePursuitBegins.com
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: March 19, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content including suggestive comments, language and some violence.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: News, Bounty Hunter, Corrupt Cops, Road Trip, Relationships Gone Wrong, and more
Directed By: Andy Tennant
Starring: Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler
Production Budget: Unknown - Predicted at $40 to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million

Gerard Butler plays Milo, an ex-cop who has become a bounty hunter. His latest job is to grab his ex-wife, Jennifer Aniston, a reporter working on a story about police corruption and she thinks the cops are out to get her. He doesn't believe her, until someone tries to kill them both. It's an interesting premise and it has potential, but I'm worried for a few reasons. Firstly, it's directed by Andy Tennant, whose previous film was Fool's Gold. That film had a similar mix of action and romance to it, but it was nearly universally savaged by critics. That said, it still managed to become a midlevel hit with little going for it. This film does have better star power with Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler. Granted, Aniston's most recent film stumbled at the box office, but three of her past four wide releases have been solid hits. Meanwhile, two of Butler's previous films have beaten expectations. If this film can earn a Tomatometer score that is closer to Hitch (another Andy Tennant film) then it could be a surprise hit. Even under the best circumstances, I don't think would earn has much as Hitch, but even if it came close to half of that I think Paramount will be happy.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: IAmTheWimpyKid.com
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: March 19, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some rude humor and language.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: New Guy in School, Coming of Age, and more
Directed By: Thor Freudenthal
Starring: Zachary Gordon, Chloe Moretz, Steve Zahn, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - Predicted at $20 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

Zachary Gordon stars as Greg, a young boy just starting middle school, which is a source of horror for him, as he is a self-described "Wimpy Kid." The film is based on the popular line of illustrated novels and it is directed by Thor Freudenthal whose previous film was Hotel for Dogs, which had a nearly identical target demographic. On the one hand, this film does have a better release date than Hotel for Dogs. On the other hand, it has a lot more competition. Alice in Wonderland opens at the beginning of the month, which is a darker film but it does share some of the same audience. Also, at the end of the month, How to Train Your Dragon opens, and that film has the same target demographic and will likely be the biggest hit of the month, and of the year so far. This movie won't reach those levels, but it probably wasn't too expensive to make, so it should be able to break even.
On a side note, one of the myriad of child actors in this movie is Chloe Moretz, who was in (500) Days of Summer last year, which was one of the biggest Indie hits of the year. Next month she's in Kick-Ass, which has enough buzz to suggest it could be one of the biggest Indie hits of this year. And if that's not enough, later on this year she's starring in Let Me In, the remake to Let the Right On In, and if it is only half as cool as the original, it will still be awesome. For an actor who had barely entered her teens, she has one hell of a resume already.

Repo Men

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: RepoMenAreComing.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: March 19, 2010
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, grisly images, language and some sexuality/nudity.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Medical Hitmen, Dystopian Future, and more
Directed By: Miguel Sapochnik
Starring: Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Alice Brega, and Liev Schreiber
Production Budget: Unknown - Predicted at $40 to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

In a future world a company sells top-of-the-line cybernetic organs, but if the recipants fall behind in their payments, they send "Repo Men" to retrieve their products... by any means necessary.

Wait a minute. Does that sound familiar to anyone else? Yes, there are similarities between this film and Repo! A Genetic Opera, which I would be negligent not to mention. However, since the creators of the original opera and the movie it spawned seem to think it is merely coincidence, I'm not going to make a big deal out of it. Additionally, since the Fan base of Repo! is rather small, even if it is dedicated, I don't think it will have a large impact on the film's box office. (I feel the same way about Defendor / Kick-Ass similarities.) If anything, the controversy might help more people discover the smaller of the two releases in both cases.

Back to this movie... In the film Jude Law and Forest Whitaker play two Repo Men who are the best in the business. However, when an accident results in Jude Law needing a new heart, he loses his will to do his job. And when he falls behind in his payments, Forest Whitaker is sent to collect. I like the premise and there are some great actors in the movie, but I think it will have a tough time finding an audience for a number of reasons. The premise itself will turn off as many people as it intrigues, while there are a lot of dark comedy elements to the film and that usually makes a movie very hard to market. Hopefully it will surprise and become a solid hit, but I'm unwilling to bet it will.

The Runaways

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: RunawaysMovie.com
Distributor: Apparition
Release Date: March 19, 2010 (Limited)
Release Date: April 9, 2010 (Expands Wide)
MPAA Rating: R for language, drug use and sexual content - all involving teens.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Music Industry, Musicians, Biography, and more
Directed By: Floria Sigismondi
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Kristen Stewart, Scout Taylor-Compton, Stella Maeve, and Alia Shawkat
Production Budget: Unknown - Predicted at $20 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million

This movie may or may not open wide this week; the reports are evenly split on the matter. Since it is being released by Apparition and not one of the big six, I think opening in limited release is more likely. This will undoubtedly hurt the film's box office chances, as going to the limited release route is hard at the best of times. However, there's a lot of buzz going in and the film has a hot young cast that should help it draw in moviegoers. Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart have a dedicated fanbase from Twilight and even if even just one tenth of the people who saw that movie see this one, it will be able to expand. And since it likely won't expand wide until April, we might have more commentary on the film then after some of its limited release numbers are in.

Weekend of March 26th, 2010

The month ends with what should be the biggest hit of the year so far with the release of How to Train Your Dragon. That film better be huge, as this week last year Monsters vs. Aliens opened with nearly $60 million and the three wide releases combined made close to $90 million during the weekend. I don't think that's going to happen this year.

Hot Tub Time Machine

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: KickSomePast.com
Distributor: MGM
Release Date: March 26, 2010
MPAA Rating: R for strong crude and sexual content, nudity, drug use and pervasive language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Time Travel, Mid-Life Crisis, and more
Directed By: Steve Pink
Starring: John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, and Clark Duke
Production Budget: Unknown - Predicted at $30 to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

A group of guys get drunk and are sucked into the past through a hot tub. This premise has divided moviegoers into two camps: Those that think it is stupid and don't want to see it, and those that want to see it because of how stupid it is. I fall into the latter category, but the cast is also a major selling point for me. I've been a fan of John Cusack for a long, long time. Rob Corddry was great on The Daily Show and has been prolific since then. Craig Robinson and Clark Duke are more recent additions to my, "Ones to Watch" list. That said, I don't think this film will be a hit. A movie that is "so stupid it's funny" might be hard to advertise, while MGM's recent track record at the box office has been terrible, even when they were dealing with films that should be easy sells to moviegoers. (Their last hit was 1408, which coincidentally also starred John Cusack.) I really hope this movie will be able to do the same business, and perhaps the success of 2012, another Cusack film, will help it, but I'm unwilling to predict that it will become more than a midlevel hit.

How to Train Your Dragon

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: HowToTrainYourDragon.com
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: March 26, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG for sequences of intense action and some scary images, and brief mild language.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Comedy / Adventure
Keywords: Dragons, Vikings, 3-D, Coming of Age, and more
Directed By: Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $180 million, but that seems high
Box Office Potential: $225 million

Will this movie become the Monsters vs. Aliens of 2010? The studio sure hopes so. It's from the directing team of Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, who brought us Lilo & Stitch, so I have high hopes in terms of quality, and it has become a tradition for a major CG animated film to be released at this time of the year. (It was Monsters vs. Aliens last year, Horton Hears a Who in 2008, Meet the Robinsons in 2007, etc.) It is more common for these films to earn between $150 million to $200 million than it is for them to miss $100 million, but so far none of them has crossed $200 million. I think that will change this year. Granted, I'm a little more bullish than most, as many don't think Dragons or Vikings will be able to sell tickets, but I remain hopeful.

One final note, The Last Song has been moved up a couple days and now opens on the 31st of March. However, since that is a Wednesday, we'll treat it as an April release and hold off on the preview until next month.


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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Our Family Wedding, Remember Me, She's Out of My League, Repo Men, Brooklyn's Finest, Hot Tub Time Machine, Alice in Wonderland, How to Train Your Dragon, Green Zone, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Bounty Hunter, The Runaways