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2009 Preview: March

March 1st, 2009

2009 got off to such a great start that I didn't think February would continue winning, but so far that has proven to be the case, for the most part. Now March has a great chance of continuing that run with several big hits, including three potential $100 million movies. At the beginning of the year, I didn't think there would be so many hits in March, but a high tide lifts all boats, and the more people see movies, the more trailers they see in theaters, and the more likely they are to watch the upcoming movies.

A little change this month, as the films will be sorted chronologically, and not alphabetically. Granted, movies do change release dates every once and a while, but rarely do the change within the month. That said, this will probably happen this month, since I've made this change.

Weekend of March 6th, 2009
The month starts off with a slow week in terms of total releases, but potentially the biggest release of the month. In fact, the lack of competition could help it get there.

Name: Watchmen
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: WatchmenMovie.com
Release Date: March 6th, 2009
MPAA Rating: R for strong graphic violence, sexuality, nudity and language
Source: Based on a Comic Book
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: D.C.Comics, Disaster / End of the World, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $120 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million to $250 million
Notes: I know, that's quite a wide range in box office potentials there; however, there's a lot of mixed signals coming from this movie. On the one hand, it is the only wide release opening that week, and that has to help its box office potential. On the other hand, it is a lesser known comic book creation. Yes, I know it is beloved by fans of the medium, but most outsides will have never heard of that, and that will hurt its box office chances dramatically. Back to the original hand, the early reviews are fantastic. Simply phenomenal and could top Coraline as the best movie of the year. That said, without a lot of star power, so the advertising campaign must be stellar to get people into theaters. On the low end, this movie may fail to live up to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. On the high end, it could top 300. I'm hoping it lands near the high end, but something in me says the low end is more likely. Even so, I'm going to predict north of $100 million at the box office. Update: The early reviews have weakened significantly from 92% positive to 81% positive. However, that is still better than most films have earned this year, and strong enough to be a selling point.

Weekend of March 13th, 2009
Week two is busier, but there is still a strong chance one of the three wide releases will reach $100 million, and two of the three should be able to become at least midlevel hits. Competition from a Watchmen could still be a factor, if it is as big as some are expecting.

Name: The Last House on the Left
Distributor: Universal
Official Site: TheLastHouseOnTheLeft.com
Release Date: March 13th, 2009
MPAA Rating: R for sadistic brutal violence including a rape and disturbing images, language, nudity and some drug use.
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Revenge, Torture Porn, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - predicted at $20 million, more or less
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: There have been a few horror remakes so far this year, and so far there have been two hits and a near miss. That's a good track record, especially since the one miss was a remake of foreign language film while the two hits were based on classics of this genre. The original film was made in 1972 for practically no money, but became a hit of the genre, and helped influence countless brutal horror films. (It could be considered the grandfather of torture porn. Although it is practically a remake of the Oscar winning film, The Virgin Spring, so it has connections to two polar opposite of the cinematic world.) The original earned good reviews, especially for the genre, and while I don't expect this one to do the same, if it can earn 30% to 40% positive reviews, then it should please genre fans. I expect the film to start off big, fade away quickly, and become a solid midlevel hit, while it should make a profit early in its initial home market run.

Name: Miss March
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Official Site: FoxSearchlight.com/MissMarch
Release Date: March 13th, 2009
MPAA Rating: R for strong crude and sexual content, nudity, pervasive language and some drug use
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Road Trip, Porn Business, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - predicted at less than $20 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: A high-concept comedy about a man who goes into a coma on prom night, only to wake up four years later to find out his high school sweetheart, who he was about to have sex with, is now a Playboy centerfold. So he and his friend decide to travel to the Playboy Mansion so he can reunite with her. It's basically Sex Drive without the star power. Or any laughs in the trailer. Add in a busy weekend, and this film will have a hard time finding an audience. It could earn less than Sex Drive did; however, it is more likely that is will open with more than that film made in total. Even then, only a low production budget will save it financially.

Name: Race to Witch Mountain
Distributor: Disney
Official Site: Disney.Go.com/DisneyPictures/RaceToWitchMountain
Release Date: March 13th, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG for sequences of action and violence, frightening and dangerous situations, and some thematic elements
Source: Based on a Book (could also be described as a sequel or a remake)
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Friendly Aliens on Earth, Alien Invasion, Conspiracy Theory, Gratuitous Cameos, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $50 to $70 million
Box Office Potential: $110 million
Notes: Disney is releasing a family film in a couple of weeks, and already the ad campaign is in high gear and it is showing off is impressive cast, which has a proven track-record in the genre. This includes Dwayne Johnson from The Game Plan, AnnaSophia Robb from Bridge to Terabithia, Carla Gugino from Spy Kids, and even the director, Andy Fickman, has experience, as he directed The Game Plan. Additionally, Disney family films since the beginning of October and all four have earned $90 million, or more. This shows the studio is on a roll, which will encourage more studios to book the movie. It does have to deal with direct competition just a couple weeks later (and that film is already advertising heavily). However, as far as I can tell, that's the only downside for this film. I always suspected this film would perform well at the box office, but the buzz is growing and with the overall box office strong, the box office potential has grown from just under $100million to just over $100 million.

Name: Sunshine Cleaning
Distributor: Overture Films
Official Site: SunshineCleaning-TheMovie.com
Release Date: March 13th, 2009 (limited)
Release Date: March 27th, 2009 (wide)
MPAA Rating: R for language, disturbing images, some sexuality and drug use
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Crime Scene Clean-up is not on our list, so I'm going to have to review this one before I can answer this
Production Budget: Reported at $5 million
Box Office Potential: $5 million
Notes: A movie opening in limited release and hoping to expand wide two weeks later. Given the pedigree in front of the camera (Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin, and others), it has a chance to make it, and if it does expand wide, it could earn $30 million, or more. However, and this is important, this is not a great time of year to open a film in limited release and have it expand wide. If is stumbles out of the gate, it could end its theatrical run with less than $1 million. I think the film will have at least some success expanding, but the box office potential above is a weighted average of the two extremes. If the film were released in the summer, or during Awards Season, I would be a lot more enthusiastic about the film's chances. However, this is a very weak time of year to release a film using this strategy.

Weekend of March 20th, 2009
Slowest week of the month with no wide releases that look like they will have what it takes to rise above midlevel hit. That said, all three could be midlevel hits.

Name: Duplicity
Distributor: Universal
Official Site: DuplicityMovie.net
Release Date: March 20th, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language and some sexual content
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Heist, Con Men, Secret Agents, Double-crosses, Corporate Life, and more
Production Budget: $30 to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: I can't believe this film slipped beneath my radar for as long as it did. It stars three of my favorite actors (Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, and Paul Giamatti (who replaced Billy Bob Thornton)). It is also the second directing effort by writer / director Tony Gilroy, who was nominated for two Oscars for his debut in the director's chair, Michael Clayton. Finally, this is a genre I love. I don't think this film's reviews will be as strong as his first film's reviews were; I'm still expecting strong word of mouth, but not Oscar worthy reviews. (The film has a comedic touch to it that will prevent it from being that kind of film.) There's a chance it could surprise at the box office; however, I think it will have to settle for a solid midlevel hit, while it should reach profitability some time during its home market run, if not sooner.

Name: I Love You, Man
Distributor: Paramount
Official Site: ILoveYouMan.com
Release Date: March 20, 2009
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, including crude and sexual references
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Delayed Adulthood and others
Production Budget: Unknown - predicted at $20 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: A lot of people are comparing this movie to the ones by Judd Apatow, and I can see why. Not only does it share a lot of the same actors (Paul Rudd, Jason Segal, and others) but it also has the same vibe. It's an R-rated comedy focusing on manchildren and with dialogue that feels like it could be lifted straight out of The 40-Year Old Virgin. This could be a solid hit, but I have this gut feeling that it will end its run closer to Forgetting Sarah Marshall than it will be to Knocked Up. Looking at the trailer, and I don't think it will even live up to Forgetting Sarah Marshall. It seems too much like a retread of other material made by people trying to imitate Judd Apatow instead of trying to find their own voice. Comparisons to his work might hurt the film's reviews and box office.

Name: Knowing
Distributor: Summit
Official Site: Knowing-TheMovie.com
Release Date: March 20, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 For disaster sequences, disturbing images and brief strong language
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Disaster, End of the World, Predictions, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $50 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: Predicting the box office potential for Nicolas Cage movies is such a pain in the ass. He can take a mediocre action movie based on a second-string comic book character like Ghost Rider and turn it into a $100 million hit. But his recent filmography is also filled with films like Bangkok Dangerous, The Wicker Man, and Next. It is that last film, Next, that I think it the most pertinent to this film. Both films are about predicting disaster, both films sell the movie with action scenes in the trailers, and both films look pretty bad. There are some that think this will be a solid midlevel hit, but I have my doubts. Summit's track record is essentially one hit, a couple of near misses, and the rest that would be best not to mention. I think this film will land somewhere in the middle of the two extremes, but much closer to the lower end. That said, if it does made $40 million domestically, and it can match that total internationally, it could make a profit during the ancillary market.

Weekend of March 27th, 2009
There are a lot of films coming out this week, including what could become the biggest hit of the year so far. On the other hand, the amount of competition is just too great for most of the rest of the films to succeed.

Name: 12 Rounds
Distributor: Fox
Official Site: 12Rounds-Movie.com
Release Date: March 27th, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Revenge, Terrorist, Kidnapping, and more
Production Budget: Estimated at $22 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: WWE will try yet again to create a successful movie business using one of their wrestling stars as a lead actor. So far they had a bit of successful co-producing a few films with Dwayne Johnson, including The Scorpion King, The Rundown, and Walking Tall. But the films that produced on their own have performed uniformly terrible, both with critics and at the box office. Also of note is the director, Renny Harlin, who had a huge hit with Die Hard 2 back in 1990, but hasn't come that close to $100 million at the box office since then. In fact, his last four films combined barely made $100 million. Add in a trailer that looks rather... generic. I can't see this being a big hit. It might surprise, but even matching its limited production budget might be too much for the film.

Name: Adventureland
Distributor: Miramax
Official Site: AdventurelandTheFilm.com
Release Date: March 27th, 2009
MPAA Rating: R for language, drug use and sexual references
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Coming of Age, Bad Jobs, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $5 million or $50 million depending on opening theater count
Notes: From writer / director Greg Mottola, whose last film was Superbad. That movie was made for a very low budget, but earned stellar reviews and more than $120 million at the box office. That's a tough act to follow, and if this film can earn reviews that are even close to 87% positive and half as much at the box office, then it will make the studio very, very happy. It does have a few things going for it, including a very effective trailer, but there are some warning signs as well. For instance, early reviews are merely mixed. Also, there is some confusion about this film and whether or not it is opening wide. If it is opening wide, it should do very well for a relatively low budget comedy becoming a solid midlevel hit while earning a significant profit by the time the film reaches the home market. On the other hand, if it opens is limited release, I don't think it will have what it takes to expand wide. Let's hope it opens wide.

Name: A Haunting in Connecticut
Distributor: Lionsgate
Official Site: HauntingInConnecticut.com
Release Date: March 27th, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some intense sequences of terror and disturbing images
Source: Based on a Book or a TV Documentary
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Hauntings
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: So far four horror films have been released wide this year, and all hour have made between $25 and $60 million. There's little reason to suspect this one will be any different. It isn't a remake of a classic Teenage Slasher like Friday the 13th or My Bloody Valentine, and because of that, if doesn't have the same built in fanbase. On the other hand, it does have a PG-13 rating, which does increase it target audience. Also helping in its based on a true story claim. It's not based on a true story, and that claim is pure marketing hype, but it's marketing hype that tends to work, as shown by The Amityville Horror and others. It drives me nuts, but it works.

Name: Monsters vs. Aliens
Distributor: Paramount
Official Site: MonstersVsAliens.com
Release Date: March 27th, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG For sci-fi action, some crude humor and mild language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Monsters, Alien Invasion, 3D, Spoof, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $165 million, including $15 million for the 3D effects
Box Office Potential: $200 million
Notes: At the beginning of the year, I thought this would be the first $100 million hit of the year. Obviously that won't happen now that both Paul Blart and Taken have reached that milestone. In fact, it is very unlikely that this movie will be the first $100 million hit of the month, with both Watchmen and Race to Witch Mountain having a shot at the century mark. On the other hand, Monsters vs. Aliens could become the biggest hit of the year so far, and it could be the first to reach $200 million at the box office. And if the early buzz is right, it could be one of the three Oscar nominated animated shorts (although the second trailer looked a little more... 'kid friendly' than the first one, which could hurt its reviews / Oscar chances). On a side note, the movie was originally going to be based on a comic called Rex Havoc and the Ass-Kickers of the Fantastic, which was originally featured in the adult-oriented sci-fi magazine, 1984, which was later renamed 1994. However, at some point during the development they changed the movie to a original screenplay, probably because of some of the controversial content that appeared in 1994. (1994 was often compared to Heavy Metal.) There are still some parts of the movie that have endured this change, including the alien invasion, most of the team of monsters (B.O.B. was called Ick!, but Dr. Cockroach and Insectosaurus were there), while Rex Havoc seems to have morphed into Gen. W.R. Monger.


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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Monsters vs. Aliens, Watchmen, Knowing, I Love You, Man, Race to Witch Mountain, The Haunting in Connecticut, Duplicity, The Last House on the Left, Sunshine Cleaning, Miss March, Adventureland, 12 Rounds