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2010 Preview: April

April 1st, 2010

March was a mixed month, with only three films surpassing expectations. On the other hand, Alice in Wonderland will beat expectations by more than $200 million, so it alone makes up for a lot of the disappointing films. On a more troubling note, the final big release, How to Train Your Dragon didn't get off to as fast a start as I would have liked, which could affect the box office going forward. Last year April got off to a fast start and that should happen this month as well. It better, as the quality of films quickly declines as the prospect of May blockbusters begins to loom large on the horizon.



Weekend of April 2nd, 2010

Last year, April got off to an amazing start with Fast & Furious's record start. It looks like that record could fall as Clash of the Titans might do the same level of business that 300 did in 2007. If it can, then 2010 has a real shot at keeping pace with 2009.

Clash of the Titans

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Clash-Of-The-Titans.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: April 1st, 2010 (evening showings)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief sensuality
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Visual Effects, 3D, Sword and Sorcerer, Gods and Goddesses, Monsters, and more
Directed By: Louis Leterrier
Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - $70 million, $100 million, or more - Reports vary
Box Office Potential: $200 million

The original Clash of the Titans remains one of my favorite mythological adventure films, thanks mostly to Ray Harryhausen's visual effects. Because I like the original, I'm worried that this version won't have the same heart. Sure, the special effects will be bigger (note: I said bigger, not better) but will it have the same sense of adventure to it? As I write this, there are no reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, so it is hard to tell if my pessimism is justified. The trailer is certainly loud, but I'm not getting a good sense of its story, writing, acting... well, anything outside of the special effects. Additionally, the director only has one $100 million hit under his belt, while the star doesn't have a real track record at the box office. (Yes, I know he was in Avatar, but I don't think anyone can seriously argue that he's the reason the film did so well at the box office.)

That said, it's a big-budget 3D movie, which means it could open with $100 million and it wouldn't be that shocking. Or it could open with less than half that and still do well enough to show a profit during its initial push onto the home market. With a week before its release, I really have no idea, but I think being conservative might be a smart idea.

Last minute update: The reviews are in and they are about as weak as I feared. That said, the film's box office expectations remain strong and the over / under on its opening weekend is about $70 million.

The Last Song

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: LastSongMovie.com
Distributor: Disney
Release Date: March 31st, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic material, some violence, sensuality and mild language
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Romance, Coming of Age, Music, and more
Directed By: Julie Anne Robinson
Starring: Miley Cyrus, Liam Hemsworth, Greg Kinnear
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $20 to $25 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

Yet another Nicholas Sparks movie. This time the romance novelist is also helping to adapt his book, which is a first. It is also the first time Julie Anne Robinson is directing a theatrical release after years of experience in the TV world. In the film, Miley Cyrus stars as Ronnie Miller, a girl who is forced to spend the summer at her father's house. There she meets Will Blakelee (Liam Hemsworth). Romance ensues. So far, Nicholas Sparks' movies have been quite bad, with only one (The Notebook) even coming close to the overall positive level. That said, his last movie (Dear John) made nearly $80 million at the box office despite earning just 28% positive reviews. So far this film has gone zero for two for its reviews, but that probably won't hurt the film too much at the box office, assuming it can recover and earn between 20% and 40% positive reviews. As for its box office potential, it depends on how many Hannah Montana fans will show up and if there's a large crossover with Nicholas Sparks' fans. On the high end, it could make more during its opening weekend than it cost to make, becoming the biggest hit in his career. Even on the low end it should make enough to show a profit during the film's initial push onto the home market.

Last minute update: Its reviews are weaker than anticipated, but I still think it will become a midlevel hit, as reports on early ticket sales seem encouraging.

Why Did I Get Married Too?

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: WhyDidIGetMarriedTooMovie.com
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: April 2nd, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for material including sexuality, language, drug references and some domestic violence
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Romance, Relationship Advice, Relationships Gone Wrong, and more
Directed By: Tyler Perry
Starring: Tyler Perry, Sharon Leal, Janet Jackson... and everyone else from the original
Production Budget: Unknown - Predicted at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $60 million

Tyler Perry. At this point, nothing more needs to be said. He has built up a following that love his films, while most critics do not. In fact, his last film, I Can Do Bad All By Myself, was his first film to earn overall positive reviews. Also, he doesn't have a lot of fans among box office analysts, as he seems to have a nearly supernatural ability to confound predictions. I'm going with $60 million, because that is just above his career average, but there's no more thought put into it than that. The worst thing I can do when it comes to predicting this film is to overthink it.

Weekend of April 9th, 2010

There's only one wide release this week, plus another that was scheduled to open wide but probably won't. The lack of competition should help the one wide release maximize its potential, but I don't think it will be enough to keep pace with last year when Hannah Montana led the way.

Date Night

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Date Night
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: April 9th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual and crude content throughout, language, some violence and a drug reference
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Mistaken Identity, Corrupt Cops, Organized Crime, Con Man, and more
Directed By: Shawn Levy
Starring: Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Mark Wahlberg, Ray Liotta, Mila Kunis, James Franco, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - Predicted at $60 to $80 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million

Shawn Levy's career is rather mixed. On the one hand, he's directed six movies and produced four others, though none of them have earned overall positive reviews. His best films are the two Night at the Museum films, both of which earned 44% positive reviews. On the other hand, those two films have made, combined, more than $400 million domestically and nearly $1 billion worldwide. Half of the film's he has directed have reached $100 million, while his average is $125 million.

In many ways, Date Movie is pretty typical of his type of movie. It's a rather high concept film. In the movie, Tina Fey and Steve Carell play Claire and Phil Foster, a married couple whose lives are in a rut. To try and break out of it, they hit a fancy bistro, only to be turned away for not having a reservation. When they hear a reservation for Tripplehorn called out and no one answers, they decide to go for it and pretend to be the Tripplehorns. This turns out to be a mistake, as Taste and Whippit Tripplehorn are a con man and his wife, who happen to have a lot of people after them. Faster than you can say, "mistaken identity," all the people who were after the Tripplehorns are now after the Fosters.

Given the immense amount of talent in front of the camera, this could be a great movie. I'm certainly hoping that it is Shawn Levy's best. That said, it doesn't have a great release date and it is likely that becoming a midlevel hit will be the best the movie can hope for.

There is a planned expansion for The Runaways. However, since its per theater average fell below $2000 during its second weekend of release, there's almost no chance that will happen.

Weekend of April 16th, 2010

This could be a bad week at the box office. April is a transitional month that starts strong, but usually ends very poorly as the prospect of competing with the first summer blockbuster grows stronger. Studios are reluctant to release films that they think will be solid hits and it is possible that Death at a Funeral and Kick Ass will be the first films sacrificed at the alter of Iron Man 2. Or maybe the studios simple expect their respective target audiences to rush out opening weekend and this will naturally cause short legs. (This is true of many films aimed at African-Americans or Comic Book Fanboys.) Even high-end expectations only have these films becoming midlevel hits. If they are both midlevel hits, then 2010 should be able to keep pace with last year. If either stumble, this won't be possible. If both stumble...

Death at a Funeral

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: SonyPictures.com/Movies/DeathAtAFuneral
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: April 16th, 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Likely aiming for PG-13 but might get an R-rating
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Funeral Reunions, African-American, Gay, Dysfunctional Family, and more
Directed By: Neil LaBute
Starring: Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Peter Dinklage, Tracey Morgan, Danny Glover, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - Predicted at $20 to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

This is a remake of Death at a Funeral, a British film that was made way back in 2007. Yep, this is a remake of a movie that is less than three years old. Granted, the original only opened in limited release and despite good reviews and nearly $10 million in B.O., it isn't harsh to say most people have never seen it. A lot of this film's target audience probably never even heard of it.

That said, it is still a remake. On the one hand, this movie looks like a very accurate remake of the original and the trailer includes some jokes that are identical to the ones found in the original. On the other hand, it seems like dry British humor is being replaced with more broad American humor. Broad humor is easier to market, but won't please the critics as much. As for its box office potential, its director, Neil LaBute, does not have a track record when it comes to big box office numbers. His best film made just shy of $40 million, while his average is just $15 million. As for the film's cast, it is huge and includes about a dozen big names, from Chris Rock to Martin Lawrence to Peter Dinklage to Luke Wilson and more. The people in this list have more than $1 billion in total box office and countless $100 million movies among their combined careers. However, most of them are not exactly on hot streaks. It is unlikely that this film will become anything more than a midlevel hit, but it is just as likely that it didn't cost too much to make. A midlevel hit will be enough to drive the film to profitability.

Kick-Ass

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: KickAss-TheMovie.com
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: April 16th, 2010
MPAA Rating: R for strong brutal violence throughout, pervasive language, sexual content, nudity and some drug use - some involving children
Source: Based on a Comic
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Organize Crime, Vigilante, Secret Identity, Marvel Comics, Spoof, and more
Directed By: Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Nicolas Cage, Chloe Grace Moretz
Production Budget: Reported at $28 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Kick-Ass is a movie for which I'm having trouble coming up with a solid prediction. There are a lot of positive signals, but not from very reliable sources. And there are some historic trends that are hard to deny. This is a movie that has benefited from a huge amount of internet buzz. However, as we've seen countless times in the past, internet buzz can have little to no effect on the actual box office numbers. In fact, since the buzz is mostly limited to a target audience of comic book fans, it could be labeled a "Geek Movie" where the buzz could actually hurt it with mainstream audiences. Additionally, the "Comedic Super Hero" sub-genre doesn't have a strong track record at the box office. For every Hancock, there are several Superhero Movie, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, etc. Quite frankly, Hancock benefited from its star power and release date. That won't be a factor here.

Kick-Ass could be a surprise hit. It certainly has the reviews to back up the buzz. However, it doesn't have a lot of star power, its release date is mediocre at best, its target audience could be too small, and its studio hasn't released a lot of major hits in the past. I really hope Kick-Ass becomes the surprise hit of the month, but I'm not overly optimistic.

Weekend of April 23rd, 2010

By this point in the month, studios know a lot of moviegoers are more pumped up about seeing Iron Man 2 in two weeks than they are about seeing any of the films that are debuting this week. There's still a chance a film opening this weekend can surprise. For instance, last year Obsessed opened with nearly $30 million. Then again, the other three wide releases made less than $30 million combined.

The Back-up Plan

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheBack-UpPlan.com
Distributor: CBS Films
Release Date: April 23rd, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content including references, some crude material and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Mid-life Crisis, Unexpected Families, and more
Directed By: Alan Poul
Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Alex O'Loughlin
Production Budget: Unknown - Predicted at $20 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

The second release from CBS Films. Their first release didn't do so well. I'm not expecting this one to do that much better, but it could hardly do worse. On the one hand, it's a Romantic Comedy, which is a genre Jennifer Lopez has done well with in the past. In fact, her biggest hits have been in this genre, including her most recent hit, Monster-In-Law. On the other hand, her most recent hit was Monster-In-Law, which opened nearly five years ago. Her co-star, Alex O'Loughlin has never been the lead in a box office hit before. This is also the director's theatrical debut. Also, not only does the studio have no track record when it comes to promoting movies, this is a weak release date. Lack of direct competition could be the best thing going for it.

Best case scenario has the film earning $75 million or so, but it could also struggle to reach half of that. The above box office potential represents the rough midpoint between those two extremes, but there's a lot of uncertainty here.

The Losers

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: The-Losers.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: April 23rd, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, a scene of sensuality and language
Source: Based on a Comic Book
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Secret Agents, Revenge, Betrayal, D.C. Comics, and more
Directed By: Sylvain White
Starring: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Idris Elba, Chris Evans, Columbus Short, Óscar Jaenada, and Jason Patric
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $25 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

An adaptation of a little known D.C. comic book that is about a group of secret agents / special ops that were betrayed by their handler and are now out for revenge. I don't think this will be a big hit, as it is based on a lesser known comic book and most of the cast have little in the way of star power, at least at this point in their careers. Additionally, the film opens the week after Kick-Ass, which shares a lot of the same target audience, and that film has a lot more buzz. The competition will be tight. Meanwhile, it opens just two weeks before Iron Man 2, which means the day this film opens, it is very likely there will have been more ads on TV for Iron Man 2 than for The Losers. Finally, the film was moved around a few release dates, including one in early June, to a late April date. Had the studio kept that release date, it could have been a solid hit. But if the studio had a lot of faith in the movie, they would not have moved it to this release date to begin with. There's not a lot of evidence that suggests this will be a big hit. Even becoming a midlevel hit might be too much. However, if the reported production budget is correct, it might not have to anything more than a midlevel hit to break even.

Oceans

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Disney.Go.com/DisneyNature/Oceans
Distributor: Disney
Release Date: April 22nd, 2010
MPAA Rating: G for General Admissions
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Documentary
Keywords: Underwater and Narration
Directed By: Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud
Starring: Pierce Brosnan and a bunch of animals
Production Budget: Reported at $81 million (49 million Euros)
Box Office Potential: $35 million

A nature documentary distributed by Disney and released on Earth Day. Sound familiar? This same description applies to Earth, which was released last year. Assuming this movie earns similar reviews (which I think is a fair assumption), then it should earn a similar amount at the box office. Oceans does have one year of inflation behind it and that should help it a little bit. It also opens on a Thursday not a Wednesday, but I'm not sure if that will have a real impact on its overall box office. I don't think anyone can give compelling evidence that opening on Wednesday vs. Thursday actually has an impact on a film's final box office.

Weekend of April 30th, 2010

This could be the worst weekend of 2010, at least on the year-over-year comparison. Why is that? Because this is the last weekend of April, which is a terrible weekend to release a movie. On the other hand, this weekend last year was the first weekend of May, which is one of the best weekends to release a movie. There's a slim chance that the entire box office of this weekend could be less than what Wolverine opened with last year. A very slim chance, but there's a chance.

Furry Vengeance

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: FurryVengeance-Movie.com
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Release Date: April 30th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG for some rude humor, mild language and brief smoking
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Animal Leads, Animals Gone Bad, Revenge, and more
Directed By: Roger Kumble
Starring: Brendan Fraser and a bunch of animals
Production Budget: Unknown - Predicted at $40 to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million

This could be an embarrassing bomb at the box office. There's certainly ample evidence that it will happen. For instance, the studio still only has one non-Twilight hit. Also, it's directed by Roger Kumble, whose biggest hit was College Road Trip. Additionally, it has one of the worst release dates of the year. There is a wildcard with its star, Brendan Fraser, who has seen three of his past five movies surpass $100 million at the box office. On the other hand, the two that didn't reach that milestone earned less than $30 million, combined.

The trailer doesn't make it look that much worse than College Road Trip was. Not that that should be considered a compliment. But it does suggest it at least has the potential to match it at the box office. Or it could open with less than $10 million and disappear from theaters in a matter of weeks. Hopefully it lands closer to the high end.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: NightmareOnElmStreet.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: April 30th, 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Very Likely R-rated
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Teenage Slasher, Revenge, and more
Directed By: Samuel Bayer
Starring: Jackie Earle Haley and a bunch of teenage victims
Production Budget: Reported at $27 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

A horror remake, or should I say "yet another horror remake". There have been more than a few these past several years, some of which, like Halloween and Friday the 13th, were able to become midlevel hits. However, most either struggled at the box office or simply bombed. Fortunately, I think it is best to compare A Nightmare on Elm Street to Halloween and Friday the 13th, as these three franchises could be considered the holy trinity of the Teenage Slasher sub-genre. They were among the first, the best, and the most popular of the genre. And now all three have been remade. Halloween earned 26% positive reviews, opened in first place with $26 million at the box office, then collapsed the following week and finished with $58 million. Friday the 13th earned nearly identical reviews, opened with just over $40 million, and then broke records by virtually disappearing the following weekend. Given this evidence, we can predict weak reviews, a first place opening, and a quick decline at the box office.

I'm actually a little optimistic about the film's chances with critics, as they filmmakers seem to have returned to the movie's roots and are not playing up the campy humor. It might even match My Bloody Valentine, which is arguably the best-reviewed horror remake from recent years. Granted, it wasn't quite able to reach the overall positive level, but it came close enough that its reviews were a selling point. Its legs were strong for the genre. If A Nightmare on Elm Street can match this Tomatometer Score, then this could help the film's legs. That said, it has a terrible release date and that suggests the studio is less optimistic about the film's box office chances.

Best case scenario has the film opening with close to $40 million while finishing with nearly $90 million. It could open with less than $20 million and finish with $30 million or so. The lower end is more likely. Even so, its reasonable production budget makes profitability very likely.


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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Death at a Funeral, Date Night, The Losers, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Back-up Plan, The Last Song, Kick-Ass, Clash of the Titans, Furry Vengeance, Oceans, Why Did I Get Married Too?